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The Saro of West Africalocked

The Saro of West Africalocked

  • Femi J. KolapoFemi J. KolapoDepartment of History, University of Guelph


During the hundred-odd-year period from 1837 to 1944, liberated Africans with their children, mostly from the Nigerian area who were resettled in Sierra Leone, returned to Nigeria. They and their descendants in Nigeria were known as Saro. While most of them were of Yoruba origin, their population included Igbo, Nupe, Basa, Hausa, and Efik. They returned to Lagos, Abbeokuta, Ibadan, Calabar, Onitsha, Lokoja, and Port Harcourt, locations of political-economic or missionary significance during the period. Isolated individuals went as far as Ilorin, Bida, Kano, Sokoto, and Zaira. In many respects, they constituted the earliest social group who, by their distinctive black Atlantic experience of cultural and intellectual hybridity, mediated Nigeria’s engagement with and introduction to the modern and colonial capitalist demands of the era. As purveyors of new sociopolitical and cultural ideas that would come to underpin Nigeria, they were the forerunners of the nation. By their vision of a homeland that was inclusive of multiple ethnicities and that conceived of a single economy emanating from a network of production centers in the interior, they laid its earliest modern foundation. Their significant economic, social, cultural, religious, and political roles in the actions, interactions, and structures that eventually led to the creation of Nigeria justify the consideration of them as founders of the nation.


  • African Diaspora
  • Cultural History
  • Social History
  • West Africa

The Beginnings and Saro Characteristics

Beginning from 1838 and throughout the 19th century, a stream of liberated Africans resident in Sierra Leone, largely but not solely Yoruba speaking, began to return to Yorubaland and adjacent territories like Badagry, Lagos, and Abbeokuta, their natal homes. They were captives from Yorubaland and other parts of West Africa who were intercepted and liberated by the British antislavery squadrons while being illegally transferred to foreign slavery in Brazil and Cuba. Saro was a Yorubanized version of Sierra Leone that the Egba hosts of these emigrants applied to them.1 This migration into the Nigerian area continued into the early decades of the 20th century.

The Saro can therefore be characterized by a specific set of experiences: they were originally enslaved and deported from their Yoruba natal homes; inserted into the transatlantic slave-trading circuit and on their way into foreign slavery; had a Middle Passage experience; were liberated by British antislavery patrols at sea; landed at Sierra Leone; and together with other liberated Africans from different parts of West Africa, they began to form themselves into the creolized (Krio) citizens of Sierra Leone.2 Thus, the liberated Africans, a majority of whom were Yoruba speaking, were already building their lives in Sierra Leone since the previous thirty odd years. At the onset of the migration, the Saro returnees were therefore already two-generations deep, many returning with their Sierra Leone-born children who had not experienced the trauma of slavery, the Middle Passage, and the ordeal of being recaptured and processed as contraband at Sierra Leone. They were nevertheless also Saro together with their parents in sharing the Krio experience, especially their introduction to important elements of westernization and modernization, Christianity, and Western education. They were introduced to abolitionist ideology; the necessity of replacing the slave trade and slavery with international commerce in export produce; and the notion of developing a robust cash economy to facilitate the rise and popularization of wage labor. They had a general familiarity with and had learned how to accommodate to the requirements of the emergent capitalist world economy.3 Especially important to the Krio identity of the leading Saro elite was that many passed through the Christian mission schools and became Christian. Others were enlisted as apprentices to European settlers and officials or else enlisted in the colonial police or military force.

However, newly liberated Africans continued to land in Sierra Leone up until midcentury. This was largely a result of the ongoing military-political crisis among the Yoruba attendant on the collapse of their Oyo Empire at the turn of the 18th century and to comparable crises or revolutions elsewhere on and around the Niger and in the Niger Delta during this period. These crises continued to send captives into foreign slavery, some of whom fell into the fortunate hands of the British antislavery patrol and landed at Sierra Leone as recaptives.4 Hence, immigration into Yorubaland and other parts of what became Nigeria and West Africa continued throughout the period, and some returnees had not been longtime residents in Sierra Leone before joining the immigrant caravan.

As liberated Africans in Sierra Leone, they were the subject of British evangelical, missionary, humanitarian, and colonial social engineering efforts to induce them into imbibing Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization—essentially, socialization into subjects of the expanding new British imperium. Hence, they were socialized into British tastes, values, goods, and preferences, and the abolitionist and missionary movements thought that they would be fitting agents to help stop slavery and the slave trade as well as promote produce commerce among their peoples. To varying degrees, many Saro immigrants had thus been introduced to Western education, some at a rudimentary but a few at a secondary and post-secondary level. As well, quite a few immigrants had converted to and become promoters of Christianity and Christian European values.

Saro as an Analytical Category

The literature on Saro in Badagry, Lagos, and Abbeokuta in the mid to late 19th century indicates the overwhelming preponderance of the Yoruba in the returnee movement.5 Many Egba returnees made their way to the new Egba capital city of Abbeokuta, numbering no less than two thousand by 1846. Others proceeded further to Ibadan, Ijaye, Iseyin, Ilesha, and Ijebu and to “towns and little villages as far away as Ede, Iragbiji and Ilorin” and elsewhere in Nigeria.6

However, many of the returnees, who included Hausa, Nupe, Shabe, Eki, Bassa, and Igala ethnicities, for various reasons settled in Lagos and Badagry because their original towns had been destroyed, war was still ongoing in their home areas, or they were unable to locate relatives. The opportunity to participate in international commerce in these port cities was also a lure. Kinless in Lagos, they formed a distinct community in a separate quarter of the city and became the quintessential Saro, numbering up to five thousand by the 1860s.7 However, in the service of their overseas import and export business, they created and maintained links with a network of markets and palm oil production zones in the hinterland.8

Thus, Saro as an Egba description of their returnee children from Sierra Leone transcended the local reference to only those who returned to Abbeokuta. Saro came to describe the movement of Yoruba-dominated immigrants from Sierra Leone back to domicile in their ancestral homelands in Yorubaland and elsewhere on the Niger, in the Niger Delta, and at Calabar. Saro reimmigration from Lagos and Abbeokuta to other parts of Nigeria was also important, and in the 20th-century context of their employment in the colonial administration, they joined non-Saro immigrants from Sierra Leone to create tertiary Saro immigrant communities in Port Harcourt, Enugu, and Calabar. This derived flow structurally constituted a continuation of the Saro population movement into the Nigeria area—in this case beyond Yorubaland—but is conceptually different from the 19th-century movement.

As a socio-demographic category, Saro has an analytical capacity that allows the 19th- and early 20th-century migration from Sierra Leone to be seen as a single stream but with changing dynamics over the period in question: from returnees who sought to return to their hometowns, to those who returned to settle in what was only generically a previous or ancestral home area due to a lack of kin connection, to expatriates who were not returnees and whose intentions were not to relinquish their citizenship in Sierra Leone. The latter migrated to Nigeria and other parts of West Africa besides Yorubaland in order to seize employment opportunities provided by the expanding interests of Europeans (e.g., missionaries, commerce, consulates, transportation, and policing). They expected to monopolize these opportunities thanks to the head start they had in the education, skills, and professional qualifications they received as Sierra Leoneans.

A Subset of the Black Atlantic Diaspora

Though it was the most significant emigration of liberated Africans out of Sierra Leone in the 19th century, the Saro movement to the Bight of Benin and Yorubaland was not the first and only such movement. From 1808 until late into the colonial period, recaptives as well as non-recaptive Krio citizens of Sierra Leone had been part of a diaspora of educated, skilled people as civil servants, soldiers, settlers, merchants, teachers, and missionaries across West Africa’s coastal zone. During the early colonial period, the colonial Sierra Leone government instigated a migration of liberated Africans of different ethnicities to The Gambia to populate Bathurst and thereby eliminate its vulnerability to French colonial expansionist challenge.9 Mac Dixon-Fyle notes that an “emigre band of Krio . . . fanned out of Freetown over the years, [as further afield as] into the Congo and Southern Africa.”10 The Saro was therefore a distinctive element, a subset of this dispersion of Sierra Leoneans in the 19th century.

The other important groups of liberated African immigrants in the Nigerian area, usually referenced together in one breath with the Saro, were the Aguda and the Amaro. They had a somewhat analogous economic and professional skill set and comparable enslavement and emancipation history as the Saro.11 These were returnees, respectively, from Brazil and Cuba, and in Badagry and Lagos, like the Saro, they inhabited separate quarters of the cities.12 These three emigrant groups, as socio-demographic categories, explicate the concept of the returnee ex-slaves, coming back to their ancestral pre-enslavement homes with a set of skills, values, and ethos that were Western and were derived from the emerging capitalist world system. They came to fulfill similar social, economic, and, to varying degrees, political roles in the West Africa of the early 19th to early 20th centuries. However, the Aguda and the Amaro were distinct from the Saro in that the former groups lacked the distinguishing characteristics specific to the Saro’s Sierra Leonean experience. These included their relationship with British philanthropic-evangelical Sierra Leone-based antislavery enterprises, a missionary education, and the inculturation of their educated elite into aspects of British mid-19th-century Victorian sociality. Unlike the Saro, the Aguda and Amaro were not (in)formally prepared as putative agents to promote Britain’s philanthropic, commercial, religious, and colonial interests in West Africa. Cuba, Brazil, and Portugal were not abolitionist states like Britain, nor did they have world hegemonic capabilities with which they could associate the Amaro and Aguda returnees, many of whom were punitively deported from Brazil back to West Africa. The Amaro and Aguda returnees were also overwhelmingly Catholic and Muslim, unlike the Saro from Sierra Leone whose educated elite, their most impactive segment, bore the British stamp of Protestantism, missionary patronage, and colonial support. Nonetheless, the Aguda and Amaro were also purveyors of new skills, and they too provided their hosts with links to diplomatic, military, and commercial resources from Brazil, though of much less import compared to the Sierra Leoneans. Thus, though not originating from Sierra Leone, they were nonetheless freed slaves returning to their natal homes—not necessarily to their specific erstwhile society, but to their generic Nigerian or West African society—during the era of abolition and bringing along new modern ideas, skill sets, and influence.13 This explains why scholars of 19th-century Lagos, Badagry, and Yoruba history often classify them together with the Saro.

Stimuli to Migration from Sierra Leone

An important stimulus for Aku recaptives, as Yoruba speakers were known in Sierra Leone, streaming back to their ancestral homes was economic in nature. For the poorer and noneducated sections of the recaptives living in various parish villages of Sierra Leone, land productivity and agricultural output were low and village life and rural agriculture failed to meet their economic ambitions and social-economic expectations. Attempts at food crop agriculture and plantation farming of export crops like coffee, cotton, and tobacco failed. Also, access to land deteriorated as the recaptive population increased. These were all the factors that drew them, and especially their children, out of the villages and into the pursuit of alternative economic opportunities. Freetown provided some of these opportunities. Increasingly, however, many took to trading, hawking, and shop keeping within and beyond the colony and eventually decided to relocate to their ancestral homelands.14 A few very successful Yoruba merchants pooled their resources and purchased condemned slave ships. After they began trading as far south as Badagry and, eventually, the Niger Delta, they became heralds of this homebound movement. They provided transportation to other small-scale traders and would-be migrants, and together were the first Sierra Leoneans of Yoruba, Hausa, and Nupe ancestry to meet their relatives in Badagry, establish links, and for the Egba, send and receive messages from their Egba homeland. Thus, economic conditions interlinked with the desire to re-establish links with relatives and to return home. Favorable reports brought back to Sierra Leone by these traders of Sierra Leoneans being reunited with relatives and of enthusiastic welcomes they received encouraged other would-be migrants. Crowther in 1841 reported:

From two years back, the Yoruba of the Egba dialect have been very desirous of returning to their country. Several of them have taken passage in merchant vessels, others have bought a vessel of their own, trading along the coast, particularly at the Lagos and Badagry, where many of the Egba people met each other again; some found their children, others their brothers and sisters, by whom they were entreated not to return to Sierra Leone. One of the traders has brought over to Sierra Leone two of his grand children from Badagry to receive instruction. Several of them have gone into the interior altogether. Others in this colony have messages sent to them by their parents and relations whom the traders met at Badagry.15

Those merchants provided transportation to others who in 1839 returned homeward to seek lost relatives, re-establish connections with kin, and establish an economic niche that they thought was not available to them in Sierra Leone.16

The earliest batches of Saro emigrants on arrival to Badagry, Abbeokuta, and Lagos importuned the Sierra Leone government and missionaries to send them missionary agents and teachers and to otherwise extend their influence to their homelands. This further precipitated Saro migration, as most of the rank and file missionaries sent along were themselves Saro. Their establishment in Badagry and among the Egba reinforced the attraction of the homeland to many more liberated Africans in Sierra Leone.17

Given the scarcity of women in Sierra Leone, some of the men may also have been motivated to return home as much to seek out and connect with relatives as to seek wives and start families. All these people, besides the better documented highly educated elite, brought back home their skills and modern era professions such as masons, carpenters, barbers, tailors, bakers, and small-scale traders.18

Another major stimulant to Saro migration was the 1841 escalation in Britain’s abolitionist effort to tackle illegal slave export. The preparation of the Niger expedition that was associated with this effort, as well as its return, received tremendous publicity in Sierra Leone where churches and parishes organized prayer meetings and liberated Africans took up offerings in support of volunteers ready to take the Gospel back to their communities on the banks of the Niger.19 In the lead-up to the expedition, Samuel Crowther reported how much hope the idea generated in the people for peace in their countries and the possibility of their return there:

The interest which is excited among the liberated Africans in the Colony at the Niger Expedition is very great. . . . It appears from what is heard from the people, that should the Expedition succeed and the missionaries be sent out into the interior, Sierra Leone will be deprived of many of its inhabitants, especially those of the Bournou, Haussa, Nupeh and Yorriba nations.20

This 1841 British government-sponsored expedition was mandated to proceed into the hinterland of West Africa to sign anti-slave trade and produce trade treaties with local authorities. The Christian missions in Sierra Leone were represented on this expedition and several liberated Africans—clergy, tradesmen, teachers, agricultural experts, and others, among who was the renowned Samuel Adjai Crowther—were included in the passenger and missionary agent list. The idea of the British government extending its influence into the interior of West Africa and engaging with African rulers and societies to partner with them in its abolitionist effort and promotion of peaceful produce trade generated hope and enthusiasm for Saro emigration. It merged with the desire for peace and the expectations that were being openly expressed that warring parties within the Yoruba hinterland were awaiting intervention of a disinterested foreign party to return the whole country to calm, peace, and order. This was reinforced by rumors that the Egba, having reconstituted themselves into a powerful state, had a military contingent deployed to Lagos to ensure the redemption of all Egba slaves at that port and prevent them from being sent into overseas slavery. A report noted:

It is affirmed by the newly liberated Africans, that the Egba people have collected themselves in or near Joko, now generally known by the name of Abbeh Okuta (under the rock) well armed, and have placed guards at Lagos on purpose to redeem all those of their dialect who are to be sold to the European slave dealers; and if we may rely on that statement, we may very easily account for the absence of those of their dialect when several Yorubas are brought here, which before, was a very rare occurrence that there was not one of the Egba people among them in so many captured vessels coming from that quarters.21

Because in years before 1839 no Egba were reported among the newly liberated slaves landed at Sierra Leone, Crowther felt that the information regarding the Egba redeeming their enslaved kin was credible. This seeming reduction in Egba enslavement was clearly because the Egba under Shodeke had consolidated themselves into a new military-political force not only able to protect their own citizens, but that had begun to flex their own hegemonic muscle and were carving out a zone to secure safe trading passage to the Badagry port. These developments signaled great hopes among the liberated Africans of Nigerian origin in Sierra Leone. It instigated positive thoughts and plans and a desire to participate in the great development that was thought to be imminent in returning their country back to peace. Crowther reported:

It is the opinion of many of the liberated Africans, that the [Niger] Expedition could not have taken a better step towards establishing peace and encouraging trade and agriculture in Yorriba than by getting first among the Haussas and Felatahs. They are almost sure that, as soon as the Expedition succeeds with these, that it will be no matter of difficulty whatever with the Yorribas, considering their character as given by Mr. Landers as harmless, timid, and much inclined to trade.22

The announcement and preparations for the expedition kindled the abolitionist and reformist ethos that many of the educated among the Saro had imbibed in Sierra Leone. This gave many of them a cause to subscribe to and enlist as immigrant professionals with succeeding expeditions and with the eventual Church Mission Society (CMS) and Wesleyan Missionary expansion program along the basin of the Niger and Oil Rivers. When the 1854 Niger expedition, led by W. B. Baikie, set out for the rivers Niger and Benue, representatives of communities deriving from the banks of the Niger accompanied it to scout out the possibilities of members of their ethnicities in Sierra Leone returning home. Samuel Crowther, a member of the expedition, reported a “W. Reader, of the Owe tribe of Kakanda, who was brought by Dr. Baikie to see the state of the country, and report to his countrymen at his return.”23 He also mentioned Nupe, Bassa, and Kakanda members of the expedition who came as scouts for their fellow liberated Africans.24 Thus the Niger expeditions and the consequent immigration of the Saro to different parts of Nigeria began to reinforce each other, giving “new impetus to the spontaneous movement of the Liberated Africans there seeking to return home.”25 As late as 1857, a Saro returnee to the Niger in the role of a catechist with the CMS reflected this impetus and continuing enthusiasm for migration:

since the Niger Expedition returned [in] 1854 my heart [was] still looking forward that I might become a teacher to my benighted countrymen. . . . During all this time my heart [was] still setting upon the Bank of the Niger—until last August 1857 on the Monday 23rd after class is over I went to farm. . . . [I] said to myself in what way I will do before I shall [i.e., how would I be able to] go up the Niger and preach the gospel to my country people in my own language[.] on the same Evening after I returned from farm . . . my wife told me that . . . [Revd] Mr. Nicol want you at Kissy [in Sierra Leone]. . . . When the Rev. George Nicol saw me in the same morning he was very glad . . . he told me that I must go home and get ready for the Niger Mission—on the ten of September, I was admitted in a day School at Wellington that I might be useful on the Bank of the Niger.26

Their education and ideological and religious dispositions inclined many to consider themselves potential reformers and to conceive of the slogan “Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization” in developmental and nationalist terms. They hoped to take a social, economic, religious, and technological transformation back to their natal communities; hoping that by their influence and connection with missionaries and the British government, they would be able to contribute to stopping ongoing warfare and slavery in their homeland.27

Missionary organizations, abolitionists, and colonial administration in Sierra Leone had medium-term plans of training liberated Africans as missionaries, schoolmasters, and as helpers and eventual replacements for Europeans in their grand plan of introducing Christianity and civilization to the rest of Africa. The rising population of elite Africans also felt qualified and advertised their capability to lead the modernization project for their own people.28 They argued that they were in a better situation than were European missionaries and administrators to take Western education, technical improvement, and peace, their own conceptualization of Christianity and civilization, to their African homelands.29 The high mortality of Europeans in West Africa also reinforced this understanding that educated Africans would be the chief means of implementing these plans.30 However, the onset of Saro migration out of Sierra Leone in 1839 was wholly at the instance of the liberated Africans. It caught the Sierra Leonean colonial government and the European missionaries by surprise, both initially being very reluctant to support it.

Pre-Migration Sierra Leone Context

The goals and purposes the Saro set for themselves and much of their accomplishments on arrival to Yorubaland followed from their preconditioning in Sierra Leone as liberated Africans, initially wards of the British colonial administration and the Anglican and Methodist missionaries and, eventually, as independent residents.

Sierra Leone’s British Court of Vice-Admiralty landed the first set of sixty recaptives in Sierra Leone on November 10, 1808, to be followed by many others in subsequent years.31 By 1826, Sierra Leone’s recaptive population had risen to 21,354, and by the 1860s to over fifty thousand. With government and Christian mission assistance, these recaptives began to establish themselves into a “coherent, self-reliant community” first, in periurban settlements on the fringe of Freetown called Portuguese Town, Congo Town, and Soldier Town.32 Beyond Freetown, they established themselves in several government and mission-supported parish villages; Leicester, the oldest, in 1809; Wilberforce, Regent, Gloucester; Kissy, and Leopold in 1817; Bathurst and Charlotte in 1818; Kent, York, Wellington, Hastings, the Isles de Los, and Waterloo in 1819, and the Bananas in 1820.33

Since British abolition laws considered Africans taken from illegal slavers as contraband, legally recaptured booty (termed “captured negro”), the imperial British government and the Liberated African Department (LAD) basically treated the liberated Africans as their property to dispose of as they wished, including subjecting them to a “social engineering project to reshape their lives.”34 The various official means to this effect included “the King’s Yard, rural villages and CMS superintendents, parishes, churches, schools, and the courts.”35 On disembarkation, the recaptives were received into the Yard administered by the LAD where they were processed and initiated into the British civilization; a “package of British folkways . . . taking wages, wearing European clothes, owning land, attending church.”36 Some of them were drafted into military service; others were enlisted into the police constabulary force; some were apprenticed to settlers or to merchants; and others were used to provide all manner of labor in various colonial departments. The majority, though, were sent into the parish villages for the purpose of “civilization.”37 Treated as prime material for cultural experimentation, the colonial government, with the help of the missionaries, took it upon themselves to “create a culture for them” since, being a mix-multitudes of different West African ethnicities who spoke no English and were not Christians, they thereby lacked civilization and culture.38 At the heart of each parish village was the church and a school, with a clergyman initially also in charge politically, while the schoolmaster took care of the school.39 “By 1822, nearly 8,000 people lived in the [parish] villages, compared with about 5,600 in Freetown itself . . . each . . . managed by a missionary superintendent, recruited by the CMS.”40 The missionaries served as “administrators as well as preachers, organizing agriculture, operating schools, and maintaining village registers.”41

However, different colonial administrators of Sierra Leone stressed or dropped different policy elements in the socialization and administration of the liberated Africans. An administrator ruefully observed:

Mr. Ludlam pursued the system of apprenticing them. Mr. Thompson set that aside, and turned them loose in the Colony, without any superintendence than its general police. Captain Columbine employed them on the Public Works or apprenticed them. Colonel Maxwell, [after enlisting some into military and naval services] apprenticed a part of the remainder, and then commenced forming villages with those who could not be disposed of. Sir Charles McCarthy gave up apprenticing [and inducted them into the aforementioned parish villages, emphasizing vocational/schools for recaptive youths and children] . . . General Turner dissolved in a great measure the schools and institutions for mechanics, and threw the people more on their own resources, but did not afford, indeed he did not possess, the means of duly superintending their settlement and progress, or of directing their energies.42

This allowed the liberated Africans to exert agency that fostered the retention and propagation of their indigenous cultures and traditions.43 The autonomy that the recaptives enjoyed soon enabled them to develop ethnically homogeneous settlements and village sections (e.g., Aku Town, Egba Town, or Ibo Town), many featuring esoteric societies and other features of traditional culture.44 As Cole notes:

Items of material culture, including carved wooden replicas of animals, faces of human beings, bata (drums), and cloth costumes (such as handwoven “Oku lappa” fabrics), were used in the Liberated African communities where the transplanted Yoruba and their progeny soon replicated various types of traditional organizations into which they had been initiated in the old country.45

The Aku–Yoruba speakers went further and designated a king over themselves. Such developments led to the “consolidation and retention of the traditional ways of the homeland which were to counterbalance the Western cultural and religious influences on the liberated Africans returning to Lagos and its hinterland.”46 Thus, the Saro emigrants to Lagos, Badagry, and elsewhere in Nigeria had participated in the great sociocultural “salad bowl” and “melting pots” phenomenon ongoing in Freetown and in the parish villages of Sierra Leone before they returned home and were thus witnesses of an “unprecedented era of hybridity and mixing of forms of material culture.”47

Pioneer Beneficiaries of Western Education

A major legacy of the Saro’s Sierra Leone experience was their acquisition of Western education and their introduction to Western skills, professions, and values. The school system was a major means adopted for the colonial civilization of the liberated Africans, and much effort was put into it by the Christian missions and the colonial government. On being landed, child recaptives were put into King’s schools at government expense.48 The village parish school and church system popularized elementary education among recaptives and their children. In 1845 and 1849, the Christian Mission Society (CMS) opened secondary schools for boys and girls, respectively. In 1876, the teacher training institute at Fourah Bay attained a university college status when it was affiliated with Durham University. In 1860, Sierra Leone was reported to have a higher percentage of children in school than England.49 Consequently, many of the Saro and their children were well-educated and qualified professionals on arrival to Lagos, Abbeokuta, Ibadan, Calabar, and other places. The Aku–Yoruba group likely preponderated in school enrollment as it became evident in levels of education attained and in the consequent roles that their qualifications allowed them to fill in Sierra Leone. They carried this attribute with them to Lagos and Abeokuta. E. W. Blyden observed in 1910 that the

. . . civilized portion of the people of Sierra Leone-the “educated” natives—the rank and file of them are all of the Aku tribe, hailing in their ancestry from the Yoruba country. They are the children of the Recaptives . . . all the leaders in Church and State, in society in all the merely ornamental positions are Akus. All the priests or parsons in all the churches, Anglican, Wesleyan, Free Church, etc. are Akus. All the Native Bishops that are or have been, from Bishop Crowther down, have been Akus. The present Canons, Archdeacons and other Church dignitaries are Akus, both here and at Lagos. . . . All the unofficial members of the Legislative Council are Akus, all the members of the Municipal Council are Akus—all the lawyers etc. are all the same tribe. . . .50

Even after the Saro and their children had migrated to Nigeria, the schools in Sierra Leone continued to be a major factor that sustained the diasporic link between the two places.51

Local Context of Saro Reinsertion into Their Home Communities

As important as the pre-migration Sierra Leonean context was to the social-economic and military or technical capacities that the Saro brought with them, the local politically turbulent context was equally significant in creating openings and roles for them to fill. Among the Yoruba, and on the Niger among the Igala and Nupe beyond the Delta, the circumstances of 19th-century warfare, which had led to their enslavement and deportation in the first place, created significant ongoing mobility, dispersion, population displacement, and geopolitical relocations. These were accompanied by the upsetting of traditional elite structures and jostling among their factions and followers. Abolition and legitimate commerce were also creating new sociopolitical dynamics involving jostling for control over the export produce trade and the distribution of the new wealth it was producing. In the Delta and at Bonny and Aboh, studies show that changes there were creating a multitude of local traders and that a process had set in that opened more general participation in what used to be confined to the compass of the elite—monarchy, the ruling lineage, and leaders.52

The vicissitudes of war or its threat had necessitated these societies to embark on reconstruction and on new demographic, spatial, political, and sociocultural remaking. They were therefore open to innovations and changes and were the most enthusiastic in welcoming missionaries, foreign trade, European imports, and liberated African returnees. The onset of the Saro phenomenon was thus equally predicated on these facilitative pre-existing historical conditions in the host societies, which were “born out of upheaval, [and] attuned to welcome new and revolutionary ideas, [and that] offered every opportunity for agents of civilization to participate in the work of reconstruction.”53

Hence, the Saro returned to Badagry, Lagos, Abbeokuta, Ibadan, and elsewhere where social and political systems and economic structures were undergoing wrenching changes and were consequently open to new structural and ideational experimentation. For the Yoruba, it was noted that the

upheaval . . . weaken the traditional social, political and religious ideas and institutions. The new towns and states were experimenting with new forms of government and military organizations. Turbulent characters were challenging tradition in various ways. Confidence in the old gods was shaken at many points.54

A discourse of foreign intervention to bring peace to the war-torn situation was afloat and was receiving positive press among ordinary people. Consequently, there was a desire and an expectation for change in the air, and the Saro migrants, with their superior skills, technical ability, foreign reach, commercial acumen, and cross-continental diplomatic and commercial network, were received as heralds of all the positive ideas and opportunities under contemplation.55

At Badagry, Lagos, Abbeokuta, and Port Harcourt, the elite Saro thus included those who had become lawyers, clergy, missionaries, medical professionals, civil servants, merchant mariners, skilled professionals in sewing and in the construction of housing, and others were prosperous merchants with a deep knowledge of the local and international commercial world. Many had “converted to Christianity, took European names, and received some education from expatriate missionaries.”56 Many more did not convert but were no less westernized in their outlook. They made available to the West African communities to which they returned these social and economic capital resources.57 Like Freetown, Lagos in the 1850s and beyond spotted significant features of the Victorian visage and usage that were contributed in large measure by the immigrant Saro educated and professional elite.58

Saro Agency in Socioeconomic Transformation

With the advantage of their education and skills training in Sierra Leone, many of the elite Saro possessed funds, qualifications, and professions that, on arrival to Lagos, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Lokoja, and Abbeokuta, allowed them to effectively participate in colonial and consular administration as junior staffers, in Church Mission Society (CMS), Wesleyan, and Baptist missionary religious expansion as catechists, schoolmasters, visitors, and clergy, and in the commercial revolution of legitimate commerce, the new transportation revolution of the steamship, and in the accumulation of wealth from local and international goods and produce trade as independent merchants.59 Martin Lynn’s study contains a good list of “who’s who” of wealthy Saro merchants in Lagos, the Oil Rivers, Onitsha, Badagry, and Calabar, including those who had agents and factories of their own along the coast or in the hinterland, those who owned and ran steam launches, and those who, by the 1860s and 1870s, were bypassing Europeans to ship produce directly to London.60 All this activity set them apart as an elite who quickly assumed local leadership positions in the political, cultural, and commercial affairs of their host societies. Both European merchants and the consular administration on the coast and Saro’s host local West African leadership very early on looked to the Saro and directly and indirectly employed them as intermediaries, interpreters, and facilitators between their two societies in the areas of commerce, politics, and ideology. Africans relied on them for secretarial services, diplomatic advice, and fail-safe contact to facilitate access to strategic (i.e., military resources), exotic, and mass-produced articles of British industry. Their advice and interests in the complicated politics of mid- to late-19th-century Yorubaland carried great weight. A British official on the coast noted that the Saro who were in the hinterland were able to “so readily induce the people in the interior to believe that we wish to extend our territory.”61 The European missionaries, traders, administrators, and imperialists also found them indispensable as agents for the expansion and extension of their respective vocational (religious), commercial, and political interests into the interior of Nigeria.

At Lagos, the Saro played a significant role in the expansion of the export palm oil trade. Some of them already acquired valuable commercial experience in Sierra Leone and quite a few brought with them significant amounts of capital that they had accumulated to Lagos, where they participated in the modern development of that port into a prime commercial hub and eventually the capital city of the region.62 Walter Lewis and J. P. L. Davies and his brother, educated at the CMS Grammar School in Freetown and apprenticed on board a Royal Navy vessel, were among several who bought condemned slave ships with which they plied the trading routes between Freetown and the Niger Delta.63 Davis relocated permanently to Lagos in 1862, where he shipped goods directly to England, receiving consignments of European manufactures in turn.

The Saro took for granted that the British government must give them protection as Sierra Leoneans, and indeed, the colonial government gave some of them passports as British subjects when they left for Badagry, Abbeokuta, and Lagos. But also, the British antislavery laws included clauses that “specified that liberated slaves were ‘subjects of the Queen of England’ and should be considered ‘inviolate’.”64 However, when British consular interference rubbed against their commercial interests, they challenged it and gave the patriotic nod to their local West African political communities.65 The sentiments of the British officials were that they were providing consular protection to the Sierra Leoneans, which was the reason why the Saro in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Lokoja, and elsewhere were expected to abide by British laws and to support British interests. W. B. Baikie reported, though with sarcasm, that “phrases of Liberty [were] constantly in their mouths” even when some of them still bought and used slaves as domestics.66

From the mid-1840s, Efik freed slaves and recaptives of other ethnicities in the eastern Niger Delta area began to trickle into the Calabar area, with the largest and most significant cohort arriving in 1854.67 In 1856, a missionary reported a dozen Saro families in Duke Town; in 1859, sixteen Sierra Leone men were listed as having joined the Presbyterian Church, while the remaining unnumbered others were said to be with either the Methodists or the Anglicans.68 The Saro were found in the Oil Rivers, Cameroons, Fernando Po, Opobo, and at Warri where they not only began to participate vigorously in the trade bulking and gathering of produce to sell to the Europeans, but also, as in Lagos, a few began directly exporting produce to England, to the alarm of outcompeted European traders. Their education, knowledge, and use of resources of steamship, credit, and local client networks made them into formidable competitors against the newer set of British traders. The most prominent of them was a very prosperous produce merchant, Peter Nicholl, an Efik-liberated African from Sierra Leone.

The Saro were able to operate within narrow profit margins that were unsustainable for British merchants. In the Oil Rivers by the late 1850s, they were reported by Consul Hutchinson to be “assisting the native traders to ship oil for England in the mail steamer, although this oil had been bought and paid for from the cargoes of vessels then in the river.”69 They continued this effort with varying degrees of success up until the 1880s. At Calabar, T. J. Hutchinson, the consul, sought to curb their competitive edge by instituting a policy requiring any person who wished to be “recognized as a legitimate trader” to pay “twenty thousand coppers per annum for the privileges of purchasing and shipping oil, and that persons who may attempt trading without paying such comey shall be liable to have their oil seized . . . .”70 The subterfuge he employed was the claim of protecting the trading interest of the local chiefs from Saro control when, in fact, it was European traders’ monopoly that he favored.71

As a category of practice, the Saro phenomenon constituted the rise of a new social class, an elite group whose formation was partly planned and executed. In this view, they were a means by which British cultural and humanitarian influence as well as commercial hegemony could be established and sustained in interior West Africa beyond the coastal seaboard. This elite thus became the early partners with the missionaries and the British government in introducing and mediating “Christianity, civilization, and commerce” to their fellow Africans.72 They were agents in the development of the West African side of the so-called New International Economic Order of the mid-19th-century Atlantic world.

Immediately below the European leadership of the missions and government programs, either while yet in Sierra Leone or after they moved to Lagos and eventually to other cities of early colonial Nigeria, the Saro staffed all the institutions that instrumentalized those ideals and goals. The Anglophilia of many of them has been noted in the literature. Indeed, the educated and rich Saro of Lagos were said, probably unfairly, to be culturally closer to the Europeans than to either of their immigrant neighbors, the Aguda and Amaro, living “like Victorian Gentlemen . . . Christmas was a season of Victorian festivities. . . . Their dressing and eating habits were predictably Victorian.”73

However, the Saro were not a monolithic social group. They were divided by status and aspiration and, to some extent, especially during the Yoruba wars, by ethnic affiliation. While the elite, through their status, qualifications, and employment, left huge literary or documentary footprints to which scholars have had relatively easy access, a large majority of the returnees belonged to the lower classes, some with rudimentary or no education at all. These people left little or no documentary footprint and not much has been written about them. But clearly, Saro had cleavages as a social group and the various interests of sections of them diverged. An earlier disapproving report by Governor Doherty of Sierra Leone about the Saro migrants was of “restless, poor people leaving the colony because they could not get jobs.”74 A subsequent report, however, characterized them as prosperous merchants who wished “to carry back among their countrymen the arts and improvements of Europe which they had acquired here [in Sierra Leone], with the fortunes which had been amassed.”75 The earliest group to visit Badagry called for British extension of military-political influence to pacify the place and enhance their commercial enterprise.76 Those who settled in Lagos and began to participate and prosper in the middleman trade of the expanding palm oil export economy were happy to support the British annexation of Lagos in 1861, since they judged it to be conducive to their economic interest and to be thus facilitative of the “civilization” that they championed.77 However, when European commercial interests, which controlled much of early consular and colonial administration over Lagos and the Niger Delta, began to challenge and constrain their independent roles and success, the local trading portion of the Saro began to oppose British interference at Abbeokuta and in Lagos.

At Abeokuta, the commercial and political interests of the Saro clashed with the interests of the British consular and trading expatriate groups. This antipathy, with the guidance and leadership of an influential section of the Saro elite in Abeokuta, was to produce early anti-British nationalist sentiments in what became Nigeria. Voicing his frustration in 1864, Consul Freeman complained about antagonistic Saro activities, and this antagonism eventually saw Europeans, missionary and secular, chased out of the Egba capital three years later. Freeman lamented, “after owing their education and every farthing they possess to British philanthropy, [they] return to their native country and then systematically endeavour to undermine British influence and to turn the natives against us.”78

When the administration and the church both denied them further advancement toward self-government, they became embittered and proud African nationalists seeking a return to traditional culture and government.79 Their reactions to racism and discrimination thus saw them reinventing and revitalizing local culture and traditions as an identity bulwark. They led the local Christian movement that rejected continuing European overrule of the church, breaking out into the Ethiopian church movement, with the formation of African churches—a movement that blossomed thereafter into the colonial period and served as a cultural-intellectual foundation for the later anticolonial nationalist movement.80 “They preached against the wholesale adoption of Western cultural mores and were, therefore, the first generation of cultural nationalists or neo-traditional nationalists.”81 They produced the “first reformers and a number of effective anti-colonial publicists who contributed measurably to the seedbed of Nigerian nationalism.”82 As proprietors, publicists, and intellectuals, they birthed the Nigerian press (Lagos Times, The Echo, Lagos Observer), a legacy equally of their Sierra Leone experience.83

Reports indicated that many lower-class Saro integrated back into Egba society largely as farmers or small-scale petty traders and, in Lagos, as hawkers of European goods and retail buyers of African produce.84 Not much is known about these groups of non-elite Saro with little education except in missionary documents that indirectly highlight their presence when those of them who had a previous association with Christianity were said to be returning to their traditional ways or were becoming influential as Muslims. This section of the Yoruba Saro, including especially lower-class segments, was probably significant in compartmentalizing and divorcing westernization and education, in which they chose to participate, from Christianity, which they rejected in favor of local customs.85 They thereby helped to establish legitimacy or at least tolerance for local culture and tradition among educated Christians. Thus, within the first decade of their immigration, some, including elites, were said to have reverted to “plural marriages, slaveholding, and membership in associations such as Ogboni and Parakoyi—with all the ritual obligations and pressures to cultural conformity that that entailed [because they found the reversion] useful for their trading interests.”86 In 1861, the highly respected “John King, Gollmer’s schoolmaster at Ikija, whom he regarded as a future leader of the Church, joined the Ogboni.”87 Many others who had no attachment to the mission decided to marry their Western education and Christian profession and knowledge with local culture and, as noted by John D. Y Peel, they continued to be “regular at church . . . [were] punctual in sabbath observances and some in family devotion” and they were “attentive at church sermons.”88 Such was Joseph Marsh, who continued to say his prayers and associate with the church though he became head of the Egungun cult.89 It is not surprising that the Saro were prominent in the rise of the Ethiopian church movement. This section of the Yoruba Saro took the critical step to validate some pivotal cultural-political practices of the people by assimilating them into their modern practices. They thus refused to look upon the new and the old cultural practices as mutually exclusive of each other.90

Active Agents in Political Reform Efforts

Beyond the critical role they played in expanding produce trade in the mid-1850s, the Saro also left a major mark in the political modernization effort they directed toward their traditional governments in the decades before colonial partition. Two such famous developments are on record; the first, popular in the literature among the Egba in Abbeokuta, and the other, largely unknown, at Lokoja on the Niger, were directed at reforming Nupe provincial administration there.

The context for their reform experiment at Abbeokuta was that Egba in general and Abbeokuta as a capital city in the late 1850s and early 1860s were weathering an ongoing internal political crisis at a time when they were under military threat on all sides. During their displacement from their original homes in the aftermath of the collapse of the Oyo Empire, and as they regrouped and began to reconstruct a new single, strong, and viable state, with Abbeokuta as its single capital, their governing political institution consisted of a conglomeration of bickering and competing military and civil leaders drawn from previously independent chiefdoms. They found it difficult to consolidate a united government. Compounding the divisions was the significant influence of European Christian missionaries and the educated and ambitious Saro immigrants. Conflict with Ibadan, the Egbado, Dahomey, and difficulties with the Lagos colony impeded trade and threatened hope for the reconstruction of a peaceful and prosperous state.91 Key Saro prospective modernizers stepped in to reform the government by developing elements of bureaucracy to rationalize the traditional government and to restructure it. One of the most impactful among those who championed this development was G. W. “Reversible” Johnson, who had come to Lagos in 1863 and to Abeokuta in 1865.92 As Olufemi Taiwo noted, the “reformers did not seek to do away with the indigenous political structures; rather, they desired to move the structures along to have them absorb the best of the new and become suited to the conditions of modern administration.”93 They created the United Egba Board of Management (EUBM), composed of Saro traders clerks with the support of the military wing of the jealous and competing Egba leadership. The EUBM would for the first time effectuate a

central executive so sorely needed . . . [to enable] the single voice that experience had shown was necessary to deal with the administration at Lagos . . . [and to provide] the Saros a forum in the political life of the town dominated by traditionalist.94

The latter included the parakoyi, the traditional guild of traders that had placed obstacles in the path of the Saro’s expanding commercial interest with Lagos and elsewhere.95 The result was summed up by J. Horton, a keen observer of political developments in Africa during the period, who reported of Abbeokuta that the:

native government is now undergoing a very decided change for the better. . . modelled according to civilized constitutions . . . [I]n Abeokuta, liberated slaves (and their descendants) [i.e., Saro] of the country, who had been instructed and educated at school at Sierra Leone, had returned and made it their permanent abode and rendered the existing native government great service . . . At present, there is established at Abeokuta a board of management for the express purpose of directing the native government, of forwarding civilization, and promoting the spread of Christianity, as well as of protecting the property of European merchants and British subjects. The Secretary and Director of this Board, which is styled the Egba United Board of Management, is an educated native of Sierra Leone.96

In place of the weak government, with several power centers each controlling revenues it generated and competing against each other, this reformation attempt introduced several modern features to the government of Abbeokuta. These included “customs duty, collected and accounted for by the use of printed forms and vouchers,” facilitating the remuneration of government officials, as well as guaranteeing “subsidies to the chiefs who supported the government”; it introduced a “postal service to Lagos”; it established “a secular school [and] tried to persuade the mission schools to teach in English instead of in the vernacular; [it] used the written and printed word to publicize Board decisions in addition to the traditional bell-ringing by a town crier [and it introduced] ‘sanitary improvement’.”97

In some sense, similar to the innovation of the EUBM at Abbeokuta that the Saros devised, the famous Saro cleric, Bishop Samuel Crowther, tried in 1870—with circumscribed success as that of Abbeokuta—to induce the Nupe emir, Masaba, to reform the provincial administration of his Lokoja outpost, which was then overseen by a subordinate military officer. Crowther devised a plan to facilitate a more rationalized and less oppressive Nupe emirate administration, one that could encourage legitimate commerce and facilitate development and progress in Nupe and at Lokoja. He drew up guidelines, which the emir assented to and which became a declaration of reform to facilitate this planned administrative change. An important node of Christian missionary activities, a legitimate commerce entrepôt, and a significant military-political center, Lokoja at this time in 1870 nevertheless no longer had a British consulate that could provide even a token of protection over Sierra Leoneans and the Church Mission Society (CMS) mission station. The reform plan saw Crowther nominate Jacob Meheux, a liberated African of Hausa extraction and a former government interpreter to W. B. Baikie, to be designated a “submanager” to oversee the affairs of Lokoja on the emir’s and Sierra Leoneans’ behalf. The submanager would “report to him [Etsu Masaba] whatever takes place in the town,” and significantly as well, he would “act as a middle-man between his [emir’s] soldiers and the English residents and natives.”98

Crowther convinced the Nupe king of the benefit of the reform and got him to sign a formal declaration to the effect, a copy of which became the warrant authorizing Meheux to assume an administrative role of “the Sub-Manager” at Lokoja. It was designed to establish a progressive, more liberal form of oversight over Lokoja and the neighborhood based on the principle of antislavery and responsible and responsive governance. Reverends T. C John and Charles Paul, Crowther’s lead agents in charge of the CMS mission at the Confluence (of the Niger and Benue rivers—a general reference to the cluster of settlements there) mentioned the submanager trying his best to operate in this role in, respectively, 1871 and 1878.99 Crowther’s reform plan added a new countervailing layer to the subsisting tyrannical personalized administrative structure at the Confluence. It subordinated the military oversight of Masaba’s warlord under the civil guidance of the educated and enlightened Sierra Leonean, Jacob Meheux, and of the educated Sierra Leoneans of the mission, trading, and consular establishments. It reduced the arbitrariness of the military officers’ impositions as it introduced a parallel and competing structure to which only the Sierra Leonean immigrant population, but also the local leadership of the conflict-ridden communities of the Confluence neighborhood, resorted for the mediation of their relationship with the powerful Nupe emirate government. It continued in force after the withdrawal of the emir’s military contingent.100

Included in this political reform memorandum were clauses to the following effect:


That in order to organize a better state of management in settling affairs in the above settlement for the time being, in the absence of a resident British Consul, I have appointed Jacob Meheux (Musa), Government interpreter, sub-manager for the settlement of Lokoja.


I have authorized him to report to me any acts of oppression, of anyone, which may tend to disturb the peace of the settlement, the cultivation of the land, or retard the prosperity of trade.


It is my expressed wish that the settlement of Lokoja should be well populated as a Chief mart at the Confluence; and to confirm this, I invite all those who have deserted it from fear of molestation to return to their houses & resume their farming occupation as usual. In assurance of their future safety, I have delivered to the Commander, the woman who had fled from Olumoye but unfortunately taken prisoner there, to be restored to her relatives.


It is my order that all residents at Lokoja, of what tribe so ever they be, should act unitedly as my police guard for the protection of the settlement, after affairs are settled, and my troops withdrawn from the Camp.


To support Jacob Meheux (Musa) the Sub-manager in his office, I request the Co-operation and assistance of the resident Mercantile agents, and the advice of the Missionaries when needed, that my wishes may be carried out to the advantage of the settlement.101

While not disaffirming the political authority of the Nupe jihad state over Lokoja and over the mission, the idea behind the plan was to reform local governance and thereby mitigate its draconian and arbitrary impositions, including the enslavement of Christian converts. It included the idea that this administration was geared to the economic and social interests of the people so that production and commerce could thrive at Lokoja. Clause 5 of the declaration surreptitiously suggested that missionary, commercial, and resident immigrant voices and interests would be represented in the running of this local administration.

Throughout the years that he was visiting the Nupe rulers, Crowther, together with his Sierra Leonean helpers, kept trying to interest the emirs with the need for them to embrace progress and reform, to encourage legitimate commerce, and to appreciate ongoing industrial development in Europe. In 1870, before Masaba died and Umoru succeeded to Nupe emirship, Crowther repeatedly discussed with them issues relating to technological development based on friendship between industrialized and non-industrialized societies. He discussed the significance of technological change to facilitate productive trade and once showed and explained the plan of the Suez Canal in Egypt to the emir and his attendants:

[how] the Viceroy of Egypt, a Mohammedan Potentate, as the Patron of the working of this Canal sanctioned by the Sultan of Stanboul, here acknowledged to be the head Sultan of the Musulmans, inviting a great Christian Power to execute this work in his country for the benefit of the commerce of the world. [His conclusion was the necessity for] The co-operation of Mohammedan and Christian powers to facilitate the trade of all nations, though of different creeds.102

During his 1877 visit to the Nupe Emir Umaru at Bida, Crowther sensitized the emir to what he saw as positive global changes and developments, “progressive changes in empires, kingdoms and nations,” that were happening to Islamic states in the Middle East which could serve as a model for Bida, such as, “Khedive Ismail’s modernization efforts in Egypt and the Khedive’s hiring of Col. Gordon, an able English Officer, to open the [Nile] river to lawful commerce, cultivation of the soil, and to abolish the slave trade from his dominion.”103 Reflecting on the requirement for modernization, the abolishment of slavery, and the improvement of living standards on the Niger, Crowther argued,

we as resident missionaries must combine with our spiritual work, Industrial institution in a small scale, to train up youths who leave our schools habits of industry, that they may become useful to themselves and to the country hereafter. The system was introduced by us at Abbeokuta some years ago, with a simple cotton gin, and the experiment was persevered in; the number of cotton gins now owned by the native inhabitants, as well as by mercantile houses are, say 200, and the quantity of bales of cotton shipped at Lagos yearly will show the successful result of the experiment. . . . Let us pursue the same course for the Niger by encouraging its growth largely till it be made profitable for mercantile speculation; it is this which will enrich the country and civilize the people.104

Indeed, a mark of Crowther’s missionary method, one of which he was pilloried for by young European missionary hotheads who came to supplant him, was the advocacy for technological development as part of a missionary catering to people’s needs. This penchant was demonstrated by his first attempt to introduce a wheeled vehicle to Nigeria when he

procured a cart from Sierra Leone; the body of [which] was unfortunately too heavy to be carried through the swamps and forests and was left at Badagry; but the wheels and shafts were conveyed to Abbeokuta and excited the utmost astonishment among all classes. Not only children, but grown-up people, crowded into his compound, and were delighted with drawing one another round and round, seated upon planks placed across the shafts.105

Crowther advocated for the inclusion of an Industrial House, Industrial Agents, and an Industrial Institution as the necessary “plough” complement to the “gospel” in the popular Buxtonian credo of “the Gospel and the Plough” solution to the problem of slavery in Africa. His mission stations at Onitsha, Iddah (before its closure), and Lokoja always had an industrial agent during his episcopate. He always placed a tradesman in his mission stations with a skill such as brickmaking, bricklaying, carpentry, sewing, or cotton ginning to teach the people new modern production skills and how to process their produce to give it higher value, as well as how to link their production to wider regional and global markets. Following Crowther’s example, the various Saro agents of the CMS who visited the emirs pressed them to send their children or any other children for training at the Industrial Institution at the Kippo Hill Mission station.106

Religious and Cultural Innovation

The Saro were largely responsible for the introduction of Christianity and literacy to Yorubaland, Lokoja, Onitsha, Bonny, and Calabar.107 Andrew Wilhelm and John M. Cormack, Saro missionary agents, accompanied Henry Townsend to Abbeokuta on behalf of the Church Mission Society (CMS), and when Samuel Crowther and C. A. Gollmer proceeded first to Badagry and then to Abbeokuta, they went with Saro missionary pioneers “William Marsh and Edward Philips, native catechists; Mark Willoughby, interpreter; and several carpenters and labourers.”108 Thus began the establishment of the CMS and Wesleyan Mission Church in Abbeokuta and among the Yoruba. At Lagos, Ibadan, Oyo, Iseyin, and Ijaye, wherever the CMS and other missions established churches and started schools, they were staffed by educated and trained Saro clergy, catechists, schoolmasters, interpreters, and others.109 The Christianization of the Niger Delta city-states, led by Crowther, was accomplished with the help of Saro agents. P. C. Lloyd rightly noted and Jacob A. Ajayi demonstrated that the Saro could be said to have laid the “social and institutional framework of modern Nigeria.”110

On the Niger beyond the Delta, the functioning of the Niger mission stations and especially of Gbebe and Lokoja, the latter as a commercial hub and administrative center for the spread of British influence inland, was due to the services of the Sierra Leoneans, many of whom were Saro. While Saro presence on the Niger beyond the Delta began in 1857, a spontaneous movement of a significant number of recaptives back to the Niger did not take place. However, of the trio of commerce, mission, and consular influence, which played significant roles in instigating and maintaining a permanent population of Saro in other places in Nigeria, the first two were present while the third, which would seem to be the most important in focusing, coordinating, and regulating the first two in Lagos, Abbeokuta, and Calabar, was, for most of the 19th century, either absent or extremely weak on the Niger. W. Balfour Baikie’s 1857 expedition to explore the Benue River, sign treaties of antislavery, and advertise British commerce and Christian missionary interests, began the movement of Saro and Sierra Leoneans into the upper reaches of the Lower Niger. At Onitsha, J. C Taylor, of Igbo extraction, started a mission station among his people under the direction of Rev. Samuel Crowther. In this expedition, according to Baikie, were

three men who had accompanied me [i.e., W. B. Baikie] from Sierra Leone as settlers, they being either Igbo or of Igbo descent, & who thus formed the beginning of an immigration of liberated Africans from Sierra Leone into these their native lands.111

Apart from the consular establishment before 1869, there was the CMS mission and its churches in Lokoja and Gbebe, as well as Laird’s factory. They were staffed by Sierra Leone immigrants, one a subclerk and the other a cooper for the factory, and by catechists, schoolmasters, clergy for the mission, and consular staff.112 Their missionary establishment consisted of six missionary agents—James Thomas, Simon Priddy, Jacob Newland, Thomas Joseph, Edward Cline, and Charles Paul—who served in Gbebe between 1857 and 1866. The two merchant sons of Crowther, Josiah and Samuel, were factors; there were others, including James Henry Dorugu and Frederick Abbega, who were freed slave interpreters and assistants to Baikie; professionals such as Thomas Lefavre, the carpenter; and James Macauley of the short-lived Laird’s factory in Gbebe.113 These immigrants from Sierra Leone lived together as a community in the mission and trading quarter at Lokoja during the forty-odd years between 1857 and the death of Bishop Crowther in 1891. A few returnees unconnected to the mission or foreign commerce were also recorded as settlers at Lokoja.114 Onitsha eventually had a small population of Sierra Leonean immigrant missionaries of the CMS (Mr. Romaine, Francis Langley, and E. G. Philips of Igbo extraction), trading agents at the trading factory, and others who commuted from the coast to trade in the city.115 At Lokoja, Thomas Crook, a pensioner of the British West India Regiment in Sierra Leone, served as interpreter. On his return to the Niger, he reconnected with “several brothers & sisters, & some of his youthful companions, who had long since considered him dead.”116

The Saro and Sierra Leoneans here were agents on whose shoulders depended the introduction of Christianity to the northern part of Nigeria before European colonization. They also established the earliest schools and introduced literacy, reducing the use of the Nupe, Igbo, and Igbira languages to written English form.117 They promoted commercial farming of cotton and other export crops to replace trade in slaves. Because only a tiny minority and non-Nupe migrant subjects of the Nupe state became Christian and the church was not as strong as in the Delta and among the Yoruba, the most important contribution of the Saro here was the introduction of the elementary school system and their anchoring of Lokoja as a significant navigational and commercial hub.

Sub-Imperialists and Proto-Nationalists

Saro professionals sustained the British consular services at Lagos, in the Oil Rivers, and on the Niger in the decades before the partition. Consul J. H. Glover in the 1860s was reliant on I. H. Willoughby, a Saro, and others like him for the consolidation of his colonial administration and for his ability to maintain a hold on different sections of Lagos. Willoughby was inspector of police, interpreter, and personal secretary to the consul.118 As “inspectors, clerks, bailiffs, storemen, and landing waiters,” the Saro were the bedrock of Lagos colony administration that facilitated European trade and that ensured the administration’s fiscal integrity.119 They were very significant to the efficient operation of import–export commerce by reducing trade to smaller bits and dispersing goods to the far interior.120

The other significant presence of Saro in Nigeria in the 20th century was at Port Harcourt. The roles they played in mediating colonialism to the local people have been emphasized. Saro I. B. Johnson and the Reverend L. R. Potts-Johnson’s work with the British colonial administration served the local populace to hold the colonial government accountable. One may agree with the notion that in the Saro, the “British . . . found willing collaborators in the returnee and recaptive populations of Freetown” who accompanied the extension of British colonial influence into different regions of West Africa.121 However, both I. B. Johnson and the Reverend L. R. Potts-Johnson’s participation in the colonial government’s Township Advisory Board for the administration of Port Harcourt also served to influence and moderate the harshness of colonial fiscal, social, and other policies on both the expatriate Sierra Leoneans and the indigenous people.122 The exercise of influence and the dispensing of economic and even political power also flowed from the Saro outward, delimiting and conditioning what the British consuls and traders could do and when. The complicated intersection of the Saro’s agenda with that of the expanding British political, economic, and administrative interests enhanced the Saro’s capacity to interpret and intermediate the New International Economic Order and some of the modernist or liberal sentiments that it entailed in their African societies.123 Thus, while they were “victims, symbols, and interpreters” in a process of “tumultuous, unprecedented change,” like similar westernizing new African elite of the 19th century, the Saro also had their own agenda, even if they helped Europeans to realize theirs.124

Discussion of the Literature

Ajayi, Aderibigbe, and Kopytoff applied Saro as a distinctive appellation for Sierra Leonean returnees to Yorubaland, but they did not engage with the term at the conceptual level nor with its intersection with other similar terms. The Sierra Leonians who came to work as missionaries or commercial agents outside of Yorubaland on the Niger had no self-understanding of themselves, nor did their hosts refer to them, as Saro. At Lokoja, the category of practice deployed by the immigrants to describe themselves was Sierra Leoneans. Their precarious political situation among hostile jihadist government officials also instigated their self-identification as “English people”!125 Their Nupe hosts called them Anasara, a vernacularization of Nazarenes. Hence, the Saro appellation was the product of identification by others, first at Abbeokuta, to describe the relative position to themselves of their returnee erstwhile lost children who were recovered in Sierra Leone. However, once applied to the amalgam of these emigrants who settled in Lagos, including to those without any direct ethnic and local affiliations, it transformed from a mere identificatory term to a classificatory and categorizing concept. From a category of practice it then became a category of analysis with scholars who began to apply the term to 19th-century Sierra Leone migrants in other parts of Nigeria regardless of whether such returnees had the slavery and emancipation experience or ancestral connections in their chosen host societies.

However, the colonial era Sierra Leone settlers of Port Harcourt looked back to Sierra Leone as home, sought to go back, and many went back to Sierra Leone. Those who remained had to “retreat” into Nigerian citizenship and engage in a less ostentatious involvement with the culture of their Sierra Leone “homeland” to escape discrimination in Nigeria.126 Accordingly, they (especially the elite) related to each other as expatriates in a foreign land and, throughout their stay, were considered foreigners by the native Ijaw. Hence, their Saro identification was derivative and tertiary in the sense that they shared the Krio experience as did the Yoruba Saro. A vital characteristic of Saro was that being returnees, their homeland was no longer Sierra Leone, even if they maintained connections with relatives or sent their children to its schools. Thus, their experience was different from those in the 19th century and at Abbeokuta, Lagos, and Calabar. Such people had relatives and communities to whom they returned and they fit back into the local network of religious, political, social, and economic activities and identities. Mac Dixon-Fyle’s treatment of the Sierra Leone immigrants includes those with clear links to Lagos and to the Yoruba homeland. However, he also includes a majority that need to be classified as expatriates, whose Saro identity during the colonial period was more by association with a Sierra Leone point of departure than the structural historical experiences that distinguished the earlier returnees, who were quintessentially Saro.

J. H. Kopytoff’s A Preface to Modern Nigeria remains the most detailed investigation of the Saro as a social group with a pioneering and important role in the emergence of modern Lagos, Abeokuta, and Yorubaland. Adeyemi B. Aderibigbe’s Lagos, though covering similar themes, is brief and more concerned with the Saro connection to British expansion into the Yoruba hinterland, while Michael J. C. Echeruo’s Victorian Lagos is more a description of aspects of the cultural scene of colonial Lagos, both referencing the significant roles played by many Saro. Ajayi’s Christian Missions, Aderibigbe’s Lagos, and Kopytof’s study between them provide a good representation of famous Saro leaders of modern Nigeria. Kopytoff provides a useful appendix with biographical sketches of important Saro. Ajayi’s study provides a Nigeria-wide context of Saro activities that Kopytoff’s and Aderigbigbe’s limit to only Lagos, Abbeokuta, and the surrounding region. Mac Dixon-Fyle’s A Saro Community updates the literature on the Saro by including Port Harcourt as a locus of their activities. Placing the Saro at the crux of the inauguration and operation of ideas and structures that define modern Nigeria, these works establish them as founders of modern Nigeria. Aderibigbe describes more concordance with Saro elite interests and British colonialist desires, which is why they supported the expansion of British influence. Kopytoff, lacking Aderigbigbe’s critical tone, rather emphasizes their indispensable professional and skills contributions to the Lagos administration. Ajayi’s deeper and wider perspective establishes them as patriots and nationalist founders of Nigeria whose training, vocation, and actions challenged British colonial interests. Peel’s Religious Encounters presents the Saro as the principal midwives of Yoruba ethnogenesis, champions of Yoruba cultural and language translation work, and of Christian innovation.

Unfortunately, insight into non-elite Saro experiences is still scarce, though anecdotal references indicate that the non-elite were in the majority. This lack is the reason why “habits” described as “predictably Victorian” unfortunately became the default marker of the Saro of Lagos in the literature.127 This article has adopted a Nigeria-wide compass and has explored Saro history as a prelude to the history not only of Lagos or the Yoruba, but of all of Nigeria.

Primary Sources

Given the significant implications of the Saro in the politics of trade and in the drama of and resistance to the increasing British consular influence in Lagos and over its hinterland and coastal area of Nigeria in the mid-19th century, documents of the PRO F02 and F0 84 are useful sources for Saro history. Missionary records are equally indispensable, especially because all the missionary organizations (Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian) relied on the Saro as critical agents for the establishment and maintenance of their missions and churches in Nigeria. Those who were clerics and functionaries of the missions, such as S. A. Crowther and his sons as well as James Johnson, all had files containing missionary journals and papers. The most extensive and easily available are those of the Church Mission Society of Nigeria, and the Yoruba and Niger Missions (Anglicans) as microfilm documents, which are in many Euro-American university libraries and are offered for sale by Adam Matthew Publishers. Periodical publications based in Freetown, Lagos, Abeokuta, and Port Harcourt are also relevant, but less accessible.

Further Reading

  • Aderibigbe, Adeyemi B., and Jacob F. Ade Ajayi, eds. Lagos: The Development of an African City. Lagos, Nigeria: Longman Nigeria, 1975.
  • Ajayi, Jacob F. A. Christian Missions in Nigeria, 1841–1881: The Making of a New Elite. London: Longman, 1965.
  • Biobaku, Saburi O. The Egba and Their Neighbours, 1842–1872. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957.
  • Cole, Gibril R. The Krio of West Africa. Islam, Culture, Civilization and Colonialism. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2013.
  • Dixon-Fyle, Mac. A Saro Community in the Niger Delta, 1912–1984: The Potts-Johnsons of Port Harcourt and Their Heirs. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1999.
  • Echeruo, Michael J. C. Victorian Lagos: Aspects of Nineteenth-Century Lagos Life. London: Macmillan, 1977.
  • Kopytoff, Jean Herskovits. A Preface to Modern Nigeria. The Sierra Leonians in Yoruba 1830–1890. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965.
  • Latham, Anthony J. H. Old Calabar, 1600–1891: The Impact of the International Economy upon a Traditional Society. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978.
  • Lynn, Martin. “Technology, Trade and ‘A Race of Native Capitalists’: The Krio Diaspora of West Africa and the Steamship, 1852–95.” Journal of African History 33, no. 3 (1992): 421–440.
  • Newbury, Colin W. The Western Slave Coast and Its Rulers, European Trade and Administration among the Yoruba and Adja-Speaking Peoples of South-Western Nigeria, Southern Dahomey, and Togo, Reprinted with Corrections. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966.
  • Pallinder-Law, Agneta. “Aborted Modernization in West Africa? The Case of Abeokuta.” Journal of African History 15, no. 1 (1974): 65–82.
  • Peel, John D. Y. Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.
  • Phillips, Earl. “The Egba at Abeokuta: Acculturation and Political Change, 1830–1870.” Journal of African History 10, no. 1 (1969): 117–131.
  • Smith, Robert Sydney. The Lagos Consulate, 1851–1861. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979.
  • Spitzer, Leo. The Creoles of Sierra Leone. Responses to Colonialism, 1870–1945. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974.


  • 1. It could have been aspirated and contracted from S’a Leone or Sa Lone, which seem to be the creolized version of Sierra Leone. In 1862, Richard Burton recorded his encounter at Bathurst in The Gambia with a “Mammy,” . . . middle-aged mulatto woman, . . . speaking “Blackman’s English”; Richard Francis Burton, Wanderings in West Africa from Liverpool to Fernando Po, vol. 1 (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1863), 162. The “mammy” referred to Sierra Leone as “S’a Leone” and “Sillyown.” So impressed was Burton by this Blackman’s English or creolized way of naming Sierra Leone that he decided to likewise henceforth in his books use the nomenclature S’a Leone “in remembrance of her”; Burton, Wanderings, vol. 1, 192. Indeed, from that point on in Wanderings, vol.1, and throughout vol. 2, Burton’s nomenclature for Sierra Leone was S’a Leone. In Richard Francis Burton and Verney Lovett Cameron, To the Gold Coast for Gold: A Personal Narrative, vol. II (London: Chatto & Windus, 1883), Burton used S’a Leone to reference Sierra Leone throughout. Given that Yoruba words and syllables do not end with a consonant or consonant sound but must end in a vowel or a vowel sound, a Yoruba jump to the two-syllabic Saro from Sa Lone or Sa/Leone, which latter is also closer to two syllables, is more plausible than a jump from the three-syllabic Sie/rra/Leone. See also the sixteen-stanza poem, “For Dear Fatherland,” published in Sierra Leone Weekly News, July 13, 1907, quoted in Christopher Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), 309, where the poet several times used Sa Lone, Sa Leone.

  • 2. Mac Dixon-Fyle, A Saro Community in the Niger Delta, 1912–1984: The Potts-Johnsons of Port Harcourt and Their Heirs (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1999), 2, 6.

  • 3. Jacob F. A. Ajayi and James B. Webster, “Emergence of a New Elite in Africa,” Africa in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: A Handbook for Teachers and Students, eds. Joseph C. Anene and Godfrey N. Brown (Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press, 1981), 150, 151.

  • 4. See Femi J. Kolapo, “Christian Missions and Religious Encounters at the Niger Benue Confluence,” Precolonial Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Toyin Falola, ed. Akinwumi Ogundiran (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2005), 512–513.

  • 5. Jean Herskovits Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria: The Sierra Leonians in Yoruba 1830–1890 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965), 70.

  • 6. Jacob F. A. Ajayi, Christian Missions in Nigeria, 1841–1881: The Making of a New Elite (London: Longman, 1965), 40, 41; Emmanuel A. Ayandele, Holy Johnson. Pioneer of African Nationalism, 1836–1917 (New York: Humanities Press. 1970), 85; and James B. Webster, The African Churches among the Yoruba, 1888–1922 (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), 6.

  • 7. Adeyemi B. Aderibigbe and Jacob F. Ade Ajayi, eds., Lagos: The Development of an African City (Lagos, Nigeria: Longman Nigeria, 1975), 22; Robert Sydney Smith, The Lagos Consulate, 1851–1861 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979), 39; and Ayandele, Holy Johnson, 85; Webster, The African Churches, 6.

  • 8. Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria, 70.

  • 9. Arnold Hughes and David Perfect, A Political History of The Gambia, 1816–1994 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2006), 75–76.

  • 10. Dixon-Fyle, A Saro Community, 2.

  • 11. Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 46; Kristin Mann, Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760–1900 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 92.

  • 12. Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 22.

  • 13. Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 42.

  • 14. Claude George, The Rise of British West Africa: Comprising the Early History of the Colony of Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Lagos, Gold Coast, etc. With a Brief Account of Climate, the Growth of Education, Commerce, and Religion and a Comprehensive History of the Bananas and Bance Islands and Sketches of the Constitution (London: Cass, 1968), 374–379; Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria, 39.

  • 15. Samuel Crowther. CA1/079/7 Extracts for the Quarter Ending June 25th, 1841.

  • 16. James B. Webster, “Sierra Leone, 1887–1914: Mother of British West Africa,” in History of West Africa. The Revolutionary Years: 1815 to Independence, eds. James B. Webster and A. A. Boahen with H. O. Idowu (New York: Praeger, 1970), 136.

  • 17. Saburi O. Biobaku, The Egba and Their Neighbours: 1842–1872 (Ibadan, Nigeria: University Press, 1991), 28.

  • 18. Ajayi, Christian Missions, 27.

  • 19. Those of Nupe ethnicity raised a sum of £10 to support their request for missionaries to be sent to Rabba, the Nupe capital. See Sarah Tucker, Abbeokuta; or, Sunrise within the Tropics: An Outline of Origin and Progress of the Yoruba Mission (London: J. Nisbet, 1854), 84–85.

  • 20. Samuel Crowther, CA1/079/7 Extracts for the Quarter Ending June 25th 1841.

  • 21. Samuel Crowther, CA1/079/7 Extracts for the Quarter Ending June 25th 1841.

  • 22. Samuel Crowther, CA1/079/7 Extracts for the Quarter Ending June 25th 1841.

  • 23. Crowther and Taylor, Gospel of the Banks of the Niger, 53–54.

  • 24. Crowther and Taylor, Gospel of the Banks of the Niger, 53–54.

  • 25. Ajayi, Christian Missions, 13, 29.

  • 26. Femi J. Kolapo, ed., The Journals of Church Missionary Society Agent, James Thomas In Mid-Nineteenth Century Nigeria, Document 1, 38.

  • 27. Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria, 57.

  • 28. James Frederick Schön and Mr. Samuel Crowther, Journals of the Rev. James Frederick Schön and Mr. Samuel Crowther, Who, With the Sanction of Her Majesty’s Government, Accompanied the Expedition Up the Niger, in 1841, in Behalf of the Church Missionary Society (London: Hatchard, 1842), 361, 362.

  • 29. Kolapo, Journals of Church Missionary Society Agent, Document 2, 48.

  • 30. Kolapo, Journals of Church Missionary Society Agent, Document 2, 48; Ajayi and Webster, “Emergence of a New Elite in Africa,” 150–151; Schön and Crowther, Journals, 349.

  • 31. Sierra Leone Public Archives, SLR1-60.

  • 32. Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, 131; George, The Rise of British West Africa, 155, 217–218, 354.

  • 33. George, The Rise of British West Africa, 217.

  • 34. Gibril R. Cole, The Krio of West Africa. Islam, Culture, Civilization and Colonialism (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2013), 5.

  • 35. Cole, The Krio of West Africa, 5.

  • 36. Padraic X. Scanlan, “The Colonial Rebirth of British Anti-Slavery: The Liberated African Villages of Sierra Leone, 1815–1824,” American Historical Review (October 2016): 1086.

  • 37. Scanlan, “The Colonial Rebirth,” 1098.

  • 38. Scanlan, “The Colonial Rebirth,” 1087.

  • 39. See George, The Rise of British West Africa, 218. The first eight were “St. George’s, St. James’s, St. John’s, St. Paul’s, St. Peter’s, St. Charles’s, St. Patrick’s, [and] St. Andrew’s.” Added to them “between 1819 and 1824 . . . were . . . viz. St. Thomas’s, Hastings; St. Michael’s, Waterloo; St. Arthur’s, Wellington; St. Henry’s, York; St. Edward’s, [and] Kent.”

  • 40. Scanlan, “The Colonial Rebirth,” 1089.

  • 41. Scanlan, “The Colonial Rebirth,” 1089.

  • 42. George, The Rise of British West Africa, 346–347; see also Webster, “Sierra Leone, 1887–1914,” 132.

  • 43. See Bronwen Everill, Abolition and Empire in Sierra Leone and Liberia (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), chap. 2.

  • 44. Cole, The Krio of West Africa, 40–41.

  • 45. Cole, The Krio of West Africa, 40–41.

  • 46. Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria, 28.

  • 47. Everill, Abolition and Empire, 12, 33–34.

  • 48. George, The Rise of British West Africa, 351.

  • 49. Webster, “Sierra Leone, 1887–1914,” 136.

  • 50. CO/267/5 28, cited in David E. Skinner and Barbara E. Harrell-Bond, “Misunderstandings Arising from the Use of the Term ‘Creole’ in the Literature on Sierra Leone,” Journal of the International African Institute Africa/International African Institute 47, no. 3 (1977): 308.

  • 51. Fyfe, Sierra Leone Inheritance, 11.

  • 52. Femi J. Kolapo, “Nineteenth Century Niger River Trade and the1844–1862 Aboh Interregnum,” African Economic History no. 30 (2002): 1–29; and Femi J. Kolapo, “Post-Abolition Niger River Commerce and the Nineteenth Century Igala Political Crisis,” African Economic History 27 (1999): 46–67.

  • 53. Ajayi, Christian Missions, 38.

  • 54. Ajayi, Christian Missions, 19.

  • 55. For the local estimation of the wealth of the returnees as part incentive for their reception at Badagry and Abeokuta, see PRO F084/976 October 17, 1855, Campbell, Lagos, Nigeria.

  • 56. Anthony G. Hopkins, An Economic History of West Africa (Harlow, UK: Longman, 1990), 152.

  • 57. Hopkins, Economic History of West Africa, 152.

  • 58. Michael J. C. Echeruo, Victorian Lagos: Aspects of Nineteenth Century Lagos Life (London: Macmillan, 1977); Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 43.

  • 59. Colin W. Newbury, The Western Slave Coast and Its Rulers, European Trade and Administration among the Yoruba and Adja-Speaking Peoples of South-Western Nigeria, Southern Dahomey, and Togo (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 44.

  • 60. See Martin Lynn, “Technology, Trade and ‘A Race of Native Capitalists’: The Krio Diaspora of West Africa and the Steamship, 1852–1895,” Journal of African History 33, no. 3 (1992): 421–440.

  • 61. John. H. Glover, Lt. R. N., enclosed in Baikie. Encampment, Rabba. August 20, 1859. No. 56 of 1859.

  • 62. Newbury, The Western Slave Coast and Its Rulers, 57; Mann, Slavery and the Birth of an African City, 125; and Robert Sydney Smith, The Lagos Consulate, 1851–1861 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979), 39.

  • 63. Ajayi, Christian Missions, 145.

  • 64. Colonial Office file no. 1881: 7, on p. 138 of Patrick Webb, “Guests of the Crown. Convicts and Liberated Slaves on McCarthy Island, The Gambia,” Geographical Journal 160, no. 2 (1994): 136–142.

  • 65. “Baikie to Right Honourable The Earl of Malmesbury Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Rainbow,” Lagos Harbour, March 5, 1859 PRO. F.0. 2/23.

  • 66. “Baikie to Right Honourable The Earl of Malmesbury, Rabba, Nupe,” Central Africa, April 11, 1859, PRO. F.0. 2/23; see also, Mann, Slavery and the Birth of an African City, 125; Biobaku, The Egba and Their Neighbours, 56.

  • 67. Anthony J. H. Latham, Old Calabar, 1600–1891: The Impact of the International Economy upon a Traditional Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 105–106.

  • 68. Hope Masterson Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years in the West Indies and Central Africa: A Review of Missionary Work and Adventure 1829–1858 (London, 1863; repr., Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 2011), 532; Ajayi, Christian Missions, 42.

  • 69. Lynn, “Technology, Trade and ‘A Race of Native Capitalists’,” 432.

  • 70. Thomas Joseph Hutchinson, Ten Years’ Wanderings among the Ethiopians (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1861), 198–199.

  • 71. Waddell, Twenty-Nine Years, 579–580; Ajayi, Christian Missions, 42, n. 2; see also K. O. Dike, Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830–1885 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 26, 199.

  • 72. Ajayi and Webster, “Emergence of a New Elite in Africa,” 150.

  • 73. Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 43.

  • 74. “Journal of H. Townsend while on a Mission of Research,” entry for Jan. 5, 1843, C.M.S. CA1/0215, cited in Ajayi, Christian Missions, 29.

  • 75. “Journal of H. Townsend while on a Mission of Research,” entry for Jan. 5, 1843.

  • 76. Doherty to Russell, Nov. 30, 1839 and enclosure dated Nov. 15, 1839; CO 255/154, in Ajayi, Christian Missions, 28.

  • 77. Doherty to Russell, Nov. 30, 1839 and enclosure dated Nov. 15, 1839.

  • 78. 6 Freeman to Duke of Newcastle, Lagos, Apr. 9, 1864, in Phillips, “The Egba at Abeokuta,” 126.

  • 79. Leo Spitzer, The Creoles of Sierra Leone. Responses to Colonialism, 1870–1945 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974), 217–219.

  • 80. Ajayi, Christian Missions, 250–261; Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 48.

  • 81. Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 48.

  • 82. P. C. Lloyd, review of J. H. Kopytoff, Preface to Modern Nigeria, American Anthropologist 69, no. 1 (1967): 123–124.

  • 83. Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 48, 51.

  • 84. Biobaku, The Egba and Their Neighbours, 28; Newbury, The Western Slave Coast and Its Rulers, 56.

  • 85. Biobaku, The Egba and Their Neighbours, 35.

  • 86. John D. Y. Peel, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 269.

  • 87. Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria, 60; Peel, Religious Encounter, 269.

  • 88. Peel, Religious Encounter, 92.

  • 89. Peel, Religious Encounter, 276.

  • 90. Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria, 127.

  • 91. Earl Phillips, “The Egba at Abeokuta: Acculturation and Political Change, 1830–1870,” Journal of African History 10, no. 1 (1969): 117–131; Peel, Religious Encounter, 134–135.

  • 92. Agneta Pallinder-Law, “Aborted Modernization in West Africa? The Case of Abeokuta,” Journal of African History 15, no. 1 (1974): 69.

  • 93. Olufemi Taiwo, How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 225.

  • 94. Phillips, “The Egba at Abeokuta,” 123–125.

  • 95. Phillips, “The Egba at Abeokuta,” 123–125.

  • 96. James Africanus B. Horton, West African Countries and Peoples British and Native British And Native. With the Requirements Necessary for Establishing that Self Government Recommended by the Committee of the House of Commons, 1865; And A Vindication of the African Race (London: W. J. Johnson, 1868), 167.

  • 97. Pallinder-Law, “Aborted Modernization in West Africa?” 70; Biobaku, The Egba and Their Neighbours, 80.

  • 98. Dandeson Crowther, Entry for Sept. 6. “Report on Visit to the Upper Niger 1870.” Report on the Mission Stations in the Upper & Lower Niger, visited June to October 1879, Niger Mission C.A3/O13. Archd. Dandeson C. Crowther, Letters, Journals, and Reports, 1862–1880.

  • 99. Namely, “Jacob Meheux an intelligent liberated Hausaman from Sierra Leone and for many years Hausa Interpreter to the late Dr. Baikie . . . the Manager (Maigari) of Lokoja,” in Report of Lokoja Station for the Year ending September 30. 1878. Niger Mission C.A3/021 Rev. T. C. John, Letters and Reports, 1865–1879.

  • 100. C. Paul to Revd. Bp. Crowther. From Mission House, Lokoja, March 22, 1871 enclosed in Niger Mission. C A3/04(a). Bp. Samuel Crowther. Letters and Papers 1857–1872.

  • 101. Declaration: Massaba, Emir of Nupe, Bida, dated Sept. 12, 1870. Niger Mission. C A3/o4(a). Bp. Samuel Crowther. Letters and Papers, 1857–1872.

  • 102. Report of a visitation to the Niger Mission for the year 1870. Letters and Papers, 1857–1872.

  • 103. Entry for Sunday, 16th 1877. “Report of Bp. Crowther’s Visitation to the Niger Mission 1877,” Niger Mission. C.A3/o 4(b) Bp. Samuel A. Crowther. Journals and Reports, 1860–1879.

  • 104. Report of a visitation to the Niger Mission for the year 1870. Letters and Papers, 1857 to 1872.

  • 105. Tucker, Abbeokuta; or, Sunrise within the Tropics, 29, n.

  • 106. See Charles Paul, 1879 Report in Rev. Charles Paul to Rev. C.C. Fenn. Sec. C.M.S. Kippo Hill. Station. March 18, 1879. Niger Mission. C.A3\O 28. Journals and Reports, 1866–1879.

  • 107. Tucker, Abbeokuta; or, Sunrise within the Tropics, 86–88.

  • 108. Biobaku The Egba and Their Neighbours, 27, 28.

  • 109. Tucker, Abbeokuta; or, Sunrise within the Tropics, 93; Robert Sydney Smith, The Lagos Consulate, 1851–1861 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979), 38, 39.

  • 110. Lloyd, review of Jean H. Kopytoff, 123.

  • 111. W. B. Baikie to Right Honourable The Earl of Malmesbury Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Dayspring Off Rabba, River Kwora, Central Africa, Sept. 28, 1857, No. 15 of 1857. PRO. F.0. 2/23.

  • 112. Baikie to The Secretary of the Cotton Sup. Assoccn Manchester. Lukoja, Confluence of Kwora and Benuwe. April 3, 1861.

  • 113. Crowther to Holl, Oct. 30, 1858, in S. A. Crowther, 1857–1863; Crowther “Report of Visitation,” 1877.

  • 114. Femi J. Kolapo, “CMS Missionaries of African Origin and Extra-Religious Encounters at the Niger-Benue Confluence, 1858–1880,” African Studies Review 43, no. 2 (2000): 96–99.

  • 115. Ajayi, Christian Missions, 213.

  • 116. Baikie to Lord John Russell Lukoja, River Kwora March 27, 1861, No. 8 of 1861.

  • 117. Kolapo, The Journals of Church Missionary Society Agent. Document 3, 87–88, 89; Annual Letter, Lokoja Station. October 7, 1872. Niger Mission C.A3/021 Rev. T. C. John. Letters and Reports, 1865–1879; Rev. Charles Paul to Crowther. Mission House Gbebe. Confluence of Kworra and Tsadda. January 4, 1866 in Niger Mission. CA3/O4 Bp. Samuel A. Crowther. Letters, 1864–1868.

  • 118. Mann, Slavery and the Birth of an African City, 109.

  • 119. Newbury, The Western Slave Coast and Its Rulers, 78–79.

  • 120. Kopytoff, A Preface to Modern Nigeria, 95, 96.

  • 121. Dixon-Fyle, A Saro Community, 5.

  • 122. Mac Dixon-Fyle, “The Saro in the Political Life of Early Port Harcourt, 1913–1949,” Journal of African History 30, no. 1 (1989): 125.

  • 123. Hopkins, Economic History of West Africa, 152–153.

  • 124. Peel, Religious Encounters, 24.

  • 125. Kolapo, Journals of Church Missionary Society Agent, Document 3, 77.

  • 126. Dixon-Fyle A Saro Community, 4, 5; Mac Dixon-Fyle, “The Sierra Leone (Descendants) Union of Port Harcourt: 1933–1986. A Research Note,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 12, no. 1–2 (1983): 159.

  • 127. Patrick D. Cole, “Lagos Society in the Nineteenth Century,” in Aderibigbe and Ajayi, Lagos, 43.