Edward Jones, Dedicated His Life To Educating Our Race
Edward Jones, the very first African American to graduate from an American College, Amherst College on August 23, 1826. After his historic accomplishment, Edward Jones spent his life dedicated to the educational uplift of the African American community in America and the African Continent as an Afro-American missionary to Sierra Leone. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Ordained by the Episcopal Church in 1830, he arrived in the Sierra Leone colony the following year and joined the Church Missionary Society (CMS) there in 1840. He became the first black principal of Fourah Bay College (1841-1859) and also served as secretary of the Sierra Leone Mission (1855-1858 and 1861-1864). He was an outstanding scholar, and Henry Venn attested that his "powers and knowledge of Africa" were "superior to all his brethren." As principal, Jones was singularly committed to the educational development of the native African; he had a major influence on the men who later became the first pastors of the Sierra Leone Native Pastorate. Inexorably propelled into the vanguard of the perennial racial tension in the mission, he became an intrepid champion of native advancement and frequently challenged European missionary prejudice. He was the mainstay of the mission during the notoriously unsettled period between 1850 and 1862 when three bishops died in quick succession. Although his last few years in the colony were clouded by failing health and beleaguered relations with the CMS, to the native clergy and congregations he remained an immensely popular missionary and a highly esteemed role model. He died in England.