Native Pastorate caused a vigorous debate over the availability of educated personnel, funding and the marginalised role of whites. While this was going on, an ideological fire from the African-American emigration activists engulfed the West African educated elite who chafed under white control of decision-making processes in the churches and state.

Crucial to the nationalism of the period was the use ofthe Bible to legitimate racial ideology. It shared the diatribe by African-American protagonists such as Martin Delany who countered culture-based hermeneutics by declaring that 'we are no longer slaves, believing any interpretation that our oppressors may give the word of God, for the purpose of deluding us to the more easy subjugation; but freemen'.11 Ethiopianism went beyond passive radicalism, that is, a coping mechanism against ideological and material disadvantage, to an active radicalism that sought to remove the source of the control system. African response would gradually move from voicing opposition to the moral economy of missionary structure to antistructural agency. Some nationalists gave voice to dissent through their writings but remained within the structure; others sought to emasculate missionary structures.

By networking through Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gold Coast and Nigeria, Ethiopians in West Africa built a formidable following among the sector of the new elite who refused to be coopted. It bonded the stars of West Africa. To name but a few: in the Gold Coast, J. E. Casely Hayford (Ekra-Agiman, 1868-1930), a brilliant lawyer and Methodist layman, wrote Ethiopia Unbound (1911) and initiated a critical tradition which rejected the literature of tutelage characteristic of missionary proteges. As an admirer of Wilmot Blyden, his activism centred on mobilising the entire West African colonies in educational and political matters. Unlike Casely Hayford, the educationist Mensah Sarbah (b. 1864) avoided an open attack on missionaries but offered an insightful work on Fanti customary laws that would show the moral foundations of an African community. Attoh Ahuma (1863-1921) broke away and affiliated his Gold Coast African Methodist Church to the bastion of African-American self-assertion, the American Methodist Episcopal Zion, in 1896.

In Nigeria, a leader in the Southern Baptist mission, David Brown Vincent (1860-1917), took to wearing only Yoruba clothes, founded a school with no foreign support and in 1888 seceded from the Southern Baptists to form the Native Baptist Church in Lagos, the first indigenous church in West Africa. In 1894 he reverted to his original name, Mojola Agbebi. Similarly, another Yoruba, E. M. Lijadu (1862-1926), refused to be insulted by an Anglican agent,

11 Wilmore, Black religion and black radicalism, p. 137.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment