Writing the Empire: Scribblings from Below
An international & interdisciplinary conference
Phillipe de Vigors, ‘Convicts letter writing at Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, 1849’
Reproduced by kind permission of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Event Dates: 25 June 2010
Norman Etherington -(University of Western Australia)
Begging to Preach: Black Evangelists’ Written Responses to the Colonial State’s War on Mission Christianity in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa, 1900-1910
From the late 1890s to 1910, the settler colonial administration of Natal and Zululand was engaged in continual conflict with Christian missions. In a series a moves aimed at halting the missions’ programme of African advancement, the government of Natal first attacked mission education, then its control of Reserves, and finally mounted a campaign to ban all preaching by Africans not under the direct supervision of white males. The attack on African preaching was a reaction to the so-called ‘Ethiopian Movement’, which advocated religious independence from white control. The colonial state chose to interpret all African evangelization as Ethiopianism, even when African preachers were loyal adherents of mainstream European and American Missionary operations. Secret police were employed to spy on African preachers in the hope of detecting subversive ideas. Regular police moved in to destroy churches and other mission buildings at places where no white man appeared to be in charge. African evangelists attempted to use their command of written English to protest against these measures. This took the form of petitions to government, letters to officials, protests to Mission authorities and articles in Zulu-medium newspapers. This paper documents and analyses the range of texts produced by African Christians in their attempts to fend off the colonial state’s war on black evangelists.
Norman Etherington, University of Western Australia, email
Norman Etherington is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Western Australia. He is the author of many articles and books including: Preachers, Peasants and Politics in Southeast Africa (London, 1978), Theories of Imperialism: War, Conquest & Capital (London, 1984), Rider Haggard (Boston, 1984), The Great Treks: the Transformation of Southern Africa, 1815-1854 (London, 2001). He is also editor of Missions and Empire Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series (Oxford, 2005).