By Evette D. Champion
When we celebrate the Fourth of July, we do it to celebrate the United States breaking free from Britain and declaring its independence. Although the country was free from Britain, this did not mean there was freedom for the American people.
These 4 religious leaders and activists are just a tiny fraction of people throughout our history who dedicated their lives to the effort to grant freedom to all that live in this country.
In 1760, Richard Allen was born in Philadelphia as a slave. When he turned 17, he heard a White Methodist minister preach to his congregation against #slavery. This was the moment in Allen’s life that would change his life forever. He used $2,000 to buy his freedom and he began traveling to various states, preaching to both #black and white. Due to growing hostility from the white members of the St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania, Allen raised money that was needed to buy a plot of land. It was on this land that the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded.
The chief and holy man of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe, Sitting Bull fought to preserve his people’s way of life, even though the United States government was making life very difficult for the tribe. With the creation of the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868, white people were not allowed to settle on the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory. This territory is considered sacred grounds for many Native American tribes. When the white man moved in during the gold rush, he refused to give up and was the last man of his tribe to surrender.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Rabbi Heschel was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1907. He barely escaped the Holocaust when he fled to London in 1939 and then later fled to New York City. Around the time he joined the Civil Rights Movement, he had gotten a reputation as a professor of ethics and Jewish mysticism. He marched beside Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 1965 march.
Kochiyama was born in 1921 and as she grew up, she was the average American—she excelled in high school and became a Sunday school teacher in a church in California. She became an activist during the Second World War after she was sent to an internment camp with her family. When she was released, she spent the rest of her life working to improve conditions for minorities in the country. She also campaigned against the war in Vietnam as well as advocating for rights for those in prison.