Against the Tide. [Inscribed by Olivia P. Stokes, Civil Rights Activist and African-American Baptist Minister]
The first African American woman to receive a doctorate in religious education
Dr. Olivia Pearl Stokes (1916–2002), was an ordained Baptist minister, author, religious educator, and civil rights activist. She was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in religious education.
Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. was the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and this book, gifted by Stokes to her uncle, would have been especially meaningful to her:
In 1925 [...] Olivia’s family joined the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Under the leadership of Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Abyssinian was one of the more prominent and progressive churches in America. Olivia was particularly proud of the fact that Abyssinian Baptist Church was the first black church in America with a director of religious education who held a master’s degree. The director, Dr. Horatio S. Hill, would have a lasting impact on her life and ministry. Olivia would fondly remember August 8, 1925, as an important day at Abyssinian Baptist Church: “We’ll never forget that date. We went in, put our hands in the hands of Dr. Hill, the educator. My mother said, ‘These are my children. Educate them’” (Hill, 1991, p. 142). The educational program at Abyssinian Baptist Church gave Olivia an opportunity to participate in a comprehensive educational ministry that expanded her horizons through after-school programs, Bible study, music, art, and drama. She was actively involved in both the church and the YWCA during the 1920s and 1930s, when Harlem was the social and artistic center of African American culture.¹
Stokes’ inscription to her uncle, D.A. Stokes is the first stanza of the poem “Santa Filomena” by Longfellow: “Whene’er a Noble Deed is wrought / Whene’er is spoken a Noble Thought / Our Hearts in glad surprise / To Higher Levels rise.”
Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. worked as a sharecropper and a miner before becoming a minister. Her was born in Franklin County, Virginia —as was Booker T. Washington. As pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York’s oldest black church, Powell strengthened and built the church to such a standing that at his retirement in 1937, Abyssinian was the largest Protestant church in America.
Description: Against the Tide. [Inscribed by Olivia P. Stokes, Civil Rights Activist and African-American Baptist Minister]
New York: Richard R. Smith, 1938. First Edition. 327pp. Octavo. Signed under the portrait frontispiece by the author. Additionally, inscribed by Olivia P. Stokes to the front free endpaper. Publisher’s blue cloth, without jacket. Mild wear and light soiling to binding; some foxing; a very good copy.
1. Talbot School of Theology accessed online. See Appiah & Gates, Africana.