Converting Africans: The History Of Christianity In Africa And Among Slaves In The Americas

gene cisco

Thulsa-master of noids.
Super Moderator
This forum wouldn't be legit without talking about Christianity and Islam. Since most black folks in the U.S. are Christian and go harder than whites for the religion, it's interesting to show just how new this religion is to most of Africa.

While many will use the case of Ethiopia to justify their Christianity, a study of African history shows that Christianity didn't really reach the rest of Africa until European missionaries, colonizing, and the slave trade. :smh:

I feel folks should learn the history of the Christian religion instead of making excuses for it. Later, I will post information on the actual conversion of slaves in Americas. Just wanted to start with Africa first to show why the slaves who were transported here weren't really Christians(only a small percentage were RECENT converts).


Christianity spread to North Africa less than 150 years after the death of Christ. Christian beliefs were introduced by missionaries from Jerusalem and spread among the Jews of Alexandria, on the Egyptian Coast, some time in first century AD or second century. There, the new faith was adopted by the Greek community from the Jews. Christianity spread west, and was taken up across North Africa. It reached as far as modern-day Morocco, where it was enthusiastically embraced by the Berber people. It is quite possible that Christianity came to Africa before it came to Britain and other regions in Northern Europe.

The Ethiopian branch of Christianity first emerged in the kingdom of Aksum in the northern corner of the Ethiopian highlands. The person who introduced Christianity to Aksum is said to be Fremnatos - known as Frumentius in Europe, later a saint. He is variously described as a trader, philosopher and theologian.

The story goes he was on his way to India when he was kidnapped in Aksum. He obviously made a good impression, because he ended up being the tutor to the future King Ezana. The King adopted Christianity as the official religion in 333 AD. Fremnatos was rewarded for this by being consecrated Bishop of Aksum at a ceremony in Alexandria. When the Aksum dynasty collapsed the Ethiopian centre of power moved south and east, taking the Christian tradition with it.

Christianity spread South from the North of Egypt to Nubia (modern day Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan) some two hundred years after the collapse of the powerful Nile Valley kingdom of Meroe in the 4th century AD. It was brought by traders from Egypt and by travelers from Aksum.

Archaeological remains suggest that Christianity was a religion of the poor people to begin with
and only later became popular with the elite. A missionary who came to Nubia from Constantinople found everybody well versed in Christian doctrine in 580. Initially the Nubian Church developed under the control of the Egyptian Coptic church. When Islam swept through the North of the continent in the 7th century, the Nubian rulers sought help from the Christian Emperor in Constantinople.

The Arab forces did their best to conquer Nubia but were forced back by the skills of the Nubian archers.

The Arabs agreed a peace treaty with the Nubians, which allowed the Nubian kingdoms to flourish as a Christian state for 700 years. The two northern kingdoms, Nobadia and Makuria merged into one - Dongola. Dongola entered something of a golden age; the bible was translated from Greek into Nubian and beautiful churches were built throughout the Nile Valley.

The Church in Nubia finally yielded to Islamic conversion in the 14th century and the massive Cathedral in Dongola was converted into a mosque in 1317.

While the Nubian church dissolved, with only a few architectural remnants to recall its former glory, the Ethiopian Church not only persisted but acquired great significance outside the Horn of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The ancient nature of the church, combined with the Ethiopian defeat of the Italians in 1896, gave hope and inspiration to the anti-colonial movement in South Africa, and the Gold Coast, as well as to African-Americans suffering from prejudice and segregation.

In 1490 the first missionaries came to Sub-Saharan Africa at the request of King Nzinga of Kongo (also known as the Manikongo). They came with craftsmen who rebuilt the Manikongo's capital in stone at Mbanza Kongo (in the North of modern Angola), and baptised the King. King Nzinga's son Afonso (born Nzinga Mbemba) was sent to Portugal to study and amazed the catholic hierarchy with his intelligence and intense piety.

Afonso's son, Henrique, subsequently became the first black African bishop in the Catholic church. But the kingdom of the Kongo was ruined by the slave trade, which caused a massive drain on manpower.

The Soyo people were initially junior partners in an alliance with the Manikongo, but this changed in the 17th century. The Soyo traded with the Dutch from whom they bought firearms in exchange for slaves, ivory and copper. The Soyo eventually usurped the Manikongo and laid waste Sao Salvador, the Kongo seat of power. The Soyo set up their capital in Mbanza Soyo (now modern Porto Rico on Zaire river in northern Angola). By 1665 the Kongo empire had largely disintegrated.

Capuchin missionaries from Portugal established themselves as crucial intermediaries between the Soyo and Europe. They were helped by eight or ten interpreters, many related to the ruler, bound by a vow of secrecy and governed by many rules. The interpreters were a privileged group and did not pay tax or do military service. Their job was to translate during confession, prepare the altar and teach. By the late 17th century the ruler of Soyo was attending mass three times a week, carried in a hammock, wearing a cross of solid gold.

However, there was conflict between the Capuchins and the Soyo over the issue of monogamous marriage and traditional religious practices. The Capuchins did not want the Soyo to sell baptised slaves to the English or other non-Catholic traders. They insisted that baptised slaves could only be sold to the Portuguese.

In the rest of Africa, Christianity made little headway in the 18th century. Rulers in West Africa were mildly interested at first, seeing Christianity as something to add on to their own religions. But they grew hostile when told they had to make a choice: it was either Christianity or traditional religion. South Africa was the site of greater Christian missionary activity. The Moravian Brethren (closely linked to the Lutherans) of Eastern Europe, established a mission in 1737. In 1799 the London Missionary Society (LMS) followed suit.