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Ellen White and Social Justice Activism (Part 2)


Here are thirty more quotations from Ellen White that contain principles for social justice activism. Read the first thirty in Part 1.

Once again, the quotes below contain italicized headings that are my words, not Ellen White’s. I attempted to distill the quote to apply to social activism. You may disagree with how they are characterized. That’s fine. Just be sure to read them in their wider milieu in the link to the entire passage on the official Ellen G. White Estate site provided in the heading.

Teach literacy to relieve oppression

“No people have suffered such great oppression as the colored people in the South. None have through the treatment received been brought into such degradation. And for no people has so little been done to uplift. They have not been taught to read that they might know the Word of God. This field stands forth to witness against those who have had the light of truth, who have had their duty plainly presented to them, but who have neglected to do what should have been done.” (1899)

Cooperate with groups doing good work for social justice

“Light has been given me that there are those with most precious talents and capabilities in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). Much time and money have been absorbed among us in ways that bring no returns. Instead of this, some of our best talent should be set at work for the W.C.T.U., not as evangelists, but as those who fully appreciate the good that has been done by this body. We should seek to gain the confidence of the workers in the W.C.T.U. by harmonizing with them as far as possible.” (1900)

Protest against racial inequality

“In one place the proposition was made that a curtain be drawn between the colored people and the white people. I asked, Would Jesus do that? This grieves the heart of Christ. The color of the skin is no criterion as to the value of the soul. By the mighty cleaver of truth we have all been quarried out from the world. God has taken us, all classes, all nations, all languages, all nationalities, and brought us into His workshop, to be prepared for His temple.” (1900)

Address the root of social injustice by preaching the gospel

“The gospel of His grace alone can cure the evils that curse society. The injustice of the rich toward the poor, the hatred of the poor toward the rich, alike have their root in selfishness, and this can be eradicated only through submission to Christ. He alone, for the selfish heart of sin, gives the new heart of love. Let the servants of Christ preach the gospel with the Spirit sent down from heaven, and work as He did for the benefit of men. Then such results will be manifest in the blessing and uplifting of mankind as are wholly impossible of accomplishment by human power.” (1900)

Seek to help foreigners and refugees

“But we are not to think only of great and gifted men, to the neglect of the poorer classes. Christ instructs His messengers to go also to those in the byways and hedges, to the poor and lowly of the earth. In the courts and lanes of the great cities, in the lonely byways of the country, are families and individuals—perhaps strangers in a strange land—who are without church relations, and who, in their loneliness, come to feel that God has forgotten them. They do not understand what they must do to be saved. Many are sunken in sin. Many are in distress. They are pressed with suffering, want, unbelief, despondency. Disease of every type afflicts them, both in body and in soul. They long to find a solace for their troubles, and Satan tempts them to seek it in lusts and pleasures that lead to ruin and death. He is offering them the apples of Sodom, that will turn to ashes upon their lips. They are spending their money for that which is not bread and their labor for that which satisfieth not.” (1900)

Don’t permit injustice in your institutions

“In the future, more than in the past, our school [Avondale] must be an active missionary agency, as the Lord has specified. Men and women of different nationalities must be brought in. There will be no “color line” here.” (1900)

Feed the Poor

“What misery exists in the very heart of our so-called Christian countries! Think of the condition of the poor in our large cities. In these cities there are multitudes of human beings who do not receive as much care and consideration as are given to the brutes. There are thousands of wretched children, ragged and half starved, with vice and depravity written on their faces. Families are herded together in miserable tenements, many of them dark cellars reeking with dampness and filth. Children are born in these terrible places. Infancy and youth behold nothing attractive, nothing of the beauty of natural things that God has created to delight the senses. These children are left to grow up molded and fashioned in character by the low precepts, the wretchedness, and the wicked example around them. They hear the name of God only in profanity. Impure words, the fumes of liquor and tobacco, moral degradation of every kind, meets the eye and perverts the senses. And from these abodes of wretchedness piteous cries for food and clothing are sent out by many who know nothing about prayer.

“By our churches there is a work to be done of which many have little idea, a work as yet almost untouched. “I was an hungered,” Christ says, “and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.” Matthew 25:35, 36. Some think that if they give money to this work, it is all they are required to do; but this is an error. Donations of money cannot take the place of personal ministry. It is right to give our means, and many more should do this; but according to their strength and opportunities, personal service is required of all.

The work of gathering in the needy, the oppressed, the suffering, the destitute, is the very work which every church that believes the truth for this time should long since have been doing. We are to show the tender sympathy of the Samaritan in supplying physical necessities, feeding the hungry, bringing the poor that are cast out to our homes, gathering from God every day grace and strength that will enable us to reach to the very depths of human misery and help those who cannot possibly help themselves.” (1901)

Do all in your power for those who have been defrauded

“I am determined to do all in my power to help the Southern field, that it may suffer as little as possible from the misappropriation of the means which it should have had, by which the work for the whites as well as the blacks in the South would have been advanced.” (1901)

Mobilize the church to help the unfortunate

“A little work has been done there, we have touched the field with the tip ends of our fingers, but not one-thousandth part of the work has been done that should be done. God calls upon his people to stand in a right position before him, to heed the light given ten or fifteen years ago–that the abused, down-trodden people of the South were to be labored for and helped. We have tried to lay this burden upon our people. But they need not carry it all themselves. There are many not of our faith who will willingly help a work for the uplifting of humanity.” (1901)

Facilitate equal pay for minorities

“I will try to act my part by giving one hundred dollars to clear Brother Barry’s [a black minister who was not being paid] path.” (1901)

Aid single mothers

“We should help those who with large families to support have constantly to battle with feebleness and poverty. Many a widowed mother with her fatherless children is working far beyond her strength in order to keep her little ones with her and provide them with food and clothing. Many such mothers have died from overexertion. Every widow needs the comfort of hopeful, encouraging words, and there are very many who should have substantial aid.” (1901)

Be a Daniel

“God’s purpose for the children growing up beside our hearths is wider, deeper, higher, than our restricted vision has comprehended. From the humblest lot, those whom He has seen faithful have in times past been called to witness for Him in the world’s highest places. And many a lad of today, growing up as did Daniel in his Judean home, studying God’s Word and His works, and learning the lessons of faithful service, will yet stand in legislative assemblies, in halls of justice, or in royal courts, as a witness for the King of kings. Multitudes will be called to a wider ministry.” (1902)

Create safe spaces

“Years ago the Spirit of the Lord moved upon the hearts of men to establish in Nashville institutions of learning to educate the colored people of the South. The Lord now desires his people to establish institutions in this center, where a good work has already been done. In this place prejudice is not so easily aroused; buildings that can be utilized to advantage may be secured in which to make a beginning; workers for the colored race are protected, so that they can labor in safety; and the buildings in which they carry forward their work are not so liable to be destroyed.” (1902)

Finance causes for the disadvantaged

“I have seventy-five dollars from Brother _______, tithe money, and we thought that it would be best to send it along to the Southern field to help colored ministers….I want it specially applied to the colored ministers to help them in their salaries.” (1902)

Identify potential injustice and avoid it

“This we can do so long as we are at liberty; but if at any time we should be placed in the chain gang, it is possible that we would be compelled to work on the Sabbath, or else suffer the penalty, which may be death. Especially is this true of the colored people. We must take into consideration the conditions as they exist and act like men and women of good judgment. We must learn to use sanctified common sense.” (1902)

Start medical institutions for disadvantaged populations

“A sanitarium should be established in a favorable location outside the city of Nashville. A school for colored people should be established outside the city, on land that can be utilized for industrial purposes. These institutions will give character to our work in the South. They will be instrumental inestablishing the faith of many in Bible truth. God Himself has wrought to bring together in Nashvilleworkers who are especially fitted to reach the colored people, and raise them from their degradation. This He will help them to do if the work is not hindered and blocked by ministers and workers in other places.” (1903)

Obey laws

“Teach the people to conform in all things to the laws of their state when they can do so without conflicting with the law of God.” (1903)


“During His ministry, Jesus devoted more time to healing the sick than to preaching.” (1905)

Be fair in business dealings

“The Lord would place a check upon the inordinate love of property and power. Great evils would result from the continued accumulation of wealth by one class, and the poverty and degradation of another. Without some restraint the power of the wealthy would become a monopoly, and the poor, though in every respect fully as worthy in God’s sight, would be regarded and treated as inferior to their more prosperous brethren. The sense of this oppression would arouse the passions of the poorer class. There would be a feeling of despair and desperation which would tend to demoralize society and open the door to crimes of every description. The regulations that God established were designed to promote social equality.

“God’s word sanctions no policy that will enrich one class by the oppression and suffering of another. In all our business transactions it teaches us to put ourselves in the place of those with whom we are dealing, to look not only on our own things, but also on the things of others. He who would take advantage of another’s misfortunes in order to benefit himself, or who seeks to profit himself through another’s weakness or incompetence, is a transgressor both of the principles and of the precepts of the word of God.” (1905)

Understand and alleviate the plight of the needy in cities

“In the great cities are multitudes who receive less care and consideration than are given to dumb animals. Think of the families herded together in miserable tenements, many of them dark basements, reeking with dampness and filth. In these wretched places children are born and grow up and die. They see nothing of the beauty of natural things that God has created to delight the senses and uplift the soul. Ragged and half-starved, they live amid vice and depravity, molded in character by the wretchedness and sin that surround them. Children hear the name of God only in profanity. Foul speech, imprecations, and revilings fill their ears. The fumes of liquor and tobacco, sickening stenches, moral degradation, pervert their senses. Thus multitudes are trained to become criminals, foes to society that has abandoned them to misery and degradation.

“Not all the poor in the city slums are of this class. God-fearing men and women have been brought to the depths of poverty by illness or misfortune, often through the dishonest scheming of those who live by preying upon their fellows. Many who are upright and well-meaning become poor through lack of industrial training. Through ignorance they are unfitted to wrestle with the difficulties of life. Drifting into the cities, they are often unable to find employment. Surrounded by the sights and sounds of vice, they are subjected to terrible temptation. Herded and often classed with the vicious and degraded, it is only by a superhuman struggle, a more than finite power, that they can be preserved from sinking to the same depths. Many hold fast their integrity, choosing to suffer rather than to sin. This class especially demand help, sympathy, and encouragement.” (1905)

Expose bad conditions

“The physical surroundings in the cities are often a peril to health. The constant liability to contact with disease, the prevalence of foul air, impure water, impure food, the crowded, dark, unhealthful dwellings, are some of the many evils to be met. It was not God’s purpose that people should be crowded into cities, huddled together in terraces and tenements.” (1905)

Don’t pass by those being wronged

“I was charged not to neglect or pass by those who were being wronged. I was especially charged to protest against any arbitrary or overbearing action toward the ministers of the gospel by those having official authority. Disagreeable though the duty may be, I am to reprove the oppressor and plead for justice. I am to present the necessity of maintaining justice and equity in all our institutions.” (1906)

Warn of oppression brewing

P.T. Magan: It is the common talk all over the South that there will be a race war within the next few years. Senator Tillman has talked it in the House. Governor elect, Hoke Smith, and Tillman have published a plan that they are advocating everywhere. Their plan is something like this; that they will divide every county into districts, and every negro is to be numbered. He will have a brass plate strapped to his arm with a leather strap, giving his number, 536 or 6023, or whatever it may be, and then he is never to be allowed outside of that district without a passport from the officers.

E.G. White: There will be slavery just as verily as it has been, only upon a basis that is more favorable and secure to the white people.

P.T. Magan: More secure, because they do not have to feed the negroes and care for them. Then if the negro has got outside that district, or if he is loafing and not working, they can put him in the chain gang for a year. Now they state in their plan that if anyone is caught, whose teachings excite the blacks to foolishness, that he can be taken and put in the chain gang. Senator Tillman has printed that; he has printed it in the leading magazine in the South, and he has spoken it in Chicago and also in Atlanta, Georgia. There are many of the negroes today who are selling their property and hiding their money in the earth for fear that their land and houses, if they were known to own any, would be taken from them.

E.G. White: Then intelligent blacks may read from cause to effect.

P.T. Magan: They do. It has got to be a saying down south that the darkies do not sing as much as they used to. I had thought we ought, without taking sides or creating any disturbance, tell in a moderate way the conditions in the South. You see, everybody is writing about it now, the magazines are full of it; the papers say a great deal about it. If we could depict the present status somewhat, it would interest our people to go south to work before it is too late. And yet I felt, on the other hand, that we should be very careful in the doing of that, lest we stir up a hornet’s nest.

E.G. White: That is the danger. That is why I have pleaded and entreated, entreated, and entreated for the work to be done in the South, because I knew that this very race war would be introduced. (1907)

Be on the forefront of reforms

“Shall there not be among us as a people a revival of the temperance work? Why are we not putting forth much more decided efforts to oppose the liquor traffic, which is ruining the souls of men and is causing violence and crime of every description? With the great light that God has entrusted to us, we should be in the forefront of every true reform. The use of drugged liquors is making men mad and leading them to commit the most horrible crimes. Because of the wickedness that follows largely as the result of the use of liquor, the judgments of God are falling upon our earth today. Have we not a solemn responsibility to put forth earnest efforts in opposition to this great evil?” (1907)

Testify before councils

“If we have a true understanding of what constitutes the essential education, and endeavor to teach its principles, Christ will stand by us to help us. He promised His followers that when they should stand before councils and judges, they were to take no thought what they should speak. I will instruct you, He said. I will guide you.” (1909)

Critique government and Christian efforts for the disadvantaged

“Much might have been accomplished by the people of America if adequate efforts in behalf of the freedmen had been put forth by the Government and by the Christian churches immediately after the emancipation of the slaves. Money should have been used freely to care for and educate them at the time they were so greatly in need of help. But the Government, after a little effort, left the Negro to struggle, unaided, with his burden of difficulties. Some of the strong Christian churches began a good work, but sadly failed to reach more than a comparatively few; and the Seventh-day Adventist Church has failed to act its part. Some persevering efforts have been put forth by individuals and by societies to uplift the colored people, and a noble work has been done. But how few have had a part in this work which should have had the sympathy and help of all!” (1909)

Teach the Bible

“There are not many, even among educators and statesmen, who comprehend the causes that underlie the present state of society. Those who hold the reins of government are not able to solve the problem of moral corruption, poverty, pauperism, and increasing crime. They are struggling in vain to place business operations on a more secure basis. If men would give more heed to the teaching of God’s word, they would find a solution of the problems that perplex them.” (1909)

Give public speeches

“I rejoice that it has been my privilege to bear my testimony on this subject [“temperance,” or anti-alcohol sale and consumption] before crowded assemblies in many countries. Many times I have spoken on this subject to large congregations at our camp-meetings.” (1911)

Speak against practices that harm the environment

“The apostle James declares that the wisdom from above is “first pure.” Had he encountered those who take the precious name of Jesus upon lips defiled by tobacco, those whose breath and person are contaminated by its foul odor, and who pollute the air of heaven and force all about them to inhale the poison—had the apostle come in contact with a practice so opposed to the purity of the gospel, would he not have denounced it as “earthly, sensual, devilish”? Slaves of tobacco, claiming the blessing of entire sanctification, talk of their hope of heaven; but God’s word plainly declares that “there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth.” (1911)

Campaign publicly

“In the years 1842 and 1843 there was a strong effort made in Portland, Maine, in behalf of the cause of temperance. This question has been again and again a living issue in Maine. I do hope that Portland will act its part in giving a loud cry for temperance. If our people can be made to realize how much is at stake, and will seek to redeem the time that has been lost, by now putting heart and soul and strength into the temperance cause, great good will be seen as the result. May the Lord save Maine from joining in the confederacy of evil for the support of the liquor traffic.” (1911)

Remember worthy causes in will

“SIXTH: After the death of both James Edson White and his wife, my said trustees are hereby empowered and directed to apply the amount prescribed in subdivision (a) of paragraph FIFTH toward the discharge of any legal claims against the estate of said James Edson White, and then after the full discharge of such claims, the said amount mentioned in subdivision (a) shall be applied to the maintenance of the mission school for Negroes now conducted by the Negro Department of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference.” (1912)

This final quote is perhaps the best summary of all of Ellen White’s social activism statements in one:

“Many feel that it would be a great privilege to visit the scenes of Christ’s life on earth, to walk where He trod, to look upon the lake beside which He loved to teach, and the hills and valleys on which His eyes so often rested. But we need not go to Nazareth, to Capernaum, or to Bethany in order to walk in the steps of Jesus. We shall find His footprints beside the sickbed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great city, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation. In doing as Jesus did when on earth, we shall walk in His steps.” (1898)

My hope is that these methods will equip the reader to go about changing society in a strategic, holistic, and spiritual way—and will lead to “justice run[ning] down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”

Look for the upcoming series “Exploring Difficult Ellen White Passages on Social Justice.”


Benjamin Baker, PhD, is the creator of He writes from Maryland.

Image: Ellen White attends the 1905 General Conference Session in Takoma Park, Maryland with her son W.C. White and his wife May. Courtesy of the Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.


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