Since the beginning, The Salvation Army has held a reputation for welcoming people of African descent- and those individuals have been vital in making the Army what it is today.
Booker T. Washington, a former slave and one of the most famous African-American leaders of all time, once said of The Salvation Army: “I have always had the greatest respect for the work of The Salvation Army, especially because I have noted that it draws no color line in religion.”
As the nation celebrates Black History Month, it is fitting to pull from The Salvation Army’s history to see how a fledgling Christian movement welcomed black Americans in the late 1800s.
The Salvation Army was established in London during the same year the American Civil War ended – 1865. The end of the war punctuated the need for reconciliation of the races. Slavery had been abolished, but equality was far from reality.
In 1872, James Jermy, a recent immigrant and Salvation Army convert, joined forces with James Fackler, a black Methodist preacher. Their ministry grew to five different outpost over the course of several years.
Years later, the official Salvation Army of America was organized in 1880, when George Railton and seven young women, historically referred to as the Hallelujah Lassies, landed in New York’s Battery Park.
Salvation Army commissioner at the time, Frank Smith, denounced the color line when he said the Army “must be among the first Christian communities of America who will faithfully and wholly break down the wall of partition separating the white from the colored, whom the Lord has brought from a common captivating bondage.”
In 1915, Mable Broome was the first African-American officer when she was commissioned in Chicago. Mable Broome not only led the charge to demolish the color line, she reinforced the Army’s commitment to give leadership roles to any Christian regardless of gender.
The Salvation Army continues to serves those in need in Gods name without discrimination.