Two weeks ago I started a series on the contributions of Black Baptist in Britain to mission. The first of these series examines the life and ministry of Rev Peter Stanford, the first black Baptist minister in Britain and perhaps one of the earliest Black-led Church leaders. This week, I want to consider the missionary efforts of Joseph Jackson Fuller, who was a pioneer missionary to West Africa.
Joseph Jackson Fuller was born a slave in Jamaica in 1825. Around 1844 he became a Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) missionary alongside his father, Alexander to the island of Fernando Po on the coast of West Africa. In 1850, he became one of the BMS missionaries to Cameroun where he served for a long time. His missionary efforts in the Cameroun were successful as he was better placed to win the confidence of the people of Cameroun than his white colleagues. In addition, the mission station in Cameroun later became the base for the BMS mission in the Congo and one of his sons was involved in this mission. Fuller also engaged in Bible translation work in Cameroun. His first wife and some of his children died in Africa.
His first visit to England was in 1869 accompanied by his second wife, Charlotte, whom he married in 1861, and their two sons. Fuller was invited to attend the Baptist Autumn meeting in Cambridge and to his surprise was asked by the then president of the Union to address the meeting. He was very nervous because firstly, he confessed that he had never spoken in such gatherings before, secondly, living as a missionary in Cameroun, he had got quite used to speaking other African languages at the expense of English language therefore he was not sure whether his English was good enough for such an audience in Cambridge. Nevertheless, he did spoke and it was well received as after that meeting, he was invited to speak at different churches all over Britain.
In the early 1880s, the fullers retired to live in England. They became members of Stoke Newington Baptist Church. Joseph Jackson Fuller continued his itinerant preaching all over Britain. Fuller died in 1908. Joseph Jackson Fuller will be remembered as a pioneer missionary to West Africa. He was one of those missionaries who was convinced that black missionaries were better at reaching the people of Africa than their white colleagues. This caused an uneasy relationship between black and white missionaries serving in Africa. Fuller was influenced by his father who himself was a missionary in Africa. One of Fuller’s sons was also a missionary to the Congo. Fuller’s preaching all over Britain was very powerful as he shared his experiences of mission in Africa. He also shared in his sermons his witness of the emancipation of slaves in Jamaica in 1838.