Black History Month – Week 1

Lutherans you should know in black history

WEEK 1: Pre-Civil War Era - Jehu Jones

Jehu Jones Portrait
Portrait of Jehu Jones Jr

Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good. No longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but dearer to you both as a man and is a brother in the Lord. So, if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention than you owe me your very self.

SCRIPTURE - Philemon 1:15-19

Jehu Jones Jr., the first African American Ordained Lutheran Pastor, was born in Charleston, South Carolina on September 4, 1786 to slave parents, Jehu Sr. and Abigail Jones. Jones’ parents were freed in 1798.

Jones was originally affiliated with the Episcopal Church but, finding himself increasingly drawn to Lutheranism, around 1820 he became a member of St. Johns Lutheran Church in Charleston. With the encouragement of his pastor, the Reverend John Bachman, Jones traveled to New York to be ordained by the New York Synod in 1832 as a missionary to Liberia to help freed slaves transition to that country. However, when Jones returned to Charleston after being ordained, he was briefly jailed for violating a law prohibiting freed blacks from returning to a state they had left.

After his release Jones moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in June 1833 the Pennsylvania ministry decided that he should be appointed “to labor as a Missionary… among the colored people in Philadelphia under the direction of our Ministers.” On February 16, 1834, the St. Paul’s congregation that Jones founded decided to build a church with the help of other Lutheran congregations. Four months later Jones purchased two lots on 150 S. Quince Street for the church to be built. Assisted by Pastors Philip Mayer of Philadelphia and Benjamin Keller of St. Michael’s Church in Germantown, Jones laid the cornerstone for the building.

The first congregation of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was composed of twenty impoverished black Philadelphians.


A special thank-you to the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America for putting together this resource. 


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