The Dictionary of African Christian Biography (DACB.org) is an electronic, open-access resource that uses biography to document the 2000 year history of Christianity in Africa. This international, collaborative project is a response to the lack of historical information on the African figures who shaped this history. Biographical figures include men and women, clergy and lay people, Africans and expatriates from the full spectrum of communities that self-identify as Christian, from the beginning of the Christian era to the present, across the entire continent. Scroll down to learn more about the project; you can also visit our Introductory Resources section for more information.
As the DACB aims to fill a gap in the historical record before the memories are lost, the website is an eclectic collection of both scholarly articles and shorter accounts based solely on oral history interviews. Many stories are written specifically for the DACB, some may be class assignments or excerpts of theses or dissertations. Other biographies are reprinted, with permission, from published sources. Authors include church workers, family members, scholars, and missionaries. Institutions in Africa and elsewhere participate in providing content for the DACB. Completed biographies are sent to the Executive Director (email: [email protected]) and will only be accepted for publication if they follow DACB formatting and bibliography standards (See our submission guidelines). These biographies on the website can be freely reprinted with attribution (see site usage link) for use in churches and educational institutions.
The DACB was born in 1995 at the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC) in New Haven, Connecticut. A grant from Pew’s Research Enablement Program, administered by OMSC director Gerald Anderson, brought together a group of scholars that included Jonathan J. Bonk (convener), Gerald H. Anderson, Joseph G. Donders, Charles W. Forman, Rosalind I. J. Hackett, Stephen Peterson, Lamin Sanneh, Francisco J. Silota, and Andrew F. Walls. At the conclusion of the consultation, the creation of the Dictionary of African Christian Biography was announced. The project was to be an open-access online resource that would address not only the need to document the information gap but to make that information readily available to the African and global communities.
The initial website went online in 1998. Michele Sigg joined the work as part-time assistant in 2000 and later became full-time project manager. While the project received funding from private donations, the support of the Overseas Ministries Study Center was crucial until 2012, providing financial backing as well as logistical and administrative services. During this golden age, Jonathan Bonk and later Michele Sigg traveled to Africa to promote the work of the DACB at annual oral history training workshops led by Jean-Paul Wiest. All told, the countries visited include Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, Egypt, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Madagascar. From 1999 to 2011, the Project Luke Fellowship made it possible to bring two African scholar-writers per year to the OMSC to contribute biographies to the DACB. The DACB initiative stimulated other similar projects such as the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity.
In 2012, Dana Robert invited the DACB to come to Boston University as one of the digital projects of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission (CGCM). In 2015, the CGCM hosted an inter-disciplinary conference on African Christian biography at the BU School of Theology. The proceeds of the conference were published in the volume African Christian Biography: Stories, Lives, and Challenges (Cluster, 2018).
In 2017, the website was totally redesigned by Alex Mayfield, a doctoral student at the CGCM, making it more functional and user friendly. After finishing her doctorate in 2018, Michele Sigg became associate director and is spearheading another website redesign in 2019 to reflect the next phase—or 20+ chapter—of the DACB.
More about the early history here
Read the 20+ DACB Vision article as well as Founding Director Jonathan Bonk’s seminal article “Ecclesiastical Cartography and the Invisible Continent: The Dictionary of African Christian Biography”
Meet these scholars and ecclesiastics from a diverse range of church traditions and African countries who collaborate in the leadership of the project.
Meet the small leadership team that tends to the day-to-day operations of the project.
These research centers and institutional affiliates partner in the work of the DACB. See what our partners have contributed to the DACB collection and a list of their authors and biographical subjects.
We are deeply grateful to the organizations and individuals who have donated their money, their time, or gifts in kind to advance the work of the DACB since its founding in 1995. This page features all of those who made DACB possible through their generosity.
Find information about how to correctly cite and use the information on the DACB. This section also features data on our stories that can provide insight on potential research areas.