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Fisher, Miles Mark(1899–1970) - Minister, educator, church historian, writer, Begins Church Ministry, Chronology

baptist virginia chicago university

Miles Mark Fisher, a Baptist minister, educator, and writer, is best known as a church historian of the black church. He wrote several scholarly articles and monographs. His work on the origin of Negro slave songs established his reputation. Fisher’s career in the church defined both his life and his teachings. Recognized as an outstanding black preacher and leader of his time, Fisher practiced a social gospel philosophy in his churches, reaching out to the community with innovative programs.

From birth, Fisher seemed destined for church ministry. As the son of a clergyman, he no doubt was encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps. His parents, Elijah John and Florida Neely Fisher, were former slaves who considered education and Christian service essential to their son’s development. Fisher was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 29, 1899 but spent his formative years in Chicago where his father ministered at the Olivet Baptist Church.

Fisher’s parents influenced both his educational and ministerial pursuits. His home environment was intellectually stimulating. Fisher and his father worked together to teach his mother to read. After receiving his elementary and high school education in the Chicago public schools, Fisher was sent to his father’s alma mater, Morehouse College, in Atlanta. His undergraduate studies included basic training for the gospel ministry. He graduated with a BA degree in 1918 and was ordained for the ministry at the same time. After college, he was employed briefly as a secretary for the YMCA at Camp Sherman, in Chilicothe, Ohio.

Begins Church Ministry

Fisher devoted his life to church ministry and teaching. His career as a Baptist minister spanned several decades, from 1919 until his retirement in 1965. His early ministerial placements were short-term, probably because at the time Fisher also was in school, writing, lecturing, or on teaching assignments.

His first call to preach came in 1919 when he was assigned to pastor the International Baptist Church in Chicago. While living in Chicago, he enrolled at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. He was the only black ministerial student. The excellent preparation in Greek and Hebrew that he received at Morehouse benefited him, and he was able to offer tutoring sessions in exchange for carfare and lunch money.



Born in Atlanta, Georgia on October 29


Completes high school in Chicago, Illinois


Graduates from Morehouse College with A.B.


Ordained as a Baptist minister


Begins career as a Baptist minister in Chicago


Granted a B.D. from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary; awarded an A.M. from the University of Chicago


Serves as English instructor at Virginia Union University then transfers to Richmond Theological Seminary as J. B. Hoyt professor of church history and New Testament Greek


Pastor at Sixteenth Baptist Church, Huntington, West Virginia


Marries Ada Virginia Foster on September 6


Lectures on the history of religion at Shaw University


Pastor at Rock Baptist Church, Durham, North Carolina


Awarded an honorary D.D. from Shaw University


Earns Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School


His book, Negro Slave Songs , wins the American Historical Association’s outstanding history volume of the year


Listed as one of the nation’s top ten black ministers by Ebony magazine


Wins the Golden Anniversary Award from the National Recreation Association


Retires from active church ministry; awarded minister emeritus status


Dies in Richmond, Virginia on December 14

The Anti-Saloon League hired Fisher as a lecturer in the summer of 1920. He traveled the country representing the league and speaking on temperance and moral living. Shortly after, he took another assignment at the Zion Baptist Church in Racine, Wisconsin. While serving there, Fisher was elected president of the Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin. He served from 1921 to 1922.

In 1922 at the age of twenty-three, Fisher was awarded a B.D. from Northern and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. He also began his writing career with the publication of two works, a biography of his father, whom he nicknamed the master slave, and an article on Lott Cary in Liberia, the first American Baptist missionary to Africa.

With his graduate studies behind him, Fisher moved from Chicago to Virginia where he held a number of pastoral assignments. He served as senior pastor at the Elam Baptist Church in Charles City County and at Second Liberty Baptist in New Kent County. He also assisted at the Fourth Baptist Church in Richmond.

While serving as pastor at the Elam Baptist Church, Fisher taught at Virginia Union University. He joined the faculty in 1923 as an English instructor but later transferred to the University’s Richmond Theological Seminary as J.B. Hoyt professor of church history and New Testament Greek. During his tenure at Union, Fisher joined with a group of young radical scholars, who were often embroiled in controversial disputes. He renounced biblical fundamentalism and openly espoused an evolutionist view. He also declared that the virgin birth was nothing more than symbolism. When the Baptist General Association called for his dismissal, his friend, Gordon Hancock, head of the department of economics and sociology, intervened on his behalf. In spite of the controversies that erupted from time to time, Fisher and a group of young academics at Union brought distinction to the school in the 1920s. Fisher’s contributions included a history of the achievements of Virginia Union University completed 1924 and a number of papers presented at annual organizational meetings. An article on the Negro and World War II published in 1925 discussed the migration of blacks from south to north and how participation in the church affected their lives. Fisher left Virginia Union in 1928 to take up his next assignment at the Sixteenth Baptist Church in Huntington, West Virginia. He remained there for five years. On September 6, 1930 he married Ada Virginia Foster. Six children were born to the couple, four sons and two daughters.

Fisher, Sir Ronald Aylmer [next] [back] Fisher, Donald - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Donald Fisher, Social and Economic Impact

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