Samuel Kaboo Morris
Samuel Kaboo Morris (1873 – May 12, 1893) was a Liberian prince who converted to Christianity around the age of 14. Around age 18, he left Liberia for the United States to achieve an education and arrived at Taylor University in December 1891. There is now a residence hall at Taylor University bearing his name. He died in 1893 from complications of a respiratory infection.
Morris's life has been the subject of five novels, over a dozen biographies, a 1954 film, and a 1988 documentary. Taylor University has named numerous buildings, scholarships, and a society in his honor. His story helped to inspire other people to go to Africa to preach the gospel.
Samuel was born in Liberia, in 1873. Little is known of Samuel Morris's early life. When he was 14 years old, his tribe,(the Kru) was attacked by the Grebos one day and Kaboo was captured. He was used as a "pawn", meaning the Kru would have to bring the Grebos a present each month if they wanted to see their prince again. His father, the chief, came each time but what he brought was never enough. Finally the Kru could bring no more and Kaboo was beaten every day. One night, though, during one of his beatings, there was a flash of light and a voice told Kaboo to flee. His ropes fell off and his sick body gained strength. He ran off into the jungle, where he wandered for days living off such things as snails and mangos until he came to a coffee plantation owned by a former slave. The slave had come to Liberia and was a Christian. It was for this slave that Kaboo worked with another boy from his village before coming to America. His motivation to come to America was learning more about God and the Holy Spirit. One of the missionaries there told him all she knew. Samuel asked who it was that taught her. She told him it was a man in New York named Stephen Merritt. He decided he would go to New York to find this man. As he walked to the shore he prayed that there would be a boat there that could take him. There was a ship there called a tramp ship. The crew of this ship made money by trading. It was very profitable for them because natives often sold goods for useless trinkets. God told Samuel that the captain would take him to America. When Samuel asked, the captain refused at first. Later, when two of his crew members ran off leaving the captain short-handed, he accepted Samuel onboard taking him for an unemployed sailor. When he arrived on the ship, he was disliked and abused, but by the time the ship reached America, they were all praying and singing hymns.
Samuel in America
In America, Samuel found Stephen Merritt. Mr. Merritt had to attend a prayer meeting that night so he asked Samuel to wait for him at his mission. When Mr. Merritt came back, he found Samuel in a prayer meeting of his own with the people of the mission. On his first night in America, he had led nearly twenty men to Christ. Impressed by Samuel’s anointing and confidence, Mr. Merritt invited Samuel to stay at his house, much to his wife’s dismay. However, in time, Samuel won her over, as well. Not only did Samuel win over Mrs. Merritt, he also won over the people at Mr. Merritt’s church. In a time when racism was commonplace, these men were colorblind. They saw that God was working in Samuel and created the Samuel Morris Missionary Society to collect money to send Samuel to college at Taylor University in Indiana so he could advance his knowledge of God and the Bible.
While at Taylor University, Samuel was used by God mightily to draw people to the Lord. Students would stop by his dorm room to pray with him. People from around the world would come to hear him speak and to have him pray for them. He was known (and heard) to spend hours in prayer with God, from late at night to early in the morning. He inspired others to look at their relationship with God. Newspapers printed stories of the boy from Africa who was charging Fort Wayne with the electric power of God. He was an active member of Berry Street Methodist Episcopal Church and regularly attended East Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church.
It was his desire to be educated in the Word of God so he could go back to his homeland of Liberia and teach Jesus to the people there. However, that was not God’s plan for his life. Late in 1892, Samuel came down with an illness (Pneumonia) that he could not shake. Though he’d been sick before and prayed for God's healing and received it, this time the illness wouldn’t leave. In time, God explained to Samuel why his illness hadn’t left him. He told him that his work on earth was done and that it was time for him to come home. When Samuel related this to his fellow students, they would ask about his dream of returning home to preach the Gospel. Samuel is reported to have said, “It is not my work, Dr. Reade. It is His. I have finished my job. He will send others better than I to do the work in Africa.”
On May 12, 1893, at approximately 20 years of age, Samuel Morris, aka Prince Kaboo, died. Fellow students served as pallbearers at his funeral. After his funeral, many of them said they felt led to go to Africa to be missionaries in Samuel’s place, fulfilling Samuel’s prophecy.
Though it was the custom in those days to bury blacks in the Negro section of the cemetery, Samuel’s body was later moved to the center of the cemetery, linking blacks and whites in death like he did in life. A memorial is placed at his gravesite that reads:
- Samuel Morris
- Prince Kaboo
- Native of West Africa
- Famous Christian Mystic
- Apostle of Simple Faith
- Exponent of the Spirit-filled life
- Student at Taylor University 1892-3
- Fort Wayne, now located at Upland,
- Indiana. The story of his life
- a vital contribution to the
- development of Taylor University.
- The erection of this memorial
- was sponsored by the 1928 class
- Taylor University and funds
- Were contributed by Fort Wayne
- Samuel Kaboe Morris, Missouri University. Available at: http://www.taylor.edu/about/morris.
- Samuel Morris. Taylor University. Samuel Morris Gravesite. Available at: http://www.taylor.edu/about/heritage/samuel-morris/samuel-morris-gravesite.shtml
- Baldwin, Lindley J. March of Faith Challenge of Samuel Morris. National Institute of Applied Religion, 1941. ASIN B000H866QM
- Baldwin, Lindley J. The March of Faith: The challenge of Samuel Morris to Undying Life and Leadership. Mary E. Baldwin, 1947. ASIN B0007EL116
- Baldwin, Lindley J. The Ebony Saint: Samuel Morris's Miraculous Journey of Faith. James, 1967. ISBN 0-85305-001-5
- Baldwin, Lindley J. Samuel Morris: The African Boy God Sent to Prepare an American University for Its Mission to the World Bethany Publishing House, 1921. ISBN 0-87123-950-7
- Hoff Baez, Kjersti. Samuel Morris. Barbour Publishing, Inc., 1985 ISBN 1-55748-603-4
- Samuel Morris. Bethany House, 1969. ISBN 0-87123-360-6
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