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Wed, 03.03.1819

Alex Crummell, Nationalist, and Missionary born

Alexander Crummell

*Alexander Crummell was born on this date in 1819. He was a Black nationalist and missionary.

Born in lower Manhattan to father Boston and mother Charity, his home was the founding place of the first African American newspaper, Freedom's Journal. Crummell’s early years were spent under the influence of surroundings, including the back-to-Africa movement and schooling in the church of Rev. Peter Williams, Jr. and the African Free School. As a teenager, he enrolled at the Noyes Academy in Canaan, N.H., a school closed due to mob violence, forcing him to resume his studies at the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, N.Y.

After attending lectures at Yale, ministering to congregations in New Haven and Providence, and getting married to Sarah Mabritt Elston, he wrote briefly as a correspondent for the Colored American. Crummell was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 1842, working with small congregations in Philadelphia and New York. Six years later, he went to England, seemingly to raise funds for his parish, yet began preparing to enter Cambridge University. He failed at his first attempt but then made the class and attained his bachelor’s degree in 1853.

Crummell relocated to Liberia for missionary work with the Protestant Episcopal Church, running into conflict with his superiors and eventually attempting to organize another diocese in Monrovia. At the time, his writings were collected and compiled in his book “The Future of Africa” (1862). Crummell spent sixteen years in Liberia, hastily leaving after the assassination of then President Edward Roye and threats against his own life. His wife Sarah died in 1878. Crummell married Jennie M. Simpson two years later, but not before establishing St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

His theological writings consistently reflected that salvation cannot be achieved solely by accepting grace. Crummell believed that God works actively in history, that good is rewarded in this life, and all evil is punished. Though somewhat ambivalent to cultural expressions by Black masses, he never wavered in his stance on Black Nationalism. Alexander Crummell died in September 1898. Before his death, he organized the American Negro Academy, which was dedicated to the pursuit of a higher culture and civilization for Black Americans. His main sources of writings are located in the Schomburg Collection in New York City.


An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage
by Marvin Andrew McMickle
Judson Press, Copyright 2002
ISBN 0-817014-02-0

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