The Krio of West Africa

The Krio of West Africa: Islam, Culture, Creolization, and Colonialism in the Nineteenth Century

Gibril R. Cole
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Ohio University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Krio of West Africa
    Book Description:

    The Krio are the descendants of freed slaves whose language and culture were partly shaped by their experiences in the West Indies, North America, England, and West Africa. This book looks at the lived experiences of ex-slaves and their progeny who settled Freetown, Sierra Leone; their dispersion in what became a far-flung Krio diaspora in West Africa; and how they sought to make a better life in their new home by engaging in commerce through the use of retrofitted slave ships along the West African Atlantic littoral. The book thus demonstrates the complex nature of the interactions between the new arrivals (the ex-slaves) and the older populations that began to produce a shared sense of identity beyond the oft-repeated narrative of abolition, admiralty, and the relocation of the trans-Atlantic ex-slave population in West Africa. By focusing on Islam in the making of Krio society in Sierra Leone, this book also helps recontextualize creolization in West Africa and elsewhere. The book offers a nuanced examination of West African history in the postabolition and colonial periods, including a critical look at the slave trade after 1807, the era of steamboat commerce, and the role of educated West African Krio across diverse transcolonial borders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its exploration of the Islamic presence in precolonial Sierra Leone is a departure from the hitherto restricted scholarly approach to the study of the encounter between Christianity and Islam in the region. Accessible enough to be used as a broad introduction to the history of a West African society for undergraduates, it is also innovative enough, theoretically and empirically, to be of value to scholars.

    eISBN: 978-0-8214-4478-8
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. MAPS
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Two centuries after its establishment as a haven for Africans freed from enslavement and captivity in the Americas and Europe and on slave ships, the myth of Sierra Leone as a colony of predominantly Christianized and Europeanized Africans has become an ingrained part of the postcolonial historical reconstruction of this West African country.¹ The eminent Sierra Leone historian Akintola Wyse, who argued for the use of the nomenclature Krio, instead of Creole, in reference to the descendants of the former slaves and captives, and who worked laboriously to establish their credentials as a distinct “ethnic group,” has been credited with...

  7. 1 Creolization and (Krio)lization in the Making of Nineteenth-Century Sierra Leone
    (pp. 25-60)

    Contrary to the early scholarly narratives, nineteenth-century Freetown and the colony of Sierra Leone harbored a heterogeneous and dynamically changing population. The colony and its emerging capital settlement were not only ethnically pluralistic, but they continuously absorbed different groups that brought along their own cultural influences. Of the more than one hundred linguistic “liberated” African groups that Sigismund Koelle noted in his Polyglotta Africana (1854), the various subgroups from Yorubaland would have the most cultural impact on the evolution of Krio society. These Yoruba subgroups may not have constituted the largest cultural group taken across the so-called Middle Passage during...

  8. 2 Islam, Christianity, and the State in Colonial Freetown
    (pp. 61-107)

    As in the old country in Yorubaland, Islam had successfully penetrated the Sierra Leone Peninsula long before the British founded a settlement for Africans freed from enslavement in Europe, and later for those recaptured from slave ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Notwithstanding the assumption by the founders that the first settlers on board the Nautilus who landed at the Sierra Leone Peninsula in May 1787 would be building a Christian city, a new “province of freedom,” envisaged to be an extension of European Christendom, the British were well aware that they would have to deal with the long-established Islamic faith...

  9. 3 Trade, Religion, and the Colonial State
    (pp. 108-131)

    The accommodation achieved between Muslims, Christians, and the colonial state by the mid-nineteenth century enabled Muslim Liberated Africans to participate more vigorously and creatively in the commercial life of the Sierra Leone Colony. The colonial administration recruited educated Muslims to develop a bridge with their religious community and to aid in the interactions between the colony and the peoples of the Sierra Leone hinterland. Muslim traders became crucial in expanding the Sierra Leone economy through their trade networks with the hinterland initiated in the eighteenth century, participation in local urban markets, and in Krio diaspora communities along the West African...

  10. 4 The Krio Diaspora in Nigeria
    (pp. 132-146)

    The greatest proportion of the Krio diaspora in West Africa could be found in the Bight of Benin and Niger Delta region of what is today Nigeria, the destination of choice of many of the freed Africans and their progeny, whose motivations transcended strictly commercial factors. From the 1820s onward, when the outward migration of Liberated Africans took off, many were motivated not only by a desire to expand their trade ventures for purposes of profit maximization, but also by a long and burning desire to reestablish contact with their natal communities. Those who eventually left the Sierra Leone Colony...

  11. 5 Piety and Praxis Religion in Daily Life
    (pp. 147-179)

    Even as they strived to establish their freedom to worship freely and participate extensively in the economic life of the Sierra Leone Colony and West Africa, the Muslim Krio were also engaged in the reconstitution of community life that balanced their religious and cultural heritages. The mosque became the spatial, spiritual, and political center of Muslim Krio life in the colony. Notwithstanding the centrality of Islam in the lives of the Muslim communities of Aberdeen, Fourah Bay, and Fula Town, Yoruba-derived and other African cultural practices, especially those relating to the rites of passage of birth, circumcision, marriage, and death,...

  12. 6 Education and Educational Reform within the Muslim Community
    (pp. 180-209)

    The Krio diaspora in the Atlantic communities of West Africa is largely reflective of the positive impact of Western education on developments in the post–slave trade social environment of Sierra Leone and, for that matter, in West Africa as a whole. It is a paradox that some of the people most identified with the development of Western education in the colonial environment of the subregion, such as Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden and Rev. James Johnson, were also among its most vociferous and ardent critics. These men were advocates for the promotion of Western education and at the same time...

  13. Postscript
    (pp. 210-216)

    By the end of the nineteenth century, Krio society, shaped by complex religious, social, and commercial forces, as explored in this book, was in full bloom. Just like their Christian counterparts, Muslim Krio in Sierra Leone asserted their cultural and social consciousness through religion, conflict, commerce, and education. Islam had been not only a shield for Muslims against the Christianizing efforts of the colonial state and missionaries, but also a source of internal strife within their communities. Commerce, on the other hand, provided a source of livelihood as well as new opportunities for the cross-cultural and transnational interactions that were...

  14. APPENDIX Imams of Communities of Fourah Bay, Fula Town, and Aberdeen (1833–1908)
    (pp. 217-218)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 219-244)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-256)
  17. Index
    (pp. 257-272)