Jarena Lee, a spiritual voice for freedom


Jarena Lee
Date: 
Tue, 1783-02-11

*The birth of Jarena Lee in 1783 is marked on this date. She was a Black preacher and abolitionist.

From Cape May, New Jersey, she was the child of free black parents and worked as a servant in the home of a white family, 60 miles from her home. In 1811, she married Joseph Lee in Snow Hill, near Philadelphia, PA. Lee’s spiritual calling came when she was strongly affected by the preaching of Richard Allen. At first she was slighting by Allen, who said that women could not preach at the Methodist Church. Lee persisted, and eight years later Allen allowed her access to the pulpit. This change of heart occurred after he heard her spontaneous exhortation during a sermon at Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel AME Church.

Jarena Lee was the first woman to preach under the auspices of the AME church. She traveled all over the United States preaching her gospel of freedom, even venturing into the South to preach to slaves. As the first woman preacher in the AME Church, her evangelistic meetings ranged from her home base of Philadelphia throughout New England, as well as north into Canada and west into Ohio. She recounted her meetings in her autobiography, the first to be published in America by an African-American woman. In her autobiography, she frequently mentions the denominational and racial composition of her audience, which, in both cases, was quite inclusive.

Between 1849 and 1857, there is no recorded history about Lee. The last known event in her life was a visit she made to the home of Rebecca Cox Jackson, a Shaker leader, on New Year’s Day in 1857. After that occasion, at the age of 73, nothing is known about her death.

References:
Cape May New Jersey