The Friends of the Buffalo Story is involved in a yearlong project whose mission is to uncover and reveal the heritage-based stories of people who live along the Ferry Street Corridor. As part of this effort “The Friends” is working very closely with community-groups, who have been doing this work for many years. None has done this more effectively and diligently than the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research & Education on Women, Inc.
We are proud to be collaborating with them to bring you this ongoing feature during the month of February, which focuses on some of the “uncrowned community builders” who have done so much to strengthen the African-American community of Buffalo’s East Side.
Rev. J. Edward Nash – A Legendary Buffalo Pastor
Submitted by Barbara Seals Nevergold, PhD, Co-founder of the Uncrowned Queens Institute
A native of Occoquan, Virginia, Jesse Edward Nash was born in 1868. His parents, former slaves made their living as subsistence farmers. Young Nash left the farm at the age of 13 and subsequently worked as a sailor on the Potomac River, a carpenter, blacksmith, and brick mason. Although, he’d had little formal education, he entered Wayland Seminary, later to become Virginia Union University, in Richmond, Virginia in 1886.
In 1892, he received a Bachelor of Divinity Degree from the Seminary. Viewed as a promising clergyman, he excelled in homiletics, mathematics, German, Greek and Hebrew. He had several offers for a pulpit ministry and one as a college instructor. He chose Buffalo’s Michigan Street Baptist Church because of its legendary association with the historic Underground Railroad; its relatively small church size; evidence of the church’s local and national involvements; and special encouragement received from officers of the church. A 24 year old, he arrived in Buffalo in 1892 to begin a notable ministry lasting 61 years. He retired in 1953 and died in 1957.
In the early years of his ministry, he acquired a reputation for being a God sent preacher; a hard-nosed negotiator; a skilled facilitator; a reliable expediter; and a stalwart advocate especially on behalf of the less fortunate. His view of the church as a center for the social justice movement led to the Michigan Street Baptist Church being a focal point for many of the civil rights activities of the Black community at the turn of the 20th century. The Phyllis Wheatley Club, which used the church as their meeting place, held a protest rally there in November 1900 to advocate for African American involvement in the Pan American Exposition.
He was active in the community/advocacy organizations of his day, including being a founding member of the NAACP in 1915 and the Urban League in 1927. The Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews is only one example of numerous honors he received during his lifetime. He and his wife, the former Frances Jackson, were the parents of one son, Jesse E. Nash, Jr.
For more information on the life of Rev. J. Edward Nash, visit the Uncrowned Community Builders website at www.uncrownedcommunitybuilders.com