Following Elijah Ables’ Canadian mission, he returned for a short time to Nauvoo where he helped Joseph Smith escape from a mob from Missouri. Then he went to Ohio and encountered more Trouble in Cincinnati! Russell Stevenson continues our focus on #BlackHistoryMonth, and discusses some of the race riots and other difficulties Elijah Ables encountered in Ohio.
Russell: In about 1842, or it might have even been the fall of 1841, there had been a massive race riot break out in Cincinnati between local white workers and the African-American community. It was quite violent. Many prominent abolitionists found themselves under fire. Their homes, their offices, their businesses were all targeted for mob attack, and it’s reasonable to suppose that Rees E. Price would have found under attack as well.
So the fact that Elijah could navigate these white spaces, it tells you he had the skill to be in both worlds. And yet, in spite of this ability, in spite of this comfortability with white spaces, we know that in 1843, I speculate due to some of these heightened tensions that had developed due to this race riot, that locally, three apostles: Heber C. Kimball, Lorenzo Snow, and Orson Pratt, they banned Elijah from preaching to people not of African ancestry.
GT: Ok, so approximately what year was that?
Russell: Not approximately, it was 1843.
GT: 1843, so he had some restrictions placed on him.
Russell: Yes. I can’t emphasize enough, though, it was not a priesthood restriction. They had the opportunity. If they wanted to take the priesthood from Elijah at that time, they could have. That was the perfect opportunity to do so. They did not. In the minutes that tell us about this episode, he is explicitly identified as a Seventy and there is no comment made about him losing priesthood, and two years later, there is a newspaper article again referring to Elijah’s workings in that branch where he is also referred to as a Seventy.
Russell also talks about speculation Elijah may have helped with the Underground Railroad to free blacks from slavery!
Russell: Now did that lead to some sort of collaboration in helping with the Underground Railroad? That’s a very interesting speculation. It also goes beyond the evidence. Trust me, I would love to know that Elijah played an active role in assisting with the Underground Railroad. We just don’t know that.