Famous Missionaries

Click on the links below to read information on the following missionaries . . .

David Livingstone

Dr. Albert Schweitzer

John Hanning Speke

Sir Henry Morton Stanley



The following missionaries are mentioned in The Color Purple as Nettie and the missionaries tramp through the streets of England.

David Livingstone [b. 1813, d. 1873]
Born in Lanarkshire on March the 19th 1813, David Livingstone [pictured] went onto work at the local cotton mill at the tender age of ten. By twenty-three, he was attending Andersonís College before graduating to Glasgow University a few years later. After applying to do missionary work the London Missionary Society sent him to carry out work in South Africa. He travelled many miles on his expeditions, visiting the Kalahari Desert, Lake Ngami and the Zambesi River among other places. He was also well acquainted with the African slave trade.

Livingstone was given a welcome reception on arriving back in England, but left again, this time as consul at Quelimane. In 1865 he led an expedition to Africa, in an attempt to find the source of the awesome River Nile. Ill and feverish, Livingstone fell into difficulties but was rescued by journalist and fellow explorer Henry Stanley [see below]. As well as being a famous explorer Livingstone was also renowned for his contributions to world literature, his most famous book being Missionary Travels and researches in South Africa. After returning  to the Nile in 1873, Livingstone fell ill once more and died. His body is buried in Westminster Abbey, though his heart was interred in Zanzibar.

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Dr. Albert Schweitzer [b. 1875, d. 1965]
Albert Schweitzer [pictured] was born in Alsace when it still belonged to Germany in 1875. Schweitzer was a very accomplished man, and after graduating from Strasbourg with a doctorate in 1899, he became a respected philosopher, teaching in St. Nicholas Church, a theologian, organist and then a mission doctor to Africa in 1905.

None of these talents Schweitzer used as purely recreational. His book Von Reimarus zu Wrede turned him into a master theologian. His organ playing was likened to that of Bach, and upon studying his idolís work, wrote a lengthy book entitled J. S. Bach: le musician poete in the same year he announced his wish to become a missionary in Africa.

In 1913, he attained a degree in medicine, and he and his wife Helene Bresslau set out to help the people of Gabon, in French Equatorial Africa. With the help of the natives, Schweitzer built a hospital that he ran with his own money. After rebuilding it in 1924 next to the Ogooue River, he pursued his call to help the people of Africa.

In 1952, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, and by 1963, there were some five hundred people occupying his hospital, including one hundred and fifty suffering with leprosy. Albert Schweitzer died from old age in 1965.

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John Hanning Speke [b. 1827, d. 1864]
Born on May 4th 1827, John Hanning Speke had, by the time he found his footing in exploration, served in the Sikh and Crimean wars of the mid-1800s. In 1854, he joined fellow explorer and later rival, Richard Burton on an expedition to Somaililand. Five years later, the two again joined together in an attempt to discover the source of the River Nile. Midway through the journey, Burton contracted fever and Speke, resolute in wanting to solve the mystery went on ahead without him, and successfully identified the origin as Lake Victoria.

Once Burton had recovered he seemingly questioned Spekeís judgement and the two exchanged words. Speke returned to England alone.

In 1862, Speke accompanied Captain James Grant on another journey to Nile, where they discovered and named the outreach of the River, calling it Ripon Falls. Returning to England, Speke wrote Journey of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile where he again found himself in conflict with Burton. John Hanning Speke died in September 1864, having been accidentally shot two days before a proposed meeting with Burton about the book. His theories surrounding the source of the Nile were later proved true.

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Sir Henry Morton Stanley [b. 1841, d. 1904]
Henry Morton Stanley was born in January 1841 in Denbigh, Wales. Christened John Rowlands, Stanley took his surname from a merchant, after having been deserted by his mother. Before then, he had fled school, flogging the schoolmaster in the process before seeking sanctum as a sailor on a ship bound for New Orleans, USA.

Enlisting in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, Stanley was captured and imprisoned in Chicago. After being given a medical discharge he then changed sides, fighting for the Union army before he found employment news reporting for the New York Herald.

During his time as a reporter he famously rescued and healed David Livingstone from Ujji, near Lake Tanganyika. Accompanying the British army, Stanley set sail for Africa in 1874 along with three other white men and no less than three hundred and sixty Africans. The journey lasted nine hundred and ninety-nine days. From there Stanley worked on the land he had discovered in Africa, working to develop the Congo Free State [now Zaire] for King Leopold II.

In 1892 Stanley ran for Parliament, only to lose, though in 1895 he successfully won election. After knighthood in 1899, Stanley died in 1904 aged sixty-three.

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Written by Matthew Kane [2001]

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