Important African-American Missionaries You Should Know

There are so many missionaries throughout history who are inspirational not only to those aspiring to serve as missionaries, but also to those who need encouragement to live boldly for the sake of the gospel. Of those missionaries in the modern mission era, there are are several African-American missionaries who endured discrimination, persecution, and hardship to faithfully serve the Lord on the mission field. Betsey Stockton, George Liele, and Lott Cary are three such missionaries. We can learn a lot from each of their stories.

Below are excerpts from blog posts written by Lesley Hildreth on each of these missionaries followed by a link to the full articles posted on the International Mission Board website. Let these stories drive you to thank God for choosing to use us for His glory, and drive you to serve Him faithfully just as these missionaries did during their time on this earth.


Betsey Stockton

Betsey Stockton, the first single woman missionary in the modern mission era, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1798. At an early age, she was given to the wife of Reverend Ashbel Green as a domestic slave. At that time, Dr. Green served as the president of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University.

Betsey was given permission to attend evening classes at the college, and in the winter of 1815, her life took a radical turn when a revival broke out on campus. As a result of this spiritual awakening, she became a Christian and was baptized at Princeton’s First Presbyterian Church.

Shortly after her conversion, Betsey was granted freedom by the Greens, who supported the abolitionist movement. However, a law requiring gradual emancipation didn’t go into effect until 1825. For this reason, she remained in the Greens’ household as a paid domestic servant. The Greens treated her as a member of their family and allowed her to continue her education…

Betsey Stockton may have been born into slavery but she emerged as a religious and academic pioneer. Click To Tweet

As Betsey grew in her faith, she expressed a desire to be a missionary to Africa. However, before she was able to travel to Africa, the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions presented her with the opportunity to serve in Hawaii… Betsey’s passion and work made a significant contribution to the missionary team and provided a platform for evangelism and discipleship…



George Liele

One of the most significant figures in the history of Christian missions is a freed Georgia slave named George Liele. Even though William Carey may be called the father of the modern missionary movement, George Liele left America and planted the gospel in Jamaica a full ten years before Carey left England.

Because of his faithfulness and powerful preaching of the Word, many surrendered their lives to Christ. George Liele was ordained on May 20, 1775, becoming the first ordained African American Baptist preacher in America. After his ordination, he planted the first African American Baptist Church in North America, a church still in existence today.

When Liele landed in Jamaica it was a British colony. There, Liele found land and a people who needed a missionary. Slaves were brought from Africa to Jamaica to work on the sugar plantations. These men and women had no real knowledge of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Liele planted a church and held a baptism service every three months. These baptisms were public events in which professing converts were baptized in a nearby ocean or river…

Not only did Liele’s ministry lead to a spiritual impact on the island, but his work also made a social difference for the Jamaican slaves. By July 31, 1838, slavery was eradicated in Jamaica. Click To Tweet

Not only did Liele’s ministry lead to a spiritual impact on the island, but his work also made a social difference for the Jamaican slaves. By July 31, 1838, slavery was eradicated in Jamaica…



Lott Cary

Lott Cary was the first African-American missionary to Africa. He was responsible for the missionary movement that created a growing interest among African-Americans in the evangelization of Africa, as well as other parts of the world.

Lott was born in 1780 in Charles City County, Virginia, on the estate of William A. Christian. Unlike most slave families, Cary’s family was able to live together. His father, mother, and grandmother were God-fearing and faithful Baptists. Not only was his grandmother, Mahala, an important caretaker, she was also responsible for shaping Lott’s religious beliefs.

When he was twenty-four years old, Lott’s owner sent him to Richmond, Virginia, to work in a tobacco warehouse. While there, he drank too much, started swearing, and running around like the other men. However, after being there two or three years he felt conviction for his sin and became a Christian…

After a short time, Lott was given the job of supervisor in the warehouse. This job provided him enough money to buy his freedom. Eventually, Lott felt called to ministry and the First Baptist Church licensed him to preach. He preached across the state of Virginia. A frequent topic of conversation and theme of his sermons was a missionary call and the needs of Africa…

Over time, Cary felt an increasing call to go to Africa. He believed he could serve God more effectively there because he would not face the same racism he did in the United States. In obedience to this call, Lott Cary left spiritual and economic comforts to serve as a missionary to Africa…

Lott Cary’s legacy includes American Christians of all races taking the gospel through the entire continent of Africa. Click To Tweet


CGCS Administrator
Center for Great Commission Studies
follow me
Posted in Blog, Missional Inspiration, Missions and tagged , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *