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Congo Love SongAfrican American Culture and the Crisis of the Colonial State$
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Ira Dworkin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469632711

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469632711.001.0001

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Missionary Cultures

Missionary Cultures

The American Presbyterian Congo Mission, Althea Brown Edmiston, and the Languages of the Congo

(p.109) Chapter 4 Missionary Cultures
Congo Love Song

Ira Dworkin

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the work of APCM missionary Edmiston, a Fisk University graduate and skilled linguist, who in the first decades of the twentieth century controversially wrote the first dictionary and grammar of the Bushong (Bakuba) language. Shortly after her fellow Fisk alumni Du Bois used African American spirituals as signposts for his groundbreaking tour through U.S. history and culture in The Souls of Black Folk, she also contributed to the APCM’s effort to translate religious hymns into Tshiluba by adding African American spirituals such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” to the Presbyterian hymnal. The translations by Edmiston and her colleagues insured that Tshiluba developed not only as the language of the colonial state, but also as a language that was shaped by the sacred texts of postbellum African American culture.

Keywords:   Althea Brown Edmiston, W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, Fisk University, African American spirituals, American Presbyterian Congo Mission (APCM), African American missionaries, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, Bushong (Bakuba) language, Tshiluba language and translation

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