Harry Hoiser: An African American Who Gave A Beat To Methodist Preaching

Harry Hosier portrait by Richard Douglas from The Asbury Triptych Series.
Harry Hosier portrait by Richard Douglas from The Asbury Triptych Series.

Harry Hosier (c. 1750–May 1806), better known during his life as "Black Harry", was a black Methodist preacher during the Second Great Awakening in the early United States. Dr. Benjamin Rush said that, "making allowances for his illiteracy, he was the greatest orator in America".

In 1784 the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded at The Christmas Conference in Baltimore. Among those riding out to issue the call for the conference is “Black Harry” Hosier. Born a slave about 1750, Hosier receives a license to preach in 1785 and becomes one of the best preachers and most effective early circuit riders.
By John G. McEllhenney
Revised by Bishop Forrest C. Stith
Reposted from the United Methodist Church General Commission on Archives and History

No recording devices trapped the cadences and power of “Black Harry” Hosier’s preaching. But we may conjecture that given his African American heritage, his words poured out rhythmically and with a range of volume. This rhetoric, combined with a keen mind and outstanding communication skills, enabled the biblical truths he proclaimed to pulverize the stony hearts of his listeners.

“I really believe he is one of the best preachers in the world,” was the opinion of Thomas Coke, who, along with Francis Asbury, was one of American Methodism’s first two bishops. “There is such an amazing power attends his preaching, though he cannot read; and he is one of the humblest creatures I ever saw.”

In spite of such accolades, even the bare facts of Hosier’s life elude historians, who must therefore sprinkle probabilities throughout their narratives. Born about 1750, perhaps as a plantation slave, maybe in North Carolina, he experienced Christian conversion at some point and became Asbury’s traveling companion. Soon he began to exhort after the sermon, urging the listeners to apply the preacher’s words to their lives. Later, he was the principal speaker at services.

Read the full article online at http://gcah.org/history/harry-hosier or download the pdf.