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William Wadé Harris

William Wadé Harris

Liberian missionary
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Liberian missionary
Countries Liberia
Occupations Missionary
Gender male
The details

William Wadé Harris (c. 1860 – 1929) was a Liberian Grebo evangelist, who preached in Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.


Harris converted to Christianity in 1881 or 1882, and worked for the American Episcopal Mission as a school teacher and catechist. In 1910 he was arrested for his part in an insurrection, and he later indicated that while in prison he received a vision of the angel Gabriel. Harris went out preaching in 1913, clad in a white robe and a turban. He carried a bamboo cross, a Bible and a gourd rattle, symbolizing the African nature of his mission. Harris identified himself with the biblical prophet Elijah.

Harris preached an orthodox Christian message, with an emphasis on dealing with indigenous fetishes. He burned the objects and called on his hearers to spurn occult practices. He approved of polygamy, and traveled in the company of several wives. In an eighteen-month period in 1913-1914, Harris baptized over 100,000 new converts.

Harris died in 1929 in extreme poverty. His preaching produced "Harrist" churches, although many of his followers joined established denominations, both Catholic and Protestant. Jones Darkwa Amanor suggests that he can "be considered as the precursor of the Pentecostal Movement in Ghana," while Mark Noll notes that his form of Christianity was "not as thoroughly indigenized as the Zionist movements of South Africa."

David Shank argues that Harris's work "brought about a massive break with the external practices of traditional African religions all along the coast," including the disappearance of lascivious dance, huts for isolating women during their menstrual periods and a variety of taboos about days and places.

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