John Chilembwe the Hero

John Chilembwe
John Chilembwe

On every 15th of January, Malawians celebrate the life of the earliest hero of Malawi’s independence movement, John Chilembwe.
Chilembwe face on a MK10 note

The History of Chilembwe
Chilembwe was born in 1871 and died in 1915 in Blantyre district, Nyasaland currently known as Malawi in Blantyre.

In 1906, Chilembwe started his Province Industrial Mission (P.I.M) in Chiradzulu District whereby in his first decade, the mission developed slowly, and it was assisted by regular small donations from his American backers.

He was called Reverend John Chilembwe because he was a Baptist Pastor. For his 12 years of his ministry, Chilembwe encouraged African self-respect and advancement through education, hard work, and personal responsibility.

Chilembwe was also an educator who trained as a minister in the United States and because he founded several schools in the year 1912. His activities were initially supported by white Protestant missionaries, although his relations with Catholic missions were less friendly.

After 1912, Chilembwe developed closer contacts with local independent African churches including the Seventh Day Baptist and Churches of Christ congregations. His aim of doing all this was to unite all the African churches with his own mission church at the centre.

Why is he called a Hero?
In the year 1913, Chilembwe became more politically militant and openly voiced criticism over the state of African rights. He organised a revolt against British colonial rule and it failed but when Malawi finally gained its independence in 1964, Chilembwe legacy was immediately and honoured, as it still stand today every January 15th.


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