Friends He Met in America
Franklin Fisher (1906–1960)
When Dietrich Bonhoeffer arrived for the 1930–31 academic year at Union Theological Seminary in New York, he had encountered few blacks during his life. Early in his Union days, he met Franklin Fisher, a black student from Birmingham, Alabama. Fisher was assigned to the Abyssinian Baptist Church for his field work, and Bonhoeffer accompanied him there. During the spring term, Bonhoeffer helped teach a Sunday school class.
Through Fisher, Bonhoeffer gained “a detailed and intimate knowledge of the realities of Harlem life,” according to Eberhard Bethge. On one occasion Bonhoeffer and Fisher were together in a restaurant, and it became clear that Fisher would not be extended the same service. In disgust, Bonhoeffer led the party outside in protest.
After 1931, the two friends did not meet again, but Bonhoeffer spoke of Fisher to his Finkenwalde students, to his family, and others. Wolf-Dieter Zimmermann, one of those students, reports that after an evening of playing Negro spirituals, Bonhoeffer said: “When I took leave of my black friend, he said to me: ‘Make our sufferings known in Germany, tell them what is happening to us, and show them what we are like.’ I wanted to fulfill this obligation tonight.”
Fisher served as pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, and then as dean of the National Baptist Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress. He also taught in the School of Religion at Morehouse College. Unfortunately, at his death in 1960, he did not leave any written record about his friendship with Bonhoeffer.
Jean Lasserre (1908–1983)
When Jean Lassere, a pastor of the French Reformed Church, met Dietrich Bonhoeffer, neither spoke the other’s language, so they communicated ...