Liberated Africans in Sierra Leone

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The Liberated Africans of Sierra Leone were illegally enslaved Africans rescued from slave ships intercepted by anti-slaving patrols in the Atlantic Ocean and near coastal trading stations on the African Coast after 1808. Born and enslaved throughout West and West Central Africa, the rescued Africans were liberated by British naval courts or bilateral tribunals established in Freetown, capital of the Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate. Following liberation, most liberated Africans were then consigned to a variety of unfree labor apprenticeships in Freetown and the interior. Some Africans liberated in Freetown were later resettled as agriculturalists or colonial militiamen in British colonies in Guyana and the West Indies. Approximately 3,000 were forcibly migrated to British settlements along the Gambia River. Smaller numbers were settled in Liberia, a colony established by the United States.


Shortly after the British Parliament outlawed British participation in the slave trade in 1807, the Royal Navy started to patrol the African coast and high seas, seizing British vessels suspected of engaging in the slave trade. After the Congress of Vienna and the ratification of various international agreements to restrict or outlaw the transatlantic trade, the West Africa Squadron, and to a lesser extent maritime patrols flying under the flags of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Brazil, and the United States, also intercepted ships suspected of trafficking slaves in contravention of treaty provisions. In addition to the courts established in Freetown, tribunals to judge ships seized by anti-slaving patrols also operated in Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Luanda, Cape Verde, and St. Helena.

More than 80,000 Africans rescued from the illegal trade between Africa and the Americas were emancipated before courts operating in Freetown between 1808 and 1871, when the last remaining mixed commission was shuttered. Upon emancipation, most liberated Africans were registered with a Christian name, but a large number of registries also listed African names, based on information given by the liberated African or a translator. Many registries also record estimated age, height, brands, and body modifications.[1]

The liberated Africans came from all over West Africa and some Central African countries. A significant portion of the recaptives settled in Freetown were Bakongo, Akan, Beninese, Yoruba, igbo and Hausa.

Life in Sierra LeoneEdit

While information on the day-to-day lives of the liberated Africans living in Sierra Leone is scarce, there remains registers of Africans liberated by the British, letters written to the governor, and other sources that allow the present to understand the lives of the Africans forced to remain there.

In the registers kept by the British, many of the African names were changed to European ones, highlighting the transition to their new circumstances in a British colony.[2] Through the registers, it is clear that recaptives were forced to be apprentices to Europeans and often sold as apprentices.

Liberated African VillagesEdit

A number of villages were established to provide accommodation for these new residents of Sierra Leone.

Formation of Sierra Leone Creole peopleEdit

The Colony-born children of Liberated Africans, the Jamaican Maroons and Nova Scotian Settlers sometimes called the liberated Africans "Willyfoss niggers".[3] Nevertheless, after several decades all three groups developed into the Sierra Leone Creole people who became recognised as a particular ethnic identity alongside others in Sierra Leone.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Liberated Africans".
  2. ^ Schwarz, Suzanne (2012-01-01). "Reconstructing the Life Histories of Liberated Africans: Sierra Leone in the Early Nineteenth Century". History in Africa. 39: 175–207. doi:10.1353/hia.2012.0011. ISSN 1558-2744.
  3. ^ Johnston, Harry (January 1999). A history of the colonization of ... - Google Books. ISBN 9780543959799. Retrieved 2011-02-25.


External linksEdit