Little Known Black History Fact: William Seymour

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  • William Seymour was a religious pioneer who initiated the Pentacostal religion. The former railroad porter from Centerville, Louisiana went blind after being stricken with smallpox. When he moved to Houston, Texas in 1903, Seymour wished to attend a white Bible school, but could only listen to the sermon in the hallway because whites and blacks could not be taught together in the school. He learned from Charles Fox Parnham, a Holiness teacher who taught the practice of speaking in tongues. From this, Seymour rooted the Pentecostal Doctrine.

    A few years later, Seymour had moved to Los Angeles and began preaching on the porch of a friend. So many people attended his sermons that the porch floor caved in.

    Seymour soon started his own small shotgun church, the Apostolic Faith Mission, which attracted over 600 people. Many came to his church located on Azusa Street to see him shouting, fall into trances, and do the ‘holy dance.’ With a teaching that said "the Holy Ghost was in control," the services were not structured. A box hung on the wall that said, "Settle with the Lord." It was a new experience many had never seen in a church before.

    The local press condemned the teachings of Seymour. The minister soon started his own publication called The Apostolic Faith, which had over 50,000 subscribers worldwide. The religion became integrated as whites came to witness the doctrine proclaimed by Seymour.

    From the efforts of Seymour came Charles Mason who studied the religion and returned to lead the Church of God in Christ, then William Durham, who began the Assemblies of God in 1914.

    William Seymour died in 1922. His Apostolic Faith Mission Church was sold and is now the Japanese Cultural Center.
     

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