Elisabeth Engel

Encountering Empire: African American Missionaries in Colonial Africa, 1900–1939

Transatlantische Historische Studien. Band 56. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015.

Available Online

Winner of the 2017 Franz Steiner Prize

In Encountering Empire, Elisabeth Engel traces how black American missionaries – men and women grappling with their African heritage – established connections in Africa during the heyday of European colonialism. Reconstructing the black American 'colonial encounter,' Engel analyzes the images, transatlantic relationships, and possibilities of representation African American missionaries developed for themselves while negotiating colonial regimes. Between 1900 and 1939, these missionaries paved the way for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest independent black American institution, to establish a presence in Britain's sub-Saharan colonies. Illuminating a neglected chapter of Atlantic history, Engel demonstrates that African Americans used imperial structures for their own self-determination. Encountering Empire thus challenges the notion that pan-Africanism was the only viable strategy for black emancipation.