Celebrating Black History Month
Black history month is an opportunity to celebrate inspiring African Americans who have made an impact on our country. The Salvation Army has its own rich history of these individuals in America; from the first Salvation Army branch opened in Pennsylvania in 1880, to present day. Following is a few of their stories:
Alexander Beck and Family – First Black Salvationists in the West
Alexander Beck, born in Tennessee, moved west with his family in 1890 and became the first territorial evangelist on record in the United States. As a young man in Kansas he had fallen into some bad habits: drinking and gambling frequently. However, according to Mrs. Beck, he “just sobered up enough to get a wife.”
He continued his raucous lifestyle even as he moved west, but when his wife became a Salvationist, he considered being saved. They became soldiers and were appointed as specials to visit the corps in California. They traveled with a group called the Plantation Jubilee Singers.
When Staff Captain William McIntyre was planning to invade the Southwest, the Becks played a large part in raising the $300 needed for the venture. The Becks, who saw hundreds saved at the penitent form, were a blessing to the Southern California District.
Lt. Colonel B. Barton McIntyre – Leader and Visionary
Lt. Colonel McIntyre, a Canadian, began his work with The Salvation Army in Harlem Temple New York. The Army quickly appointed him to the Cleveland, OH, Corps where he could serve the Black community. With his wife Mildred, he led the “colored corps” for sixteen years. In 1949, McIntyre began his journey as a visionary; He acknowledged segregation within the Army. The small act of submitting a request to change the name of the “colored corps” to the Central Area Corps, which was accepted immediately, sent a wave of change through the Army.
The request alerted Army Divisions of the quandary segregation created and subsequently removed the word “colored” and other racial terms within the Army. McIntyre knew it was a small step towards an equitable future.
Delilah Collier – Educator and Mentor
* Delilah Collier
Delilah Collier was an influential teacher, mother and Salvationist. In 1977, she helped launch the Eastern Territory Black Ministries Committee to discuss issues and advise goals for Black officers. This included advocating for further training and curriculum to prepare Black officers for leadership positions. They spoke for and legitimized the Black community within The Salvation Army.
For over 50 years, Delilah was a faithful and dedicated soldier of the Hartford Citadel, Conn., unwavering in the support of her corps officers. She was a fierce prayer warrior and had the spiritual gift of hospitality.
Delilah was admitted into the Order of the Founder (O.F.), the Army’s highest honor, in 2002 for her great work. On receiving the award, she said:
“We don’t know the full joy of the Lord until we can fully surrender all to Him. If we can just be faithful, if we can just be willing, if we can go in the power of the Spirit, God will take care of everything for us.”
Her statement captures the essence of what made all these individuals great: letting God lead them to Do The Most Good and advance the mission of The Salvation Army.
(Sources: sacentralmuseum.org, milwaukeecourieronline.com,)