A Preacher's Journeys Over the Color Line

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From October 1771 to March 1816, Francis Asbury was a traveling evangelist in the American Colonies and fledgling United States. No American during that period is known to have traveled as widely as he.

Those travels left a legacy of Methodist churches, particularly those serving African Americans, that bear his name. In Washington, Asbury United Methodist Church has been at 11th and K streets NW since 1836, when it was founded by blacks fed up with discriminatory treatment, said Lonise Fisher Robinson, the church historian.

Asbury "was a great evangelist," Robinson said. "He was carrying the work of Methodism across the United States, or what was the United States at that time." There is a statue of him on horseback at 16th and Mount Pleasant streets NW.

Asbury preached in every state. In Virginia, he preached often in Loudoun and Fauquier counties and in the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont regions. He had no home. He relied on the hospitality of others.

When Asbury was 26, his ship from England docked at Philadelphia. He wrote in his journal: "When I came near the American shore, my very heart melted within me, to think from whence I came, where I was going, and what I was going about. But I felt my mind open to the people, and my tongue loosed to speak. I feel that God is here."

Asbury was one of several itinerant preachers in early America, but what set him apart was his companion, Harry Hosier, a black man, not a servant but an equal.

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