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Tue, 02.11.1783

Jarena Lee, Spiritual Abolitionist born

Jarena Lee

*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 slighted by Allen, who said that women could not preach at the Methodist Church. Lee persisted, and Allen allowed her access to the pulpit eight years later. 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, 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 her audience's denominational and racial composition, which, in both cases, was quite inclusive.

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

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