Hearing a preacher speak would set John Marrant on the path to become one of the first Black preachers. Marrant in North America was born in New York City in 1755, but after his father died, his mother relocated the family to the Southern colonies. He began his education at a young age and was able to read by the age of 11. John Marrant was a musically skilled child who could play the violin and the French horn.
As a teenager, John Marrant would first listen to Methodist preacher George Whitefield speak. Following a religious disagreement with his family, he would wander into the forest and become lost. He relied on his faith in God to guide him out safely, but he was discovered by the Cherokee, who sentenced him to death. According to Marrant, he talked his way out of being executed and spent two years with them.
Through the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, John Marrant began his preparation to become a Methodist minister. Prior to this, Marrant claimed to have spent six years in the Royal Navy. It’s worth noting that he was documented at this period as having three slaves: a woman named Melia Marrant and two children. This is thought to be his family and a means of keeping them out of slavery.
Marrant is ordained and transferred to Nova Scotia by 1785. His flock is based in Birchtown, just outside of Shelburne. That same year, he collaborated with fellow Huntingdon pastor William Aldridge to write “A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black.” This was a very popular book that went through several editions.
He spent two years in Nova Scotia before relocating to Boston. Except for the fact that he married Elizabeth Herries in Nova Scotia in 1788, little is known about his family life. While in Boston, he is appointed chaplain of the African Masonic Lodge and becomes involved in abolitionist activities. Three years later, at the age of 36, John Marrant died in England.