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I prayed and worked on.
1874 to 1972
Anna Knight was a little girl with an amazing appetite for knowledge. She was born in 1874 to an emancipated slave in Mississippi, and she grew up moving to the rhythm of work.
Anna's mother subsisted as a sharecropper in Jasper County. By energetic labor and disciplined frugality, Mrs. Knight managed to buy 80 acres of land. Later she and her children homesteaded another 80 acres adjoining. With a cow, horse, and a yoke of oxen, the multi-generational family grew all their own food as well as cotton for a cash crop. But the small amount of cash was never enough.
The Knights could not afford "extras" such as pens and paper, to say nothing of books or magazine subscriptions. Mrs. Knight and her brood did remarkably well to acquire their land and livestock.1 Without textbooks or writing materials, Anna sought through creative means to satisfy her seemingly insatiable desire to learn. In spite of the long hours of work, sometimes on Sunday Anna did get some free time. When this happened, she was able to slip away and visit a friend who was so fortunate as to own books. Anna would offer to help do the work if the friend would, in exchange, teach her to read.
Anna was eager to share with her siblings, nieces, and nephews what she learned. After nailing together boards, Anna blackened them with wet soot; when this hand-crafted blackboard had thoroughly dried, she wrote on it with natural chalk dug out of the mud bank. She set the other children to work copying in the sand the numbers and letters that she printed on the board.
For recreation Anna loved to participate in, and to help organize, the neighborhood spelling bees that were held on Sundays. She probably competed very well.
Reading virtually everything that she could get her hands on, Anna noticed an advertisement for a magazine for children of her own age. This she wanted more than anything else in the world. Some way she coaxed her mother into letting her have the dollar necessary to subscribe, but was firmly told never again to request a dollar for such a wasteful luxury.
From her magazine Anna learned how she could receive free samples of catalogs, papers, and even an occasional book. Delighted, she got a friend to write the necessary letter of request. Before long she was receiving a great deal of mail. When a catalog had some script print, Anna took it outside and earnestly practiced writing in the sand.
Anna received a sample copy of a little paper called Comfort. After reading it, she was eager to subscribe. She knew there was no point in asking her mother for the 25-cent subscription price, so she earned it by extra work picking cotton.
In one issue of Comfort Anna found a notice that seemed exactly to fit her needs. She copied it verbatim, except for the substitution of her own name. Her request read, "Will some of the cousins [readers] please send me some nice reading matter? I would like to correspond with those of my own age." Now the mailbox was busier than everAnna received 40 responses.
Edith Embree, a Seventh-day Adventist young woman, saw Anna's request. She belonged to the Young People's Literature Correspondence Band. The Holy Spirit enabled Miss Embree to see in Anna's notice an opportunity to bring someone to Christ. She worked for the Signs of the Times and sent Anna copies of that journal as well as various other tracts and doctrinal books. Over a period of time Edith not only sent literature but also wrote letters, asking Anna to respond to certain articles, which the girl was glad to do.
After Anna had been reading these Seventh-day Adventist publications and corresponding with Edith Embree for about six months, she decided she must live according to the truths found in the papers. She had no idea what group published the materials that she had been reading. Because the teachings were from the Bible, she complied.
Anna began to observe Saturday as the Sabbath, for that is what the Bible teaches. When she explained to her family that she was now resting on the seventh day rather than on the first, they were dreadfully upset. They suspected that much reading and study had driven her "out of her mind." Anna had a form of savings. She and her brother, as the result of much hard work, owned a bale of cotton between them. Anna used the proceeds from her half to move to Chattanooga for further instruction.
It might seem odd that she would go all the way from Mississippi to Tennessee to be taught. However, Seventh-day Adventist churches and members were few and widely scattered in the South at the end of the last century. There were no conferences; the entire area of the southern states was at that time designated a "mission field" by the denomination.
Miss Embree helped Anna make contact with a loving Seventh-day Adventist family with whom she could stay. The young convert received good instruction; she was baptized a Seventh-day Adventist while in Chattanooga.
Aglow with her commitment to follow Christ, Anna returned home to Mississippi. Immediately she ran into difficulties. For one thing, since Anna liked to guide the plow down the rows, for years the family had depended on her to do the plowing. Now believing that it was wrong to plow on Sabbath, Anna begged to be allowed to work on Sunday. She tried to reason with her mother, explaining why her conscience would not allow her to work on Sabbath. Not being able to read seemed to compound Mrs. Knight's frustration. A strong-willed woman, she flew into a rage. She insisted that she was Anna's mammy, and that the girl could not teach her motherAnna would have to give up this Saturday-for-Sunday foolishness or leave home.
Anna came to the painful decision that she must leave home. Friends in Chattanooga assisted her with expenses so that she could attend Mount Vernon Academy in Ohio for one school year. It was a good time for her to get away from home, and she treasured the opportunity to study.
The following year Anna found it possible to attend the new industrial school in Battle Creek, Michigan, the predecessor of Battle Creek College. Along with hard work, she exhibited strong faith and a tremendous spirit of vitality. In 1898 Anna Knight graduated from Battle Creek College, prepared to be a missionary nurse.
Dr. J. H. Kellogg, director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium (which was closely associated with the college), urged Anna's class to volunteer for self-supporting missionary work. Accepting that call, Anna decided that no other mission field had as great a need for her ministry as her home county in Mississippi.
When she returned home from college, Anna was greatly relieved to find that the family's ill feeling concerning her religious faith had disappeared. Her relatives received her gladly; they were willing to help create the school that Anna considered a necessity for Jasper County. The school was housed in a dilapidated log cabin. Anna taught for a dollar a week, plus labor that the parents and children could suppy at odd times.
As the school was progressing admirably, the old building that housed it burned down. Anna was not deterred by this calamity; she stepped out by faith again to organize the construction of a new building.
Miss Knight had planted four acres in cotton; she dedicated the proceeds to this purpose. A friend solicited 50 dollars in Ohio. Patrons and friendly neighbors were asked to contribute money or labor. All promised to do what they could. The building, when finished, was so splendid that people came from 75 miles away to see it.
Miss Knight taught 24 pupils in eight grades, no small task for a second-year teacher. Yet she did not see her calling as limited to her teaching duties. Anna organized two classes on Sunday as a means of outreach, one in her school building and the other five miles distant. After the religious classes she taught adults how to read, write, and figure, how to cook and preserve food with healthful methods, and how to live according to the principles of temperance. The teacher's training for medical missionary work was put to practical use.
Anna's work in the temperance cause aroused the anger of some local "moonshiners" to the point that they came to the school expressly to pick a fight. After a struggle with Anna's relatives, the brewers decided they had met their match and left.
The fame of Miss Knight's intrepid missionary activities spread far beyond Jasper County. In May 1901 Anna was astonished to receive from Dr. J. H. Kellogg an invitation to serve as a delegate to the General Conference Session to be held in Battle Creek. He was gratified that a former student had accepted his challenge to organize self-supporting missionary work and thought that she could articulately represent the self-supporting and medical missionary work of Battle Creek graduates.
At the age of 27 the country girl from Mississippi could give a good report at the General Conference Session from her slightly more than two years of missionary work. She had established a school of 24 pupils and built a comfortable, neat schoolhouse free of debt, was conducting two Sunday schools, had given scores of lectures on health and temperance, and regularly provided simple treatment for the sick. When praised concerning these impressive achievements, she humbly responded, "To God be the glory."
While attending General Conference, Miss Knight overheard some nurses discussing the critical need for people of their profession in India. Anna recalled that years earlier she had felt a sense of call to help the women of India. After seeking God's direction, she offered that if the General Conference would send a husband and wife team to continue the work she had initiated in Mississippishe considered the work to be too heavy for one personshe would serve in India.
One of Anna's good friends, Mrs. Atwood, and her husband agreed to operate the school in Mississippi; and soon Miss Knight was one of seven missionaries bound for India.
Her first assignment was at the Karmatar Training School. She taught Bible and English, kept the mission accounts, upon occasion lanced boils and extracted teeth, and supervised the garden. And she was making history, for Anna Knight was the first black woman missionary sent to India from America.2
Her greatest challenge at Karmatar was neither academic nor medical, but concerned management of the garden. Though agriculture was a subject about which Anna Knight knew a great deal, when she tried to show her helpers how to prepare the soil for planting, they balked. They claimed it couldn't be done that way in Indiaafter all, they were experienced, too.
One important project was the planting of sweet potato slips. From her background of farming in the South, Anna knew that sweet potatoes would not grow in the hard ground at the mission. Therefore she led workers to the river, supplied with gunny sacks and the bullock cart; they brought back sand for the garden. In addition to the sand, she instructed them to add barnyard manure to the soil. After they had mixed these components together with a mattock, the workers were asked to dig a trench. Up to this point Miss Knight had been able to enlist the villagers assigned to her to participate in this arduous work, although with an undercurrent of opposition.
However, when the garden director remembered having seen an American turnplow in the barn and told a laborer to fetch it, the workers protested openly.
"Might be all right in America, no good in India," one villager insisted. Thereupon Miss Knight had the plow brought to her and, drawing on her Mississippi years, she hitched the bullocks to the plow and took its handles herself. Working as hard as she ever had worked in her life, she managed to prepare suitable rows and plant sweet potato slips in them, persisting even in the rain until she finished. She was so exhausted that after her bath and dinner she fainted and was weak for several days.
Using two girls as crutches, the determined missionary limped to a chair from which she supervised school boys while they planted tomatoes, cauliflower, turnips, and beets. Before long there was a vegetable harvest such as had never been seen at Karmatar. The laborers from the village spread the word that the missionary had herself operated the strange American plow and with it had worked wonders.
Of course the whole point of creating a successful garden, of being there at all, was to introduce the students to the joys of the kingdom of heaven. Miss Knight wished to hold up before them the future life while at the same time preparing them to share the good news of salvation with others. Anna was overjoyed when she saw the girls begin to take a deep interest in the Bible classes and nursing skills she taught them. The boys, who had caused some problems before, behaved better when fully occupied physically under Anna's direction, busily digging holes for new fruit trees.
There was important work beyond the campus as well. One day Miss Knight and Miss Whiteis, another staff member, were traveling from the school to a neighboring village to visit a sick woman. On the way people ran to greet them with deep bows, urging the missionaries to help their sick friends. Anna Knight knew that she was following her call and was content. She sometimes expressed a wish for more workers as well as more of the Spirit's power.
At the school Miss Knight began taking up an offering in Sabbath school. She was delighted to see that the children cheerfully accepted the idea. Of course, the youngest children had no income. To rectify this, Anna Knight sent the five youngest students out to pick up manure to put under the new trees. They were paid one pice each. Thus they had income from which to give to the Lord. One little boy proclaimed with enthusiasm, "We will earn a hundred pice." 3
Anna believed the admonition, "Train up a child in the way he should go." 4 In Mississippi first, and now in India, she had accepted this responsibility. She was in charge of training Indian workers to minister to their own people.
Community folk came to the campus for spiritual ministry. One Sabbath evening five lovely Bengali women attended worship. A student read a chapter from the Bengali Bible; prayers were offered in the native tongue as well as in English. At the close of the service, the visiting women expressed their appreciation. They urged Anna and others to visit them, to sing, and to tell them of Jesus; they promised to return.
"What more could we want?" Anna asked. Her long-time dream of ministering to the women of India was coming true.5
Miss Knight helped her students in ways other than her formal work of teaching, important as that was. She wanted the students to learn ways to earn income; she knew firsthand the importance of being able to work one's way through school. That is why she arranged to have the Watchman Press moved to Karmatar, enabling several young people to attend school who otherwise would not have had the opportunity.
During several summers Miss Knight worked in Simla, a resort community, holding meetings, conducting Bible studies, giving treatments, and teaching classes.
Early 1906 found Miss Knight and a companion, Miss Haegert, selling Christian books in Rajputana, where Adventists had not ministered for several years. Difficulties included sunstroke, going for uncomfortable periods without food and water, and being attacked. Amid such storms of adversity, Anna's lamp of faith appeared not even to flicker. "There are some clouds and barren places, to be sure," she acknowledged, "but my motto is,'On the victory side,' and I am not going to look on the dark side, for we know this truth is going to triumph, and I want to triumph with it!" 6
Meanwhile, tales of woe trickled in from Mississippi regarding the school she had founded. The moonshiners, she learned sadly, had renewed their harassment when the new teachers came. These enemies of the school finally resorted to the extreme measure of burning down the building. The school closed. The work in Jasper County seemed lost.
Anna wrote begging the General Conference leadership to send someone to Mississippi to teach her people. She added that if no one could be found, she would like a furlough to rebuild the work herself.
After several months of waiting and praying, Anna received a letter saying that she had been granted a furlough to return home to try to revive the work that had been stopped by violence in Mississippi. She departed, with the people in Mississippi and of India all on her heart. She left her trusted bicycle and other belongings in India for use on her return.
Arriving back home in Mississippi, Anna Knight received the welcome of a celebrity. Construction of a new school building had already started in anticipation of her return.
On her first Sunday back in the community, Anna and her supporters called a meeting in the new building. Many people attended. Some of the moonshiners, even though they had helped burn down the school that Miss Knight had built, now sat in the congregation or stood outside to listen. The returned missionary told thrilling stories of her experiences; she painted dramatic word pictures of faraway places.
Anna Knight then changed her topic and spoke, not as a world traveler, but as a hometown girl. She reminded her listeners that not one of them had been able to read or write until she, and after her the Atwoods, had taught them. She challenged the assembled community to cooperate with her to move toward a still brighter future.
The school organizer set forth a strong and specific program, including buying school books for each child and subscribing to Our Little Friend and the Youth's Instructor for the children's reading. Miss Knight set forth the school rules: no card parties, dances, or other inappropriate forms of recreation. School attendance must be regular. If they were ready to support such a program, Anna told her listeners, she would throw herself fully into leading out. When she asked those to stand who would cooperate in the work she had set forth, all the patrons and many others stood. Seventh-day Adventist work in Jasper County was alive again.
The next day school started operation with 22 students. Construction on the building continued after school hours.
On weekends Anna conducted Sunday religious meetings in two locations, as had been her practice before leaving for India. Then several people offered to meet on Sabbath afternoon instead of Sunday. When the conference president visited six months later, he found nine candidates ready for baptism. Among them were Anna's mother, two of her sisters, other relatives, and community members.
During summer months when school was not in session, the conference employed Miss Knight to visit churches and companies of believers. She taught Bible lessons and prepared interested people for baptism. At a workers' meeting in Vicksburg attended by both black and white workers, she delivered lectures about mission work.
It was inevitable that Anna Knight would face a decision about whether she could make a greater contribution by returning to India than by remaining in the South. Some advisors did not see it as a difficult choice. Repeatedly Anna would hear one of her peers say something like, "If I had my way, I wouldn't let you go back to India. We need you here. Let the white folk go to India, but you stay here and work with us." It was true that workers for black people were scarce. Few had received adequate training or preparation.
Anna was puzzled. She was looking at two great needs. However, she was only one person. Fortunately, she had a mode of operation that could see her through this time of uncertainty over God's will for her life. She wrote, "While I could see that the colored work in America really did need workers, to me, the needs of India were greater by far. However, I prayed and worked on." 7
This was not the only time in her life that Anna Knight found it wise to pray for wisdom and, while waiting for God to answer, to work on. The puzzle eventually resolved, to the glory of God and to Anna's satisfaction.
Miss Knight received an unexpected invitation from the Southeastern Union Conference to help develop a new sanitarium for black people in Atlanta. This was in 1910, when she expected soon to be returning to India. Still longing to know the will of God, Anna took the letter of call to her room and spread it before the Lord, as King Hezekiah had done with a letter that caused him great concern. After praying fervently, she decided to find out who had extended the invitation to her. If they were people who did not know about her commitment to India or did not value her work there, she would not take the call seriously. However, if this invitation had been passed on to her by some of the General Conference leaders who knew of her dedicated work both at home and abroad, their guidance would be significant. She wrote to inquire. While waiting for a response, she prayed and kept working.
The letter of reply mentioned leaders who knew and valued her overseas mission service and had now approved her call to Atlanta. A check for transportation was enclosed. Anna had been given the sign that she had requested. Soon she received a letter from church leadership requesting her to establish a strong work for black people in Atlanta. Finding trained people to lead out in the project seemed nearly impossible. In fact, church leaders thought that the vacancy in India could be filled more readily. After praying once more, Miss Knight sent word that she would accept the call to Atlanta. Within a few days' time, she was there.
As a result of her two years' work during furlough, Anna left a little company of Sabbath keepers in Jasper County. Some of these converts had been strongly opposed to her own Sabbath keeping at first.
When Anna arrived in Atlanta expecting to begin work at the new medical center, she found the sanitarium in an embryonic statenothing more than an unfinished, unfurnished house. Furthermore, no one seemed to know where Miss Knight was supposed to live while organizing the new center.
Having been a self-supporting missionary during much of her life, Anna had not accumulated many tangible assets. Just how or where she was to live at this point she did not know. Therefore she prayed through this crisis, as she had others in the past. She decided to sleep in an empty room of the sanitarium. The enterprising project director found a few pieces of used furniture, gave them a healthy scrubbing, and moved in.
Just before Miss Knight's arrival, neighbors had circulated a petition and had obtained an injunction against the operation of a sanitarium in the house that the Adventists had secured. It took time to work around this blockade. Meanwhile, the responsibility of giving Bible studies in the area was turned over to her. She was also invited by many groups to recount her work in India. This helped break down prejudice toward Seventh-day Adventists.
When a sick neighbor failed to respond to all her doctor's efforts, Anna asked permission to administer water treatments. Since the doctor had exhausted all the possibilities he knew, he consented. In a few days the patient was sitting up, and before long she had fully recovered. Favorable relationships with several people in the community resulted.
Anna hoped to save enough money for a coat by the time winter weather arrived, because Atlanta would be colder than Mississippi had been. Meanwhile, she accepted chairmanship of the board of the two-teacher church school in Atlanta. Because of Miss Knight's own experience with a struggling school, she was a sympathetic listener as the school's problems were enumerated to her.
The larger room needed several desks immediately in order to seat the students. A more adequate stove was necessary to heat the room properly. Could the conference provide the equipment? Miss Knight wrote to inquire.
She was told that since this was a mission school, the conference already paid 50 percent of the teachers' salaries; the administrators did not think they could do more. Then Anna requested permission to buy the much-needed equipment on the installment plan and make payments from the tuition. This plan was approved.
In a sacrificial act, the board chairman used her savings, earmarked for a winter coat, as the down payments on the stove and school desks. Some members of the board, while happy to see the stove and desks in place, were apprehensive about the debt. Anna assured them that the Lord, who had opened the door for securing the needed equipment to operate the school, would impress the patrons to pay their tuition; and that, indeed, happened.
However, the newcomer from Mississippi now had no funds for a winter coat to protect her from Atlanta's frosty winter.
Several weeks later while answering letters, Anna came upon one she had received from her friend Edith Embree Runnels. (Edith Embree was the young woman who wrote to Anna and sent her literature in response to her notice in the little magazine Comfort.) Over the years Anna had maintained contact with this kind friend who had been influential in her conversion. Now Anna wrote Edith a long letter describing the work in Atlanta. She mentioned buying the school supplies on credit, using her coat money for down payment on the heating stove and school desks. She told how happy she was that she had saved the money at just the right time to advance God's work.
Edith Runnels read the letter to the Missionary Volunteer Society at her church. The society members decided they would like to collect money to replace the coat. Then someone else who had known Anna at Battle Creek College said she had a coat to give away. Thus it was that Miss Knight received both the coat and the money. The handsome black broadcloth coat, well constructed and almost new, was better than anything Anna would have bought for herself. She wore it with a keen sense of satisfaction.
The money sent by the Missionary Volunteer Society was enough to pay off the indebtedness on the classroom stove. "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus," Anna remembered. From that time on Philippians 4:19 was one of her favorite Bible verses.
Another area of concern for Miss Knight was the fact that, although for black people there was a Young Men's Christian Association in Atlanta, there was no corresponding institution for women; she decided to do something about it. She asked representative women to meet with her, and they proceeded to set up a local Young Women's Christian Association for blacks. Women of several denominations worked together to accomplish this significant achievement.
The new YWCA held mass meetings to present truths concerning health, temperance, social purity, and personal hygiene. First aid and nursing classes were taught. The national YWCA parent organization commended the work being done but did not affiliate the Atlanta group just then because of its strong ties with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Miss Knight offered to resign as secretary, but the group preferred to continue operating as an independent local unit under her leadership.
In addition to all her other work, Miss Knight conducted an average of 500 Bible readings a year. During the last year she worked in Atlanta, as many new members were added through her ministry as there had been in the church when it was organized. Included among these converts whom Anna Knight won to the Lord were several prominent citizens of Atlanta.8
Moreover, because of her example of sacrificial giving coupled with the sound Biblical instruction she gave on stewardship, each year while she was leader of the work there the tithes and offerings doubled.
Because of Anna Knight's spirituality, ability, and productivity, she advanced to larger responsibilities. In 1913 she was called to serve as associate home missionary secretary for the Southeastern Union Conference. This church administrative unit embraced the states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and parts of Tennessee and Florida. Miss Knight was invited to take responsiblity for overseeing the work in black churches and schools.9 As the conference leadership pledged her their cooperation and support, she thought that the only appropriate response was to try.
Starting at the church in Atlanta, she organized the local membership for lay ministry. Then she moved on to other cities in her territory: St. Petersburg, Charleston, Jacksonville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Birmingham. In each place she trained and organized the members for ministry.
Never one to stop short of a strenuous work load, she voluntarily visited each church school in her territory to give the students the benefit of an annual physical examination.
As part of a routine report, Miss Knight once mentioned that in the course of discharging her responsibilities for that year she had written more than 1500 letters, all in longhand. The administrators were amazed. Elder C. B. Stephenson, the union president, recommended that each conference share in the expense of providing Miss Knight with a typewriter. As a result, the conferences presented this tireless worker with a Corona portable typewriter. Starting from hunt-and-peck, she gradually developed considerable skill as a typist. Thereafter many of her letters were written on the train while the busy home missionary secretary was on her way to meet an appointment.
Her lifestyle was shaped by her travels. She planned her work a month at a time and attempted to cover one entire conference before moving on to another. The itinerant life apparently bothered her not at all.
Other responsibilities were added until Miss Knight was serving as associate home missionary, educational, missionary volunteer, and Sabbath school secretary of the Southeastern Conference. She was not called a minister, and she was not ordained. Her authorization through her many years of ministry was variously called licensed missionary and credentialed missionary. However, any man carrying her responsibilities year after year would surely have been designated a minister and would have been ordained.
After she had cheerfully carried out her many and diverse responsibilities in the Southeastern Union Conference for six years, on December 17, 1919, the General Conference Committee concurred with the recommendation of the Southern Union Conference that Miss Anna Knight be called to direct the home missionary work for the colored people in that large field.10 After earnestly requesting God's guidance, she chose to accept this challenge.
Her new territory included Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the western parts of Florida and Tennessee. Not a person to linger at headquarters, Miss Knight traveled extensively among the churches and schools of her large field. "To take care of the work of all three of her deparments, working among the churches and the schools, necessitated her living on the train and out of suitcases a great deal of the time," Elder Singleton recalled later; "however, by thorough planning of her work she was able to give very effective leadership." 11
She ordinarily stayed from two days to a week in each place, using the time judiciously. In the area of lay ministry she organized bands for home missionary work and conducted weekend institutes.
The way Anna Knight integrated her labor with that of the local conference officials is impressive. Upon completing her tour of a field, she would always report to the local leadershipin person if possible; if not, in writing. By closely cooperating with many leaders and with God, she generated impressive results.
In 1932 the Southeastern and Southern unions were combined to become the present Southern Union Conference. Miss Anna Knight was asked to be the assistant secretary for the educational, young people's missionary volunteer, and home missionary departments of the colored department of the newly-formed Southern Union Conference. To carry three departments for the black people of the entire South was a tremendous challenge. But because of her long and demanding preparation, she was not threatened by the weight of her ever-growing responsibilities. Long before, she had learned to lean on the Lord.
Education was extremely important in Anna Knight's values. The number of schools existing during her leadership exceeded what has been accomplished before or since.12
As a speaker, Anna Knight was known for a powerful style of delivery. She could take a text and from it develop a forceful message. People would come to hear what she had to say. They trusted her to be forthright with them; she usually would "tell it like it is." As for her stories of India, they held people spellbound.
Much of Anna Knight's work was public, but she also took a great interest in individuals. One young man whom she took under her wing, encouraged, and helped to get an internship, later became well known as Elder H. D. Singleton of the General Conference.
Miss Knight, knowing she had a much greater opportunity than the young man to get around and meet people, even looked out for a wife for Pastor Singleton. Pleased with his mentor's recommendation, the pastor invited the chosen young woman to teach school in his district. They married, and the Singletons blessed Miss Knight's matchmaking as they pursued the Lord's work together.
When the organizational structure of the church in the South was changed in 1945 to create black conferences, the colored department at the union level, in which Anna Knight had worked for 13 years, was automatically terminated. Although she was invited to take departmental work in one of the local conferences, she preferred to retire, being past 70 years of age. However, she did agree to shoulder responsibility temporarily in two of the new conferences until her successors were in place. Thus she continued in the South Atlantic Conference until March 1946 and in the South Central Conference until November of that year.
In retirement Anna Knight lived at Oakwood College. There she influenced still another generation of emerging Adventist leaders.
During the last year of her life, when she was 98, she received the General Conference Department of Education Medallion of Merit Award on November 17, 1971. At that time only 12 such awards had been made.13
The next year on June 3, death claimed the pioneer missionary. She left behind an astonishing record. The Mississippi farm girl had emerged from poverty and illiteracy to become a powerful force for progress. Early dedicating her life to Christ, she lived by principle through her nearly one hundred years. Sometimes she struggled over decisions, not knowing which way to turn. At such times she chose to "pray and work on" until God made the next move clear.
She accomplished goals unthought of in her youth. Anna Knight conducted more than 9,000 meetings and traveled the equivalent of 23 trips around the world,14 not counting her trips to, from, and within India. "My work required the writing of 48,918 letters," she discovered upon totaling a lifetime's accumulation of mothly reports. Missionary visits numbered 11,744.
People whom she brought to Christ, students educated in schools established under her guidance, and men and women who heard her speak still fondly cherish the memory of this remarkable servant of God and leader of humankind. Particularly for many natives in India and for hundreds of black people in the South, Anna Knight showed repeatedly that one committed, consecrated Christian person can make a difference.
1 Anna Knight, Mississippi Girl: An Autobiography (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1952). Material in this chapter not otherwise credited is based on Miss Knight's Autobiography.
2 H. D. Singleton, "Vanguard of Torchbearers," The North American Informant XXII (March-April, 1968): 1-2.
3 Anna Knight, "Karmatar Training-School," Eastern Tidings (March, 1904): 10-11.
4 Prov. 22:6.
5 Anna Knight, "Karmatar," Eastern Tidings (November, 1904): 42-43.
6 Anna Knight, "A Word from the Out Posts," Eastern Tidings (February, 1906): 2-3, emphasis in the original.
7 Knight, Mississippi Girl, p. 168, emphasis supplied.
8 Telephone conversation of the writer with Elder H. D. Singleton, Wheaton, Maryland, Dec. 6, 1988.
9 Singleton, "Vanguard of Torchbearers," 1.
10 General Conference Committee Minutes, Dec. 17, 1919, 11-2 p. 496.
11 Harold R. Singleton, "Vanguard of Torchbearers," The North American Informant (March-April, 1968), 2.
12 H. D. Singleton, telepone conversation with the writer, Dec. 6, 1988.
13 L. A. Paschal, "Woman Approaching 100th Birthday Given Merit Award," Review and Herald (June 15, 1972): 22.
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