Science in Christian Perspective



A Survey of Attitudes and Behavior


From: JASA 16 (June 1964): 43-47.

Traditional beliefs are usually the basis for our present attitudes and social behavior. White racial attitudes based upon 1) traditional biblical misinterpretations of Genesis 9, 2) theological dogma wrongly applied (the depravity of man), and/or 3) pseudo-scientific concepts (physically relating man to apes and culturally classifying man in stages of savage to civilized) became the basis for the White race's assumed behavioral superiority over the Negro.

In contrast, Negro Africans' views of Americans are based upon 1) the lives and teachings of early American missionaries, 2) early American traders, 3) American Aid projects and personnel since 1950, 4) White American attitudes and behavior toward the American Negro, 5) America's foreign policy to African nations vis-a-vis Russia, and 6) America's relation to African nations in the United Nations. For the most part, these are favorable.

The future of world race relations can be predicted to the degree that just as soon as America recognizes the Negro and the African as fellow human beings, there will be a change of inter-racial behavior and assured racial stability.


Attitudes are intangible. As such they do not easily lend themselves to social research. We conceptualize them as feelings, value judgments, impressions, and emotional reactions one has for another person, race, or thing. Attitudes are the motivating forces manifest in varieties of social behavior and, as such, are observable. Thus they can be collected, counted, and Revision of "Africans View Americans," a paper read at the 18th annual ASA Convention, Westmont College, August 19-23, 1963.

Dr. Horner is Prof. of Anthropology, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, Massachusetts. This paper is, in part, a result of field work undertaken in the Republic of Cameroon in 1950-53 where he worked as a Research Anthropologist for the Presbyterian Church, USA, and in 1957 when he traveled in French West Africa, the Congo, and Kenya under joint grants made possible by the African Studies Program of Boston University and the Carnegie Foundation. Opinions expressed here are not necessarily held by the above groups, the Nazarene Church, or Eastern Nazarene College.

compared with similar or different modes of behavior through various. methodological frames of reference. Action and expressions of feeling are recorded in history and newspapers.

This paper is concerned with an analysis and interpretation of attitudes and their resultant behavior in a time-space context. Historic time as a variable gives us the basis (perhaps even the origin) of modern attitudes, although time per se may also remove us from the present and reality. Space gives us present-time reality, permitting a comparative research of similar attitudes in two different areas of the world occurring at the same time. Space per se tends to be superficial and spotty. One cannot understand or interpret current African attitudes toward America without understanding the background for such differing points of view in time and space.

Since past attitudes and behavior are keys to the present, this paper will deal with traditional attitudes of the White man toward Negroes and Africans, traditional attitudes of Africans toward White men and Americans, and contemporary American-African attitudes.


A. Biblical. In a collection of poems, Priceless Jewels, the American Negro poet, Paul L. Dunbar, entitled one: "There is Hope in the Breast of Ham." The use of the name Ham, the third son of Noah (Genesis 9), gives implications and insight into one of the earliest interpretations of the origin of the Negro. The resultant attitudes and actions were the rationale for the subjugation and slavery of Negroes by the supposedly morally superior White race.

Although many do not accept this interpretation of the origin of the differentiation of human groups according to skin color (6), many Whites in the United States and South Africa do. Segregation in all parts of the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa started on a similar base, the misinterpretation of Genesis 9.

B. Theological: the depravity of man. It is one thing to accept the concept "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,' resulting in man's fallen condition and "depravity." It is quite another to twist this concept to mean that all colored peoples are more depraved than are Whites, as "proven" by the darkness of their skin and the lowness-savagery-of their cultures.

In a speech at Boston University ex-Governor McKelden of Maryland, voicing the attitudes of thousands of White Americans who perhaps have never heard of "degeneration" or "depravity" said: "It wasn't the fault of these people (Negroes) that they are inferior . . . it is a cold hard fact" (12).

C. Naturalists and Philosophers. Naturalists and philosophers of the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries contributed also to the attitudes modern Whites have toward Negroes. We will consider only two of them.

1. The Naturalist Blumenbach, a student of Linnaeus, lived in Germany during the period of the American Revolution. Blumenbach laid the foundation on which all subsequent racial classifications of man have been based; the White race was assumed to be the originally created race from which others "were later created by a process of degeneration, due to climatic and economic conditions" (17). From his views we have the beginning of the racist's dogma, the supposed purity of the White race and the degeneracy of the Black, Red, Brown and Yellow races.

2. The period of the natural philosophers is epitomized in various declarations of independence by such men as Locke, Hume, and Rousseau. Each wondered about the possible relationship between nature, man, and man's origins. Knowledge of newly discovered peoples required theories to explain them. Rousseau, to use a familiar example, had to resolve his concept of man's natural freedom with the simpler condition of nonEuropean peoples. His theory, "Man is born free and everywhere is in chains," attempted to bridge this intellectual impasse. Man's condition as savage, primitive, barbarian, and civilized soon became connected in constructing stages and steps in biological and cultural evolution. Africans and similar peoples were savages and primitives; Europeans and Whites were civilized.

D. The Church and Missions. The American and to some extent the European Christian Church of this period was in as difficult a position as is the official position of the Church in the Union of South Africa today. On one hand, the Church saw Africans as cursed and born to be slaves; on the other, Christ's command was clear and carrying: "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15 K.M.

If in Christ "All men are one," a foundation stone in Christian doctrine, what about the African and Negro Christian? Can he be a "brother in Christ" too? These opposites had to be resolved. The Mormon church, because of its belief that the African's skin color is a result of a pre-existence fall of the ancestral Negroes as well as of the curse on Ham's son Canaan, has never had missionary work among Negro Africans.*

This dilemma occupied the thinking and became the basis for the social action of the Church during the past two centuries. It was partly resolved by the abolitionist movements in Britain under men like Wilberforce, and in America it was partly relieved by the Civil War. Today the issue is joined rather than resolved in various Civil Rights legislations.

Missionaries to Africa in the nineteenth century interpreted Africans according to this older view. The following quotation is a sample of what most missionaries thought in this period and how one tried to resolve the conflict between attitude and command. Wrote one

* In recent years, according to a letter to Time, "several thousand Negroes in Nigeria have asked for baptism in the (Mormon) church" (23).

missionary: "The degradation of the Bulu have shocked me, because I have seen it in all of its shameless nakedness . . . We meet these people with the Gospel of Peace and so tame their savage instincts". (18).

Few missionaries questioned either their attitudes, their actions or their calling. Most of them did not realize that they too were conditioned by their culture and were products of their times; that their feelings about the "fatherhood of Whites" and the "child-likeness" of Africans was a result of what they had learned and had accepted as White men; that it was their own interpretation, rather than actual fact. Albert Schweitzer is quoted as saying: "The Negro is a child and with children nothing can be done without the use of authority" (22). An example of Victorian cultural conditioning!

E. Economic Exploitation. The subjugation of Africans as slaves and legally considering them as property was replaced by the exploitation of Africa's natural resources. Rhodes, Kruger, and Leopold of Belgium are a few of many who opened the "dark continent" for the benefit of European and American economy. The following Congo story will illustrate this point.

In 1879 Stanley, the "discoverer" of Livingston, was hired by Leopold II to explore the Congo River drainage system and to gain control of the area-some 900,000 square miles-for the Committee for the Study of the Upper-Congo, that is, for Leopold himself. The Berlin Congress of 1885 declared the Congo area a free-trade zone, and called the area the Congo Free State. Leopold H, not the Belgian people, controlled the country. Copper and gold were soon discovered in the Katanga district, and rubber was planted in all other parts of the Congo. Leopold gave mining and other monopolies to companies like the Union Mini6re du Haute-Katanga, which was to become one of the most powerful mining cartels in Africa.

Porters were needed to carry rubber and copper from the interior to loading platforms on the Congo or Nile River, whichever was closer. Forced labor became the order of the day. One participant left the following account: ". . . (the) S. S. Van Kerkhoven is coming down the Nile and demands 1500 Porters. I am asking myself how on earth I shall be able to hunt up so large a number. How much blood will be shed because of this transport. Three times already, I have had to make war upon the chiefs who would not help me to get the men I needed. The fellows would rather die in their forests than as members of a transport train. If a chief refuses, this means war, with modern fire-arms on one side against spears and javelins on the other!" (3)

Often the Congolese had one or both hands cut off if they did not bring to a plantation overseer their daily quota of rubber. (20)

These and many other atrocities were brought to the attention of the world by British and American missionaries in the Congo at that time, particularly the Congo Reform Association. Rev. W. M. Morrison of an American mission in Kasi wrote the following letter to the London Times: "During the month of June a raid was made near Luebo by a State officer. Men and women, boys and girls were taken by force; villages were pillaged; two were burnt; women were raped; chiefs tied up and taken away . . . . Now the question is, how long will all this keep up?" (9) So effective were their charges and so well documented by visible proof that in 1908, under the Charte Coloniale, the Congo Free State was transferred to the Belgian people as a colony.

The African Congolese never forgot the atrocities of a Christian nation, nor the work of the American and British missionaries, nor the Congo Reform Association which came to their assistance. Because of this we can better understand the attitudes and behavior of the Congolese toward the Belgians and the Belgian missionaries during the July 1960 post-independence atrocities (14). The favorable image which the Congolese have of America today began during the 1900 atrocities. (The 1964 terrorist activity resulting in the first death of an American missionary does not invalidate this favorable image).

There is too little information to document precisely attitudes held by Africans toward early White explor
ers and colonizers. In the pre-slave trading days Africans apparently accepted Europeans. There is al most no evidence of African hostility toward either early explorers or colonizers, perhaps because one of the main traits of many Africans was to offer hospital ity toward strangers; they desired friendly, reciprocal relationships with outsiders, not necessarily from al truistic motives but for quite frankly selfish needs.
"Change was the norm, the expected. There was a con stant intrusion of elements from other African cul tures (8). Having already accepted various African societies for purposes of trade, many were fa vorably disposed toward the White trader and the missionary. This initial trust came, however, to be spoiled if or when the Africans perceived cheating and exploitation.

The first Dutch settlements on the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 were womanless until the Dutch married local African women. The resulting children became the basis for the mixed-group called the Cape Colored. In the old Gold Coast colony, present-day Ghana, Danish sea-captains married African women. Their children established the politically, and socially 61ite groups of modern Ghana. On the other hand, some early explorers and many more traders were killed by Africans because of dishonesty.

European colonization of Africa was made possible by guns. Guns, machinery, and a different technology, forced the Africans to accept the idea that the White man was, after all, if not a superior being, at least a human filled with superior knowledge, perhaps magic, which gave him the power to invent machinery, automobiles, etc. The same attitude was not held in common by all Africans toward all Whites. It differed from area to area, largely depending upon what type of White man, trader, missionary, or explorer the Africans had contacted.

When American missionary A. C. Good first traveled in what is now southern Cameroun in 1892-94, he was revered by the Bulu as a returning ancestor. This attitude cannot be attributed to their "primitive mentality"; it resulted from conclusions logically arrived at from their own assumptions and belief system.

Briefly, the Bulu, the tribe whose land Good explored for future mission stations, held the following worldview: 1) At death human skin color turns from brown to a whitish-grey; 2) God (Zome ye Mebe'e me nba Evo, the old Bulu word for God, the One who created the world, plants, animals and man) left His creation, went west to "sit down" (rest) behind the setting sun.

Eye-witnesses of Good's trip who are living today told me that they had noted the whiteness of his skin; that he had come from the west (from behind the sun) and ate food which only ancestors ate, the sweet banana; and that he brought the Message from God, reading God's Word in their tongue (actually a related tongue, Fang). On the basis of the Bulus' assumptions, their conclusions and actions were logical. Good's "divine" attributes apparently saved his life on a number of occasions when he was captured to be dispatched with a spear (13). Little wonder that some fell down in respect, awe, and worship. To his credit, Good told them that he was once a farmer. In his words: "I would disgust them by telling them . . . I myself hoed corn and potatoes. Among them such work is only performed by women .... They wanted to almost worship me, but this confession shattered their idol" (19). These and other cultural differences intensified the missionary's difficulty.

Note the almost Opposite attitude held by Good toward the Africans: To them Good at first was thought to be an ancestral spirit, perhaps a god, while Good thought of the Africans as "stunted" and "degraded."


As in any typical social group-and this group is about 200 million-there are Africans who, at one extreme, dislike and are hostile to America and Americans, and at the other extreme there are those Africans who like Americans very much. But larger by far is the middle group of Africans who hold a wait-and-see attitude before moving in either of the mentioned directions.

Of the first group, there are Africans who want all Americans out of Africa, with a "why should you be here in the first place" attitude. Of Christian missions, one of this group said: ". . . (it is) an act of spiritual aggression" (1). Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Secretary-General of the African Movement for National Liberation, Voltaic Republic, put the same thought in the following 

words: "It is certain that Western Religion . . . has often appeared in Africa as the ally of colonialism. Some have claimed that missionaries are the quartermasters of colonialism, who prepared the way for colonization" (2). Woermarm of Germany, who maneuvered both Togoland and the Cameroun into the German colonial system in 1885, was one who felt that the ,'missionary should precede the trader" (21). Two of the interesting phases of his Cameroun activity was his establishing trading posts in places the American Presbyterian Mission pioneered; he subsidized their elementary school program.

In a resolution against the "agents of neo-colonialism" the All-African Peoples Congress, meeting in Cairo in March 1961, included the United States as an agent with "the representatives from imperialist and colonial countries under the cover of religion, Moral Re-armament, etc. Religion constitutes a threat to the new African countries." (10)

Africans of the middle group usually rate Americans high because of our inventiveness and resultant technology. They admire a people who can do this sort of thing. As one African expressed it to me, "Americans must have magical powers (6vu) which have made them superior to others." Interestingly, these same Africans believe that inventiveness and technological know-how is biologically transmitted through the blood. White blood is a pre-requisite to inventiveness. Such a quality can be possessed by them when American men are willing to have children by their African daughters. It makes sense if one agrees that culture is transmitted through the genes. This is not too dffferent, incidently, from the Nazi human breeding experiments hopefully leading to a "superman" and "superrace." This large group of Africans who entertain a wait-and-see attitude will move more with our actions than with our words.

A third group of Africans have identified themselves with America and Americans for a variety of reasons: political, missions, economic, etc.

During the pre-indePendence rebellion in the former French Cameroun, December to March 1956-57, between 1,500 and 2,000 Africans were killed by French African soldiers. Europeans were afraid for their lives and would not travel without wearing side-arms for protection. No American missionary, and the center for the rebellion was in an American mission area, wore guns, nor did any suffer bodily injury (5). In fact, many of the Bassa women and children, as well as injured soldiers from both sides, owe their lives to the mission which took them in and cared for them during the uprising.

A number of the positive attitudes which these Africans have toward America developed from promises of freedom and eventual independence implied to them by Wilson's Fourteen Points, the freedoms of the Atlantic Charter, and the Charter of the United Nations.

America, the land of revolution, struck a sympathetic chord with a large group of Africans, for if we could overcome our colonial status, so can they. America, the country of George Washington under whom she overthrew her colonial status; Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Lincoln, who proclaimed the Negro emancipation is revered by Africans in their modern revolution,

Yet up to the Suez crisis America's foreign policy did not support a single African nation. Before Stevenson's first speech in the United Nations when America, for the first time, sided with African nations in voting against the colonialism of Portugal, America never publicly sided with African nations against her N.A.T.O. allies.

Although all Africans are shocked by social conditions of the American Negro in the South, North, Midwest, and West, the Meredith affair added rather than detracted from America's image. As it may be summarized: Where else in all the world will a nation call out a battalion of soldiers to insure the entrance of one Black man into school?

Headlining the Birmingham demonstrations, the New York Times wrote the following: "Prestige of U.S. drops in Africa" (15). Summarizing the first reactions of the African press, the same paper quoted the Nigerian Daily Times as writing: "Leaders of the thirteen churches where Negroes were denied freedom of worship should bow their heads in shame. They constitute a let-down not only of their country but also to the Christian religion everywhere" (15).

The thirty Independent African nations (nations friendly toward us), meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, passed on May 29, 1963, a resolution voicing "deep concern at racial discrimination, particularly in the United States of America," but it went on to "express appreciation for the efforts of the Federal government in the U.S.A. to put an end to intolerable malpractices" (16).

President Kennedy's tragic death did not go unnoticed in Africa. The following are excerpts from the letter written by President Azikiwe of Nigeria to President Johnson: 

I am deeply shocked to learn of the death of President John F. Kennedy. The assassination of President Kennedy is a setback in the struggle for fundamental human rights and the issue whether the headquarters of the United Nations should remain in the United States should be of concern to African States because the slaughter of this typical American reformer shows clearly that among some Americans there is a deepseated hatred of the black man as a human being. 

New African States must ponder seriously before deciding to trust in a Government elected by the American electorate because it is now crystal clear that certain Influential sections of the American public neither respect human dignity nor regard the black races as human beings who deserve o be treated with respect, decency and equality. (7)

President Azikiwe was educated in the United States thirty-eight years ago at Howard and Lincoln Universities.


Our White misinterpretation of Genesis and the misapplication of theological dogma has been the basis over the past two hundred years for active subjugation of most of the colored peoples and for condemning them both in this world and the next. The naturalists' rigid interpretations, postulating both cultural and biological evolution of man from simple to complex, inferior to superior, savage to civilized, culminated in assumed White-European superiority, the basis of attitudes and behavior with which we are burdened today.

According to either viewpoint, Africans were, at best, a lower order of creatures with not quite a human culture-a little higher than the apes but not even in the class of "a little lower than the angels." Kenneth Little quotes Long's History of Jamaica (1774): "1 do not think that an Orang-Outang husband would be any dishonour to an Hottentot female." Long writes further: "But of all the human species hitherto discovered, their (Negroes') natural baseness of mind seems to afford the least hope of their being (except by miraculous interposition of Divine Providence), so refined as to think as well as act like men." (11)

Many Africans still view Americans through the work of the American idealist, the practical missionary. As the missionary believed, taught, and lived, so did Christian Africa. All Americans are like missionaries, at least so it was thought until only a few years ago.

Modern Africans see America as a powerful nation, but one whose behavior in Africa, aside from missionary activity and particularly since World War II, has been based upon political expediency, that is, a fear of Russia's coming into Africa, rather than upon a desire to help Africans because of their need. American aid programs in Africa* have not been based upon a desire to help fellow human beings who are in need, but are a defense against Russia in the cold-hot-cold-hotlukewarm war. Because of this, Africans distrust us and our motives. To our credit, the Peace Corps, no matter what else one may think of it, has produced a most favorable image of America to Africans in all walks of life, from farmer to statesman. This is also true of A.I.D. technicians, "teachers for Africa," and other similar programs. One must note that the prototype for all of these, Operations Cross-Roads Africa, was begun by an American Negro pastor, James Robinson of New York City.

In the past few years Africans have begun to view America through the eyes of the American Negro. They have begun to recognize that the American Negro is a second-class citizen in all parts of the country. (No one area can claim an exclusive monopoly in treating Negroes in inequality.) Africans know this. It is published in all of their hundreds of newspapers the length and breadth of Africa; it is broadcast over all of their radio transmitters, and it is televised on their

*Our monetary aid to all of Africa in the year ending June 0, 1962 was $1,776,700,000. (4)

few television transmitters. The thinking of many educated Africans today is that when the American Negro is given his right as an American citizen and as a human being, the so-called "land of hypocrisy" will honestly become the "land of liberty."

The African view of America is also tied up with the United Nations. It is the seemingly small difference between "sympathy for" and "active support of" African nations which will make the difference both to Africa's future, our future, and the future of the United Nations. That the United States has gone on record that it will not export arms to Portugal for its use against its colonial peoples in Angola and Mozambique has been viewed favorably by Africans.

Conclusion. Although it is true that America cannot pass legislation forcing us to like Negroes, we can legislate equal opportunity to give to Negroes the status of equal fellow human beings.Since attitudes seem to be prerequisites to behavior, a change to positive attitudes must take place before world stability in race relations can be assured, particularly between Africans and Americans.


1. Adjel, Ako, -Imperialism and Spiritual Freedom: An African View," Amer. Jour. of Sociology, 50:189, Nov. 1944.

2. American Society of African Culture, Pan-Africanism Reconsidered, Berkeley, Univ. of Calif. Press, 1962, p. 285.

3. Bauer, L., Leopold the Unloved, Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1935, p. 263.

4. Ellender, Honorable A. J., "A Report on United States Foreign Operations in Africa," Senate, 88th Congress, Doe. No. 8, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, March 23, 1963, p. 10.

5. Horner, George R., "Togo and Cameroun," Current History, Vol. 54, No. 198, 1958, pp. 89-90. (Personal observations by the author.)

6. Homer, George R., His, "Are Negroes Cursed," Vol. 7, May 1948, p. 28.

7. Inter-African Labour Institute, Information Sheet, Brazzaville, Congo Republic, Vol. V., December 1963, pp. 10-11.

8. Kimble, George H. T., Tropical Africa, N.Y., Twentieth Century Fund, Vol. 11, 1960, p. 54.

9. Legum, Colin, The Congo Disaster, Baltimore, Penguin Books, 1961, p. 34.

10. Legum, Colin, Pan-Africanism, N.Y., Praeger, 1962, p. 256. 

11. Little, Kenneth, Race and Society, Paris, UNESCO, 1952, p. 13. 

12. McKelden, Honorable Governor, The Register, Boston University, December 16, 1957, p. 3.

13. Medu, Jean Nnanga kon, Ebolowala, Cameroun, Halsey Press, 1939, pp. 54-55.

14. Ministry of Justice, Belgian Government, Congo July 1960: Evidence, Brussels, Belgium, 1960, pp. 5-30 (English edition). 

15. New York Times, May 13, 1963, p. 1. 

16. New York Times, May 28, 1963, p. 3 17. 

17. Nordenskiold, E., The History of Biology, N.Y., Tudor Publishing Co., 1935 (Rev. ed.), p. 308.

18. Parsons, Ellen C., A Life for Africa, London, Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1898, p. 234.

19. Parsons, Ellen C., op. cit. pp. 191-192.

20. Ross, Emory. Verbal communication to the author of what Ross had observed as a missionary in the Congo.

21. Rudin, Harry, Germans in the Cameroons: 1884-1914, London, Jonathan Cape, 1938, p. 87.

22. Schweitzer, Albert, Dissent, Vol. III, No. 3, Summer 1956, New York, p. 247.

23. Time, "Letters to the Editor," November 1, 1963.