After rereading “One More Day’s Journey,” by Dr. Allen Ballard, I decided to get the autobiography which was cited in his notes on the section, Bravery Amid the Terror in chapter 12, on page 274, From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church, by William H. Heard. Bishop Heard was born enslaved in Georgia on 25 June 1850. Not like many enslaved men, his father was a strong father figure and self-taught craftsman on a neighboring plantation. His mother was a “breeder” who had special privileges for regularly bearing children. He was left to take care of his siblings after she died early when Bishop Heard was nine years old (see page ii).
His education during enslavement consisted of memorizing Bible verses. That was as much as he was allowed at the time. He was determined as a freedman to secure an education by paying literate white people to teach him out of his meager earnings at his father’s wheelwright shop (see page ii).
Bishop Heard wrote the following in his introduction:
‘Those who read this little booklet, The Autobiography of my life, I hope may be benefitted and encouraged, especially the young men and women of our Race.
They can see that men make progress without opportunity, and they ought to be encouraged to use the opportunities they have to make greater progress.
Opportunity comes but once, if properly used it is a great asset, if neglected the person is poorer for having neglected it.
‘It is bald-headed behind
When passed, cannot be grasped,
Therefore seize it in the front,
And use it before it passes,” From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church, by William H. Heard page 15.
Bishop Heard’s autobiography shows the true depths from which he came to heights he “aimed at and attained.” His words have a place in my life. My great grandfather, Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance born in 1861 and a Presiding Elder in the A.M.E. Church would have read Bishop Heard’s words and probably knew him.
From the autobiography, I have laid out for you a timeline of Bishop Heard’s life. We can tell where he was and the year. Then we will be able to find writings and records to document Bishop Heard and other people.
1850 – 1865 Enslavement-Elbert County, Georgia
1868 – 1872 Republican Party, legislature, school, teacher-Elbert County, Georgia
1873 – 1877 Teaching, attended University of South Carolina, Republican Party – 1876- Mt. Carmel, Abbeville County, SC
1879 After teaching and studying at Clark and Atlanta Universities he began studying Law-Athens, Georgia
1880 Assigned to A.M.E. Church mission for two years- Johnstown, Georgia
1882 Assigned to Atlanta, worked federal railway mail clerk job from aiding An Independent Democrat’s campaign for Congress-Atlanta, Georgia
1883 Gave up job for full time pastorate job-Aiken, South Carolina
1885-1888 Mt. Zion, church, won railroad segregation lawsuit in 1887-Charleston, South Carolina
1888 Allen Chapel, Presiding Elder of Lancaster District, Bethel Church
Before 1895 Served in churches in Delaware and Pennsylvania
1895-1899 United States Minister Resident and Consul General to Liberia appointed by President Grover Cleveland, and Superintendent of Liberia Conference, built first A.M.E. Church-Monrovia, Liberia
1899-1904 Served in church posts in Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia
1904-1908 Travelled throughout nation as Secretary-Treasurer of A.M.E. Connectional Preacher Aid and Mutual Relief Society
1908-1916 General Conference in Norfolk elected as bishop. Served as bishop in West Africa.
1916-1920 Mississippi and Louisiana-8th Episcopal District
1920-1937 Middle Atlantic and New England states-1st District
August 1937 Oldest delegate of World Faith and Order Conference-Edinburgh, Scotland
12 September 1937 Bishop William H. Heard died
I have to say that I am better for having discovered the story of Bishop William H. Heard. Stay tuned for the next blog. I will give a few resources where we will be able to find documentation in the places Bishop Heard was stationed around the USA, and the documentation will mention other people.
Sharpen the Saw
This is my favorite type of research. I did not know Bishop Heard was stationed in so many different states. Just think about the places where he was and the people he came in contact with. Did you have an ancestor in any of those places? Let us know on Facebook.