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Joseph J. France and A. Sims Letters

Identifier: MSS-4300

Scope and Contents

This collection contains two letters from Jos. (Joseph?) J. France, an African student attending medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, to his benefactor Dr. Sims. There is also one letter from A. Sims to a Dr. Beckley. In the first letter from France, dated January 31, 1892, the student discusses his need for financial support and contrasts the cold reception he has received from Philadelphia's Baptist ministers with the courteous treatment from his professors. In the second letter, dated May 12, 1892, he thanks Sims for sending money and explains further his decision to leave Leonard Medical School in Raleigh, N.C., for the University of Pennsylvania. He also explains why he is attending a nearby Presbyterian church rather than a Baptist one, describing the worship at Black churches of Philadelphia and the "frigidity and indifference" he has encountered at the white Baptist churches there, and says he plans to apply for the Congo Mission of the A.B.M.U. after graduation. In the other letter, dated August 10, 1892, Sims writes from Leopoldville, the Congo Independent State, to Dr. Beckley. He praises France, calling him an "Accra African" and indicating that France was a missionary in the Congo, and asks Beckley to befriend the student in Philadelphia.


  • 1892

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections. For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

Leopoldville was named after Belgian King Leopold II, who established a personal colony called the Congo Free State in 1885; he later gave over the Congo territory to Belgium, and the region gained its independence from Belgium in 1960. Leopoldville is now Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The first Baptist missionaries in the Congo were with the Livingstone Island Mission (LIM), a British group who came there in 1878, led by Alfred Tilly, a Welsh pastor. The group also included Scottish medical doctor Aaron Sims. LIM members, including Sims, went to Leopoldville in 1881. The American Baptist Missionary Union (ABMU), whose headquarters are in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, would later absorb the LIM in 1884.

Accra, today the capital of Ghana, is a port city that the British established as the capital of the British Gold Coast colony in 1877 until Ghanian independence from Britian in 1957.

Shaw University, founded by a Baptist missionary to educate African Americans, opened the Leonard Medical School in 1882 in Raleigh, North Carolina, for African American students. Leonard was the first medical school in the United States with a four-year curriculum. It closed in 1918.


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Language of Materials



Two letters from Jos. (Joseph?) J. France, a nineteenth-century medical school student from Ghana at the University of Pennsylvania, to his benefactor Dr. Sims in Leopoldville in the Congo. There is also one letter from A. Sims to a Dr. Beckley that discusses France.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The University of Alabama Libraries acquired the Joseph J. France and A. Sims Letters in 2019.

Processing Information

Processed by Erin Ryan, May 2021.
Guide to Joseph J. France and A. Sims Letters
Erin Ryan
June 2021
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266