Lemuel Haynes was a prominent New England Congregational minister, and the first African American in America to receive an honorary college degree. Haynes was born in West Hartford, Connecticut on July 18, 1753. His mother was a Scottish immigrant house servant and his father was an African American slave who lived and served on the plantation of John Haynes. When both his parents abandoned him, Haynes, an unwanted infant, was taken by Deacon David Rose of Granville, Massachusetts. He lived there until his 21st birthday. He spent his days working the farm, and his nights attending the plantation schools. A household Saturday evening custom was to read sermons from the local church, and on one such evening Haynes read a rousing sermon. When Deacon Rose asked who the author was, he acknowledged that it was his own work. From that point Haynes was frequently called upon to write and preach sermons.
Upon reaching the age of twenty-one Haynes was freed from his master and he built a stone home in Granville. He became a private in the independence war. After the war, Haynes returned to his farming duties at Granville, Massachusetts while continuing to train in Theology. He studied Latin with the Rev. Daniel Farrand in New Canaan, Connecticut and then Greek with Rev. William Bradford in Bloomfield, Connecticut. In November of 1780, Haynes was licensed to preach and accepted a call at the Congregational Church of Middle Granville, making him the first African American minister of an all-white congregation.
In 1785, he became the first ordained African American minister. After a courtship with Elizabeth Babbitt, a white school teacher, the couple married and had ten children. Haynes remained in Granville until 1787, when he accepted a call at the West Parish congregation in Rutland, Vermont where he remained for the next thirty-one years. He became a fiery preacher against the evil of slavery and oppression. His dynamic sermons became famous. He was one of the first African Americans whose work was published in the newspapers. He also received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Middlebury College, only the fourth degree given by the school and the first ever to an African American. He served his final eleven years at the Congregational church in South Granville, New York. Rev. Lemuel Haynes passed away at the age of 80. He was buried at Lee-Oatman Cemetery in South Granville. He had composed his own epitaph, which was included on his gravestone as he had requested. In 1967 his home in South Granville, New York was historically restored and is now a museum: “Here lies the dust of a poor hell-deserving sinner who ventured into eternity trusting wholly on the merits of Christ for salvation. In the full belief of the great doctrines he preached while on earth, he invites his children, and all who read this, to trust their eternal interest in the same foundation”
Quotes of Lemuel Haynes: “To despise blacks, to trade in slaves, or to hold slaves was not to acknowledge God; it means to not honor His affections, mind, and will. All men, white of black, were in the image of God. They were made for more noble ends than to be drove to market, like sheep and oxen… It was total reliance on the merits of my Saviour Jesus Christ that supported me. Had I a thousand souls, I would venture them all on Christ alone”
Praise the Lord for this testimony! He was a mixed race child. He was abandoned at birth by both his parents. He was raised as a slave and freed at 21. He became born again and preached to all, black or white. He decided to educate himself. He competed with the best preachers at that time. God blessed his efforts and his ministry. His life is reminds us that as a child of God, even if men reject you, God will raise you up. Be encouraged today!
(In the pictures bellow (taken from the internet): Reverend Lemuel Haynes, his house now a museum and his tombstone in the cemetery)