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American Missionary Association archives addenda

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 001-1

Scope and Contents

The 1969 addendum and later addenda to the American Missionary Association archives are mostly twentieth century in scope, covering two main subject areas. The first is the association's numerous schools. These are considered "field" records, or, the fruits of the Association's missionary work outside of its New York City office. The Addendum is divided into three series: Series 1 covers field-related work, mainly the AMA schools; Series 2 covers projects that were run directly form the New York City headquarters, as well as documents both generated and collected by that office; Series 3 is oversized, bound financial ledgers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


The Series 1 field records were arranged alphabetically by state and then by location. The schools with records of considerable volume begin this series, occupying 201 boxes, or approximately 67 linear feet of shelf space. They are followed by a group of "small field records," also arranged alphabetically by state occupying 17 boxes or approximately 6 linear feet of shelf space. These records of field missions in the United States are then followed by records of the AMA's work in Puerto Rico, most of which focus on Ryder Hospital, in Humacau. These manuscripts occupy 19 boxes, or approximately 6 feet of shelf space. The total number of containers for Series 1 comes to 237, covering 79 linear feet. The records for each field location in Series 1 are described by specific scope notes and shelf lists.


Clearly, not all of the Association's five hundred schools are documented within the Addendum. The records retained are not the ones maintained by the schools in the field, but rather the files maintained by the New York office of the AMA. Typical records for each field school include correspondence, minutes, financial records, AMA publications about the given location, and photographs. Other records, which vary from school to school, include the school's own administrative materials, such as employment applications and appointment contracts; student academic records, publications, and papers; manuscript histories of certain schools; and architectural blueprints.


The Series 2 records document the administrative actions of the AMA and the later United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and cover 92 linear feet of shelf space, or 230 boxes. Most of this series is devoted to materials generated or collected by the General Secretary of the AMA, occupying 151 boxes, or, 60.4 linear feet of shelf space. However, the rest of Series 2 is devoted to various portfolio endeavors of the General Secretary, work that was assigned to specific agents on a topic-by-topic basis.


The General Secretary material itself fills 151 boxes, covering 60.4 linear feet of shelf space. These documents include collected items from a wide range of religious and secular groups. The largest such portfolio of topically assigned administrative work in Series 2 is the material documenting the AMA's work with Native Americans. This work was directly overseen by the General Secretary and is therefore included in Series 2. These records cover 26 boxes, or 10.0 linear feet of shelf space.


The second largest such portfolio of topically assigned administrative work in Series 2 is the Race Relations Department of the AMA, which had Drs. Charles Spurgeon Johnson and Herman H. Long as its directors. These records cover 20 boxes, or 8.0 linear feet of shelf space. Although the Department was mainly at Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee, it was still considered by the General Secretary as an extension of its New York office, so it is included in Series 2. The remaining portfolios, managed by John Moyer, under assignment of the General Secretary, include Coal Miners, Southern Woodcutters, Ministries in the Arts, Highlander Center, and Mexican Americans; these total 4 boxes, or 1.6 linear feet of shelf space.


The Series 3 records occupy twenty-seven oversized boxes, or a total of 28.0 linear feet of shelf space. These records contain financial ledgers and cancelled checks of the AMA, 1859-1937. 1989 addendum includes video "I Remember the Amistad," produced by the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries.


  • Created: 1849-1991
  • Other: Date acquired: 03/31/1969


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Any copy rights such as the donor may possess in this property are hereby dedicated to the public. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

Historical Note

The American Missionary Association was established in 1846 by a network of nineteenth century abolitionists who met at the Second Convention on Bible Missions. Some of them had previously united in the legal defense of the Amistad captives in 1839. During the U.S. Civil War, the Association began founding schools for the freedmen and went on to found hundreds of schools for African Americans, as well as other minority groups and Appalachian Whites.

In 1839, 49 adult males and 4 children were taken to Cuba from what is now Sierra Leone as part of the international slave trade. During a voyage from Havana to another city, they took control of the merchant ship La Amistad and sailed up the eastern coast of the United States. Upon their landing in New York, they were put on trial. In 1841, two years of court appeals pushed their case up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they were declared free.

The settlement of the Amistad captives to Sierra Leone was administered by the Amistad Committee, which operated the Mendi Mission. Later, the supervision of the mission was transferred to the Union Missionary Society. The resettlement and care of the Mendi Mission had at first been offered to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, if that organization would adopt the principals of Christian abolitionism. The continued refusal of the American Board to adopt abolitionist principles led not only to the organization of the Union Missionary Society but also the Western Evangelical Missionary Society and the Committee for West Indians Missions. It was representatives of these three organizations, as well as other evangelical abolitionists, who came together at the convention of 1846, at which the American Missionary Association was founded. The American Missionary Association then absorbed the Union Missionary Society, the Western Evangelical Missionary Society, and the Committee for West Indian Missions.

Soon, the Association operated missions in Hawaii, Siam (Thailand), Egypt, for run-away American slaves in Canada and liberated slaves in Jamaica, for Chinese immigrants in California, and provided aid to abolitionist churches in the Northern states and territories, and in the border Southern states. As the antebellum era drew to a close, the American Missionary Association found itself contributing to individual teacher's salaries in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. It was not as financially strong as other leading missionary groups of the day and it did not yet operate entire schools. The Civil War brought the opportunity to educate escaped "contrabands" even as the Union armies made inroads through the South, the American Missionary Association was nearby, setting up schools in local facilities which the military had previously confiscated.

By 1866, American Missionary Association officials realized that normal or grammar schools and colleges to train African American teachers would be the most effective use of their resources, and within three years they had chartered seven institutions for higher learning: Berea College, in Kentucky; Fisk University, in Tennessee; Atlanta University, in Georgia; Hampton Institute, in Virginia; Talladega College, in Alabama; Tougaloo University, in Mississippi; Straight University, now known as Dillard, in Louisiana. The curriculums of these schools were modeled after the better Northern schools of the time, combining academic and industrial courses.

The American Missionary Association also aided in the establishment of Howard University and contributed the entire support for its theological department. Fourteen non-chartered normal and high schools had been opened by 1876. By 1879, 150,000 pupils in the South were being taught by graduates of American Missionary Association normal schools and colleges. And by 1888, the Association' schools had educated 7,000 teachers. In addition to training teachers, these schools had two other purposes. They were to demonstrate conclusively that African Americans were capable of mastering higher education and they were to provide African American leaders who might assist their people in the struggle for equal rights.

The Association's primary concern was to provide a liberal Christian education among African Americans, even during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when public opinion ran strongly in favor of vocational training for the race. However, the American Missionary Association did not lose sight of the African American community's need for economic independence. Consequently, manual labor departments enabled the students to pay for part of their educational costs. In the process, the schools often harvested their own food and raised their own livestock, and they sometimes built and maintained their physical stock of buildings as well.

Following Reconstruction, the American Missionary Association adopted the policy of divesting itself of its primary and secondary schools as rapidly as public authorities in an area could be brought to accept responsibility for African American education. This policy, which sprang from the Association's conviction that education is primarily a public responsibility, allowed for the increase in expenditures toward the improvement of its institutions of higher learning. In an effort to encourage the acceptance of public responsibility, the American Missionary Association frequently turned over its buildings and grounds to local school boards without receiving any financial compensation for the properties. The South, however, was slow to accept this responsibility and as late as 1946, the American Missionary Association was still supporting seven of the region's high schools and academies.

The American Missionary Association established the Race Relations Department at Fisk University, under the directorship of Dr. Charles S. Johnson, in 1942. This met the needs of a climate that contained increased racial strife, both as a result of increased expectations for social participation by World War I veterans of color, and by the increased northern urban immigration by African Americans. After the Second World War, the bi-racial staff of the Race Relations Department endeavored to bring about better human relations through social research, education, and community action. The annual Race Relations Institute, held at Fisk, served as a training ground for many civil rights activists.

The Association's work with Native Americans was interrupted by the Civil War, but was resumed and expanded during the Reconstruction Period. The work with Asian Americans, white residents of Appalachia, and Puerto Ricans also received a significant portion of the American Missionary Association's attention.

In 1934, the Congregational and Christian Churches merged and the American Missionary Association, with Dr. Fred L. Brownlee as General Secretary, became part of the portfolio of the new organization, the Board for Homeland Ministries. The Board had had its own non-American Missionary Association missions in higher education, the Division of Christian Education, headed by Bryant Drake since 1940. Brownlee was succeeded in office by Rev. Philip M. Widenhouse, in 1954, and then by Wesley A. Hotchkiss, in 1957.

At this point, the American Missionary Association was absorbed again, into the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, and became a part of the Division of Higher Education and the American Missionary Association. This organizational restructuring was the result of a further merger between the Congregation and Christian Churches, and the Evangelical and German Reformed Churches. Other prominent officers in the campus ministry efforts of the Division were Hartland H. Helmich, Verlyn Barker, Rev. William K. Laurie, Rev. Paul H. Sherry, and Robert Mayo. In addition, Herman H. Long and Rev. Galen Weaver headed the Association's projects concerning race relations; Joseph T. McMillan, Jr., managed college relationships; Robert Newman managed the American Missionary Association's concerns with church and culture; Rev. Yoshio Fukuyama and Rev. Paul H. Sherry tended to the General Secretary's planning and strategy; Dr. Clifton H. Johnson established and operated the Amistad Research Center, the official repository for the American Missionary Association's archives.

Wesley A. Hotchkiss continued to act as the American Missionary Association's General Secretary through this 1957 merger and beyond, and he retired in 1983. At this point, Verlyn Barker succeeded Hotchkiss as Acting General Secretary and in 1984, Nanette Roberts assumed the official office and was succeeded in 1987 by Rev. Theodore H. Erickson, and in 1989 by co-General Secretaries, Rev. B. Ann Eichhorn and Rev. L. William Eichhorn. Other officers in the office of the General Secretary were Rev. Boardman W. Kathan, Rev. James A. Smith, Jr., and Rev. Grant Spradling.

Even after the first absorption of the American Missionary Association, into the Board for Homeland Ministries, in 1934, the purpose of the American Missionary Association was maintained. Truman B. Douglass, the Board for Homeland Ministries' Executive Vice President, cooperated with General Secretary Brownlee to maintain the education ministry. In 1963, the American Missionary Association's schools were transferred to the Council for Higher Education of the United Church of Christ. Douglass' oversight was succeeded by Howard Spragg, the former Board for Homeland Ministries Treasurer, in 1968, and then by Shelby Rooks, in 1984. In 1985, Division of Higher Education was eliminated and became the Division of Christian Education and the American Missionary Association. And in 1987, the Association's financial endowment, which had been carried and maintained intact since 1846, was fully absorbed by the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries.


211.40 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

American Missionary Association

Method of Acquisition


Appraisal Information

The collection documents the establishment of various schools founded by the American Missionary Association, as well as the Association's work among various ethnic communities within the United States.

Accruals and Additions

Various addenda have been added to this collection over time.

Related Materials

The original deposit of the American Missionary Association (AMA) archives centers on the Association's establishment of schools and anti-caste churches, mainly in the 19th century. Please see the Amistad Research Center's subject guide to United Church of Christ-related holdings, which includes descriptions of the personal papers of numerous teachers, missionaries, and administrators, as well as the records of organizations, associated with the AMA.

Related Publications

The Amistad Research Center maintains a bibliography of works related to the American Missionary Association. The following works provide substantial coverage of the history of the Association:

Richardson, Joe M. Christian Reconstruction: The American Missionary Association and Southern Blacks, 1861-1890 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1986).

Richardson, Joe M. and Maxine D. Jones. Education for Liberation: The American Missionary Association and African Americans, 1890 to the Civil Rights Movement  (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2009).

Other Descriptive Information

Photographs from the collection have been entered in the digital collection "The American Missionary Association and the Promise of a Multicultural America, 1839-1954" available through the Louisiana Digital Library at the link below.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed in 1992. Funding to assist with processing provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities, The United States Department of Education, and The Ford Foundation.

American Missionary Association archives addenda
Lester Sullivan and Andrew C. Simons
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Amistad Research Center Repository

6823 Saint Charles Avenue
Tilton Hall, Tulane University
New Orleans LA 70118 US
(504) 862-3222