Quaque, Philip

Ghanaian missionary and educator

Philip Quaque was a missionary, an educator, and the first African to become a priest in the Church of England. Although he failed in his efforts to spread Christianity and education in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), his writings are a valuable source of information about the struggle for control of western Africa in the early 1800s.

As a young man, Quaque left his home at Cape Coast and went to England to study. His training was sponsored by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (known as the SPG). He became a deacon of the Anglican Church, then a priest. When he returned to Cape Coast as a Missionary School Master in 1766, he worked for the SPG and the Company of Merchants Trading to Africa, an association of British merchants involved in the SLAVE TRADE.

Quaque had mixed results in achieving his goals in Cape Coast. As a minister he practiced “fortress Christianity,” focusing on converting chiefs and other rulers rather than ordinary people. His efforts failed because the chiefs feared that their authority would be weakened by becoming Christian. Quaque had little more success as a teacher. He attracted few students and was unable to build a new school. Still, he did train some students who became teachers themselves and helped to spread education throughout the Cape Coast area.

While Quaque was trying to convert chiefs and other rulers, he watched how these leaders governed and how they responded to Europeans. His writings on what he observed have given scholars a better understanding of political relations in western Africa in the late 1700s and early 1800s and of the role Europeans played in the region. (See also Christianity in Africa, Education, Ghana, Missions and