How Sierra Leone came to have its name

Nii Ntreh Jul 26, 2020 at 09:00am

July 26, 2020 at 09:00 am | History

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Staff Writer

July 26, 2020 at 09:00 am | History

Sierra Leone is the only former British colony that was founded as refuge for emancipated Blacks in Europe and Americas. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Sierra Leone has the unique history of being the only former British colony in Africa that was actually founded in tune with the British settling emancipated Blacks in the UK and the nascent United States.

But against the tradition of recounting history according to Western imperialism, the geographical area we call Sierra Leone was not discovered by Europeans. Archaeological findings point to settled life in that area as far back as 2,500 years ago.

Another point to note is that the umbrella group of peoples we call the Mande, among whom are the Mende and Temne ethnic groups of Sierra Leone, were natives of that part of West Africa when the first Portuguese exploratory ship docked in 1642.

When Pedro de Sintra, the lead explorer of that ship in 1642 docked where we now refer to as Freetown Harbor, he named the hilly areas overlooking the shore Serra da Leoa. What became corrupted as Sierra Leone actually means Lioness Mountains in Portuguese.

For about 150 years, ships of the Dutch, French and the English too, went by Sierra Leone carrying among other commodities, enslaved Africans. Other times, the slave traders bought their enslaved Africans in this part of West Africa.

In 1767, Granville Town was founded in Sierra Leone and it became the world’s first settlement for freed slaves in Africa and in the world. Granville was named after Granville Sharp, a wealthy English abolitionist who would later help in the establishment of Freetown in 1792.

Freetown was incidentally named as such because it was conceived as home for freed Black people.

Sharp was one of the first abolitionists in the UK who had set up an organization to support the struggling black community. The organization was called the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor focused on providing financial relief to the many stranded free Black people.

But in between 1790, Emmanuel Kline, a wealthy and educated Christianized Hausa man, bought the Granville and established what could only be referred to as a business vicinity. The town thrived and became known as Cline Town and still exists in modern Sierra Leone.

In 1961, the people in the area the British had demarcated as Sierra Leone, gained independence.

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