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

Christian Woman's Board of Missions (CWBM), Kentucky

(start date: 1880) 

Long before the Christian Woman's Board of Missions (Disciples of Christ) was formed, the year 1819 saw the beginning of women's missionary work as a distinctive agency. The first organization was the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York (source: Historical Sketch of the Christian Woman's Board of Missions, by E. J. Dickinson and H. E. Moses). That particular organization ceased in 1861, though other efforts had been put into place over 42 years that would eventually lead to the formation of the Christian Woman's Board of Missions (CWBM) in 1874.

The CWBM's first work with Negroes was in 1881 in Jackson, MS, where Negroes were to get the same kind of help as the CWBM had provided in Jamaica [p. 40]. The work in Mississippi lasted for 13 months. In the late 1880s, work in Kentucky fell under the heading of "extension in the home field" [p. 41]. This was not necessarily work geared toward Negroes in Kentucky because a different avenue had been found for that work, partially because the membership of the CWBM was whites only.

Working around the restricted membership, the first black-led organization was formed in Kentucky in 1880. A group of black women took the lead and formed the Kentucky Christian Woman's Board of Missions Convention. [source: The Stone-Campbell Movement, edited by D. N. Williams, D. A. Foster, and P. M. Blowers, p. 49. See "The CWBM and Race" and the NKAA entry Conventions of the Colored Christian Churches in Kentucky.] Also, in 1896, black women in Mississippi formed the Mississippi Women's Missionary Society. Both the Kentucky and the Mississippi organizations did work with the national CWBM, but the two groups operated independently. The segregated groups would eventually be merged into CWBM.

The first Negro branch of the national Christian Woman's Board of Missions (CWBM) was formed in Arkansas in 1896, organized by Sarah Lue Bostic, who would go on to organize and lead other Negro branches. Another effort took place in 1889 when the American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS) formed a Board of Negro Education and Evangelization in Louisville, KY [source: Journey Toward Wholeness, by B. M. Cardwell and W. K. Fox]. The organization gave support to colored institutes in Mississippi, Alabama, and the Louisville Bible College in Kentucky [pp. 49-50]. It was a struggle for the ACMS to maintain the institutes.

The following year, the national CWBM formed their Negro education and evangelization board, which took over the work with Negroes that had been attempted by the ACMS. The work with Negroes is mentioned throughout the CWBM historical sketch, as are the contributions and efforts from persons and organizations in Kentucky.

There was also a Negro CWBM worker who came to Kentucky by way of Mississippi and Liberia. The journey actually started with his teacher, Jacob Kenoly (1876-1911), a minister born in Laclede County, MO. Kenoly was an educated man whose  education started in Missouri and culminated in Edwards, MS at the CWBM's Southern Christian Institute. Kenoly attended this particular school because he wanted to go to Africa as a missionary. One last stop for his training was in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. Once his education was completed and Kenoly had the money needed for the voyage, he left the United States and arrived in Monrovia, Liberia as a Disciples missionary on July 26, 1905. He did good work until his death in  a boating accident in Liberia in 1911.

Jacob Kenoly was the Disciples' second Negro foreign missionary sent to Liberia. The first had been the formerly enslaved Alexander Cross, a Kentuckian [source: The Life and Work of Jacob Kenoly, by C. C. Smith, pp. 28-30]. Cross went to Monrovia in January 1854 but died about a month after his arrival. When Kenoly arrived in Liberia 51 years later, he was told about Alexander Cross, and he made it a point to talk with individuals in Monrovia who had known Alexander Cross.

Jacob Kenoly was a minister and a school teacher in Liberia. One of his students was James Isaiah Rundles, Sr. Rundles was not given the name 'Rundles' at birth; he acquired the name when he started attending school. He may have been an orphan; when he sailed to the United States he gave his father's name as George Washington Rundles on the passenger list.

Rundles was an outstanding student, and Kenoly selected him to become the first Liberian student to go to the United States to study. Funding was solicited, and Rundles arrived at the Southern Christian Institute in Edwards, MS on November 2, 1909 [sources: C. C. Smith, "A Sketch of the life of Jacob Kenoly," The Missionary Review of the World, v. 25 (new series), v. 35 (old series), January-December 1912, pp. 752-760 [online at Google Books]; and The Life and Work of Jacob Kenoly, by C. C. Smith].

The plan was for Rundles to get his education and return to Liberia as a missionary to his people, but Rundles remained in the U.S. He married Bertha B. King from Hermanville, MS [source: Church Street: the Sugar Hill of Jackson Mississippi, by G. Sweet and B. Bradley]. The couple moved to Kentucky where, in 1917, Rundles was doing missionary work in Crofton for the Christian Woman's Board of Missions [source: James I. Rundles' World War I Draft Registration Card]. It was also noted on his registration card that he had served for four years as a sergeant in a militia. He was claiming "exempt" from military service in the U.S. because of his missionary work.

The couple would return to Mississippi, and in Jackson, James  Rundles was a minister, principal of a school, a business owner, and a community leader [source: James "Jim" Rundles, Jr., "Up and down Farrish Street," @, 10/24/2014 (online)]. James I. Rundles, Sr. was given the birth date of September 14, 1888. He was born in Schiffelin, Liberia, according to his World War I draft registration card, and died around 1930 after returning to Liberia, according to authors Sweet and Bradley.

For more information see "Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by J. E. Kleber, pp. 186-187; Negro Education: a study of the private and higher schools for colored people in the United States, vol. 1, by the U.S. Office of Education, T. J. Jones; and Christian Church Women, by D. B. Hull. An early photograph of James I. Rundles, Sr. is in the January 17, 1918 issue of The Christian Century: a journal of religion, vol. XXV, no. 3 [available at Google Books]. The image caption reads "Four of Jacob Kenoly's Boys from Liberia at Southern Christian Institute. Left to Right: Peter Dunson, James Rundles, Robert Gooden, and Jerome Freeman."

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Christian County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Crofton, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Christian Woman's Board of Missions (CWBM), Kentucky,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-06-11 13:44:41