William Colley was an African American missionary in Liberia. He was born in Rice’s Depot, a rural community in Prince Edward County, Virginia. His father was a Scottish clergyman and his mother an African American. In 1873 he graduated from Richmond Theological Seminary (later Virginia Union University) and was ordained a Baptist minister. In 1875, after a brief pastorate in Connecticut, he was appointed a missionary to Africa by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and worked in Liberia for nearly five years. In 1879 the Virginia Baptist State Convention secured Colley’s services to canvas African American churches throughout the South concerning the need for more black missionaries in Africa. In November 1880, a meeting was called in Montgomery, Alabama, to organize the Foreign Mission Convention of the United States, the beginning of the first national effort among black Baptists toward the support of foreign missions stations in Liberia, giving birth to the Bendoo and Jundoo missions. It is believed that Colley and his wife perished in Liberia from hardship and disease.
Ralph Reavis, Sr.
Charles H. Corey, A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary (1895); Miles Mark Fisher, A Short History of the Baptist Denomination (1933); Larry G. Murphy et al., Encyclopedia of African American Religions (1993); Carter G. Woodson, The History of the Negro Church (1921); Davis Collier Wolley, Baptist Advance: The Achievements of the Baptists of North America for a Century and a Half (1964).
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.