Amanda Berry Smith

Amanda Berry Smith (1837–1915).
An Autobiography. The Story of the Lord’s Dealings
with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist.

Chicago: Meyer & Brother, 1893. (34322)

Amanda Berry Smith was a noted Methodist Holiness revivalist and missionary. She was born into slavery in rural Maryland to parents Samuel Berry and Miriam Matthews Berry. After her father gained freedom for the family by running paid errands for his master’s widow, she pursued her education by reading the Bible and taking after-hours classes from a local schoolteacher. Later, working as a domestic servant near York, Pennsylvania, Berry married Calvin Devine, who was killed while serving in the Union Army in 1863; they had one daughter who survived past childhood. After a failed marriage to James Smith, a Methodist deacon, Berry became increasingly involved in local church life. Known for her inspired preaching and singing at Methodist camp meetings, she joined a mission to England in 1878, and in subsequent years led missions to India and Liberia. Her missionary service in Africa, where she adopted two orphaned girls, continued for eight years despite her poor health. Following her return to the United States in 1890, she became a leading evangelist for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Chicago. Encouraged by supporters she published the exhibited Autobiography, a detailed account of her life and work up to 1893. Six years later she founded the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Colored Children in Harvey, Illinois. At the time of her death in 1915, the Chicago Defender, a newspaper that strongly advocated the civil rights of African Americans, honored Amanda Berry Smith as “the greatest woman that this race has ever given to the world.”

Listen as curator Dr. Eric White talks about Amanda Berry Smith during a tour.

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