Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Johnson, James ‘Holy’ (E)

Anglican Communion
Sierra Leone

Alas! How the power even of a most righteous man depends upon the times in which he happens to live! –Epitaph to Adrian VI (pope 1522-23)

In nineteenth-century West Africa, national (i.e., colonial) boundaries were less determinate than today, and a considerable movement of people and ideas helped shape an authentic West African identity. That period spawned men of considerable stature whose contribution and influence pervaded the region with greater ease than is conceivable today. One such man was James Johnson.

Johnson and a twin were born in 1839 or 1840 to “recaptive” Yoruba parents not far from the village of Waterloo in the Sierra Leone colony.[1] Both parents were technically Christian converts who, reflecting a prevalent practice, still held firmly to pre-Christian tribal customs. These prescribed the death of twins, and Johnson’s chronicler affirms that he owed his survival solely to the fact that he had been born under the British flag.[2] In reality, the entire colony formed an uncomfortable blend of showpiece Christianity and traditional religious practices that had “weathered the storm of alien transplantation” and proved conspicuously resistant to the sanctifying operation of the Gospel.[3] Johnson’s early life was thus spent in an environment that was self-consciously Christian (by the time he was in his teens, “no less than two-thirds of the population… [was] professedly Christian”),[4] yet it was thoroughly informed by tribal beliefs and customs. The dynamic tension and ambivalence that these two influences generated was exemplified to a great degree in the lives of many “colony-born” Christians like Johnson, who, though imbued with an English-styled Christianity, instinctively (and often agonizingly) explored their African heritage for self-identity.

In 1847 the young Johnson entered the CMS school in St. Matthews Parish, Waterloo, where he was force-fed a diet of Scripture passages, hymn singing, and catechism. He displayed remarkable traits even then and, to the amazement of his teacher, precociously attacked the idol worship practiced by his parents.[5] Intelligent, independent minded, and evincing a deep spirituality beyond his years, Johnson was destined for a career in the church. In 1851 he proceeded to the CMS grammar school-founded six years earlier “to provide secondary education for boys from the new middle-class families”–where the curriculum was essentially a replica of contemporary grammar schools in England (apart from daily stints in farming and a course in navigation).[6] On June 1, 1854, Johnson entered the Fourah Bay Institution. It had been founded by the CMS in 1827 and by then was the society’s chief means of training “native” ministers in West Africa. He duly graduated in December 1858 and took up a position as catechist at Kent, the southernmost village on the Sierra Leone Peninsula, some twenty-five miles south of Freetown.[7] In this ecclesiastical backwater James Johnson experienced a personal conversion to the faith that he had professed for over seven years.

I was reading… the book of Zechariah, and while I was preparing my lesson on the 3rd and 4th chapters of that book the Lord spoke to me as my Saviour, and within that week at Holy Communion service I found salvation… On that occasion the joy and gladness of personal salvation led me to offer myself to God that He might send me out as a missionary among heathen people.[8]

This transforming experience became the mainspring of an enduring religious fervor and unshakable commitment to Christian service. It also bred a fanatical piety and diehard dogmatism that both attracted and repelled and tended to polarize Johnson’s acquaintances into either staunch supporters or antagonists.

A Young Man of Much Promise

Johnson’s appointment to Kent signaled the commencement of his lifelong dedication to CMS service.[9] About two years later he was transferred to the grammar school, where he held a tutorship for two to three years. By then, his intense Christian devoutness and puritan propensities had become all too manifest. Nicknamed the Bishop, he prayed three times a day and withheld students’ dinners when they so much as neglected to do “some algebraical problems.”[10] To his credit he refused to be tempted away from his position as CMS tutor to a situation that offered him 50 percent more in salary, on the grounds that he was content with his connection with the society.[11] Ordained a deacon in March 1863, he took up the curacy of the prestigious Pademba Road Church, under the superintendence of a European missionary.

Johnson’s connection with the Pademba Road District lasted eleven years and arguably marked the second major turning point in his life. “Henceforward,” writes Ayandele, “the holiness that was to be attached to him was incredibly visible….Theology became his main mental pre-occupation [and] morality … an absolute reality.”[12] The parish, which included the “purely heathen” Brookfield’s Mission, was a veritable center of non-Christian practices, notably Shango worship; a goodly portion of Johnson’s parishioners were numbered among the clientele of the local “heathen” priests and oracles.[13] Idealistic, impetuous and maverick, but impelled by a unique sense of godliness, Johnson embarked on a crusade against the evil around him with unconventional and confrontational zeal. He preached in the open, sought out backsliders, and attacked the cults in a manner that was almost quixotic. His relative youth made the task difficult, but his reputation increased considerably when “a Shango worshipper died not long after [Johnson] had rebuked him for disturbing an open-air service.”[14] Conspicuous among the fruits of his evangelical labors was the conversion, in October 1863, of King John Macauley (of the Aku), a prominent Muslim who reveled in immorality and “heathen practices” until he fell seriously ill and was persuaded by Johnson to embrace Christianity and turn away his many wives.[15] Johnson’s stature increased, not least in the eyes of his patrons, the CMS. Still a curate, he strove to impose a puritanical system on the Christian community under his care, which many members found too rigorous for their liking.[16] The district prospered, and in December 1866 Johnson was elevated to the priesthood. Contrary to Ayandele’s claims, he never had full control of the district;[17] increasingly, however, he gained recognition as the most energetic and enterprising native minister in the colony.

Johnson was high-minded to the point of being antisocial, and so punctilious in his personal life that he was in danger of not marrying at all. It was not until his late twenties that he eventually met a lady worthy enough, whom he married.[18] At his urging, she went to England for training in a mission school, and Johnson “literally starved himself” to maintain her at Alcocks Green in Birmingham. Tragically, she died of a feverous cold in 1868. The blow was severe. Twenty-seven years passed before Johnson eventually married another–Sabina Leigh, the daughter of a prominent businessman in Yorubaland.

Johnson and the Native Pastorate

The CMS Sierra Leone Mission was the testing ground of the native pastorate experiment, which was aimed at the organization of independent, self-reliant, native churches. Henry Venn, the chief architect of the scheme and CMS secretary from 1842 to 1872, enunciated the revolutionary concept that the ultimate objective of a mission was “the settlement of a native Church, under native pastors, upon a self-supporting system.”[19] The Sierra Leone experiment proved to be a painful and perplexing process; in its early stages it inspired native aspirations that clashed irrevocably with European ethnocentrism.[20]

Retained as a missionary in CMS employ throughout his stay in Sierra Leone, Johnson was not directly affected by the native pastorate scheme. However, the experiment coincided with an incipient African nationalism in the colony, spawning “Ethiopianism,” and Johnson became one of the earliest and most aggressive advocates of this ideology.[21] The Ethiopian movement extolled African identity, defended African capability, and anticipated the conversion of the entire African continent to Christianity. Rooted in cultural nationalism, it was self-consciously anti-European and almost recklessly separatist. Although political self-determination was an ultimate goal, its rhetoric focused primarily on racial equality and ecclesiastical independence.[22] Notably, its demands and emphasis went much further than Venn’s program, which in a sense it hijacked. Ethiopianism fired the imagination of educated African Christians in the British West African colonies, and Johnson became its prophet.

For Johnson, the native pastorate experiment represented a unique opportunity for the glorification of the “Negro race”; it was a cynosure of African Christianity that would enable Africa to “take her place with the most Christian, civilized and intelligent nations of the earth.”[23] He wrote: “We see nothing around us which we can call our own in the true sense of the term; nothing that shows an independent native capacity excepting this infant Native Pastorate institution.”[24] But Venn’s scheme was only a half measure. Johnson promoted the establishment of an independent, nondenominational, “African Church”–a veritable “revivication of the early African Churches.”[25] Along with many others, he condemned the inimical effects of European missionary enterprise on the African identity and heritage. “The desire to have an independent church,” he asserted, “closely follows the knowledge that we are a distinct race, existing under peculiar circumstances and possessing peculiar characteristics … and that the arrangement of foreign churches made to suit their own local circumstances can hardly be expected to suit our own in all their details.”[26] He confidently predicted that “the use of our own liturgy and canons is a mere question of time.”[27] To all this was added a demand that Fourah Bay College be constituted a West African university. For all his polemics, Johnson did not enunciate any clear strategy for the realization of his ideals, and the reality remained unchanged. The pastorate’s chronic dependence on CMS financial assistance ensured the continued domination of European missionaries, many of whom were openly opposed to Venn’s scheme and viewed native aspirations with ill-disguised contempt. Meanwhile, nationalistic sentiments intensified and translated into rampant anti-Europeanism.[28] The resulting race controversy pitted entrenched European ethnocentrism against a bellicose cultural nationalism and catapulted the outspoken James Johnson into the limelight.

The race controversy, which can hardly be treated here, lasted from 1868 to 1873.[29] Johnson’s Ethiopianism animated clergy and laity alike and crossed denominational barriers. The movement was bolstered by Edward W. Blyden, an archetypal African nationalist with whom Johnson struck up an alliance and who exerted considerable influence on Johnson’s thinking.[30] But Johnson remained the undisputed champion of the native pastors and the leading figure in the agitation for ecclesiastical independence.

Undoubtedly, the clamor for an independent African church was premature and ill fated. Powerful European opposition-almost single-handedly managed by the newly appointed Bishop Cheetham–and strong dissent from among the ranks of the native pastors themselves frustrated the movement. As already noted, not even the heady rhetoric of Ethiopianism could obscure the fact that the native church owed its continued existence to the life support of foreign aid. Still, James Johnson’s Ethiopianism challenged entrenched European structures and attitudes and, drawing inspiration from the African heritage, called attention to the need for an authentic African ministry. The thought unsettled European missionaries accustomed to notions of indispensability, although at CMS headquarters, where the spirit of Henry Venn still lingered, it evoked a sympathetic response, and Johnson was summoned to England.

Heightened expectations surrounded Johnson’s visit to London in 1873, although its immediate aftermath was distinctly anticlimactic, not least because it resulted in his (vigorously protested) transfer to the Yoruba Mission.[31] But the ideals he had championed had far-reaching consequences, some unintended.[32] CMS resolved that Africans should join the staff at Fourah Bay College, which was in turn to be elevated to a fee-paying university that “any well recommended Christian African” could enter to study for vocations other than the ministry.[33] This latter move eventually led to the institution’s affiliation to Durham University in 1876. More significantly, CMS policy with regard to the Sierra Leone Mission switched to an emphasis on African leadership and the systematic withdrawal of all foreign support. Strategic city churches, hitherto thought too important for African control, were foisted on the native pastorate, along with other remaining districts. In 1875 a Sierra Leone missionary society was established under intense CMS pressure, and by cajoling and coercion, CMS hastily ceded most of its missions to the unfledged body. Within seven years after Johnson left the colony, the Sierra Leone [Anglican] Church was distinctively African in personnel if not in polity. The only office occupied by a European was that of the bishop.

Johnson in Nigeria

With Johnson’s transfer to Lagos in June 1874, the Ethiopian movement’s center of gravity effectively moved to what was in many ways a more hospitable environment than Freetown. Yoruba society was less dependent and beholden to Britain, and there existed in Lagos a vigorous, if incipient, nationalist movement with which Johnson immediately identified. He became its leading and most outspoken figure. Furthermore, Breadfruit Church, placed under his charge, was home to the most ardent nationalists among the population. It was also “the wealthiest and most important church in Lagos.” Johnson’s influence in church and society was considerable. He became a member of the Legislative Council from 1886 to 1894 and enjoyed a preeminence among Nigerian Christians that would have been difficult to attain in the Sierra Leone colony, where many of his colleagues were more experienced and better educated. In Yorubaland, only Bishop Samuel Crowther was more popular.

Johnson entered into his labors with characteristic fervor and found fertile ground for his brand of Christian nationalism. He strove to learn Yoruba, the only language the majority of his congregation (and the Lagos populace) understood, and he combined effective pastoral ministration with determined efforts to win converts from among Lagos’s predominantly Muslim population. Reaction to his energetic leadership and fanatical Ethiopianism tended to divide along racial lines. To the native Christians he was an inspiring figure eulogized as Holy Johnson, but among European missionaries his influence and proclamations provoked deep apprehension and resentment. As in Sierra Leone, his rhetoric whipped up considerable anti-European feeling. Now more than ever before, racial considerations and African nationalism defined Johnson’s attitude, activities, and relationships.[34]

CMS plans for a Lagos native pastorate (based on the Sierra Leone model) were implemented a year after Johnson’s arrival, in the face of strenuous European opposition. Johnson dominated the pastorate’s affairs from the onset (though his church was added only in 1881). Experience in Sierra Leone had taught him that self-support was the key to ecclesiastical independence, and his own Breadfruit Church became the pastorate’s financial backbone. By 1889 the pastorate had absorbed all but one of the churches in Lagos and as early as 1882 had a missionary arm with stations outside Lagos. With Johnson as prime mover, the Lagos native pastorate even superseded its older counterpart in aspirations and innovations.[35] Africanization and self-government formed overarching objectives, and “Africa for the Africans” became a rallying cry. “Indigenous white-cap chiefs” were embraced by the Breadfruit community, and prayers for the native kings were substituted for prayers for the queen of England in the prayer book.[36] Alarmed European missionaries predicted a secession. In truth, Johnson’s militancy did little to allay such fears.

In 1876 the CMS made Johnson (still in his thirties) superintendent of all its stations in the interior of Yorubaland, an unprecedented move and a tribute to Johnson’s outstanding ability. The only African occupying a higher position in the CMS West Africa Missions was Bishop Crowther of the Niger Mission. In fact, CMS faith in Johnson’s capabilities was such that the original suggestion was that he should be made a native bishop “exercising jurisdiction in Abeokuta and the Yoruba country.”[37] Some, including Bishops Crowther and Cheetham, thought he lacked sufficient experience, but neither bishop doubted that he was destined for that office.

Johnson’s superintendency lasted four years, generated a storm of controversy, and ended in his removal. The details can hardly be discussed here.[38] Intrepid, zealously pioneering, and uncompromising, Johnson was in some ways a victim of his own success. His aggressive evangelism produced some surprising results, and in Abeokuta at least, the native church experienced spectacular growth and made tremendous progress toward self-support and self-government.[39] Everywhere he fought against slavery and ostensibly purged the church of polygamy. Ayandele argues that his ignoble withdrawal was the result of a European missionary conspiracy and “unconcealed racial prejudice.”[40] Still, Johnson made enemies as well as converts–the former notably among polygamists and slaveholders. His dogmatism and propensity for autocratic leadership offended the rich and powerful and alienated not a few of his converts. An unsettled political situation did little to help. Neither did the CMS, which, faced with an increased European presence and pressure, showed little stomach for defending its prodigy.

Upon losing the superintendency of the Lagos pastorate, Johnson returned to Breadfruit Church. His image and popularity among West African Christians remained undiminished. In Sierra Leone leading clergymen (including the European principal of Fourah Bay College) tried to persuade the CMS that Johnson should be appointed archdeacon of the Sierra Leone Church, to provide leadership for the native clergy.[41] In 1886 he gained appointment to the Legislative Council in Lagos.

The Native Episcopate

As the 1880s progressed, there were increasing calls, in both Sierra Leone and Nigeria, for a native bishop (suffragan or diocesan) to be appointed in CMS West African dominions. The society had itself repeatedly argued in favor of a Yorubaland bishopric, with an African incumbent. On a visit to England in 1887, Johnson set forth his views on native self-government in a powerful statement entitled “A Memorandum on the West African Native Churches and Missions and Native Episcopacy.”[42] Described as “an impassioned and coherent argument for a native bishop,”[43] the document focused on Sierra Leone and asserted that over seventy years of CMS labor in that colony “more than warrants the existence of native supervision long before this time.” Johnson’s eloquence impressed, but the CMS determined only to pursue the Yoruba option. In the event, the move toward a native bishopric was stymied by a maelstrom of conflicting opinion, resurgent racial tension, stiff European missionary opposition toward Johnson’s candidacy (there was no recognizable alternative), and, more decisively, the financial impediment. Almost as a concession, in 1888 Johnson was appointed a member of the Lagos-based CMS finance committee.

In truth, the readiness of the church in West Africa to be completely self-supporting and self-governing must remain debatable. But the evidence suggests that by the late 1880s CMS policy was being dictated less and less by the exalted ideals of Henry Venn’s vision. Change was in the air. In 1889 the youthful Bishop Ingham of Sierra Leone denounced the native pastorate scheme as ill conceived and unsound.[44] With the increased deployment of better-educated missionaries, many of whom were not immune to the spirit of the colonial “scramble era” (for African territories), attitudes of European superiority resurfaced with a vengeance. But Ethiopianism remained vibrant, fueled unceasingly by the fires of nationalistic fervor. European missionary domination and control was no longer tolerable. When European missionaries were introduced into the hitherto all African Niger Mission under Bishop Crowther, seething racial tension erupted into major controversy.

The Niger crisis of the 1890s has received much scholarly attention and varied interpretation.[45] A review is unnecessary. The Niger Mission with its African bishop embodied (in a way that Europeans underestimated) the hope of West African Christians. The mission had failings but successes too; the sudden infusion of European missionary control produced convulsions that led to separation.

Among West African Christians the incident was conceived almost exclusively in racial terms. Disillusionment and uniform umbrage at the treatment meted out to the aged Bishop Crowther fueled secessionist sentiments. Johnson was galvanized into renewed calls for an independent African church. But rather than founding one (as many expected), he threw his considerable influence behind the separatist movement in the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta Pastorate came into existence in April 1892, but after six years of promising existence, it faltered and returned to the CMS fold. With that, Johnson’s vision of an independent African church headed by an African bishop evaporated. A European had already been appointed to succeed Crowther. And in what appeared to be a glaring compromise of his Ethiopian ideals, Johnson accepted the position of assistant bishop of the Niger Delta in 1900.

It is possible to argue, as Ayandele does, that far from being inconsistent, Johnson saw his assistant bishop position as a means toward his ultimate goal.[46] Certainly the £10,000 endowment fund that he initiated (on his consecration) was geared toward the creation of an independent African diocese. But despite his immense popularity and prominence, Johnson was something of an enigma, and the observer is struck by the contradictions of his life, notably in the area of ecclesiastical independence. When, in October 1901, two-thirds of his Breadfruit congregation seceded on his behalf to form the independent Bethel African Church, he denied them his leadership, thus eschewing a golden opportunity to implement his Ethiopian program.[47] He also remained a staunch opponent of the United Native Africa Church, founded in August 1891 in response to the dismantling of the Niger Mission; and in later life he joined the colonial government in attacking emerging prophet movements in the Niger Delta. Opposed to European customs, dress, and names for the African church, he neither changed his own name nor abandoned the vestments of the Western church. Hastings adduces that “the advantages of not seceding … for an educated man and still more for a cleric or a bishop, were too considerable.”[48] But perhaps it is best to view Johnson as a transitional figure who embodied the contradictions of his times.[49] Unwaveringly loyal to the CMS throughout his life, he may have been blind to the inherent contradiction at the heart of his vision: an independent African church that remained true to the Anglican Communion. The inspirer of many secessions from the Anglican Church thus himself remained its loyal servant, though his trust was often betrayed.

The remaining years of James Johnson’s life were spent as assistant bishop of Western Equatorial Africa and were filled with incessant missionary activity. He died, in active service, on May 18, 1917. His legacy lived on in the African church movement, which continued to challenge missionary Christianity, and in African nationalism, which grew so naturally out of Christian missions. Indeed, African Christians today who are engaged in the continuing exploration of an authentic African Christianity–not as an end in itself but as a part of the unfolding Christian story and a basis for mission–walk in his footsteps.

Jehu J. Hanciles


  1. In Rev. E. Jones’s 1854/55 “Report of the Fourah Bay Institution” (CMS, C A1/O129/88), Johnson’s age is given as fifteen years. The Sierra Leone colony, founded as a Christian experiment in 1787, subsequently became the home of thousands of freed slaves (known as recaptives or liberated Africans), who formed captive audiences for European missionaries, notably agents of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), from 1816 onward.

  2. E. A. Ayandele, Holy Johnson: Pioneer of African Nationalism, 1836-1917 (London: Frank Cass, 1970), is a detailed and authoritative biography, though it does tend to exaggerate Johnson’s achievements.

  3. See L. Sanneh, West African Christianity: The Religious Impact (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1983), pp. 83-89.

  4. S. W. Koelle, “A Picture of Sierra Leone in the Light of Christianity,” Church Missionary Intelligencer 6 (March 1855): 62.

  5. Ayandele, Holy Johnson, pp. 22-23.

  6. See C. Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962), pp. 237 and 252; cf. A. B. C. Sibthorpe, The History of Sierra Leone, 4th ed. (London: Frank Cass, 1970), p. 167.

  7. See T. S. Johnson, The Story of a Mission (London: SPCK, 1953), p. 49.

  8. Quoted in Ayandele, Holy Johnson, p. 25.

  9. Rev. Edward Jones, principal of Fourah Bay College, to CMS secretaries, May 21, 1863, in which he called Johnson “a young man of much promise,” CMS, C A1/O3/468A.

  10. Sibthorpe, History of Sierra Leone, pp. 168-69.

  11. Rev. E. Jones to CMS secretaries, May 21, 1863, CMS, C A1/O3/ 468A.

  12. Ayandele, Holy Johnson, p. 26.

  13. Johnson’s report appears in Church Missionary Record, n.s. 1 (January 1871): 10; cf. Fyfe, History of Sierra Leone, p. 351. Shango is the Yoruba god of thunder and fertility.

  14. Fyfe, History of Sierra Leone, p. 351; Sanneh, West African Christianity, p. 84.

  15. Fyfe, History of Sierra Leone, p. 351; Ayandele, Holy Johnson, p. 29.

  16. Ayandele, Holy Johnson, pp. 29-30.

  17. Ibid., p. 29; cf. J. J. Hanciles, “The Sierra Leone Native Pastorate Church (1850-1890): An Experiment in Ecclesiastical Independence” (Ph.D. diss., Edinburgh Univ., 1995).

  18. Ayandele’s claim (Holy Johnson, p. 25) that in 1854 Johnson’s name had been romantically linked with a certain Rachael Garnon is based on uncertain evidence and seems specious.

  19. Henry Venn, “Minute upon the Employment and Ordination of Native Teachers” (First Paper, 1851); see Wilbert R. Shenk, Henry Venn, Missionary Statesman (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1983), Appendix 1. For more details about Venn’s concept and its implementation, see C. Peter Williams, The Ideal of the Self-Governing Church (Leiden: Brill, 1990); Hanciles, “Sierra Leone Native Pastorate Church.”

  20. For a detailed treatment of the forces unleashed by the experiment (and their implications), see Hanciles, “Sierra Leone Native Pastorate Church.”

  21. The term was derived from the scriptural proclamation that “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God” (Ps. 68:31), interpreted as a prediction that Ethiopia (symbolic of all Africa) would once again embrace Christianity. Ayandele correctly argues that this West African Ethiopianism was “quite different from the popular one associated with Central, Eastern and Southern Africa” (Holy Johnson, p. 44).

  22. Cf. A. Hastings, The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1995), p. 479.

  23. Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Kissy Road, on May 13, 1867, on behalf of the Pastorate Auxiliary, by Rev J. Johnson, CMS, C A1/O 9/3.

  24. Quoted in E. A. Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria, 1842-1914: A Political and Social Analysis (London: Longmans, Green, 1966), pp. 181-82.

  25. Eighth Annual Report of the Pastorate Auxiliary in June 1870, CMS, C A1/O9/6.

  26. James Johnson to M. Taylor and others, April 19, 1873, quoted in Ayandele, Holy Johnson, p. 42.

  27. Cheetham to Wright, March 7, 1873, CMS, C A1/M19, p. 76.

  28. Johnson, for instance, once remarked in the heat of passion that it was “a natural impossibility for a white man to love a black man” (Minutes of Half Yearly Conference, April 2-3, 1867, CMS, C A1/02/ 232).

  29. See Hollis R. Lynch, “The Native Pastorate Controversy and Cultural Ethnocentrism in Sierra Leone, 1871-1874,” Journal of African History 5 (1964): 395-414; cf. Hanciles, “Sierra Leone Native Pastorate Church,” pp. 219-97.

  30. Blyden has been extolled by his biographer as “easily the most learned and articulate champion of Africa and the Negro race in his own time” (H. R. Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan Negro Patriot, 1832-1912 [London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967]).

  31. For a photograph of Johnson during this visit to England, plus additional information, see David Killingray, “Beneath the Wilberforce Oak,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 21 (July 1997): 111-15.

  32. For a full argument, see Hanciles, “Sierra Leone Native Pastorate Church,” pp. 318-19, 332-35.

  33. Wright to Cheetham, March 10, 1873, CMS, C A1/L8, pp. 470-71.

  34. See Ayandele, Holy Johnson, p. 94.

  35. See Hastings, Church in Africa, p. 357.

  36. Ayandele, Holy Johnson, p. 98.

  37. See Wright to Cheetham, January 28, 1876, C A1/L9, pp. 126-29.

  38. See Ayandele, Holy Johnson and Missionary Impact. Cf. J. F. A. Ajayi, Christian Missions in Nigeria, 1841-1891: The Making of a New Elite (London: Longmans, Green, 1965).

  39. See Ayandele,* Holy Johnson*, pp. 122-24.

  40. Ibid., pp. 124-33, 136-37.

  41. See Sunter to Lang, March 6, 1882, CMS, G3/A1/O, no. 34; Macauley to Wigram, June 22, 1882, G3/A1/O, no. 68.

  42. See CMS, G3/A2/O4; Ayandele, Holy Johnson, pp. 142-49.

  43. Williams, Ideal of the Self-Governing Church, p. 129.

  44. Ingham to Wigram, July 27, 1889, CMS, G3/A1/O, no. 142.

  45. More recently, Professor Ogbu Kalu has argued that the young European missionaries, whose arrival and activities are often deemed a major cause of the troubles, were “the true indigenizers” (“Beyond Nationalist Historiography: White Indigenizers of the Igbo Church, 1876-1892,” paper presented at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, Univ. of Edinburgh, November 1992).

  46. Ayandele, Holy Johnson, pp. 264-65.

  47. Ibid., pp. 319-24.

  48. Hastings, Church in Africa, p. 497.

  49. L. Sanneh, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991), p. 144.


Works by James Johnson

1908 A Brief History of My Life. London. Unpublished reports, correspondence, etc. in Johnson’s files in CMS archives, University of Birmingham: C A1/O 123 (Sierra Leone); C A2/O 56 (Yoruba Mission).

Works About James Johnson

Ayandele, E. A., Holy Johnson: Pioneer of African Nationalism, 1836-1917. London: Frank Cass, 1970.

Ayandele’s volume is the only major work on Johnson, but the following studies also contain significant biographical details:

Fyfe, C. A History of Sierra Leone. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962.

Hanciles, J. J. “The Sierra Leone Native Pastorate Church (1850-1890): An Experiment in Ecclesiastical Independence.” Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Edinburgh, 1995.

Sanneh, L. West African Christianity: The Religious Impact. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1983.

——–. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991.

Williams, C. Peter. The Ideal of the Self-Governing Church. Leiden: Brill, 1990.

This article, is reproduced from the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Oct. 97, Vol. 21 Issue 4, p. 162-167, copyright© 1997, edited by G. H. Anderson, J. J. Bonk and R. T. Coote. All rights reserved.