The American Presbyterian Congo Mission (APCM) is remembered largely on account of a libel trial that pitted two of their number, namely William Henry Sheppard and William Morrison, against the Kasai Rubber Company in 1909 (Benedetto, 1996; Grant, 1998). The APCM successfully defended themselves against the charge that they had libelled the Company by publishing material about the atrocities it committed in their in-house publication: the Kasaï Herald. Yet few accounts of the APCM concentrate on the period after the libel trial. While scholars such as Robert Benedetto (1990) and Stanley Shaloff (1967) have taken the APCM’s story to the early 1920s, no-one has examined the APCM’s work from the libel trial through to the Second World War.
Like many Protestant missionaries in the Belgian Congo, the APCM constantly complained about state discrimination in favour of Catholics as well as the latter’s constant hostility towards them. Yet this paper argues that, as much as these were important factors in shaping the APCM’s mission encounter, there were many parts of the colonial state’s agenda that the US missionaries tacitly agreed with: not least on matters concerning education. The paternalistic colonial agenda, which held that Congolese people could not perform executive roles, was mirrored in the APCM’s Carson Industrial School among others. As such, this paper, while acknowledging the APCM’s important role in reforming the Free State, argues that a scholarly concentration on Presbyterians’ hostility to Belgian rule has obscured ideas they shared with the colonial administration in Congo.
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