Florence Spearing Randolph was born in Charleston, South Carolina on August 9, 1866. She was one of seven children born into a privileged African American family, whose free black ancestry extended back to about two generations before the Civil War. At 19 years old, Randolph moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, where she met Hugh Randolph from Richmond, Virginia. The couple married soon after and had one daughter named Leah Viola in 1887.
Randolph became a member of the Monmouth Street African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Jersey City in 1886, where she became a Sunday school teacher and class leader. In the late 1880s, determined to pursue a career in the ministry, Randolph began studying the Bible.
During the 1880s and early 1890s, Randolph successfully operated her own dressmaking business from her home; but she ultimately abandoned this career not long after receiving an invitation to join the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1892. The WCTU was the first major union among females keen on social reform based upon applied Christianity. After a few years in ministry and community service duties, Randolph pursued a license to preach in 1897. There was minor opposition from the church, but in 1900, she became an ordained deacon. During her next 12 years in the church, she worked without any pay.
In 1915, Randolph organized the New Jersey State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, which worked to solve many issues regarding race, gender, and social inequalities in the state. She was also president of the Missionary Society of New Jersey, and a member of the Executive Committee of the New Jersey State Suffrage Association.
Leaving a Legacy
Randolph was appointed temporary pastor of Wallace Chapel AME Zion Church in Summit, New Jersey in 1925, shaping her monumental career in the church. She remained as a pastor at Wallace Chapel for 21 years before retiring in 1946. On December 28, 1951, Randolph died at the age of 85.
Reverend Dr. Florence Spearing Randolph became an incredibly influential individual in New Jersey history, as well as American history. She was prominent in the church, but her many public services achieved a number of victories throughout the 1900s, including the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, aided by the New Jersey State Suffrage Association. She was outspoken and driven, and served her community as a brilliant inspiration for the coming generations.
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