African-American Heritage Collection
This collection contains transcribed letters, articles, and reports related to the IMB's early African-American missionaries to Liberia and Sierra Leone (1846-1861), including John Day, Boston J. Drayton, A. P. Davis, B. P. Yates, and others.
The African-American Heritage collection chronicles Southern Baptists' efforts to evangelize West Africa in the mid-19th century. American Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, as well as several European denominations, had previously sent missionaries to the region beginning in the 1820s. However, workers not used to endemic diseases frequently succumbed to them, resulting in many deaths. From its outset in 1845, the FMB opted to recruit established African-American colonists in Liberia. Southern Baptists in Richmond used their relationships with churches to identify suitable candidates, some of whom had already served under the FMB's predecessor, the Baptist Board for Foreign Missions, or its northern counterpart, the American Baptist Missionary Union.
Inspired by the example of Lott Carey, a black Richmonder who was the first American Baptist missionary to Africa in 1821, and other pioneers like British missionary William G. Crocker, African-Americans and national Christians answered the call. Within this diverse group were freeborn African-Americans as well as manumitted former slaves and converted indigenous believers (often chieftains of local people groups).
Americo-Liberian missionaries and teachers included John Day (the FMB's first black missionary, appointed 1846), Hilary Teage, John T. Richardson, John H. Cheeseman, Joseph M. Harden (who also served in Central Africa, now Nigeria), Aaron P. Davis, Boston J. Drayton (first black missionary to be appointed and sent out from Richmond), Richard E. Murray, Melford D. Herndon, J. J. Fitzgerald, Isaac Roberts, and Beverly P. Yates, among others. Jacob Vonbrunn and Lewis Kong Crocker were native-born Africans of the Bassa people group who served with the FMB. J. J. Brown, George S. Weeks, and Henry P. Thomson served in Sierra Leone (specifically Freetown and Waterloo), while work in the region that would become Nigeria was spearheaded by white missionaries Thomas J. Bowen and William H. Clarke, who occasionally appear in the collection, as do multiple prominent figures in early Liberian history.
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