Edward Andrews’s book fundamentally reorients our understanding of evangelicals in the British Atlantic from the early seventeenth century to the American Revolution by moving the focus away from European to indigenous missionaries. It convincingly argues that black and Indian missionaries were central to Protestant missionary enterprises and far outnumbered their Anglo-American and European counterparts. This claim is an important historiographical development. [End Page 280] Native Apostles should be required reading for anyone teaching or studying early African American or Native American Christianity, the first British empire, or the history of Christian missions.
In six well-researched and engagingly written chapters, Andrews describes the lives and labors of black and Indian missionaries in the British Atlantic. This history begins with Indian evangelists in seventeenth-century southern New England. These native Christians were more pervasive and active than their English counterparts, such as John Eliot, the Mayhews, and John Cotton, but are not as well-known today. From the earliest years of English colonization, Indian preachers, including Hiacoomes (Wampanoag) and Wequash (Pequot), took the lead in the Christian religious lives of their communities. Although King Philip’s War disrupted Native churches, Indian preachers rebuilt their faith communities after the conflict.
Like Puritan ministers, Andrews argues that Anglicans in late seventeenth-century New York and North Carolina employed Native missionaries and believed that they were the most effective evangelists. Anglicans initially focused on employing Indian “royalty” to convert tribes, including a Yamassee prince named George and a Mohawk named Hendrick Tejonihokarawa, but the failures of this tactic caused them to turn toward childhood education to empower and create Native apostles.
In the third chapter, Andrews examines black and Indian Moravians in the Caribbean and North America; an Anglican school in Charleston, South Carolina, taught by and for enslaved Africans; and separate Indian churches in southern New England (focusing on Narragansett Samuel Niles). The fourth chapter primarily covers Philip Quaque, who was a black Anglican priest trained in England and assigned to a slave trade fort on the Cape Coast of Africa. Andrews’s excellent treatment of these topics shows the denominational and geographical reach of Native missionaries.
Native evangelicals remained central to the spread of Christianity in the British colonies through the American Revolution. Returning to New York, Andrews covers Indian missionaries, including Samson [End Page 281] Occom and others trained by Eleazar Wheelock, who worked to convert members of the Six Nations Iroquois from the 1740s to 1770s. Despite the lackluster success of many of the Indian missionaries, they continued to preach and work as cultural mediators in many Native communities, and Anglo-Americans generally still professed a belief in the efficacy of Indian evangelists. Likewise, Samuel Hopkins, John Witherspoon, and other white ministers sought to train former Newport, Rhode Island, slaves John Quamine and Bristol Yamma to be Christian missionaries to West Africa. This plan received wide ecumenical support but was cut short by the Revolution.
In the conclusion, Andrews briefly points toward the continued prominence of black and other non-European missionaries, including Methodists and Baptists, in the spread of Christianity throughout the early United States and the second British Empire.
This book covers impressive geography and chronology, but it is especially notable for its complex and insightful analysis and its treatment of Indian and black missionaries as interrelated. Andrews is sensitive to the experiences of Native missionaries, who were often intermediaries between different societies. He covers both theology and lived religion, and he clearly articulates African, Indian, and European cosmologies. Black and Indian forms of Christianity are portrayed as complex, syncretic, and transcultural, and missionaries’ motivations as multilayered and fluid. The book also balances the tension between the lack of numerous converts from Native apostles’ efforts in some instances and the spread of black and Indian Christianity in other cases. Native missionaries were not always successful according to their own high standards, but Andrews’s work makes it impossible to ignore their widespread influence in the British Atlantic. [End Page 282]