A Colonial-Era European still Honoured in Africa

Biography of David Livingstone, Missionary to Africa

Honouring Africa

Livingstone’s fascination and admiration was not only for the land but the people of Africa. And he seems to have received genuine respect from those he was seeking to serve.

Alvyn Austen writes, ‘Livingstone treated his hosts with decorum. Tribes usually reciprocated by treating him like a visiting dignitary. ‘Africans are not by any means unreasonable,’ he wrote. ‘I think unreasonableness is more a heredity disease in Europe.’[i]

He lived among, learnt from and suffered alongside Africans. When white farmers attacked the Bakwain tribe they also completely plundered Livingstone’s house, taking all his belongings. Their loss was also his loss.

This kind of identification with the African people has won a lasting place of affection for Livingstone in many African hearts.

An American Journalist’s Dream

When rumours spread that Livingstone had died trying to find the source of the Nile, Henry Stanley, an American journalist successfully hunted him down. When they met at Lake Tanganyika and Stanley uttered the now famous words, ‘Livingstone, I presume?’ he was an old, 60 years of age, weakened by disease.  Stanley tried to convince Livingstone to return to Europe but he refused.  In May 1873, while kneeling by his bed in prayer, he died.

Alvyn Austen continues, ‘His African friends, former slaves he had freed, buried his heart under an Mpundu tree 70 miles from the shore of Lake Bangweulu. Then they carried his body back to his own people, an 11-month journey through equatorial jungle and open seas.

All Britain wept. The … world wept. They gave him a 21-gun salute and a hero’s funeral among the saints in Westminster Abbey.’

Honoured by Africa

‘Today, at a time when countries are being renamed and statues are being toppled, Livingstone has not fallen. Despite modern Africans’ animosity toward other Europeans, such as Cecil Rhodes, Livingstone endures as a heroic legend.

Rhodesia has long since purged its name, but the cities of Livingstone (Zambia) and Livingstonia (Malawi) keep the explorer’s appellation with pride.

Furthermore, the [commercial] capital of Malawi, Blantyre, was named for Livingstone’s birthplace.  And Livingstone’s massive bronze statue still points to the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls.’ [ii]

Livingstone, more a discoverer than a missionary, probably did more to introduce the continent of Africa to European readers than anyone of his generation.

For the first part of the Livingstone story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

[i] Christian History magazine, 1997, See here for more

[ii] ibid


One thought on “A Colonial-Era European still Honoured in Africa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.