Daniel Coker (1780–1846), born Isaac Wright, was an African American and the first Methodist missionary to the British colony of Sierra Leone. Coker is one of the founding organizers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church as well as the founder of the West Africa Methodist Church.
Daniel Coker was born enslaved in 1780 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Susan Coker, a white indentured servant, and Daniel Wright, a black slave, in Baltimore. Coker was to serve 31 years of servitude because his parents relationship was illegal in the state of Maryland. Coker received a primary school education because his white half brother refused to go to school without him. When he became a teenager he escaped to New York where he became a Methodist. After receiving his license to preach from Francis Asbury, he moved back to Baltimore and passed as his brother. Friends helped purchase his freedom so he could teach at a local school for black children.
In 1802, Francis Asbury ordained Coker as a deacon in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He actively opposed slavery. In 1810, he published Dialogue between a Virginian and an African minister. He participated in organizing the national African Methodist Episcopal Church meeting in Philadelphia in 1816 on behalf of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore, (founded 1787/1797)
Emigration to Western Africa
Early in 1820, Daniel Coker sailed for Africa on board the Elizabeth. He was part of 86 emigrants assisted by the American Colonization Society (ACS). This voyage of the Elizabeth marks the beginning of what is now Liberia. Coker is one of the first African American missionaries to go to Africa. While in transit, ten days after the ship left New York, he organized the first foreign branch of the AME Church. The ACS planned to settle a colony at Sherbro. Swampy, disease-ridden conditions soon claimed the lives of all but one of the twelve white colonists and many of the African Americans, as well. Just before his death, the expedition's leader asked Coker to take charge of the venture. He helped the remaining colonists get through their despair and to survive.
Coker, his wife, and his children settled in Hastings, Sierra Leone a newly established village for Sierra Leone Liberated Africans. Coker became the patriarch of a prominent Krio family the Cokers. Coker's son, Daniel Coker Jr. was a prominent man in the town of Freetown and the Cokers and their descendants still reside inside Freetown as one of the prominent Krio families. Henry McNeal Turner elaborated on this when he said 'It would seem, from all I can learn, that Coker played a prominent part in the early settlement of Liberia. The first Methodist Church established here was the African M. E. Church; but by whom established I cannot say. Tradition says it was afterward sold out to the M. E. Church. Besides the probability of Rev. Daniel Coker's having established our church here, he also played a mighty part among the early settlers of Sierra Leone. His children and grandchildren are found there to-day.'
- Sierra Leone
- Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church
- Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church and Community House
- Paul Cuffee
- Richard Allen
- Francis Asbury
- Henry McNeal Turner
- David Brion Davis
- Lott Cary
- Aaseng, Nathan (2003). "Coker, Daniel". African-American Religious Leaders: A-Z of African Americans. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing. p. 42, 43. ISBN 9781438107813
- At least one source suggests that his father was the white indentured servant father and that his mother was a black slave.
- Newman, R.; Rael, P.; Lapsansky, P., eds. (2001). "Chapter 3: Daniel Coker". Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African-American Protest Literature, 1790-1860. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-415-92443-6
- Thomas, Rhonnda (Fall 2007). "Exodus and Colonization: Charting the Journey in the Journals of Daniel Coker, a descendant of Africa". African American Review. 41 (3): 507–519.
- Lofton, Kathryn E. (2010). "Coker, Daniel". In Alexander, Leslie M.; Rucker, Walter C. Encyclopedia of African American History. v. 2. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO , LLC. p. 341. ISBN 978-1-85109-774-6
- Sources give late January or early February for Coker's departure.
- Walston, Vaughn J.; Stevens, Robert J., editors, eds. (2002). African-American Experience in World Mission: A Call Beyond Community, Volume 1. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library. p. 31. ISBN 0-87808-609-9.
- Sidbury, James (2007). Becoming African in America: Race and Nation in the Early Black Atlantic (Google eBook). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-19-532010-7.
- Dixon-Fyle, Mac; Cole, Gibril Raschid, eds. (2006). New Perspectives on the Sierra Leone Krio. American University Studies Series IX, History. Vol. 204. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing. p. 95. ISBN 0-8204-7937-3.
- Turner, Henry McNeal (December 7, 1891). "Thirteenth Letter". African Letters. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2012-05-26.
- Turner, H.M. (1893). African Letters, electronic edition. Nashville, TN: Publishing House A.M.E. Sunday School Union, Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina.
- Maclin, H. T.; Anderson, Gerald H., editor (1999). "Coker, Daniel". Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions (reprint ed.). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9780802846808.
- Becoming African in America: Race and Nation in the Early Black Atlantic by James Sidbury
- Journal of Daniel Coker, a Descendant of Africa: From the Time of Leaving By Daniel Coker
- The Roots of African-American Identity: Memory and History in Antebellum Free Communities.
- Chapter 7 "Edward Jones: An African American in Sierra Leone" in Moving On: Black Loyalists in the Afro-Atlantic World by Nemata Blyden
- "White" Americans in "Black" Africa: Black and White American Methodist Missionaries in Liberia, 1820-1875.
- The United States and Africa: A History. p. 93.
- A Social History Of The American Negro.
- Newman, Richard; Rael, Patrick; Lapsansky, Phillip; Coker, Daniel (2001). "Chapter 3: Daniel Coker". Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African-American Protest Literature, 1790-1860. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 0-415-92443-X
- Davis, David B. (May 21, 2011). "UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism presents: Exodus Black Colonization and Promised Lands". US Slave blogspot, video lecture. UC Berkeley Graduate Council. Retrieved 2012-05-18.