Author: John Saillant


Lott Cary (ca. 1780–1828)

Lott Cary was a Baptist minister and one of the first American settlers of Liberia. Born enslaved about 1780, he labored in Richmond tobacco warehouses before purchasing his own freedom by about 1813. He bought land in Henrico County, married, and became a popular lay preacher. In 1815 Cary helped found the Richmond African Baptist Missionary Society and after the establishment of the American Colonization Society a year later, prepared to immigrate with other free blacks to Liberia, in West Africa. He arrived there in 1821 and helped to settle what became the town of Monrovia in 1824. Demonstrating a wide range of leadership skills, he tended the sick, organized a native labor force, established a joint stock company, and helped extend the settlement’s territory. He was twice elected vice agent of Liberia, in 1826 and 1827, and president of the Monrovia Baptist Missionary Society. He assumed leadership of Monrovia in 1828 but died later that year in an accidental gunpowder explosion. After his death, Cary became something of a folk hero, becoming even more eloquent and pious than he had been in life.