Meet Gareth Brandt, CBC’s Professor of Spiritual Formation. We asked Gareth to tell us about a Black historical figure who impacted him. Here’s what he shared:
Who is a black historical figure who has particular meaning to you?
Along with many other people, I would say that Martin Luther King Jr. has been deeply inspiring for me, but I’m going to choose David George, who is more obscure but is particularly important for Canadians.
How have they inspired/impacted you?
David George was born in 1742 in Virginia, the son of slaves brought from Africa. He was converted to the Baptist faith during the Great Awakenings and was involved in founding the first black church in the American colonies in 1775. During the Revolutionary War, he was among a number of slaves who found refuge behind British lines, and he subsequently accepted passage to Nova Scotia in 1783 as a British loyalist along with thousands of other black slaves.
He settled near Shelburne with his wife and three children. Because he was a pastor, he was given a small plot of land. His response makes it obvious that he was a Baptist! “It was a spot where there was plenty of water, and which I had secretly wished for, as I knew it would be convenient for baptizing at any time.” The church grew rapidly; they built a meetinghouse and even attracted white congregants. But when he baptized white folks, there was resistance, and a race riot ensued. His church was torn down; he was badly beaten and subsequently chased out of town. Yet David George persisted in his ministry by preaching in the woods and planting numerous churches in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
David George teaches me that the heart of God welcomes and affirms all people.
How did David George respond to the persecution? “I continued to preach till they came one night, and stood before the pulpit, and swore how they would treat me if I preached again. But I stayed and preached, and the next day they came and beat me with sticks and drove me into the swamp. I returned in the evening, and took my wife and children over the river to Birchtown, where some black people were settled, and there seemed a greater prospect of doing good then at Shelburne. I preached at Birchtown… and baptized about twenty three.” He went on to baptize hundreds and planted a number of churches in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
What have they taught you about the heart of God?
David George teaches me that the heart of God welcomes and affirms all people and that I should not give up hope in declaring this in our own time of discrimination and polarization.
How can we honour this figure’s legacy?
By ridding ourselves, our churches, and our society of binaries that keep us from God and each other.
To learn more about David George visit: