Sub-Saharan African Collection

"The voice of the third world was rarely heard in the First World in 1971, and I suspected, that the historic missionary collections that had been gathered in the United States, had understandably emphasized the work and publications of American and European Churches . . . rather than the publications of the Third World Christians about themselves. The publications of the emerging majority of non-Western and non-white Christians must be sought out and gathered . . ."

Channing R Jeschke, Librarian/Margaret A. Pitts Professor of Theological Bibliography, Pitts Theology Library, ATLA Conference 1986


The Pitts Theology Library holds more than 4,500 books and pamphlets published in Sub-Saharan countries-almost half from Nigeria alone. Other materials derive from Kenya, South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi, Uganda, Senegal, Congo (Zaire), Zambia, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Benin, Botswana, Mauritius, Angola, Madagascar, Togo, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Liberia, Rwanda, Mali, Namibia, Guinea, Reunion, Burundi, Gabon, Sudan, Cape Verde, Swaziland, Gambia, Mauritania, and the Seychelles. In addition, another 7,000 items in the Pitts Library are about the region and cover subjects such as church history, missions, hymnody, politics and government, education, Christian union, Pentecostalism, social justice, and AIDS. There are hymnals in various languages, and virtually all major Christian denominations are represented.


With more than 850 theological publications from almost 40 countries, the Sub-Saharan African Periodicals Collection at Pitts is one of the world's larger collections of periodical literature documenting the history as well as social and cultural aspects of religious institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1970s. Of these 800-plus periodical titles, Pitts is the only North American library holding 274 of them and so makes an important contribution to the documentation of Christianity in this part of Africa. These materials are published by individuals, congregations, denominational bodies, and academic institutions and appear in twenty-four languages--Afrikaans, Arabic, Chichewa, Dutch, English, Ewe, French, Ga, Gikuyo, Hausa, Herero, Kinyarwanda, Luganda, Malagasy, Nama, Portuguese, Shona, Siswati, Sotho, Swahili, Twi, Urhobo, and Yoruba. Faith traditions found in the collection range from Roman Catholic to Anglican to Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian. Filled with stories and images of the rapid growth of Christianity in 20th and 21st Century Africa, the Sub-Saharan Collection also records a large number of oft-suppressed voices, e.g., periodicals like Mother's Voice, Home Life-line, Proclaim, Christian Women Mirror: the Magazine for Building Godly Women, Wise Woman, and The Madonna all relate Nigerian women's advice on topics from child-rearing to abortion and family planning to finances. Finally, many publications are devoted to serious theological inquiry, often dedicated to topics of particular relevance in their African contexts (the distinctiveness of African theology, inter-religious cooperation, land reform, and human rights).

Archives and Manuscripts

Archives and manuscripts from sub-Saharan Africa are a growing research collection at Pitts Theology Library Several collections of personal papers highlight early twentieth-century missionary experience through letters, diaries, photographs, film, and other primary source materials. Of particular note is the Ira Gillet collection, rich in photographs and moving images of Mozambique. The papers of Charles Fuller, who served as a missionary in Mozambique, South Africa, and Southern Rhodesia, include sermons, essays, articles, collected issues of African periodicals, and photographs.

Unique insight into the political climate of Rhodesia in the 1960s is found in the political cartoons of Joseph Morgan Johnson. After serving as a Methodist missionary to Rhodesia in the early 1950s, Johnson returned in 1961 and served as cartoonist and illustrator for Umbowo, a newspaper published by the Rhodesian Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. The Joseph Morgan Johnson collection consists of 53 cartoons, which are sharply critical of Rhodesia's government.

Other missionary collections include the papers of Gertrude Rachel Hance, who worked with the American Zulu Mission in South Africa from 1870 to 1899; the papers of Martha L. Moors, a missionary to Angola from 1920 to 1925, and the papers of JonnaLynn Mandelbaum, who served in Mozambique, Swaziland, and Rhodesia, and went on to write a doctoral dissertation titled The Missionary as a Cultural Interpreter. The Pitts Theology Library African Postcard Collection depicts missionary activity in Africa mostly during the 1930s. The images largely capture the people and cathedrals of former French and Belgian African colonies.

Institutional archives from indigenous African denominations are very difficult to locate, especially in the United States. Among the few such archives in the U.S. is Pitts Library's collection of records from the African Orthodox Church, which was founded in South Africa in 1924 by priests from the independent African Church who were dissatisfied with that church's administration. These records -- which include correspondence, meeting minutes, synod records, records of local churches, printed materials, and photographs -- contain a wealth of information about the origin of the African Orthodox Church and its role in South African religious life.