This is an article from the March-April 2000 issue: The African American & Missions

The Vision of Lott Carey

The Vision of Lott Carey

Born in 1780, Carey worked as a young man in Richmond's tobacco warehouse district. Through his own savings and with help from sympathetic white people, he raised the money to purchase both his freedom and that of his family. He also learned to read and write by attending a night school conducted by William Crane, a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Richmond.

Carey's grandmother had become a Christian after being taken from Africa as a slave. She longed to see the Gospel preached in her homeland and believed her grandson could be used of God as a missionary. Carey became a powerful and well known preacher. In 1815, he led in the organization of the African Baptist Foreign Missionary Society. It was the first organization for world missions founded by African Americans in the United States.1

Through the intervention of William Crane and the Richmond Baptist Missionary Society, the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions (known simply as the Triennial Convention because it met every three years), which had been organized in 1814, agreed to support Lott Carey and Colin Teague (a free African American preacher who shared Carey's desire to preach the gospel to the Africans). On Jan. 16, 1821, after several years of working toward fulfilling his dream of preaching the gospel to the Africans, Carey, along with Colin Teague and their families, sailed for Liberia.

The funds for their journey came from several sources, including contributions from their own pockets (some $1,500 from the sale of Carey's farm), the African Baptist Foreign Missionary Society, some white people who were sympathetic to his cause and the American Colonization Society. Shortly after their arrival in Liberia they established the Providence Baptist Church.2

Carey labored and established a colony in which he served as chief political, religious and military leader, and medical officer. In spite of the difficulties faced, he felt that Africa was the best place for him and his family (and any blacks who did not want the hue of their skin to hinder their advancement in the society in which they lived). Because of his stands on various issues, he incurred the disfavor of some of the colonial rulers. Carey died in an explosion in 1828.3

  1. William J. Harvey, III, Bridges of Faith Across the Seas (Philadelphia: The Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., 1989), p. 16.

  2. Along with William Crane and some others, they had organized the Providence Baptist Church in Richmond before they sailed for West Africa. Today, this church continues to have an effective ministry in the city of Monrovia, Liberia.

  3. History reports that the explosion was an accident that occurred as he was preparing to defend the colony against an invading tribe. Some, however, believe that Carey's death was an assassination. Proponents of this theory believe that they have evidence to support their belief.


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