Mann, John Wesley.JPG

John Wesley Manns

During the early years of the twentieth century, Manns (d. 1929) emerged as Adventism’s most effective black evangelist in the southern U.S. states. His greatest success came in Savannah, Georgia, where a congregation of 100 formed under his leadership in 1912 and 1913, with a school and a grocery store soon added. Unwilling to turn this burgeoning center of black Adventism over to the control of a white denominational leadership that still catered to racism, Manns and his Savannah church, along with several other congregations, formed a new ecclesiastical body, taking the name Free Seventh Day Adventists. The Free SDA movement failed to sustain growth and eventually faded, but it left a legacy of unflinching witness against racial injustice, religious oppression, and violence. Manns, reflecting the pacifist convictions of the Adventist pioneers, denounced war in 1915 as an “awful Moloch” and lamented that tens of thousands were being “fed to the cannon—to maintain what is called national honor and commercial supremacy.”

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