African American Missionary History – Henry Curtis and Bessie McDowell

McDowellsHenry Curtis and Bessie McDowell went to serve in Angola in 1917. They were co-founders of the Galangue Mission.  The Galangue Mission was the first mission founded and staffed by African Americans in Angola and was administered by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

In 1930, at 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” by the brothers James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson; commonly known as the “Negro National Anthem.” On that date, as Henry writes, “Galangue has made the first step, so far as I know, in making ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ the international anthem.”

 

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