Louise (“Lulu”) Cecilia Fleming.Congo. Served from 1887 – 1899

Lulu was born 1862 as a slave in Florida. In 1887 she became a missionary teacher in Congo. The students were being introduced to Jesus because of Lulu’s ministry to them. The school had 49 students and many of them came to Christ through Lulu’s ministry to them.

This seems a poor report…and perhaps many may think the work almost discouraging, but to us whom God has given the privilege to labor here it is very encouraging. [It] fills us with unspeakable joy.

Lulu combined her teaching with weekend evangelistic work in the towns and within a year she had learned Kikongo and no longer required a translator. When Lulu saw that women needed to be reached, she began making home visits while urging the mission society (American Baptist Foreign Mission Society of the West) to send more women.

In 1891 Lulu return to the USA as a student at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, Lulu returned to the Congo in 1895 as a medical missionary.

Known now as Dr. Fleming, she was stationed at Irebu, further up the Congo River where she needed to learn a different language. The power of Dr. Fleming’s ministry came from her identification with those among whom she served. The Baptist Missionary Magazine described her as “particularly successful in winning the hearts of the Congo people, putting herself in close touch and sympathy with them.” She passed away in 1899 from complications from African sleeping sickness.

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Althea Brown Edmiston. Congo. Served 1902 – 1937

Althea was born in 1874 in Alabama. Her parents were emancipated from slavery, and she was raised on her father’s farm in Mississippi.

She attended Fisk University, graduated in 1901. Althea was commissioned as a missionary in 1901 by the Southern Presbyterian Church. She sailed for the Congo in 1902 and worked at a mission station run by William Henry Sheppard – another Black American Missionary.

In 1905 she married Alonzo Edmiston and they had two sons, both born in the Congo Region. Her husband was also a Black Missionary.

Altheas’s work was as a nurse and also in the area of linguistics. Her work was amazing because she did the linguistics work without any prior training. In the local Bushong language, she ensured that a a grammar and dictionary resource was published. Liturgical and educational materials were translated by Althea so that there was a small library printed for her students to read in their own language.

She passed away in 1937.

Two books that tell the story:

A Life for the Congo: The Story of Althea Brown Edmiston
A Higher Mission: The Careers of Alonzo and Althea Brown Edmiston in Central Africa

Henry Highland Garnet. Jamaica, Liberia, New York & Pittsburgh. Served 1842 – 1882

Henry Highland Garnet. Born into slavery in Maryland in 1815, Garnet and his family escaped to New York City when he was nine years old.  In New York City, Garnet attended the African Free School. In the 1830s, Garnet continued his education at several institutions. He eventually ended up at the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York where he finished his studies in 1840.  He became a Presbyterian minister and served as the first pastor of the Liberty Street Negro Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York, beginning in 1842.

His “Call to Rebellion” speech in 1843 encouraged slaves to rebel against their owners.  In 1850, Garnet traveled to England and Scotland where he spoke widely against the practice of slavery. He also supported allowing blacks to emigrate to other lands, such as Liberia in Africa, a country made up mostly of freed slaves. In 1852, Garnet traveled to Jamaica to serve as a missionary.  Ill health forced his return to the U.S. in 1855 where he continued his work in the abolitionist movement. In 1856, he begin to serve as pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.

On February 12, 1865, while in Washington, Garnet made history when he was chosen by President Abraham Lincoln to speak to the House of Representatives—making him the first African American to preach a sermon in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1868, Garnet was appointed president of Avery College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Later he returned to New York City as a pastor at the Shiloh Presbyterian Church (formerly the First Colored Presbyterian Church, and now St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem).  

Fulfilling a longtime dream, Garnet traveled to Africa in 1881 where he was appointed as the U.S. Minister to Liberia.  He died in 1882, a few months after his arrival.  Garnet was given a state funeral by the Liberian government and was buried at Palm Grove Cemetery in Monrovia.

The humblest peasant is as free in the sight of God as the proudest monarch that ever swayed a sceptre. Liberty is a spirit sent from God and like its great Author is no respecter of persons.”  

Henry Highland Garnet

Sarah E. Gorham. Liberia, Sierra Leone. Served 1880 – 1894

Sarah E. Gorham served 8 years as an independent missionary. In 1888 she is recorded as the first female missionary of the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church.

In 1880, Sarah visited family in Liberia. Her interest in helping people and pouring into their lives was true and strong and she was described then as a missionary; as a church leader; and, as a social worker. She returned to the United States and was involved in the ministry of the Charles Street AME Church. In 1888, she went to the Magbelle mission in Sierra Leone, where she established the Sarah Gorham Mission School, a place of both Bible teaching and industrial training. In July 1894, Sarah was infected with malaria. She was bedridden, and passed away in one month.

Sarah was buried at Kissy Road Cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Betsey Stockton – Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Canada; served 1822 – 1865

Born into slavery in 1798, Betsey Stockton was an African-American educator and missionary. A servant to Robert Stockton, president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), Betsey was formally freed in 1817.  She remained in the service of the the family as paid household help and was able to take advantage of their extensive library, as well as benefit from their willingness to teach her in their home.

Betsey was commissioned by the American Board of Foreign Missions as a Missionary and became the first single American woman sent overseas. Her contract stated that she was sent “neither as an equal nor as a servant, but a humble Christian friend.”  Betsey traveled in company with 13 white missionaries, on board a ship rounding the southern tip of South America. The missionaries were on their way to the Sandwich Islands (present-day Hawaii). Upon arrival, the missionaries settled in Lahaina, Maui, where Betsey was the teacher of the first mission school at Lahainaluna School for commoners, learning the Hawaiian language while working on the Islands, the first woman to do so. She trained native Hawaiian Teachers who eventually took over her teachings once the missionaries departed.

Though her contract stated she was not to be a servant, the circumstances of people of color in that day determined that she was a servant at least part time to one of the families that she traveled with.  In 1825, the matriarch of the family that she was helping became ill and she return to the USA where she stayed with them for about five years.

Betsey taught briefly at an infant school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, established a school for Native Americans at Grape Island, Canada, and then returned to Princeton in 1835 and taught in its school for blacks.  In 1840, she helped found Princeton’s First Presbyterian Church of Color which in 1848 was renamed the Witherspoon Street Church. Betsey passed away on October 24, 1865 and was buried in Cooperstown, New York. Like many early missionaries, she kept a diary of her travels – versions of which were published in the Christian Advocate in 1824 and 1825.