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The Romance of the Black River
The Story of the C.M.S. Nigeria Mission

By F. Deaville Walker

London: Church Missionary Society, 1930.

Chapter I. The Cry of the Slaves
Chapter II. The Discovery of the Great Black River
Chapter III. With the Niger Expedition of 1841
Chapter IV. The Call from Abeokuta
Chapter V. Planting the Mission in the Egba Capital
Chapter VI. The Church Established at Abeokuta
Chapter VII. A Decade of Expansion and Progress
Chapter VIII. A Voyage up the Niger and Tshadda
Chapter IX. Crowther Founds the Niger Mission
Chapter X. A Period of Trouble and Disappointment
Chapter XI. Lagos Becomes the Mission Headquarters
Chapter XII. "The Black Bishop"
Chapter XIII. The Niger Mission Reinforced by White Missionaries
Chapter XIV. Reorganization and Progress
Chapter XV. "The Central Sudan"
Chapter XVI. Nigeria in Transition
Chapter XVII. Mission Activities
Chapter XVIII. The Task before Us


THE penetration of Africa by the explorer has been succeeded by the opening up of the dark continent to all the impacts of western commerce, civilization, and education. In Nigeria these changes have inaugurated for good or ill a new era which is rapidly shaping the destiny of this great tract of Africa.

The Church Missionary Society has carried on its work in Nigeria from the days of the earlier pioneers until now when there is a virile, growing, native Church, self-supporting and self-extending. The time has therefore fully come for the issue of a historical account of a mission whose story must rank as one of the great romances of missionary enterprise, an epic of the work of the C.M.S. in West Africa.

We are grateful to Mr. Deaville Walker for accepting the invitation to write this book. His extensive personal knowledge of the territory has enabled him to write with the experience of an eyewitness, and his long study of the history of the progress of Christianity in West Africa has given to him a statesmanlike survey of the immense problems confronting the young Church there.

In publishing The Romance of the Black River, with its vivid portrayal of the devotion, enthusiasm, and indomitable zeal of some of the men and women who have served the cause of Christ in Nigeria, the C.M.S. offers to its supporters and friends an account of its stewardship, covering a long period of years, in one of its African fields. The facts speak for themselves. The book is sent out in the hope that it will inspire many readers to further self-sacrifice and service in the great unfinished task.

September, 1930


THIS book is not intended to be complete as history; still less is it a treatise for advanced students of missionary problems and policy. It is rather an attempt to give, for the help of the general reader, a panoramic view of the Nigeria Mission of the C.M.S. from its beginning to the present day. From time to time books have been published dealing with sections of the work, as for instance Miss Tucker's Abeokuta published in 1853, Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country published in 1872, right down to Round about Panyam published in 1921. Then there have been such biographies as those of Henry Townsend and Bishop Crowther; and all along numerous articles in the C.M.S. magazines. But no attempt has hitherto been made to tell in brief, bold outline the whole story of the work in that group of countries represented by the one word "Nigeria." To do so is the aim of this volume. Moreover, the book seeks to present the work of the Mission in its true setting and in relation to those other influences that have concurrently been brought to bear upon the land and its peoples. The story begins with vast stretches of country unexplored, and multitudes of people living in darkness and misery, subject to almost continual inter-tribal Warfare, and everywhere the worst horrors of slavery. In the changes that have come, in the transformation that has been wrought, missionary work has been only one factor, but an important one; and while dealing particularly with missionary effort, the book attempts to present it in relation to those other factors--explorations and discovery, the spread of European influence and commerce, and, above all, of sound government under British administration.

Limitations of space have compelled the omission of many things that might fittingly have been dealt with; and it has not been possible even to refer to many heroic missionaries and African workers who have laboured for the uplifting of the Nigerian peoples. The sins of omission are many, but it is hoped that errors as to facts will be found to be correspondingly few. There has been no attempt at originality; that indeed is almost impossible, for in writing such a book it has been necessary to draw largely upon the work of others. To all such, past and present, the writer gratefully acknowledges his indebtedness. Very specially he acknowledges the great kindness of Bishop Tugwell (so long Bishop of Western Equatorial Africa), the Bishop of Lagos, and the Bishop on the Niger in reading the typescript and enriching the book with valuable suggestions; the Rt. Rev. A. W. Smith for help in connexion with Northern Nigeria, and the Rev. H. D. Hooper, C.M.S. secretary for the African group of Missions, who has lately visited Nigeria.


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