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COLLECTION Identifier: ABC 15.1-15.9

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions African missions records


Letters from missionaries and other documents originating in the various missions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Africa.


  • 1843-1960

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Restricted items in the ABCFM collection are materials of the last forty years and some materials specifically marked "Restricted". These items may be examined only with the written permission of the Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries. There are probably no such materials in this series, however.

For parts of the collection that are on microfilm (for which see below), permission of the curator is required to consult the original documents.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to quote from the ABCFM archive for publication should be requested from both Houghton Library and the Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries.


185 linear feet (72 volumes, 46 cases, 8 boxes)
Letters and documents originating in the American Board missions to South, West, and East Africa.

This finding aid is a detailed guide to ABC 15, a subset of the main Archives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABC 1-91); it was partially derived from an ABCFM created table of contents maintained in the main collection as ABC 90.1 (v.4).

Biographical / Historical

For a general note on the history of the Board and the importance of its archives, see the finding aid to the main collection.

Africa came later than other parts of the world into the work of the ABCFM, the Zulu Mission in South Africa being the first to be established, in 1834. A mission in Gabon in west Africa was added in 1843, but was transferred to the Presbyterian Church in 1870. The West Central Africa mission in Angola and the East Africa mission (originally theEast Central Africa mission, a branch of the Zulu mission) in Rhodesia were organized in 1880.


Arranged into the following series:
  1. ABC 15.1 Western Africa, 1838-1960.
  2. ABC 15.2 Western Africa. Woman's Board, 1897-1920.
  3. ABC 15.3 (Number not used)
  4. ABC 15.4 Southern Africa, 1834-1960.
  5. ABC 15.5 Southern Africa. Woman's Board, 1903-1927.
  6. ABC 15.6 East Africa, 1930-1960.
  7. ABC 15.6.01 Rhodesia. Supplementary, 1886-1955.
  8. ABC 15.6.1 East Central Africa, 1890-1906.
  9. ABC 15.6.2 Zulu East Africa, 1891-1905.
  10. ABC 15.7, 8 (Numbers not used)
  11. ABC 15.9 Africa. Miscellaneous documents, 1834-1873.
Note that for some items that are bound volumes, there is a number in square brackets at the end of the description in this finding aid . This is a number on the spine of the volume, following an old scheme of classification in the ABCFM's own library. Numbers after the names of correspondents refer to the item-numbers of the documents within the volume.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100, Phone: 216/ 736-3200; Fax: 216 736-3203.

Wider Church Ministries is a ministry of the United Church of Christ and successor of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

This series is part of the ABCFM collection received on deposit from the ABCFM in 1944.

Existence and Location of Copies

Research Publications Ltd. (now Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group) filmed a considerable part of the collection in the early 1980s, their focus being the correspondence to and from the field before 1919. For the contents of the 858 rolls of film, download the reel listing, or see the printed edition Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: Guide to the microfilm collection (1994), shelved in the Houghton Reading Room. A set of the microfilm is in Lamont Library, call number Film A467 (see HOLLIS record 1113915 ). Some parts of the ABCFM archive have also been microfilmed by interested historical societies and libraries in the countries where the ABCFM operated.

Related Materials

Documents originating in the Board offices, such as copies of outgoing correspondence to the missions, as well as personal papers of the missionaries, photographs, and maps, are not generally included here, at least for the early years. For all these, consult the main finding aid for the collection.
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions African missions records, 1843-1960: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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