1864 SAMUEL AJAYI CROWTHER. June 1, 1864 Letter by First African Bishop, Former Nigerian Slave.
1864 SAMUEL AJAYI CROWTHER. June 1, 1864 Letter by First African Bishop, Former Nigerian Slave.

1864 SAMUEL AJAYI CROWTHER. June 1, 1864 Letter by First African Bishop, Former Nigerian Slave.

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A wonderfully clean, crisp 2pp ALS by Samuel Ajayi Crowther [1807-1891]. Born in Yorubaland [modern Nigeria], he was taken captive by Muslim slave traders and traded six times before being sold to the Portuguese. As part of the British anti-slavery patrol of ships coming to Europe, the ship Samuel was on was intercepted, boarded, and the slaves set free and transported to Sierra Leone. There Crowther became a Christian and began training for the ministry. He officially began working in Nigeria as a missionary in 1841.

After this initial expedition, Crowther went to England and studied at the CMS College in London. His studies there led to his ordination by the Anglican Church in 1843. After his ordination, Crowther and several others opened a new mission in Yorubaland. He made important linguistic contributions, publishing A Vocabulary of the Yoruba Language, and later translating the Bible and The Book of Common Prayers into the Yoruba language.

Crowther returned to England in 1851 to promote his missionary work. He ultimately earned support from the CMS to open a mission along the Niger River with a staff composed entirely of Africans from Sierra Leone. After the success of this mission, Crowther was ordained in 1864 as “Bishop of the countries of Western Africa beyond the Queen’s dominions,” making him the first African Bishop in the Anglican Church. 

The present letter is one of the very first written after being officially ordained Bishop.

The story doesn't end well. Over time, CMS views shifted toward having European missionaries in control of all foreign missions. There were attempts to discredit Crowther and his work. Ultimately, the staff was entirely replaced by white missionaries. Crowther, distressed by the conflict, died from a stroke on December 31, 1891. A European bishop replaced him.

Though Crowther’s ambitions were quelled toward the end of his life, his ordination as the first African Bishop in the Anglican Church was a milestone in nineteenth-century society. His translations of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer into Yoruba were instrumental in his pioneering of Christian-Muslim interactions in the Upper and Middle Niger regions.

"Church Missionary House
Salisbury Square
June 1st, 1864

Dear Sir,

I have received your note of the 31st ult: I send you a copy of the pamphlet published about the operations of the Niger Mission. We contemplate ****** our missionary operations upon my return, for which purpose I am now trying to secure a small fund in addition to what the Parent Committee can afford to extend the fund, this fund being inadequate to meet the wants of their increasing missionary stations in India and Africa thro the vast fields now open before us - hoping the accompanying pamphlet will give you such information as you desire. 

With my best respects
I remain
Dear Sir
Yours very truly
Saml Crowther

p.s. Another pamphlet, No. 3, is not yet ready in the hand of the printer. You may apply for a copy at the Church Missionary House, Salisbury Square, where it is published.