The North Star serves a fixed compass in the night sky, guiding the pathway to the dawning of a new day. The North Star, or Polaris, is located directly above the North Pole. It can be identified at night in the Northern Hemisphere. If you can see the North Star, it is obvious which way is north. The North Star is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor.
Harriet Tubman, one of the best-known conductors of the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses for slaves while they attempted to escape into the free states and Canada, used the North Star as a compass on the journey to freedom. It is estimated that “between 1810 and 1850, the Underground Railroad helped to guide one hundred thousand enslaved people to freedom.”* The bright rays of the North Star shone upon them from heaven while they attempted to steer clear of being captured, as they were subject to the Fugitive Slave Law, passed by the U.S. Congress that required citizens to return runway slaves to their owners.
The North Star continually symbolized hope. Some years later in 1906, Charles Albert Tindley (1851–1933), a Methodist minister, wrote lyrics in the hymn “Beams of Heaven” (formerly called “Some Day”), seemingly to encourage hope for African Americans during some of the most arduous times of their journeys, and to acknowledge the oppression they faced as they migrated to Northern cities. The lyrics also alluded to the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and the “Star of Hope” that appeared at the birth of Christ. The lyrics encouraged focus on the beams of heaven, as did the slaves on the North Star, in anticipation of both the earthly and heavenly Promised Land.
“North Stars” in our Midst
The history of African American Seventh-day Adventists is filled with numerous “north stars” who have contributed to the betterment of society for all people. Fortunately, this growing list continues into the twenty-first century:
- Barry C. Black serves as the sixty-second chaplain of the United States Senate and was formerly the first African American to serve as chief of chaplains of the United States Navy.
- Charles E. Bradford was the first president of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and an outstanding administrator, preacher, evangelist, and mentor to pastors.
- Charles D. Brooks, the first speaker/director of Breath of Life Ministries, was a trailblazer of religious media used to reach the African American community with a message of hope and wholeness.
- E. E. Cleveland was a gifted evangelist, author, and civil rights advocate who participated in the first March on Washington, D.C., with Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Chessie Harris, the founder of Harris Home for Children in Huntsville, Alabama, received the President’s Volunteer Action Award in 1989 from President George H. Bush for making a positive impact on the lives of children.
- Mildred Johnson was a Bible instructor extraordinaire who worked both nationally and internationally with noted evangelists. She was also the first female to serve in a leadership role in the initiation of the Evangelism Council at Oakwood University.
- Anna Knight was the first African American Seventh-day Adventist missionary to India. She was a pioneer for mission service among African Americans.
- Ella Simmons served as the first African American female vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Our Star of Hope
The achievements of these men and women continue to inspire us; however, the ultimate reward of eternal life promised to the faithful believers in God will be given at the second coming of Christ. We will also receive a crown with stars from Jesus Christ (see Dan. 12:3), the one who made the North Star, and is our eternal Star of Hope.
* “The Underground Railroad,” National Geographic encyclopedic entry: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/underground-railroad, accessed Dec. 15, 2022.