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Mon, 05.07.1787

The Krio People of Sierra Leone, a brief article

*On this date in 1787 the Sierra Leone Creole people (or Krio people) are affirmed.  They are an ethnic group whose decedents are the Creole people of African America.   

They are also west Indian, and Liberated African slaves who settled in the Western Area of Sierra Leone between 1787 and about 1885. The colony was established by the British, supported by abolitionists, under the Sierra Leone Company as a place for freedmen. The settlers called their new settlement Freetown.  In the 21st century, the Creoles comprise about 2% of the population of Sierra Leone. Like Americo-Liberian in Liberia, Creoles have varying degrees of white-European ancestry.  This was due to the close historical relations between the ethnicity's through decades of indenture, slavery sexual abuse, and voluntary unions and marriages in North America. Some have Native American ancestry as well. In Sierra Leone, some of the settlers intermarried with other English or Europeans. Through the Jamaican Maroons, some Creoles probably also have indigenous Jamaican Amerindian Taíno ancestry.  

The Americo-Liberians and the Creoles are the only recognized ethnic group of African American, Liberated African, and West Indian descent in West Africa. The Creole culture is primarily westernized. The only Sierra Leonean ethnic group whose culture is similar (in terms of its integration of Western culture) are the Sherbro, who had developed close connections with Europeans and English traders from the early years of contact. The Creoles as a class developed close relationships with the British colonial power; some were educated in British institutions and advanced to leadership positions in Sierra Leone under British colonialism. Due to this history, the vast majority of Sierra Leone Creoles have European first names and/or surnames. Many have both British first names and surnames.  The vast majority of Creoles live in Freetown and its surrounding Western Area region of Sierra Leone.  They are also primarily Christian. From their mix of peoples, the Creoles developed what is now the native Krio language (a mixture of English, indigenous West African languages, and other European languages). It has been widely used for trade and communication among ethnic groups and is the most widely spoken language in Sierra Leone.  

Scholars such as Olumbe Bassir and Ramatoulie O. Othman distinguish between the Oku and the Creoles.  By contrast, the Oku are principally of Yoruba descent and have traditionally maintained strong Yoruba and Muslim traditions. They also have more traditional African culture, and widely practice formal polygamy and, to a significant extent, practice female genital mutilation.  The Creoles settled across West Africa in the nineteenth century in communities such as Limbe, Cameroon, Conakry, Guinea, Banjul, Gambia, Lagos, Nigeria, Abeokuta, Calabar, Accra, Ghana, Cape Coast, Fernando Pó. The Krio language of the Creole people influenced other pidgins such as Cameroonian Pidgin English, Nigerian Pidgin English, and Pichinglis. Thus, the Aku people of the Gambia, the Saro of Nigeria, Fernandino people of Equatorial Guinea, are sub-ethnic groups or direct descendants of the Sierra Leone Creole people.  

In 1787, the British helped 400 freed slaves, primarily African Americans freed during the American Revolutionary War who had been evacuated to London, and West Indians and Africans from London, to relocate to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the "Province of Freedom." Some had been freed earlier and worked as servants in London.  Most of the first group died due to disease and warfare with indigenous Black Africans. About 64 survived to settle Granville Town. In 1792, they were joined by 1200 Black Loyalists from Nova Scotia; these were former Black slaves and their descendants. Many of the adults had left rebel owners and fought for the British in the Revolutionary War. The Crown had offered them freedom who left rebel masters, and thousands joined the British Army. The British resettled 3,000 of the Blacks in Nova Scotia, where many found the climate and racial discrimination harsh.

More than 1200 volunteered to settle in the new colony of Freetown, which was established by British abolitionists. In 1800, the British also transported 550 Maroons, militant escaped slaves from Jamaica, to Sierra Leone.  After Britain and the United States abolished the international African slave trade beginning in 1808, they patrolled off the continent to intercept illegal shipping. The British resettled Liberated Africans from slave ships at Freetown. The Liberated Africans included people from the Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Fante, and other ethnicities of West Africa.  Some members of Temne, Limba, Mende, and Loko groups, indigenous Sierra Leone ethnicities, were also among the Liberated Africans resettled at Freetown; they also assimilated into Creole culture. Others came to the settlement voluntarily, seeing opportunities in Creole culture in the society.  

On the voyage to Sierra Leone, 96 passengers died.  However, enough survived to establish and build a colony. Seventy white women accompanied the men to Sierra Leone, they were most likely wives and girlfriends of the Black settlers.  Their colony was known as the "Province of Freedom" and their settlement was called "Granville Town"' after the English abolitionist Granville Sharp. The British negotiated for the land for the settlement with the local Temne chief, King Tom.  However, before the ships sailed away from Sierra Leone, 50 white women had died, and about 250 remained of the original 440 who left Plymouth. Another 86 settlers died in the first four months. Although initially there was no hostility between the two groups, after King Tom's death the next Temne chief retaliated for a slave trader's burning of his village.  He threatened to destroy Granville Town. The Temne ransacked Granville Town and took some Black Poor into slavery, while others became slave traders.

In early 1791 Alexander Falconbridge returned, to find only 64 of the original residents (39 black men, 19 Black women, and six white women). The 64 people had been cared for by a Greek and a colonist named Thomas Kallingree at Fourah Bay, an abandoned African village.  There the settlers reestablished Granville Town. After that time, they were called the "Old Settlers". By this time the Province of Freedom had been destroyed; Granville Sharp did not lead the next settlement movement.  Sierra Leone gain Independence in 1961. The national language of Sierra Leone is English. In addition to English, the Krios also speak a distinctive creole language named after their ethnic group.

In 1993, there were 473,000 speakers in Sierra Leone (493,470 in all countries); Krio was the third-most spoken language behind Mende (1,480,000) and Themne (1,230,000).  In the 21st century, The Creole homeland is a mountainous, narrow peninsula on the coast of west Africa. The whole of Sierra Leone covers some 72,500 square kilometres. At its northern tip lies Freetown, the capital. The peninsula's mountain range is covered by tropical rain forests split by deep valleys and adorned with impressive waterfalls. White sand beaches line the Atlantic coast.  


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