From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Priest, James M.

(died: 1883) 

James M. Priest was the slave of Jane Anderson Meaux. Jane A. Meaux was born 1780 in St. Asaph [later Fort Logan], Lincoln County, District of KY, and died in Jessamine County, KY, in 1844. Jane Anderson Meaux stipulated in her will that all of her slaves were to be freed after her death, under the condition that they go to live in Liberia. Prior to her death, she educated and freed one of her slaves, James M. Priest. She sent Priest to Liberia, Africa, to evaluate the situation of the former slaves. When he returned, Priest was sent to school, 1840-1843; he graduated to become an ordained Presbyterian minister. James M. Priest had joined the Presbyterian Church when he was a slave. He expressed an interest in becoming a minister, and he was placed under the direction of Rev. Samuel Taylor in Jessamine County, KY.

Priest was such a good student that Jane A. Meaux and Rev. Taylor decided he needed a more formal education, and they tried to get him admitted to Centre College in Danville, KY, around 1835. The school would not accept Priest as a student, and he was enrolled in McCormick Theological Seminary located in New Albany, IN. After graduation, James M. Priest returned to Liberia and was the first foreign missionary from McCormick Theological Seminary. Priest would become the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, 1864-1868. He was serving as the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia when he died in July of 1883.

For more see p.205 of History of Kentucky, edited by C. Kerr et al.; p.9 of A History of the McCormick Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church, by L. J. Halsey; pp.562-63 of Maxwell History and Genealogy, by F. A. W. Houston et al. [all available full-text at Google Book Search]; see Settlers to Liberia "April 1843" at The Ships List website; and "The death of James M. Priest...," Arkansaw Dispatch, 07/28/1883, p.2. For more of James M. Priest being denied enrollment at Centre College see "Dartmouth College - A Noble Example" in The Colored American, 04/29/1837 [available online in the Black Abolitionist Archive at the University of Detroit Mercy]. See also James M. Priest on page 549 in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions by G. H. Anderson. See photo image of James M. Priest in Library of Congress, American Colonization Society Records.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Lincoln County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jessamine County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Boyle County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about St. Asaph, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fort Logan, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Danville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Arkansaw dispatch (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Biographical dictionary of Christian missions
NKAA Source: History of Kentucky
NKAA Source: Maxwell history and genealogy, including the allied families of Alexander, Allen,...

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Meaux Settlement (Anderson County, KY)

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“Priest, James M.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed August 18, 2019,

Last modified: 2018-12-21 17:47:56