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Lemuel Haynes is credited as the first credentialed Black clergyman in the United States, and is considered the first minister to lead a white congregation.

Haynes was born on July 18, 1753 in Hartford, Conn. to a Black father and white mother. Abandoned at five months of age, Haynes was raised by an indentured servant who worked in the home of a farmer t in Granville, Mass. From a young age, Haynes showed proficiency in reading and religion, drafting sermons and delivering them at a local church. After gaining his freedom at 21, Haynes joined the Minutemen Militia who fought in the Revolutionary War.

After the war, Haynes returned to Granville and built his own farm while continuing to study theology. In 1780, Haynes was licensed to preach and ministered at the Congregational Church of Granville, making him the first Black minister to lead a white congregation. In 1785, Haynes was fully ordained,  becoming the nation’s first Black ordained minister.

Haynes married a white school teacher, Elizabeth Babbitt, and they had at least 10 children together.

Haynes drew criticism from many for his Federalist views and for speaking on the behalf of Blacks in the country by saying that deserved equal rights to whites. Before passing in 1883 at the age of 80, Haynes’ final words have served as a point of inspiration for Christians over the years.

“Christ is my all. His blood is my only acceptance. My pains are great, but blessed be God, they are not eternal. I long to be in heaven,” Haynes told a fellow reverend and friend.