African-American Lutheran educator Dr. Rosa Young was in her 20s when she decided to open her own school in the rural south in the early 1900s.
Actually, at that time, Young wasn’t even Lutheran. But famed African-American educator Booker T. Washington — to whom she had written for funding — advised her to contact “the Lutheran Church … [which was] doing more for the colored race than any other denomination he knew of,” Young recalled.
She did so, and ultimately became a member of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and got the financial backing that enabled her to start some 30 schools, including what is today Concordia College in Selma, Ala.
How was one young woman able to break through the ethnic and gender barriers of the period and do so much?
“She relied upon God. She had a strong belief that her mission was blessed and she did not waver in that view,” explains Dr. Julieanna Frost, assistant professor of history at Siena Heights University, Adrian, Mich., and the author of a new book about Young — Teaching the Pure Lutheran Gospel: The Life of Rosa Young.
Frost got the idea for the book in 2002, when she was teaching a class on “Women in American History” at Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich., and a student asked her about the contributions of Lutheran women.
“I was very embarrassed,” admitted Frost. “Here I was at an LCMS school, as a member of an LCMS congregation myself, and I completely overlooked this topic.” (Frost now worships at a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.)
That student’s question, though, led Frost to her discovery of Rosa Young and “directly influenced what has become one of my major areas of research — U.S. Lutheran women missionaries,” she said.
Frost did much of her research for the 184-page book at Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis and at Concordia College, Selma. She also interviewed former students and Young’s niece, Mary Wise.
Through eight years of research, Frost says she got to know her subject.
Young, she told Reporter, “was dedicated to her students and to her faith. She had a very strong work ethic and was relentless in her focus. She also demanded high standards of herself and of others.”
Posted Dec. 30, 2010 / Updated July 24, 2014