Black Missionary History – Amanda Berry Smith

smith_amanda_berryEvangelist 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 travelling on 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

Black Missionary History – Henry Curtis and Bessie McDowell

McDowellsHenry Curtis and Bessie McDowell went to serve in Angola in 1917. They were co-founders of the Galangue Mission.  The Galangue Mission was the first mission founded and staffed by African Americans in Angola and was administered by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

In 1930, at a service commemorating fifty years of Congregational missions in Angola, the Galangue mission choir, under the leadership of Bessie McDowell, introduces a new song. It is Bessie’s own Ovimbundu translation of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by the brothers James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson; commonly known as the “Negro National Anthem.” On that date, as Henry writes, “Galangue has made the first step, so far as I know, in making ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ the international anthem.”

 

Black Missionary History – John Stewart

john-stewartJohn Stewart was a missionary to the Wyandotte Indians of Ohio and founder of what is often considered the first Methodist mission in America. Stewart was born in Virginia in 1786 to free Negro parents.  Stewart joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1815 Stewart felt that he was being called to spread the word of God among the Indians and set out on a journey to complete this calling. His first stop was in Goshen, Ohio, where he stayed for almost six months. After this he moved to Sandusky, Ohio where he worked among the Wyandotte Indians.

Stewart was able to successfully convert both chiefs and tribal members to Christianity, a feat which leaves him with the credit of starting the first highly successful Methodist mission among the Indians of the United States. On August 7, 1819, the Ohio Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church established the first official mission to the Indians based largely on the work that Stewart had completed among the Wyandotte. Stewart died on December 17, 1823 at the age of 37.

Black Missionary History – John Marrant

john-marrant2John Marrant, was born June 15, 1755 in New York City. He converted to Christianity at 13 and his family did not agree with his new religion, so he left home – wandering to find a place and was rescued by a Native American hunter. The tribe sentenced him to die, but his prayers and sermons reached their hearts and they spared his life. He lived among the Native Americans many converted. He was only 14 years old when he began this ministry.

In 1782 Marrant started training as a Methodist minister, and was ordained in 1785. He was sent to Nova Scotia to minister to African-Americans who fled to the north. Marrant started a church in the free black town of Birch Town (which Native Americans also attended) with the purpose of igniting a fire among Blacks to walk in their divine destiny and authority. Marrant preached this message consistently during his three years in Nova Scotia.  When Marrant left Nova Scotia he moved to Boston and became chaplain of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, one of the first institutions in Massachusetts to call for the abolition of slavery. Due to this group’s work, Boston abolished the slave trade in 1788.

In 1789 while in Boston, Marrant preached one of his few sermons that has been preserved on the equality of all men before God. His stay in Boston and his preaching on the dignity of all men infuriated some people and Marrant lived amidst death threats and mobs.  He became Chaplain of He left for England in 1790 and died in 1791 at the age of only thirty-six.

Marrant authored three books. They were often transcribed by white writers and resold with no financial benefit to Marrant.

  1. A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black, 1785. (a popular biographical memoir that printed 17 editions)
  2. A Sermon Preached on the 24th Day of June 1789…at the Request of the Right Worshipful the Grand Master Prince Hall, and the Rest of the Brethren of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, 1789. (noting the equality of men before God)
  3. A Journal of the Rev. John Marrant, from August the 18th, 1785, to the 16th of March, 1790.

He died April 15, 1791 in London.

“So we see here the greatest enemies of Christ’s church frequently make a great profession, and have a name or an office in the church, when at the same time are destitute of the vital power of true godliness; they live by a name themselves, and they want a great many names to be set down in their society books to make a fair shew; but they care nothing about real religion; from such religion as this, good Lord deliver us.” John Marrant

Black 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.