Courier Staff Report
Thomas Lewis Johnson, born into slavery in Rock-Raymon, Virginia, on August 7, 1836, became a minister, missionary and author after being freed by the Civil War.
Johnson was the son a freeman with one-eighth African ancestry, and an enslaved woman. His grandfather had been brought to America from Guinea, Africa. When Thomas was three, his father attempted to buy his wife and son, but their owner refused and moved them to Alexandria, VA. When Johnson was 12 years old, he was taken from his mother and sent to work in Fredericksburg, VA.
Read Thomas Johnson's book, Twenty-Eight Years as a Slave, free from the University of North Carolina.
In 1852, he was sold to a family in Richmond, where he regained contact with his mother who had been sold to a man from that city. They had been separated for six years. After beng freed by the Emancipation, Johnson moved to New York, Chicago, and then Denver, Colorado, where he was ordained a minister, serving a small African-American congregation.
In 1876, he fulfilled a long-held goal and went to Africa as a missionary, after having moved to England with his wife to receive formal education and theological training at Charles Spurgeon's Pastor's College in London. His wife's death and his own health problems lead to his return to England and the U.S. after briefly working and traveling in Africa.
After his return, despite continuing ill health, Johnson traveled England and America giving lectures and preaching.
His book, Africa for Christ:Twenty-Eight Years a Slave, was published in 1892. A seventh edition was published in 1909 under the more familiar shortened title: Twenty-Eight Years a Slave.
Details of Johnsonís death are unknown.