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Sierra Leone

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 7 months ago

    Below is a brief history of Sierra Leone.  I have placed also an emphasis on poetry, proverbs, and new government.  There is an overabundance of information that ties in with Sierra Leone, both throughout the years in which I have grazed over and far beyond.  Lives that we have discussed in this class bleed through Sierra Leone in words, ideas, action, and acquaintance.  Sierra Leone is not simply a distant land that was once a place where the British empire believed they could dispose of their problems in.  It is a port that has both taken away and given back the freedom of numerous Africans.  In the years after 1961, Sierra Leone has seen many problems, many deaths, mutilations, coups, but in recent years it has found a new hope.  The future is bright for Sierra Leone, though the past will always remain a piece of it.


-Evan Gallagher-


History of Sierra Leone: 1400s - 1961


    Towards the end of the 18th century, the number of freed slaves in England began to grow, partially with the help of Granville Sharp.  Sharp was a former linen-draper turned civil service clerk who fought for the rights of men such as Jonathan Strong and James Somerset.  James Somerset had been born in Africa and brought to Virginia by a slaver in 1749 at which time Charles Steuart, a Scots merchant living in Norfolk, purchased him. In 1769, Steuart went to England on business, taking Somerset with him as his personal servant.  On October 1, 1771, he ran away, was recaptured and delivered to Captain John Knowles of the ship Ann and Mary on the Thames, and was held onboard in irons. The ship was bound for Jamaica where the captain was to sell Somerset on Steuart's behalf.  At this point, Sharp intervened and the captain of the ship was ordered to produce Somerset before the court of King's Bench. The judge, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, ordered a hearing for the following January.  English contract law did not allow for any person to enslave himself, nor could any contract be binding without the person's consent.  Lord Mansfield’s decision, which was delivered on June 22, 1772, stated,  no master was ever allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he deserted from his service, or for any other reason whatever . Somerset was discharged, and his supporters, who included both black and white Londoners, immediately celebrated a great victory.  In fact, the victory was less than complete. Mansfield had not ruled that slavery was illegal in England, merely that no-one had a right  to take a slave by force to be sold abroad . Slavery still existed in England.  Sharp's own summary of the case reads as follows:


June 22d.-This day, James Somerset came to tell me that judgment was to-day given in his favour.

Somerset was the last Negro whom G. S. [Granville Sharp] brought before Lord Mansfield by writ of Habeas Corpus; when his Lordship declared, as the opinion of all the Judges present, that the power claimed by the master  never was in use here, nor acknowledged by the law; and, therefore, the man, James Somerset, must be discharged.  Thus ended G. Sharp's long contest with Lord Mansfield, on the 22d of June, 1772.


    In the early 1780s, the numbers of poor black people in London had grown considerably as former slaves who had fought for the British in the American War came to London to receive the freedom and wages they had been promised. Most were never paid, and were forced into destitution. The plan, masterminded by Henry Smeathman and Jonas Hanway, was to  resettle  these former slaves in a new colony in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

    Portuguese navigators first reached the northern-coast of present day Sierra Leone in 1460, which was inhabited by the Temne, a group who are mainly farmers.  The Portuguese landed on the Sierra Leone Peninsula, naming it Serra Lyoa (lion mountains) after the mountains located there.

    Between two notorious slaving rivers, the Sierra Leone and the Sherbro, 20 miles of hilly coast were purchased for the resettlement by means of an agreement with a local Temne tribe chief, known as King Tom.  This area was to be established as the Province of Freedom, near present-day Freetown, the spot where 331 “freed” slaves, 41 of them women, and 60 white London prostitutes, were to be relocated to a hopeful new beginning.  Unfortunately, hopes for a new settlement, or “resettlement”, did not fare as well as planned.

    Over the course of the first year, most of the inhabitants of the resettlement died of disease.  Other freed slaves found prosperous work in the local slave trade.  In 1789, the successor of King Tom, King Jemmy, attacked and burned the settlement to the ground.  In 1792, the settlement was rebuilt and stability was once again attempted.  Under the leadership of abolitionist, Thomas Clarkson, about 1,100 freed slaves landed on the peninsula and founded Freetown.  In the early 1800s, this settlement was joined by about 500 freed slaves from Jamaica and another 1000 from Nova Scotia.  The new colony was controlled by the Sierra Leone Company, which aided farmers in the new settlement by fending off the Temne.

    Between 1808 and 1864, approximately 50000 liberated slaves settled in Freetown.  This came after the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain in 1807 and after control of the colony was taken over by the British government.  The colony was in an optimal position for the construction of a naval base whose primary campaign was against the slave trade.  Many of the 50000 liberated slaves, or “recaptives”,  who resettled in Freetown were refugees from Britain’s campaign in the Atlantic.

    Missionaries of were the next peoples to arrive in Freetown.  Believing that the new colony should be united in language as well as belief, these missionaries descended upon Freetown with faith and education as their guiding light.  Before the missionaries arrival, languages were numerous, a result of slave trading throughout regions in west Africa.  In 1827, Protestant missionaries founded Fourah Bay College.  This college, which is now part of Univ. of Sierra Leone was among the first to educate Africans.

     In 1863 an advisory legislative council was established in Sierra Leone. The British were reluctant to assume added responsibility by increasing the size of the colony, but in 1896 the interior was proclaimed a British protectorate, mainly in order to forestall French ambitions in the region, and the Colony and Protectorate of Sierra Leone was established.

    This new protectorate was ruled “indirectly” by the rulers of numerous small states rather than a collective new administration that would have to be created.  Many of the inland chiefs became outraged because they were not consulted and because a new hut tax was imposed in 1898 to pay for administrative costs.  Soon after in 1898, the Africans protested the tax in a war led in the north by Bai Bureh and in the south by the Poro secret society.  The British emerged victorious.  There were no further armed protests by the Africans.  In the long term, under the new British administration, chiefs would retain most of their local authority, and some are even appointed to positions in the legislative council of Freetown.  Little economic development took place under the British administration until the 1950s, though export was encouraged.

    In the years following WWII, Africans residing in Sierra Leone were given more political voice and educational opportunities.  There was also an economic growth, greatly due to an increase in mining of diamonds and iron ore.  A constitution adopted in 1951 gave greater power to Africans but continued to ignore the Creoles, who were a small minority in the colony.  In the 1951 elections, Dr. Milton Margai emerged victorious, leading the protectorate-based Sierra Leone Peoples party (SLPP).  In 1961, Sierra Leone becomes an independent state within the Commonwealth.




Laughing Drums

David Amadu


History's white hand wrote my country's course

In a language that will come back and hunt her

In the twenty first century ;

The man at the round-about calls it exploitation

Beyond redemption.

But I say it is far beyond our imagination.

Who would have ever thought

Shedding blood for diamonds will be our lot?

Not even the ruthless bullies

Who scrambled for our land to please their hungry bellies;

Nor did big city dwellers in their luxury

Have the faintest idea of our misery.

The man at the round-about says

We are in a conundrum

But I say let's play our joyful laughing drums

Play our laughing drums

To the sound of hungry children chewing crumbs.


History's white hand wrote

Signatories and pernicious agreements both

As IMF loans and World Bank Killer packages

Inflicting unparallel wounds and damages;

The man at the round-about calls it Neocolonialism

Without Comparison

But I say it's beyond human realism

So let's play our joyful laughing drums

To the sound of children chewing crumbs.


To a Dying Land (Sierra Leone)

Ernest Cole


One prolong savage rape

a brutal virginal rupture

of hymen and natural resources.

A collision of metal and flesh

in orgasmic ecstasy,

a stripping of decayed flesh

from foul decomposed souls;

a ejaculation of rotten semen

on bruised and numbed female copperheads.

The wicked gushing of blood

from decapitated bodies that struggle in a grim strong

dance of death

clutching at the earth in desperate but futile

defiance of death.

The terrible gash on human heads

revealing the centrifugal madness

of the khaki and boots

in its cold tomb-like embrace.

My native land! A human abattoir!

When shall your light descend?





There's not enough of a thing for one man, if two men eat it it's starvation.


Governor Clarkson's Prayer for Sierra Leone


    O Lord, I beseech Thee favorably to hear the prayer of him who wishes to be Thy servant, and pardon him for presuming to address Thee from this sacred place. O God, I know my own infinity and unworthiness, and I know Thine abundant mercies to those who wish to be guided by thy will. Support me. O Lord, with thy heavenly grace, and to enable me to conduct myself through this earthly life that my actions may be consistent with the words I have uttered this day. Thou knowest that I am now about to depart from this place, and to leave the people whom it has pleased Thee to entrust to my care. Guide them, O merciful God, in the paths of truth and let not a few wicked men among us draw down Thy vengeance upon this Colony.

    In graft into their hearts a proper sense of duty, and enable them through Thy grace to conduct themselves as Christians, that they may not come to Thy house without that pleasing emotion which every grateful man must feel when paying adoration to the Author of life. But I have a great reason to fear, O Lord, that many who frequent thy church do not approach thy presence as becomes them, and that they may partly be compared to the Scribes. Pharisees, and hypocrites. Pardon, O God, their infirmities, and as thou knowest their weakness from the manner in which they have formerly been treated, and the little opportunity they have had of knowing thy will and getting acquainted with the merits of thy Son, our saviour Jesus Christ look down upon them with an eye of mercy and suffer them not to incur thy displeasure, after they have had an opportunity of being instructed in the ways of thy commandments.

    Bless, O Lord, the inhabitants of this vast continent, and incline their hearts towards us that they may more readily listen to our advice and doctrines, and that we may conduct ourselves towards them as to convince them of the happiness we enjoy under thy almighty protection. Banish from this Colony, O Lord all heathenish superstition and let the inhabitants know that thou art the only true Lord in which we live and move and have our being. If these people who protest thy religion will not be assured of thy superior power, convince them. O God, of Thine anger for their profession without their practice, for thou knowest I brought them here in hopes of making them and their families happy, both in this world and to all eternity.

    But I fear they may not be governed by my advice, and that they themselves and their children forever by their perverse and general behavior. I entreat thee not to let their evil example ruin the great cause in which we have embarked, but I would rather see that place in ashes and every wicked person destroyed, than that the chance we have now an opportunity of bringing to the light and knowledge of thy holy religion should, from the wickedness of a few individuals will continue in their accustomed darkness and barbarism. They know that I have universally talked of their apparent virtue the goodness, and have praised thy name for having permitted me to be the servant employed in so great and glorious a cause. If I have been deceived, I am sorry for it, and may thy will be done; but I implore thee to accept the sincerity of my intentions and my best endeavours to improve the talent committed to my case. Only pardon the intuity of my nature, and I will trust to thy mercy.

    Should any person have a wicked thought in his heart or do anything knowledge to disturb the peace and comfort of our Colony, let him be rooted our O God, from off the face of the earth; but have mercy upon him hereafter.

    Were I to utter all that my heart now indicates, no time would be sufficient for any praise and thanksgiving for all the mercies. Thou has vouchsafed to show me, but as thou art acquainted with every secret of my heart, accept my thoughts for thanks. I have no words left to express my gratitude and resignation to thy will. I entreat thee, O God, if nothing I can say will convince these people of thy power and goodness, make use of me in anyway thou pleasest, to make an atonement for their guilt. This is an awful and I fear too presumptuous, a request; yet if it should be thy will that I should lay down my life for the cause I have embarked in, assist me, O Lord with thy support, that I may resign it in such a manner as to convince these unbelieving people that thou art God indeed. May the heart of this Colony, O Lord, imbibe the spirit of meekness, gentleness, and truth; and may they henceforth live in unity and godly love, following as far as the weakness of their mortal natures will admit, that most excellent and faultless pattern which thou hast given us in thy Son our Saviors, Jesus Christ, to whom with thee and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.



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