Spending Freedom in Nigeria
Welcome to the RVA Global Tour. eat great food, see great art, take selfies with history, and earn prizes at the museum.
Snap a photo with two or more posters.
visit the american civil war museum to get your prize.
Scroll down for William Colley’s story, find others at the tour home page, and take off around the world… from Richmond! [Note: This is a prototype test of the Global Tour. Please let us know what you think! email to email@example.com]
The fall of the Confederacy enabled two Virginia born Black men--Solomon Cosby and William W. Colley--to pursue their own ambitions abroad.
Both attended the Richmond Theological Seminary. The RTS, a school for freed Black men begun in Mary Lumpkin’s home--formerly a notorious slave jail--in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom. The school moved to an old hotel building on Main Street (where you are now may be standing) that Cosby later cited as the place where he “found Jesus precious to my soul.”
Cosby went to Nigeria in 1878. He found nothing but hardships. His sponsors, the Virginia Baptist State Convention, could not financially sustain him and he and other missionaries fell victim to regular fevers.
Cosby passed through the British Lagos Colony--established in 1861 ostensibly to end the Atlantic slave trade--and went to Abeokuta in the Yoruba heartland. There, he found not peace, but a trade war between rival factions of the disintegrated Yoruba empire.
More troubling to the Black man from a former Confederate state, he saw and lamented what he called slavery among the Egba people he lived with. Cosby considered returning to Virginia, but chose to remain, inspired by Egba people who “are becoming anxious inquires [sic] about the way of life.” Cosby died of jaundice in 1881, shortly after learning that RTS would move to a tract of land on the northside of Richmond. It is now Virginia Union University.
Colley suffered the same hardships as Cosby, but returned to the United States to raise money for further work. He became a leader of Black Baptist missionary organizations and toured the East Coast on fundraising trips that took him from Massachusetts to Alabama. Promotional material played up the exotic and perilous nature of his experiences in West Africa, but to Colley, his mission enabled him to be “full of hope for the future.”
Your Turn: From the Niger River Valley to the Mighty James
Walk with Cosby and visit the former Richmond Theological Institute at the Union Hotel (19th & E. Main Street). Look for The Soft Parade salon and you are there!
Dig into Nigerian culture, visit the Virginia Union University Museum Galleries and see the art that Cosby and Colley likely saw. Photographs of the egungun costume and the Nigerian/Yoruba art are also eligible.