The Sierra Leone Bicentenary Trust

Registered Charity No: 700447 England

To mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of Freetown, the examples of the late Wallace Johnson, Sydney Boyle, et al, inspired me in 1987 to write "A Short History of Sierra Leone" (1787 - 1987)

A SHORT HISTORY OF SIERRA LEONE
(1787 - 1987)

[With grateful acknowledgements to "A History of Sierra Leone" by Christopher Fyfe and "The Creoles of Sierra Leone" by Leo Spitzer].


On May the 10th 1787, a convoy of about four hundred settlers from England entered the Sierra Leone River. On May the 15th the people disembarked and started their settlement (first named Granville Town - after Granville Sharp, one of a group of philanthropists who successfully pressured the British government to permit the transportation of the emancipated Negroes to Sierra Leone - then Province of Freedom, and finally Freetown).

The Sierra Leone Company was chartered, listing the famed humanitarians William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp, and Henry Thornton among its directors in 1791. The company aimed to substitute legitimate commerce between Africa and Great Britain for the slave trade and was empowered to take over all lands in Sierra Leone which had been acquired by purchase or grant from indigenous chiefs.

The Creoles who settled around Freetown in Sierra Leone shared a diverse and unique heritage. Although born in Sierra Leone, they were descended from immigrants: a group of "Black-Poor" sent there from England in 1787; a group of auxiliaries from the United States who had fought for the British in the Revolutionary War and who were later relocated in Nova Scotia; and a group of Maroons who had revolted from their slave masters in Jamaica in 1800. The fourth and largest immigrant group was made up of the Liberated Africans (Recaptives) - men and women freed from slave ships by the British anti-slavery squadron in the years after abolition. These groups, together with smaller numbers of others, formed a colony literate and British in manner. The Creoles developed flourishing newspapers in which they gave lively expression to their sentiments and social views, in prose as well as in verse.

The Creoles were even more than their fore-fathers, taught to prize Europeanization and the status that it conferred in the colonial order. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, however, during the heightened racism which characterized the age, Creoles were increasingly rejected by their British mentors and began to undergo a crisis of cultural self-confidence. In these circumstances, many Creoles decided to look within their own society, to analyze its character and values, even questioning the major premise on which their culture was based - the validity of the African adaptation of European ways.

Creole involvement in the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA), the major West African movement of the first quarter of the twentieth century, was the clearest indication of their post-war shift from cultural introspection to political action. The NCBWA emerged from the same cauldron of post-World War 1 expectations that had engendered movements like the first Pan African Congress, held in Paris in 1919 under the leadership of W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association in the United States. In 1918, at the insistence of Messrs. J.H. Thomas and Cornelius May, a committee was formed to take the first practical steps toward organizing a conference of West Africans. In March 1920, at the instigation of the well-known Accra barristers, J.E. Casely Hayford and T. Hutton-Mills, the first conference of the NCBWA was convened in the Gold Coast (now named Ghana). Delegates from Nigeria, the Gambia, Gold Coast, and Sierra Leone participated, of which Dr. Herbert C. Bankole-Bright (a representative of Sierra Leone) was the General Secretary.

By 1945 the direction and shape of the political and social developments which would lead to independence for Sierra Leone was discernible. The formation of the West African Youth League (Sierra Leone Section) [Motto "Liberty or Death"] of which Alphonso Sylvester Lisk-Carew was President; Isaac T.A. Wallace-Johnson was the Organising Secretary, and S.M.O. Boyle, General Secretary - now living in Birmingham, England - was the first extensive attempt by Creoles to reach out beyond the confines of their own ethnic group and self-interest and to form an alliance with the indigenous inhabitants based on racial unity and perception of imperialism as exploitative of all peoples of African descent in Sierra Leone, not just Creoles. Despite British attempts to halt the growth of the Youth League movement, the seeds for national co-operation remained alive and contributed to Sierra Leone's independence.

In 1799 Freetown became the first municipality in Africa.

On April 27th, 1961, Sierra Leone became a Sovereign and Independent State within the Commonwealth of Nations, and was on the 27th September of the same year, admitted as the 100th Member of the United Nations. Sierra Leone became a Republic on the 19th of April, 1971.

Sierra Leone is also a member of OAU, ECOWAS, the Mano River Union and is an ACP State of EEC.

By Ronald A. Lisk-Carew, JP [May 1987]
in Celebration of THE BICENTENARY OF SIERRA LEONE 1787-1987
and mark the founding of SIERRA LEONE BICENTENARY TRUST v1787-1987
Registered Charity No. 700447 England