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Livingstone’s attitude toward the people of Africa contrasted sharply with that of most nineteenth-century Europeans. The Boer farmers’ “stupid prejudice against colour” and their treatment of the Africans infuriated him, as did British policy in the Cape.30 He defended the rights of the Xhosa to fight for their land, and justified the 1851 rebellion of the Hottentots.
Livingstone developed deep friendship with Africans and valued their opinions and culture. He displayed more trust and openness toward Africans than he sometimes did toward his European colleagues. He believed that Africans were more resistant to the gospel because of the oppresive white people they had met. He thought that “the natives always become much worse somehow after contact with the Europeans.”31 Livingstone’s “missionary principles gave the primacy to Africans in the work of evangelizing Africa.”32
Northcott summarizes Livingstone’s work: “He took Africa seriously and treated its people accordingly. Following his footsteps, no one any longer could call Africa a continent of savages, and in his wake followed a volume of goodwill to Africa that would have surpassed all his dreams.”33 Andrew Walls agrees: “His life and writings show a respect for Africans and African personality unusual at the time, and his confidence never wavered in African capacities and in the common humanity of African
His Deep Hatred of the Slave Trade
Livingstone met slavery first in South Africa and later, in its Arab and Portuguese form, in East Africa. He drove himself relentlessly to do what he could to destroy the slave trade—“the open sore of the world,” he called it.35 His exploratory journeys were done with one aim—to open up Africa for commerce and Christianity, which was the only way, he believed, to overcome slavery.
In the year Livingstone died, the last slave was sold openly in the Zanzibar market. “His exposure of the African inland slave trade could well be counted his greatest achievement,” concludes Northcott. 36
Andrew Walls writes that Livingstone’s
later career was dominated by the desire to root alien oppression out of Africa. There is real truth behind the title of one of the popular biographies—Livingstone the Liberator . . . If Livingstone is a herald of imperialism, he is also more importantly and permanently a herald of African independence. In this . . . he is typical of the missionary movement of his day. In some respects it led the way to empires. But, more than any other force of Western origin, it pointed beyond them.37
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