Black History month: Christian missionaries of African heritage
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Nazarene Missions International
It happened on this date in February
What people of one racial background are doing to fulfill the Great Commission: Significant
missions events in February involving African-Americans
- February 1, 1823 — Betsey Stockton, a young black woman in company with 13
white missionaries, was on board a ship rounding the southern tip of South America. The
missionaries were on their way to the Sandwich Islands (present-day Hawaii).
They had left New Haven, Connecticut in November, sent out by the American Board of
Commissioners of Foreign Missions, an agency at the forefront of American Protestantism's
burgeoning interest in foreign missions. Betsey Stockton was in the second group of missionaries
to go to Hawaii, the first having arrived two years before. Besides Stockton, there were six
couples and a single man, plus three Hawaiian men and a Tahitian. The trip took five months by
sea with no stopovers. Like others on board, Stockton kept a journal of the voyage and of her first
couple of months in Hawaii. She had joined the company partly as a missionary and partly as a
servant to one of the couples, Rev. and Mrs. Charles S. Stewart, who were expecting a child.
However, Betsey's contract with the American Board did make clear that she was not to be
simply a servant but was also to share in the mission's primary work.
- February 2, 1911 -- During a morning devotional hour at Central Texas College in Waco, a
teacher, Eliza George, has a vision of black Africans passing before the judgment seat of Christ.
Weeping and moaning, many of them were saying, "No one ever told us You died for us." A few
years earlier, while a student at Guadalupe College, Eliza George had responded to an invitation
for volunteer missionary service. Now, she felt a vision was prodding her to go to Africa. The
college president tried to dissuade her: "Don't let yourself get carried away by that foolishness.
You don't have to go over there to be a missionary -- we have enough Africa over here." It would
be two more years before Eliza George got up enough courage to leave her teaching position and
head to Liberia. In her resignation speech, she read an original poem: "My African brother is
calling me; Hark! Hark! I hear his voice . . . Would you say stay when God said go?" On December 12, 1913, Eliza George
sailed from New York as a National Baptist missionary.
- February 4, 1786 — John Marrant, a free black from New York City, preached at
Green's Harbour, Newfoundland, to from 2 Corinthians 13:5 "a great number of Indians and
white people." Marrant ministered cross-culturally, preaching to the American Indians. He
eventually carried the gospel to the Cherokee, Creek, Catawar, and Housaw tribes.
- February 5, 1884 — Evangelist and missionary Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915) is
in Africa after having spent some time in India. In her journal entry for this day she writes:
"Second Gospel Temperance meeting. Surely the Spirit of the Lord is with us, and He is blessing
us greatly. Not so much liberty in speaking, but God is with us, and we are expecting great
things. Oh, Lord, for Jesus' sake, answer prayer, and send us the
Holy Ghost to quicken and revive us."
- February 7, 1930 — In a service commemorating fifty years of Congregational
missions in Angola, the Galangue mission choir, under the leadership of Bessie McDowell,
introduces a new song. It is Bessie's own Ovimbundu translation of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."
African-Americans called "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" — which had been composed in
1900 by the brothers James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson — the "Negro National
Anthem." On this date, February 7, Henry Curtis McDowell, Bessie's husband, wrote to
African-American supporters to say that "Galangue has made the first step, so far as I
know, in making 'Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing' the international anthem." The McDowells
had gone to Angola in 1917.
- February 8, 1847 ‐ African-American Robert Hill had been appointed to accompany
some white missionaries to Africa for the purpose of assisting them. On December 17, 1846, they
had sailed for the coast of Africa, from Providence, Rhode Island. On this day, February 8, they
arrived in Monrovia, Liberia.
- February 10, 1819 — Around this time Moses Henkle becomes acquainted with what
John Stewart, "Man of Color," was doing to found a mission among the Wyandott Indians at
Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Stewart, the first Methodist missionary to the Indians, had been
converted in 1815 while drunk in a Methodist meeting in Ohio. Henkle's work with Stewart gave
credibility to Stewart's ministry. The resulting publicity led to the organization of a Methodist
missionary society in 1819 in New York City.
- February 12, 1865 -- Presbyterian minister Henry Garnet becomes the first African American
to preach a sermon in the U.S. House of Representatives. Born into slavery in Maryland in 1815,
Garnet escaped to New England with his father when he was nine years old. In 1852 Garnet
went to Jamaica as a Presbyterian missionary. Ill health forced his return to the U.S. in 1855
where he became very active in the abolitionist movement.
- February 13, 1824 -- One hundred and five black emigrants from the
U.S. arrive in Liberia on the ship Cyrus. They were received by Lott Cary and Colin
Teague who had arrived three years earlier to begin an era of missionary expansion by American
Negro Baptists. They were the first missionaries sent out by a black group, the Richmond African Baptist Missionary Society.
- February 14, 1760 -- Birth of Richard Allen, founder in 1816 of the African Methodist
Episcopal (AME) denomination. By 1886, the Church was the world's largest denomination of
African Americans. It had more than four hundred thousand members, nearly three thousand
ordained ministers, more than three thousand church buildings, and had sent missionaries to
Haiti, San Domingo, and Africa. In 1893 AME headquarters received a request from a group of
Afro-Cubans to send missionaries to their island.
- February 15, 1859 -- Death of John Day (born: 1797), Southern Baptist missionary to
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa as well as one of the founding fathers of the country of
Liberia. During his thirteen years in Africa, Day estimated he had preached to about 10,000
- February 16, 1922 -- About this date, Jamaican-born Montrose Waite received a letter from
the Christian and Missionary Alliance mission board saying they wanted to send him as a
missionary to Africa. Waite had won the battle against prejudice and rejection and even friends
who urged him to the stay in the U.S., his adopted country. Waite would serve as a missionary in
Sierra Leone and Liberia and would be instrumental in the founding of the Afro-American
Missionary Crusade (1947) and the Carver Foreign Missions organization.
- February 18, 1797 -- Birth of John Day, a "free person of color" who emigrated to Liberia in
1830 as a participant in the American Colonization Movement. In 1836 he became a missionary
for the Triennial Convention of the American Baptists. When the Southern Baptist Convention
was formed in 1845, its foreign mission board appointed Day as superintendent of Liberian
missions, a post he held until his death in 1859. Day was also a signer of the Declaration of
Independence of Liberia in 1847. In addition to his missionary work, he became Liberia's second
Supreme Court Justice. His brother Thomas was a well-known cabinet maker in North
- February 19, 1829 -- The Boston Recorder newspaper reported the death of
African-American missionary Lott Carey in Liberia. He was killed in an explosion during an
attempt to repel a French ship in quest of slaves. Of Carey, the newspaper said, "Lott Carey was
a worthy and useful Baptist preacher, himself a colored man." Born a slave in Virginia, Carey
became a Christian while in Richmond. He purchased his freedom, became a lay exhorter and
then a licensed Baptist preacher. He went to Liberia in the early 1820s as one of the first
American missionaries to the African continent
- February 20, 2000 -- A heart attack claims the life of Marilyn Lewis, volunteer at the United
States Center for World Mission who helped lay the groundwork for their African American
Mobilization Division. A school teacher in Pasadena, CA, Marilyn often spoke of her desire to
serve as a missionary in Brazil, reaching the descendants of those who had come from Africa.
Just prior to her unexpected death, Marilyn had written a call-to-action article: "Just look
at an African-American church today and you can see testimony to our new era: richly decorated,
air conditioned sanctuaries with carpeted floors are now quite common. Many drive to church in
the latest model cars. Today, instead of working the tables at restaurants, many African
Americans own them. God has blessed us. Now it is time for the African American to bless the
world in evangelization efforts. In the past many African Americans cried because they could not
become involved in missionary work. But now the doors are wide open and we are without
- February 22, 1880 -- Moses Ladejo Stone was ordained into the ministry in the First Baptist
Church, Lagos (originally known as American Baptist Church) by William W. Colley. Colley,
an African American, is thought to be the person to have served as an appointed missionary of
both a white-administered missionary-sending agency and a black-administered
missionary-sending agency. Colley began his missionary career in 1875. That year, he was
appointed by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board to serve in West Africa as assistant to
W. J. David, a white missionary from Mississippi. In November of 1879, Colley returned to the
United States convinced that many more blacks should be involved in international missions,
especially in Africa. As Colley traveled back and forth across the country, he urged black
Baptists to take an independent course in mission work and form their own sending agency.
Colley was the primary force in the founding of the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention (BFMC)
- February 23, 1814 -- The foundation of the Baptist Mission in Jamaica had been laid by a
few black and "coloured" men who had gone to the island from the U.S.A. in 1782. Some of
them had been slaves in the United States who had been granted liberty by their owners. Some
were Christians when they arrived in Jamaica, while others had been converted after their arrival.
The most noted were George Lisle (the first ordained black in America), George Lewis, George
Gibb and Moses Baker. It was chiefly through the urging of Moses Baker that the English Baptist
Missionary Society began missionary work in Jamaica. The first missionary sent from England in
response to Baker's pleas was John Rowe, who landed at Montego Bay, February 23, 1814.
- February 24, 1840 -- Evangelist George Brown, who established the Heddington mission
station in Liberia, reports organizing a church among the Pessah people as a result of converting
two tribal leaders -- Baopgo and Peter -- along with 34 of their people after a "God-palaver."
- February 25, 1890 -- By this time William Sheppard, who has been called the "Black
Livingstone," was on his way to the Congo on the steamship Adriatic as a
Presbyterian missionary. Sheppard was sailing with white missionary Sam Lapsley.
- February 29, 1581 -- The birth of Peter Claver in 1581 in Spain. Claver became known as
"Slave of the Blacks" and "Slave of the Slaves." A farmer's son from Verdu in Catalonia, Claver
studied at the University of Barcelona. At age 20, he became a Jesuit priest. Influenced by Saint
Alphonsus Rodriguez, Claver went to South America as a missionary. He ministered to African
slaves physically and spiritually when they arrived in Cartegena, Colombia. It is estimated by
some that Claver converted 300,000 African slaves to Christianity. For 40 years he worked for
humane treatment on the plantations. Claver organized charitable societies among the Spanish in
America similar to those organized in Europe by Vincent de Paul. Claver said of the slaves,
"We must speak to them with our hands by giving before we try to speak to them with our
lips." Peter Claver died on September 8, 1654 at Cartegena, Colombia of natural
We need more February dates with the following African-American missionaries. Can you
help us with February birth-dates, anniversaries, date of call, date of leaving for the field, deaths
and other significant dates for them that fall in February?
- William Allan, Quaker
- American Missionary Association
- Efrain Alphonse was one of the great missionary pioneers of this century. Eugene Nida says
of Efrain Alphonse in his book, God's Word in Man's Language, "Of all the
missionary translators in the Western Hemisphere probably no one has entered more fully into
the rich realms of aboriginal speech than this humble African-American servant of God who
(worked) untiringly among a needy people."
- Virgil Lee Amos, Ambassador Fellowship
- John Baker with SUM
- Donna Baptiste, missionary to Mali, West Africa 1992-1997
- Scipio Bean (or Seipio Beanes), missionary to Haiti 1827
- T.J. Bowen
- Durmezier Charles, missionary from Haiti to Rwanda
- Landon Cheek (1871-1964) Baptist missionary to Malawi from 1901 to 1906
- Ruby Clarke, United World Mission
- Daniel Coker (1780-1846), went in 1820 as a missionary to Sierra Leone and Liberia
- Formation in 1998 of COMINAD (Cooperative Missions Network of the African
- Elizabeth Copeland, 1997, Philippines (Church of God in Christ)
- Neyesa Costa (born February 23), missionary to Burkina Faso,
- Alexander Crummell moves to Liberia in 1853 where he will spend 20 years as a
- Emma Delaney, National Baptist Missionary (born January 3, 1871) in what is now Malawi
and then Liberia
- Alice Douglin, 40 years in the Congo
- Gladys East, daughter of missionary James East, returns to South Africa, 1944
- Louise "Lulu" Cecilia Fleming: On January 10, 1886, Fleming became the first Black woman
to be appointed and commissioned for missionary service by the Women's Baptist Foreign
Missionary Society of the West. She attended Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina,
graduating in May, 1885. She left for Africa on March 17, 1887. During a furlough she studied
medicine and served in areas of the Congo (now Zaire) as a medical missionary.
- David George goes to Sierra Leone in 1790 along with Hector Peters and Simpson Calvert to
establish the Free American Baptist Church
- Clara Howard, French Congo, 1890-1895 and Panama 1896-97
- In 1782, when the British evacuated Savannah, George Lisle (also known as George Sharp)
went with the Loyalists who sailed to Jamaica in the West Indies. Two years after arriving, he
established the first Baptist Church on the sugar growing island and eventually baptized over 400
free and slave Blacks.
- A.L. Jones to Cape Palmas, Africa (1846)
- Josephine Makil, the first African American to join Wycliffe Bible Translators
- Wilondia and Shirley K. Wright Masongezi, Serving with the Baptist General Conference in
the Ivory Coast as Church Planters among the Hausa people.
- Carrie Merriweather from Cleveland, Ohio to Sierra Leone in 1913 with The Christian and
- Joseph Phipps begins work in Congo 1895 including translation of a dictionary
- James Priest, 1843 Liberia
- J.H. Priestly, National Baptist Convention
- John Bryant Small starts mission stations and school in Ghana in 1872 (AME)
- Phyllis Shippy, founder of
AARON -- African Americans Reaching Out to Nations
- Amanda Betty Smith (1837-1915), Africa
- Darius Swann, China, 1953
- Elgin and Dorothy Taylor with Christians in Action (Japan/Okinawa / Africa). In 1959,
Elgin and Dorothy became the first African-American missionaries to be sent to the Orient. In
1982 Elgin became the first Afro-American President and CEO of a multi-ethnic, cross-cultural,
international missions agency.
- Mary Tearing who went to the Congo at age 56
- James A. L. Trice, Sudan / Sierra Leone, 1889 or 1890 (Gospel Union and CMA)
- Francis Watson of the Lott Carey mission established a mission station in the interior of
Liberia in 1920. He would later plant forty churches.
- Prince Williams founds the Bethel Baptist Mission in Nassau, Bahamas in 1778
- Ernie Wilson, credited as founder of the Afro-American Missionary Crusade (with
African American church intercultural
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