1777 to 1852
London Missionary Society (LMS)
James Read was a London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary
pastor among the Cape Coloured of South Africa. Born in Essen,
England, he, like so many other LMS volunteers, was a skilled
artisan, a carpenter. In 1798 he was sent to the South Seas
by the LMS, but his ship was captured by the French. Eventually
Read got back to Britain. In 1800 he went to the Cape Colony
to help J. Van der Kemp.
He aided in the setting up of Bethelsdorp, a large settlement
of Khoi and people of mixed race. These were soon to be deemed,
along with freed slaves, one people, the Cape Coloureds. At
Bethelsdorp and the other settlements of the LMS, the Coloureds
enjoyed more freedom than anymore else in the colony.
Read married Sara, a Khoi. Of their children, James, Jr. became
a leading evangelist and minister; their daughters were teachers;
and Joseph was a hero of the frontier as an officer of the
Cape Regiment. Read helped many people bring charges of ill
treatment against their masters to the new British courts
set up in 1811, for which many whites never forgave him. He
then went north of the Orange River outside the colony, contacting
a number of groups among the Tswana people, which prepared
the way for Robert Moffat.
Serving as John Philip's right-hand
man, Read played an important role in the campaign that achieved
equality for all before the law in 1828. In 1829, the newly
created Kat River settlements of the Coloured people called
Read to be their minister and he stayed there for most of
the rest of his life. Under Read's leadership, the church
at Kat River became an active evangelistic community; it also
created good relations with the Xhosa across the frontier.
All of this was destroyed in the frontier war of 1850-1851
when the old man had to leave Kat River. He removed to nearby
Elandi Port, where he died.
Andrew C. Ross
Christopher Saunders, "James Read: Towards a Reassessment," in Collected Seminar Papers, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London (1977). See also Andrew C. Ross, John Philip (1986).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.