chapter  9
8 Pages

The Missionary Factor in Brass, 1875–1900: A Study in Advance and Recession

The fortunes of missionary enterprise among the Brass people, a branch of the Ijaw of the Niger Delta, provide some guide to an understanding of the tragi-comedy of their history in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In the first half of this period, when the Brass attained their peak-their golden age-in material prosperity, they seemed to contemporary observers the most transparently genuine, and certainly the most zealous, Christians in precolonial Nigeria. In the second half when they were forcibly pushed out of the Niger trade upon which their livelihood and prosperity depended by the Niger Company of Taubman Goldie, they advertised themselves to the world as a people upon whom Christianity had sat only lightly. They renounced what they stigmatized as the white man’s religion, went back to the tribal gods, sacked Akassa, the headquarters of the Niger Company, in 1895, drank from the enormous rum and gin stores there and ate the agents of the company they were able to capture. Their misfortune, they said, was owed to Christianity.