Are There Black Amish?

Are There Black Amish?

The Amish, a Christian community, found mostly in America, started in Switzerland in the 17th century. These people are popular for their simple lifestyle and appearance and reject many modern amenities.

If you live outside the Amish people, you may have limited exposure to them. This may leave you with questions, like, are there black Amish?

Read on to learn more about whether there are black Amish and everything there is to the Amish people.

Are There Black Amish?

Although few, there are black Amish. The Amish community has European background comprising whites overwhelmingly. However, some Amish couples sometimes adopt children from other races growing up in Amish communities, including blacks and Latins. When these black adopted children choose to remain in the church and follow the Amish doctrine upon reaching adulthood, they become black Amish.

For this reason, black Amish are very few compared to ordinary Amish. According to a 2010 census, there are 300,000 Amish living in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico. Out of these, only 10 000 are black. This makes the percentage of black Amish to be around 3%.

History Of The Amish

The Amish have been in America for long. The first follower of this doctrine arrived in America in the 18th century to find land to farm while escaping religious persecution in Europe.

This sect arose from followers of Jacob Ammah in the late 17th-century schism in the Mennonite church. Jacob Ammah (from which the community derived its name) was a Swiss minister who believed that his followers should conform to the teachings of Christ and his apostles and forsake the work in their lives.  

The Mennonites were a group from the Netherlands and Switzerland that banded together under Menno Simons’ leadership. These people were unhappy with most of the doctrines and traditions in the Roman Catholic church and decided to establish a community that adhered to their ideologies.

From 1500, when it was founded, until 1693, the group has been stable and united. However, in the mid-1700s Jakob Ammah and his followers split from the Mennonites to form the Amish and then migrated to America.

Since then, more Amish have immigrated to America and settled in New York, Ontario, and Midwest.

Language Of The Amish

The Amish speak Pennslyvania Dutch, which is not the original Dutch. Dutch is a corruption of “Deutsch” or German, of which they speak an ancient dialect. Due to the isolation of the Amish, the language has a unique and different pronunciation from the current German and has been influenced by the English of surrounding populations. Some Amish, especially those in Indiana, speak a version closer to Swiss-German.

Growth Of The Amish

The Amish are among the fastest-growing people in America. According to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabeth town College in Lancaster, Pa., their population has increased from about 5000 in 1920 to close to 300,000 currently, with much of the growth happening in the last three decades.

The center estimates that there were 84 000 Amish in 1984, meaning their population has tripled. The rapid growth is mostly due to the belief that large families are a blessing from God. A large number of kids also provided labor for their farming enterprise.

Note that the Amish are not a single unit. This doctrine has four main groups: the Old Order, the New Order, the Beachy Amish, and Amish Mennonites, with many subgroups and various rules within each category. For instance, the Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites often drive cars and use electricity, while the others use horse-drawn buggies.

Work, Taxes, And Military Service Among The Amish

Historically, the Amish practiced farming of all kinds, which has been the centre of their work life. However, that has changed in the past century. According to the Young Center, many Amish are now participating in business enterprises, mostly in carpentry and selling farm products. Some Amish also work at English-owned factories and workshops like those in Indiana manufacturing recreational vehicles.

Amish people are taxed on their earnings like others, including income, property, sale, estate, school, and corporate. Many of them pay school taxes twice for public and private Amish schools.

However, the Amish don’t pay or collect social security. That’s because Congress exempted them in 1965 as they see it as commercial insurance.

The Amish believe church members should care for one another’s physical and material needs. According to the Young Center, Amish in some states is exempted from workers’ compensation for the same reason.

Regarding the military, the Amish are exempted from military service because they believe in non-resistance and pacifism. This principle applies to war, law enforcement, politics, and legal actions.

Technology Amongst The Amish

Amish life is ruled by Ordnung, a German word meaning order. These rules differ from community to community. The Young Center reports that most Amish communities forbid owning automobiles, tapping electricity from public utility lines, owning television, radio, or computer, using self-propelled farm machinery, attending high school or college, initiating a divorce, and joining the military.

They also ban photos as they cultivate personal vanity, which is against the church’s condemnation of “hochmut”, arrogance or haughtiness.

The Amish don’t view technology as harmful in itself but believe it has the power to bring assimilation into the neighboring society. They especially fear mass media technology as it can introduce foreign values to their culture.

Regarding cars, the Amish feel that cars (greater mobility)  can pull their community apart, unlike horse-and-buggy transportation, which keeps the community anchored in its usual geographical area.

The Amish permit their community to use 12-volt car batteries, but not 120-volt electricity cars. They also are not allowed to drive motor vehicles but can hire outsiders (English) to drive them.

Conclusion

So, are there black Amish? Yes, there are black Amish, although few. The black Amish comprises black people adopted as kids living amongst the Amish who decided to remain in the doctrine upon reaching adulthood. According to a 2010 census, black Amish comprise 3% (10 000) of the entire Amish population (300 000).

Barbara Hartshorn
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