Just Off My Bookshelf: Lift Up Thy Voice

This book was a perfectly timed surprise. Lift Up Thy Voice tells the inspiring story of a family that participated in every significant justice movement for two generations. The Grimke sisters were born into a slaveholding family and matured into leaders of the abolitionist movement. Their journey from the plantations of South Carolina to the pulpits of Philadelphia introduces the reader to many abolitionists leaders whose courage, faith, and sacrifice are mostly forgotten. Near the end of their lives they learn that their deceased brother had three sons born of an enslaved women. Two of their nephews would grow into adulthood after the Civil War and work for civil rights with people like Frederick Douglass, Booker T Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois. The witness of these radiant lives, in two eras of great difficulty, are an encouragement and example of how people from different walks of life can stand against the tide of injustice.

It was particularly insightful to see the conflict within Christianity during these times. The prevalent interpretation of scripture sanctioned the system of slavery and deemed any person who disagreed as a heretic who didn’t value the holiness of scripture. It was a time of intense conflict between political ideas and religious ideals. Naturally these dissenting voices for equality became prophetic. They were disowned by family members, dismissed from denominations, and lived in danger wherever they traveled.

The work, sacrifice, and message of people like the Grimke family is important to remember right now as many people look to find their footing in challenging times. This book is especially important for Christians who are discouraged by the dominant message that minimizes injustice. Lift Up Thy Voice reminds us that the dominant memory of Christianity in America excludes the voices of many prophets. I highly recommend this book that expands our memory by revealing the courageous lives of those who have been forgotten. Any recollection of faith in America would benefit from including names such as

Sarah and Angelina Grimke

Theodore Weld

Elijah Lovejoy

John Greenleaf Whittier

Benjamin Lundy

Lucretia Mott

The Lane Rebels

A Few Quotes from Lift Up Thy Voice

“The truth always irritates the proud, impenitent sinner”

“Men cannot imprison, or chain; or hang the soul.”

“I shall not hesitate to call things by their proper names, nor yet refrain from speaking the truth. Take right hold! Hold on! And never abandon an inch of ground after it has been taken.

“With an eye to posterity, he wrote the following inscription on the jailhouse wall: ‘William Lloyd Garrison was put in this cell on Wednesday afternoon, October 21, 1835, to save him from the violence of a ‘respectable and influential’ mob, who sought to destroy him for preaching the abominable and dangerous doctrine that ‘all men are created equal’ and that all oppression is odious in sight of God.’”

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