Sierra Leone is an African country on the West Coast of Africa, to the north of Liberia. At various stages in the 15th Century, the area was inhabited by the Krim, Gola, Mende and Temne people who ran independent Kingdoms with chiefdoms, councils and kings. Towards the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese built a fort in present-day capital city, Freetown, and named the surrounding area Serra Leoa, meaning Lioness Mountains. Initially, they traded with existing African rulers but soon converted the fort to a major trading point of the transatlantic slave trade.
Britain took control of the fort towards the late 18th century, renamed the area Sierra Leone and after declaring slavery illegal in 1807, began settling former slaves in the area. They soon officially established Freetown as a home for former enslaved Africans, who had been promised freedom if they fought for the British during the American Revolutionary War. The resettlement of former enslaved people to the area continued up to the early 19th century under Britain’s ‘Black Poor’ campaign, which sought to relocate black communities in London to Africa, as well as free blacks from Jamaica and Nova Scotia.
The former slaves and their descendants, who became known as Creoles, initially bought land under the Sierra Leone Company from the local ethnic groups. However, the British-owned company soon began forcefully acquiring land from ethnic groups as they established themselves inland. In 1896, Sierra Leone was declared a British protectorate. The Creoles were educated in British system school, professed the Christian faith and participated in missionary activities to convert the local tribes in the area. They also developed their own distinct Krios language, the de facto national language of Sierra Leone.
By the 20th century, there was great opposition from both Creoles and the native tribes to British presence, and several campaigns eventually led to the independence of Sierra Leone in 1961.
By Edel Were
(Image: Black Past)