Samuel Ferguson was an American Episcopal missionary bishop in Liberia. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to a former slave mother and Baptist deacon father. In 1848 his family immigrated to the newly independent Republic of Liberia. Ferguson was educated at Mount Vaughan High School in Cape Palmas, where he later served as teacher and principal (1862-1865). Trained for the ministry under Bishop John Payne, Ferguson was ordained a priest in 1868 and placed in charge of St. Mark’s (Episcopal) Church, Cape Palmas (1868-1885). Elevated to the episcopate in 1885, he became the first bishop of African descent consecrated for a jurisdiction of the American Episcopal Church (PECUSA). Ferguson’s episcopacy was marked by institutional growth, advances in education, and increased Liberian identity. During his tenure many churches became self-supporting, indigenous teachers and clergy assumed leadership, and the number of communicants in the district increased fivefold. A strong nationalist, Ferguson believed that divisions between the indigenous population and the Americo-Liberians could be healed through education. At his initiative, Cuttington College was founded in 1889 and the Bromley School for Girls reorganized. Supporting fifty-six schools, the Episcopal mission led all churches in education and enrolled more “native” students than the Liberian government schools.
Ian T. Douglas
D. Elwood Dunn, A History of the Episcopal Church in Liberia, 1821-1980 (1992); Dean Arthur Holt, “Change Strategies Initiated by the Protestant Episcopal Church in Liberia from 1836 to 1950 and Their Effects” (Ed.D. diss., Boston Univ., 1970); National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Handbooks on The Missions of the Episcopal Church: Liberia (1924).
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.