Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Divinity


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Master of Divinity, MDiv: World Missions

First Advisor

Bruce L. Bauer


Topic and Method. A basic task of the missionary is to negotiate the complex social codes of the foreign territory; for early Seventh-day Adventist missionaries in the American South this meant negotiating a culture of racism which oppressed the Black population. The present study investigated how early Adventist missionaries to the South related to the racism they encountered. Using data drawn from books, periodical literature, personal letters, and denominational minutes, the expressions and recorded actions of the missionaries were analyzed to determine how the missionaries’ attitudes and behaviors were related to the cultural racism. Three categories of relationship were utilized for analysis: resistance, accommodation, and institutionalization. -- Conclusions. This analysis provided a picture of the race relations of the missionaries as it changed over time. Early Adventist missionaries first resisted the racist beliefs and practices of the South. Then, pressured by custom and escalating violence, they began to accommodate the racism by racially segregating, yet continuing to resist the oppression of Blacks. Over time, however, the segregation which began as accommodation was normalized and institutionalized. In effect, it became part of the Adventist culture in America. This history has been instructive for understanding how to relate to oppressive cultural practices in missions, and two recommendations are made for preventing the adoption of the oppression in the larger culture when some accommodation is necessary. First, the accommodation must be accompanied with regular internal communication of right principles. Second, the accommodation must be regularly and intentionally re-examined. These strategies are designed to resist the internalization of the wrong principles which underlie the oppressive practices which are being accommodated.

Subject Area

Southern States--Race relations--History--19th century., Missions--Southern States--History., Race relations., Missionaries--Attitudes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.