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*Amanda Smith was born on this date in 1837. She was a Black evangelist and missionary who opened an orphanage for Black girls.
Born a slave in Long Green, Md., she grew up in York County, Pennsylvania, after her father bought the freedom of most of the family. Smith was educated mainly at home and at an early age began working as a domestic. An unhappy first marriage ended with the disappearance of her husband in the American Civil War. In 1863 she married James Smith and eventually moved with him to New York City. An experience of sanctification in 1868 led to her first tentative attempts at preaching.
Tragically, by 1869 her husband and her children had died, and she was preaching regularly in Black churches in New York and New Jersey. Smith's achievements in preaching before a white audience at a religious camp meeting in the summer of 1870 led her to commit herself entirely to evangelism. She traveled widely over the next eight years, and in 1878 traveled to England, where she spent a year evangelizing at holiness meetings. From 1879 to 1881 she worked in India, and after another brief stay in England she sailed to West Africa. For the next eight years Smith did missionary work in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Following another sojourn in Great Britain, she returned to the United States. She preached in eastern cities and eventually moving to Chicago. In 1893 Smith published her autobiography. The proceeds from the book, together with her savings, the income from a small newspaper she published, and gifts from others, helped her open home for Black orphans in Harvey, Illinois, in 1899. Eventually she resumed preaching and singing to support the home.
In 1912, when she retired to Florida, the orphanage was taken over by the state of Illinois and chartered as the Amanda Smith Industrial School for Girls. Amanda Smith died Feb. 24, 1915 in Sebring, Fla.; the school was destroyed by fire in 1918.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York