Thursday, August 25, 2005

William Sheppard "Congo's African-American Livingstone"

Have you ever heard of William Sheppard? Well you should have. He is widely known as the "Black Livingstone." That is, like David Livingstone pioneered exploratory and missionary work in cental Africa, William Sheppard did much of the same in the congo. After graduating from Stillman College (Tuscaloosa Theological Institute at the time) in 1886, he was ordained by the Atlanta Presbytery and called to pastor Zion Church in Atlanta. Yet, he continued to hear the call to missions in Africa. Subsequently, he became the first African-American missionary commissioned by the Presbyterian Church U.S. to labor in Africa. His story is a remarkable and amazing journey. His life is the story of "how an African-American born in the South during the era of slavery emerged as one of the most distinguished Presbyterian leaders in American history." I am familiar with two books that chronicle Sheppard's life and times. One is by Pagan Kennedy entitled "Black Livingstone." The other is by William Phipps entitled "William Sheppard: Congo's African-American Livingstone." Apparently Pagan is a pagan. She makes little note of Sheppard's religious convictions and even makes light of the role his faith and theology played in his life and mission. Phipps on the other hand is an ordained minister in the PCUSA. He sees the undeniable role faith and theology played in Sheppard's life and is more insightful in that regard. I highly recommend Phipp's book, though you may want to refer to the Pagan's because she has good pictures :-) .

1 comment:

Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

Anthony, do you know anything about what was going on in the PCUS at that time? I'm guessing this was after there was a north/south split in the Presbyterian church. Was it unusual for blacks at that time to even be involved in Presby churches? I know there were quite a few black missioaries (especially to Africa) in the late 19th century, but I assumed they typically were from the AME or other African American denominations. Was it typical for predominantly white denominations also to send out black missionaries? (Yes, I'm way too lazy to read the book myself!)