From Kealoo to James Will: Slavery and Liberation in Yorubaland and Sierra Leone
Posted: 16 Apr 2013 Last revised: 7 Oct 2013
Date Written: April 16, 2013
Between 1808 and 1862 the British Navy liberated an estimated 99,000 Africans from the transatlantic slave trade and settled them in and around Freetown, Sierra Leone. Many of these Liberated Africans received a missionary education, allowing to them to record accounts of their enslavement. The narratives of Liberated Africans Samuel Crowther and Joseph Wright rank among the best-known narratives of Africans who endured enslavement in Africa. Equally detailed but heretofore unpublished is the narrative of James Will, born Kealoo in the western extremities of Yorubaland in the present-day Republic of Benin. Captured in war as a child around 1830, Kealoo was sold into transatlantic slavery by the notorious Brazilian slave dealer Francisco Felix de Souza, passing through the port of Ouidah. This paper traces Kealoo’s voyage from enslavement to emancipation, and his rise from apprentice to affluent trader and Methodist preacher in colonial Freetown. As a victim of the Yoruba wars, Kealoo’s narrative elucidates the personal impact of processes that dispersed an unprecedented number of Yoruba speakers throughout the Atlantic in the nineteenth century.
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