October 4, 2009 - Rosa Young

Rosa Jinsey Young (1890-1971) of Rosebud, Wilcox County, is known as the “mother of Black Lutheranism in central Alabama.”  A strong advocate for the education of rural children, this remarkable woman is responsible for the founding and development of numerous Lutheran schools and congregations throughout the state.

Rosa had always enjoyed learning, and desired to be a teacher.  When she completed her basic education in 6th grade, she began attending Payne University, an African Methodist Episcopal School in Selma, Alabama.  During her six years at Payne Rosa won many scholarships, served as editor of the school newsletter, and earned the distinction of being valedictorian of her 1909 graduating class.  Her valedictorian speech emphasized the importance of service.  She told her classmates, “‘He that is greatest among you shall be young servant.’ Is the language of the Great Teacher.  To serve is regarded as a divine privilege as well as a duty by every right-minded man."

Though Rosa’s father (Grant Young) was an African American Episcopal minister, it was only later in life when she became associated with the Lutheran Synodical Conference that Rosa felt she understood the light of the Gospel.  This association with the Lutheran Church also came as a result of her desire to serve.

In 1912, after acting as a traveling at various schools for African American children, Rosa returned to Rosebud to begin her own private school, called the Rosebud Literary and Industrial School.  The school was a huge success, with 115 students the first year and 215 students the second year.  However, when the school families were struck by economic calamities in 1915, the school was in danger of closing.  Rosa wrote to Booker T. Washington, who suggested that she contact The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, since the LCMS had a history of founding Black Lutheran missions in the rural South through the founding of Lutheran schools.  Rosa did just that, and in 1916, Rev. Nils Baake was sent to Rosebud to evaluate the mission field and later to act as superintendent of a school and to oversee its development.  Rosa turned the property and the administration of the school over to the Synod and remained as a teacher and advisor.  After adding Religious Education to the curriculum, Rev. Baake had the privilege, in 1916, of baptizing 58 people and confirming 70, including Rosa Young.   These individuals became the core members of Christ Lutheran Church, the first black Lutheran church and school in Wilcox County.

Beyond this initial work, Rosa and Pastor Baake labored together for the founding of about 30 other Lutheran schools and congregations, in places such as Buena Vista, Tilden, Tinela, Midway, and Ingomar.  In 1922, Rosa used her personal influence to help found Alabama Lutheran Academy (ALA) in Selma for the purpose of training black Lutherans as pastors and parochial school teachers for the Alabama mission field.   Rosa served as a faculty member at ALA from 1946-1961.  By the time that she began teaching there, the institution had been renamed as “Concordia College” and is still today part of the LCMS Concordia University System.

In 1961, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, awarded Rosa an honorary doctorate (L.L.D.) in recognition of her remarkable life of service to God, His church, and His people.  I thank God for such and inspiring example that Rosa’s life provides for us today!