Montrose Waite and his wife Anna were Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) missionaries to Liberia and Sierra Leone. He was born in Jamaica in 1893 but became a naturalized American citizen. He graduated from Nyack College in 1917 and sailed for Sierra Leone three years later. Montrose 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 and were forced to leave the school.
Subsequently, C&MA left their ministry in Sierra Leone, citing ‘over-extension’ — Anna Waite, however, held that C&MA left their ministry in Sierra Leone to distance themselves from Black missionaries and the particular issues they presented to the mission. The Waites returned, on furlough, to the United States in 1937. They could not return to Africa with the C&MA because of the opposition of many C&MA clergy and missionaries to black missionaries. The alliance appointed no African American missionaries again until 1976 – some 50 years later.
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 significant 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 ensure 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 optimistically, “and they’ll be coming.”
Waite was a leader in building support in the African American church for foreign missions and 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 he died in 1977.
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