John Jasper

1812-1901. American Negro Baptist preacher. Born into slavery on a plantation in Fluvanna County, Virginia, he was raised by a pious mother. He was employed as a slave in the Richmond tobacco factory of a prominent Baptist layman where he experienced a dramatic conversion in 1837. At his master's urging he began preaching, and after learning to read he immersed himself in the Bible. His fame as a lay preacher and pulpit orator spread rapidly throughout Virginia, and after emancipation he took over a regular congregation, eventually becoming pastor of the Sixth Mount Zion Church in Richmond. Thousands thronged to hear him, and one sermon in particular—“De Sun Do Move” (a defense of the literal movement of the sun around the earth), which he repeated over 250 times-gave him a national reputation. Not a sensationalist, he was known for his simple biblical faith, remarkable eloquence, and ability to relate tenderly to his parishioners.