John Day was the first African American appointed by the Southern Baptist Conventions Foreign Missions Board (SBC). Day was born in Virginia in 1797.
He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1821 and had hopes of ministering in Haiti but could not garner enough support among Virginia Baptist . In 1830, he migrated to Liberia to minister and shortly thereafter was appointed by the Triennial Convention’s Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. In 1844, he resigned from the Triennial Convention post and was appointed by the SBC and given the lead of their ministry in Liberia. Day was a missionary to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa and is known as a founding father of Liberia because he signed its Declaration of Independence and also became the Republic’s chief justice.
Within one year of his family’s arrival in Liberia, his wife and all of his 5 children died. John Day spent 13 years in Africa and is estimated to have preached to more than 10,000 people during his ministry. In 1856 he founded Day’s Hope, a high school and seminary intended to train African boys as missionaries to their own people. John Day died on February 15, 1859 and on his deathbed, when asked how he was feeling, said these words –
“If I speak with regard to the union subsisting between me and Christ, I am well.”