Andrew D. Witmer

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20092010 Forum on Connections

Andrew D. Witmer

PhD, University of Virginia

God's Interpreters: African Missions, Transnational Protestantism, and Race in the United States, 1830–1910

God's Interpreters situates the development of U.S. racial thought within the social world of transnational religious activity. It tracks scores of nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries and African converts as they journeyed, textually and physically, across the Atlantic and back again, showing how they shaped American ideas about race in the process. The study explores the crucial but complicated results of Bible translation for missionary knowledge of African people and cultures, and the strategies of self-presentation used by African converts visiting the United States. It also explores the tensions between missionary ethnography and domestic racial science, the use of missionary reports by racial theorists and anthropologists, and the heated disputes between missionaries over questions of race and racism. God's Interpreters shows that American racial orders and ideologies were both built and resisted by people, texts, and ideas circulating through webs of interaction and exchange fostered by Protestant missionary work in sub-Saharan Africa.