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Anti-slavery movement, British, and the founding of Sierra Leone

Kenneth Wayne Ackerson


Europeans had visited the West African coast since the 1400s, and the area that became Sierra Leone was explored first by the Portuguese in the 1460s. Contact and settlement attempts were sporadic until after 1600, however. Not surprisingly, the earliest semi-permanent white settlements established in West Africa were slave-trading outposts, but a British botanist, Doctor Henry Smeathman, was the first to suggest a permanent settlement to combat, rather than foster, the slave trade. The plan Smeathman created was revolutionary in several ways. Not only would the colony be free from the slave trade, but free labor and not slave labor would provide the basis for agriculture. Perhaps even more revolutionary was the fact that both white and black settlers would live together in a free, democratic, and egalitarian arrangement. A group of poor but free blacks living in London, known as the Black Poor, were interested in Smeathman's scheme and so approached Granville Sharp (1735–1813), the noted humanitarian and abolitionist who had served as a patron for the group, for advice on the botanist's proposals. Sharp's input was crucial and influential in the development of Sierra Leone, first as a single settlement and later as a colony. The Clapham Sect, a reform group that included such abolitionist figures as William Wilberforce (1759–1833), Henry Thornton (1760–1815), and Zachary Macaulay ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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