This coming Sunday, 17 February 2008, Richmond's Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church will once again celebrate "John Jasper Day." Jasper was a slave preacher before the WBTS and in 1867, at the age of 55, founded Sixth Mount Zion in an abandoned Confederate horse stable on Brown's Island in the James River. The church went on to become the largest African-American church in the South by the time of Jasper's death in 1901. The church is still a vibrant ministry today. Several years ago, I was honored by being asked to "bring greetings" at this annual event. I, along with the church's historian, Mr. Benjamin Ross, wrote the text for a historical highway marker that was placed near Jasper's birthplace in Fluvanna County. During the war, while he was still enslaved, Jasper made the unusual request to minister to wounded Confederate soldiers in Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond. My own great-great grandfather, John Meredith Crutchfield was, at the same time, a patient in Chimborazo. Grandpa Crutchfield died there in March, just before the fall of Richmond.
Jasper has been one of my heroes since I first learned of him. His story is quite inspiring.