Timeline Capsule
Time Capsule Details | BeingBlackToday.com
Los Angeles, Calfiornia

William Joseph Seymour
1870 - 1922
Pentecostal Movement Begins with Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Speaking in Tongues

William J. Seymour was one of the most influential individuals in the revival movement that grew into the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, along with other figures such as Charles Parham, Howard A. Goss, and Frank Bartleman.

Seymour emphasized racial equality, which drew many historically disenfranchised people to the movement, and due to his influence the revival grew very quickly.

His revivals were characterized by ecstatic spiritual experiences accompanied by amazing physical healing miracles, dramatic worship services, speaking in tongues, and inter-racial mingling. The participants were criticized by the secular media and Christian theologians for behaviors considered to be outrageous and unorthodox, especially at the time. Today, the revival is considered by historians to be the primary catalyst for the spread of Pentecostalism in the 20th century.

Early Life
During a time when Louisiana had the highest lynching rates in the nation, William Seymour was born to former slaves, Simon and Phyllis Salabar Seymour, in Centerville, Louisiana.  He was baptized as Catholic, while his family attended a Baptist church throughout his early life.

Adult Life
At the age of 20 years, Seymour left the South to travel around states in the north, escaping the horrific violence aimed at Africans in the south during this period.  He continued to face racial prejudice in the north, but it was not as violent as faced in the South.

1895:  At the age of 25 years, Seymour became a born-again Christian, while attending the Simpson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, where he had moved.
David Sidney “D.S.” Warner
Theologian, Initiator of Church Movements
A Founder of the Church of God
1842 - 1895

During his travels, Seymour was influenced by D.S. Warner’s holiness group dedicated to racial equality.  His views about the equality of all mankind influenced Seymour’s entire theology.

1901: At the age of 31 years, Seymour moved to Cincinnati, where his views on holiness and racial integration continued to be shaped by attending a Bible college.  During this time, he contracted smallpox and subsequently went blind in his left eye.

After overcoming smallpox, Seymour traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, where he visited Charles Price Jones, the founder of the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A.  – faith healing and speaking in tongues. Seymour left the South with a very firm commitment to his beliefs.

1906: At the age of 36 years, Seymour attended a newly formed Bible school founded by Charles Parham in Houston, Texas.  Parham’s teachings on the baptism of the Holy Spirit stuck with Seymour and influenced his later doctrine and theology.  However, Seymour did not agree with Parham’s more radical views.

He developed a belief in speaking in tongues as confirmation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  He believed that this proved that the person was born-again and could go to Heaven.

After only six weeks at Parham’s school, Seymour left, against Parham’s wishes, to accept an offer to pastor a church in Los Angeles.

Azusa Street Revival
Pentecostal Movement Begins
Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street

Seymour arrived in Los Angeles and began preaching at Julia Hutchins’ Holiness Church, in late February.  Within two weeks, Julia Hutchins threw him out of her church and padlocked the church door, outraged over Seymour’s claims on tongue-speech.

Leaders of Apostolic Faith Mission.  Seymour in front row, second from the right; Jennie in back row, third from left

After a short while, Seymour began holding prayer group meetings at the home where he stayed.  The group quickly grew too large for his friend’s home, and was moved to another friend’s home. 

During the course of one of the prayer meetings, Seymour laid hands on the friend in whose house his was staying and the friend began speaking in tongues.  Seymour received the Holy Spirt baptism three days later.  Soon the group grew too large for the second house as well, and the Azusa Street Revival was born, after the group moved to an old African Methodist Episcopal church building on Azusa Street.

Racial Equality
In the beginning, Africans and whites worshipped together at the same alter, against the normal segregations of the day.  Seymour rejected existing racial barriers in favor of unity in Christ, as well as barriers to women in church leadership.  Soon the membership included Africans, whites, and Latinos.

Troubles Brewing
L.A. Times article criticizing the behavior of the revivalists at Azusa Street

From Azusa Street, Seymour began preaching his doctrinal beliefs, which from 1906 to 1909 became known as the Azusa Street Revival.

Seymour fell under intense scrutiny of mainstream Protestants, some felt that his views were heresy, or violated standard religious teachings, while others accepted his teachings and preached them to their own congregations.  Seymour’s revival came to be widely known as “Pentecostalism”.  Charles Harrison Mason, founder of the Church of God in Christ, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the revival.

Charles Parham Denounces
The Azusa Revival as False
Charles Parham came to Los Angeles and preached at the Azusa revival several times, but became disgusted with the ecstatic practices and racial mixing in worship.  He then began to preach that God was disgusted with the state of the revival, and was eventually removed by force.

Parham followed up by attacking Seymour and Azusa as being from the devil.  He claimed that speaking in tongues had to be a recognizable human language, and that Seymour had corrupted the teaching by allowing for a “divine” language that could not be understood by human ears.  Parham denounced Seymour’s doctrine as unscriptural and the racial mixing as an abomination.

1908: Seymour’s Authority
and Influence Gradually Undermined
Africans Claim Favoritism Shown White Pastors. By 1908, race issues started to become divisive.  Seymour often chose white pastors instead of black pastors in charge whenever he left Los Angeles, causing black members to fear the mission was in danger of being taken over.  Racial segregation became continually came into focus and became a larger issue as time went on.

Charges of Embezzlement.  Although eventually unfounded, Seymour was accused of embezzling funds from the Azusa Revival mission.

Rival Ministers.  Ministers formally affiliated with Azusa began to open their own missions and drew people away from the main revival.

Worshippers Do Not
Approve of His Marriage
William and Jennie Seymour

In May 1908, Seymour married Jennie Moore Evans, but the church saw it as a violation of sanctification, which resulted in a loss of membership. 

Newsletter: Apostolic Faith
Can No Longer be Published
The coeditor of his newsletter, Apostolic Faith, used for spreading his ideas, abruptly left with the newsletter and mailing lists, and moved to Portland, and refused to give control of the paper back to Seymour.

Close Friend Turns Against Him.  William Durham was a close friend and fellow Pentecostal preacher of Seymour.  While on a revival tour, Seymour asked Durham to serve as visiting preacher.  Durham’s views on sanctification were so extreme and shocking, that Seymour’s wife felt forced to padlock him out of the church, until Seymour returned.

Durham began to attack Seymour publicly, claiming Seymour was no longer following the will of God and was not fit to be a leader, devastating Seymour and causing a big split in the Pentecostal community.  Durham’s death within a year did little to heal the split.

1922.September.28 Death
On September 28, 1922, Seymour suffered two heart attacks, and died in his wife Jennie's arms.  Jennie Seymour died on July 2, 1936, and was buried next to him.