Abolition and Empire in Sierra Leone and Liberia by Bronwen Everill (auth.)

By Bronwen Everill (auth.)

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Villages became more ethnically homogenous as ‘Aku’ (Yoruba), Egba, and ‘Ibo’ (Igbo) recaptives moved to areas populated with their countrymen. 19 They had their own king (King John Macaulay) who was recognized as their leader by the Freetown government and who acted as their representative. They also maintained political organizations and affiliations, as well as some cultural characteristics from before their capture. The ‘Ibo’ were the next largest group, derived from the area of Biafra. 20 All groups drew on their African heritage in forming mutual relief societies but also worked within the British system, putting forward petitions to the Colonial government and the British government with their complaints and advancing the prestige and influence of the group through church leadership, British commerce, and the adoption of Western styles of dress.

33 But dress was not the only outward display of ‘Britishness’ adopted by the settlers and Liberated Africans. Once commerce had begun in earnest and picked up speed in the 1830s, ties to ‘home’ became tangible as well as institutional. A look at the imports into Freetown and the stocks at local shops reveal what Sierra Leoneans considered to be essential to their Sierra Leonean British lives. For Sierra Leoneans – many of whom had only experienced ‘British’ life in other colonies, and even more of whom were imbibing the spirit of British culture through the institutions described above – links to the ‘home’ country were tenuous and therefore even more important to maintain.

Just after the Liberia’s founding in 1822, the Sierra Leone Gazette reported that there had been numerous wars with unhappy indigenous groups as well as local slave traders. 33 Transatlantic tensions And yet the theme that pervades all the communication – public and private – between Cuffe, Coker, and their various networks, is one of competition, rather than cooperation. 35 From the very beginning, then, the ACS agents were not necessarily looking for open, honest collaboration with Sierra Leone.

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