African American Missionary History – Montrose Archibald Waite

Montrose WaiteMontrose Waite and his wife Anna were Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) missionaries to Liberia and Sierra Leone.  He was Jamaican born (in about 1893), but became a naturalized American citizen.  He graduated from Nyack College in 1917 and three years later sailed for Sierra Leone.  He married Anna and they had seven children — all C&MA children were required to attend school at The Alliance school at Mamou, Guinea — however, Waite’s children were victims of racism there and were forced to leave the school.

Subsequently, C&MA left their ministry in Sierra Leone citing ‘over-extension’ — Anna Waite, however held to the stance that C&MA left their ministry in Sierra Leone to distance themselves from Black missionaries and the particular issues that they presented to the mission.  No African American missionaries were again appointed by the alliance until 1976 – some 50 years later. Montrose and Anna, along with their children, returned on furlough to the United States in 1937 and were unable to return to Africa with the C&MA because of opposition of many C&MA clergy and missionaries to black missionaries.

Undaunted – Waite and his wife continued their work by helping to organize the Afro-American Missionary Crusade and raising his own support.  He returned to Africa in 1948 as the AAMC’s field director and first missionary settling in Liberia where he began a school.  In Africa, Mr. Waite discovered a great amount of wonder on the part of local people at the appearance of a black missionary from North America. He recalled the African who rubbed his skin to make sure he was not simply painted.

“Are there other black people in America?” the African wanted to know. “There are many of them,” Mr. Waite replied, adding optimistically, “and they’ll be coming.”

Waite was a leader in building support in the African American church for foreign missions and in finding channels through which black American missionaries could go to Africa.  He continued as a missionary in Africa until 1962 – but remained active in missions until his death in 1977.

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