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 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.
Rev. Prince Williams was an escaped slave from South Carolina – he fled to St. Augustine Florida. He was the first African-American Baptist missionary to the Bahama Islands. He left Saint Augustine, FL, around 1790 headed for Nassau. On August 1, 1790, he obtained land and ground breaking ceremonies for Bethel’s Meeting House commenced on Monday, August 1st, 1790.
Williams was not satisfied with the thatch roofed structure – but it was the style of building that anabaptists were relegated to at the time. In 1801 he built a ‘proper’ wooden house of worship, and changed the name to Bethel Baptist Chapel. Bethel was not only the first church in the vicinity but it was also the first wooden building ever erected in an undeveloped area. Williams served as the Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church for 44 years. The Foreign Missionary Baptist Society then assigned a new pastor to the church.
Pastor Williams continued to lead people to Christ and at age 70 Williams erected St. John’s Baptist Church and ministered there until his death in 1840 at age 104.
164 churches were birthed from his ministry in the Bahamas! Amazingly he could read but could not write.
John Day born in Virginia 1797. John Day was the first African American appointed by the Southern Baptist Conventions Foreign Missions Board (SBC).
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.”
Evangelist and missionary Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915) became well known for her beautiful voice and inspired teaching and hence, opportunities to evangelize in the South and West opened up for her.
In 1876, she was invited to speak and sing in England and to travel in a first class cabin provided by her friends. The captain invited her to conduct a religious service on board and she was so modest that the other passengers spread word of her and resulted in her staying in England and Scotland for a year and a half.
She next traveled to and ministered in India, then spent eight years in Africa (Egypt, Sierra Leone, Liberia) working with churches and evangelizing. While in Africa she suffered from repeated attacks of “African Fever” but persisted in her work. In her journal entry for February 5, 1884 she writes:
“Second Gospel Temperance meeting. Surely the Spirit of the Lord is with us, and He is blessing us greatly. Not so much liberty in speaking, but God is with us, and we are expecting great things. Oh, Lord, for Jesus’ sake, answer prayer, and send us the Holy Ghost to quicken and revive us.”
She founded the Amanda Smith Orphans’ Home for African-American children in a suburb of Chicago. She was called “God’s image carved in ebony.” Amanda Smith retired to Sebring, Florida in 1912 due to failing health. She died in 1915 at the age of 78.
Amanda has one of very few written autobiographies by black americans of that time period. You can read her an electronic copy of her autobiography “An Autobiography. The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith the Colored Evangelist; Containing an Account of Her Life Work of Faith, and Her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa, as an Independent Missionary”at this link – Autobiography of Amanda Smith
Maria Fearing was born in 1838. She was enslaved as a house servant in Alabama. In 1871, Maria completed the ninth grade, learning to read and write. at age 33. The mistress of the house where she served often told Maria and her children stories about missionaries in Africa which left a deep impression on Fearing.
She worked her way through the Freedman’s Bureau School in Talladega to become a teacher. At age 56 she went to the Congo, where for more than 20 years she worked as a Presbyterian missionary and eventually established the Pantops Home for Girls in 1915. She taught in the mission day school and Sunday school and worked with women in surrounding villages. Her students nicknamed her “mama wa mputu” (mother from far away) as to reflect their love and appreciation. At the age of 78, Fearing was encouraged to retire. After returning to Alabama, Fearing taught at a church school in Selma, and later returned to Sumter County, where she died on May 23, 1937 at the age of 99.
In 1918, Maria received the Loving Cup, an honor bestowed on her by the Southern Presbyterian Church. Maria Fearing was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.