From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Cross, Alexander and Martha A.

(born: 1810  -  died: 1854) 

Alexander Cross, born March 10, 1810, was a slave in Kentucky who would become a free man and the first missionary of any race sent to Africa by the Disciples of Christ [source: The Life and Work of Jacob Kenoly by C. C. Smith, pp.28-30]. Alexander Cross arrived in Monrovia, Liberia in 1853, and died a month later. More than 50 years later, the next African American missionary the Disciples sent to Africa was Jacob Kenoly in 1905.

Sending Alexander Cross to Africa had been a test case. He was born near Trenton, KY, had been a slave owned by Thomas Cross who lived in Clarksville, TN and owned land in Todd County, KY [sources: Jennifer P. Brown, "Church paid for slave's freedom," Kentucky New Era, 02/03/2001 [online]; and "Hopkinsville church purchased slave's freedom," Kentucky New Era, 02/08/2011 [online]. Alexander Cross was a barber, and with permission, he was allowed to buy his time to work in Hopkinsville, KY. While in Hopkinsville, Cross had an affiliation with the Christian Church and would become the candidate for missionary work in Africa. Some of the officers of the church, led by Robertson Torian, purchased Alexander Cross' freedom for $530, and he was emancipated on October 5, 1853, with the agreed upon understanding that he would be migrating to Liberia, Africa as a missionary [source: Been Coming Through Some Hard Times by J. Glazier].

Alexander Cross could read, had an understanding of the Christian religion, and he was an orator. He was further educated and trained to become a missionary by members of the Christian Church in Hopkinsville, and he was ordained as a minister in October of 1853. Alexander Cross and his family left the United States aboard the ship Banshee, on November 5, 1853, and arrived in Liberia in January of 1854. The family had been given a sum of money collected from the American Christian Missionary Society, the Christian Church in Hopkinsville, and other churches in Kentucky. The money was to sustain the family during their first year in Liberia. They settled in the area of Liberia known as Kentucky [NKAA entry Kentucky Colonization Society].

Alexander Cross took sick with fever as soon as he arrived in Liberia in January of 1854, and he died on February 14, 1854. His seven year old son, James M. Cross, also died from fever. His wife Martha survived and is said to have married another missionary in Liberia. Martha Ann Cross had been a free woman of color prior to the family moving to Liberia, and with her status as a free person, her son was also free; thus, the Christian Church in Hopkinsville, KY, would not have had to consider purchasing their freedom.

The Disciples did not support the abolition of slaves. There had been criticism aimed at the church by anti-slavery advocates. In response to the criticism in 1853, Alexander Campbell addressed the body at the National Convention, and spoke of Ephraim Smith who had paid his own way to Liberia, Africa, to visit the missions there. Smith had returned with the recommendation that the American Christian Missionary Society also have a mission in Liberia [source: The Stone-Campbell Movement edited by D. N. Williams, D. A. Foster, and P. M. Blowers]. Alexander Campbell also spoke of the churches in Kentucky that had found a "colored brother" (Alexander Cross) who was willing to go to Liberia as a missionary. The idea of sending black missionaries to Liberia was not new. Other denominations had already established the pattern of having the freedom of male slaves purchased so that the newly freed men could become missionary preachers in Liberia.

For more information see The Millennial Harbinger, 4th series, v.4, 1854, edited by Alexander Campbell and C. L. Loos, p.358, "Death of Our Missionary to Liberia." 

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Todd County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Christian County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Trenton, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Hopkinsville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

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“Cross, Alexander and Martha A.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 13, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-06-10 19:46:40