Editor's Note: Sharing Our Stories is dedicated to the review of works by Black authors, both fiction and nonfiction. Today, I give you a nonfictional work; specifically, a biography. Written by Sharon Botts Garth, When Destiny Calls: Living Life With Purpose is the story of her grandfather, Rev. Henry Botts, Sr., who became pastor of Zion Baptist Church, one of the prominent Black churches in the history of Minneapolis.
Born in 1875 near the end of Reconstruction in Missouri, Henry Botts' life is one of strength, service, perseverance, and a life lived by spiritual values, not only in the pulpit, but through the ways he engaged with his parishioners and his community. Though he was subjected to the challenges which faced African Americans during those times, he wasn't defined by them. Sis. Garth takes us through Reconstruction, the Great Migration, setting down roots in north Minneapolis, his assuming the position as Zion Baptist's pastor in the 1920s, the Civil Rights era, the growth of the Black community in the Twin Cities, and on through to his death in 1967.
As a native of the Twin Cities, the historical aspects of life for African Americans here struck home. In comparison to other major urban areas, the Twin Cities Black population (Northside Minneapolis, Southside Minneapolis, and the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul) was tiny, and it was subject to the practice of redlining until the final version of the Open Occupancy Law was passed in 1969. Sis. Garth beautifully illustrates the pivotal role the churches played in the unity and survival of the community, as well as the preparation for succeeding generations as adults and citizens. Those roles are as vital today as they were then, perhaps even more so.
I have often said, "If we don't share our stories, who will?" Thank you, Sis. Garth, for sharing the legacy of your grandfather, Rev. Henry G. Botts, Sr., and the life lessons he handed down to us. And for those of you who are intrigued by another unique voice of Black history in the urban Midwest, look no further than your Amazon or AuthorHouse library.
W.D. Foster-Graham is a native son of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and an alumnus of Minneapolis Central High School’s Class of 1970. A graduate of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, he received a B.A. in psychology, with a minor in Black studies. He is an original member of the 3-time Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness, and has been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best New Poets of 2003.” In keeping with his roots in south Minneapolis, he is an active member of St. Peter’s AME Church.