During Black History Month and throughout the year, black women deserve recognition for their important contributions to our country. Too often, even in justice movements, black women have not gotten much credit for their extraordinary work.
Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall was a formidable civil rights leader whose repetition of “I have a dream” in a public prayer inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech. But he got credit, and she did not.
This song (sung to the tune of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”) celebrates Prathia Hall’s major accomplishments as a civil rights movement leader, prophetic preacher, and womanist theologian.
Prathia Hall Spoke Up
Proverbs 2:9-10, 3:13-18, 4:8-9
Prathia Hall spoke up, and people then woke up to take a stand;
she was the first to say, “I have a dream today,”
showing the freedom way, the promised land.
Leader of civil rights, Prathia Hall shed light on justice ways;
her freedom faith prevailed even when she was jailed;
though wounded and assailed, she still held sway.
Prophetic preacher bold, Prathia Hall took hold of Wisdom’s power;
she opened doors for all to claim our gospel call,
breaking oppressive walls, so gifts may flower.
Womanist scholar too, Prathia Hall held true to Wisdom’s Word;
she taught equality, genders and races freed
to be all we can be, all voices heard.
Words © 2017 Jann Aldredge-Clanton AMERICA
Inclusive Songs for Resistance & Social Action includes “Prathia Hall Spoke Up” and other songs that highlight women leaders in history. These songs honor prophetic women who embody the power of Divine Wisdom.
Prathia Hall (1940-2002), a courageous civil rights activist, was arrested many times, shot at, wounded, and jailed for weeks. Active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), she became one of the first women field leaders in southwest Georgia. She was head of the Selma Project and the Atlanta Project, training many Northern white college students. While working for SNCC, she canvassed door to door to register voters. She also taught in freedom schools, helping potential voters pass the required voter registration tests. Her deep passion for justice and what she called “freedom faith” gave her courage for overcoming obstacles in her civil rights activism. She describes “freedom faith” as the belief that God created all people to be free, and assists and empowers us in the struggle for justice.
Rev. Prathia Hall was well known for her moving sermons and speeches. She became one of the first women ordained by the American Baptist Churches, USA, the pastor of Mt. Sharon Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and the first woman accepted into the Baptist Ministers Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity. Ebony magazine named her one of the most powerful preachers in the country. She preached with such power that Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked, “Prathia Hall is the one platform speaker I prefer not to follow.”
Earning M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Prathia Hall became a respected professor of womanist theology, Christian ethics, and African American religious history at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Boston University. She held the Martin Luther King Jr. Chair in Social Ethics at Boston University, and later became the dean of United Theological Seminary and director of the Harriet Miller Women’s Center at the seminary. In addition, she mentored move than two hundred African American clergywomen.
I’m grateful to my friend Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace for drawing my attention to Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall. Courtney, a church history professor at Memphis Theological Seminary, also serves on the board of Equity for Women in the Church. For many years Courtney has been researching and writing about Prathia. In an article in EthicsDaily.com, Courtney writes: “Little did I know at the beginning of this journey that Prathia would become a spiritual mother to me, continuing to inspire me about the real meaning of life and faith.” Prathia “worked tirelessly for justice” and “transformed her suffering into prophetic proclamation.” She “turned ashes into beautiful breaths of life.”
Courtney’s book, Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall, is scheduled for publication on June 15, 2019. Freedom Faith is the first full-length critical study of Rev. Dr. Laura Ann Prathia Hall. Courtney focuses on Prathia’s pioneer work as an activist and minister, examining her intellectual and theological development as well as her influence on Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Wright Edelman, and the early generations of womanist scholars. Courtney states that her upcoming book “explains how racism is perpetuated through unrepresentative government, white-owned capitalism, and heteronormative patriarchal structures.”