Jesus told a parable about farmer planting a mustard seed, the kudzu or crab grass of the Middle East. From one tiny seed, an entire field can be covered with the almost impossible to remove invasion of weeds. So one small action of faith can spread beyond what anyone imagined when the Holy Spirit brings the growth.
Anthony Benezet was a French-born Quaker in Philadelphia who became a loud opponent of slavery. He educated black children and published several tracts at his own expense to try and convince his fellow Quakers that slavery was antithetical to Christian discipleship. In 1772, his Historical Account of Guinea (read it here), became the spark that lit a fire in both America and Europe. Granville Sharp and John Wesley both republished Benezet’s tract in their own words. These two incredibly influential men were moved by Benezet to see the theological arguments against slavery, and used their power to spread his ideas. Benezet’s tract convinced Thomas Clarkson to become a leading British voice for abolition, and a spokesperson for the end of slavery worldwide. Clarkson would then influence Will Wilberforce, the member of Parliament who put the final nail in the coffin of the British slave trade. Wesley’s influence over the American Methodists led to the Methodist movement being known as an abolitionist movement, with many American Methodist societies boycotting slave-owners. John Wesley had always had a distaste for slavery, but Benezet convinced him that abolition was not only possible, it was scripturally crucial.
This Friday, June 19 marks the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, when the last American slaves were set free in Galveston, TX. Benezet, Wesley, and Sharp all died long before abolition became a reality anywhere, but each planted seeds that eventually grew to its demise.
This is the first Wesley Bros comic I’ve done in full color. This story is important to me. I wrote a paper on the subject as a Duke student that won an award with the United Methodist Historical Society in 2008. I believe that the abolition movement needs to be reignited. My hope is that enough people will look up and see the ways our society continues to enslave the underprivileged through mass incarceration…that the pipeline from school to prison will be blocked off by people who care…that the love of the Gospel will bring true peace with justice.