Carey, Lott

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Carey, Lott

c. 1780
November 28, 1828

Lott Carey, America's pioneer missionary to Africa, was born in slavery around 1780 on the plantation of William A. Christian in Charles City County, some thirty miles south of Richmond, Virginia. In 1804 he was hired out to work in Richmond at the Shockoe tobacco warehouse. From the segregated gallery of Richmond's First Baptist Church, Carey was converted to the Christian religion in 1807 by the preaching of John Courtnay, a white man. Courtnay baptized him, and he joined the church. Carey then determined to enter the ministry, and he learned to read and write. Permitted to preach to both blacks and whites in the area, Carey formed the African Missionary Society, which raised $700 in five years to send him and Collin Teague to Africa. At the tobacco warehouse he earned an extra $850 by 1813, with which he purchased his own and his children's freedom (his first wife had recently died).

In January 1820 (or possibly 1821) Carey and Teague sailed on the Nautilus for Africa. Teague retired after a year to Sierra Leone, but Carey was instrumental in establishing the colony of Liberia and forming a Baptist church in Monrovia, the colony's capital. He became the country's health officer, and in 1826 he was named vice agent of the colony under the American Colonization Society. Carey identified with the effort to build a black republic, stating "I am an African. I wish to go to a country where I shall be estimated by my merits, and not by my complexion; and I feel bound to labor for my suffering race."

Carey was killed on November 28, 1828, in an accidental explosion of gunpowder while he was engaged in making cartridges to fight off attacking native Liberians. In 1897 the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Missionary Society was established in his memory.

See also Missionary Movements


Fitts, Leroy. Lott Carey: First Black Missionary to Africa. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1978.

leroy fitts (1996)