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Gold Coast abolitionist who exposed Britain’s anti-slavery hypocrisy

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The literature and analysis on the abolition of slavery in locations like Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana) has tended to have a Eurocentric focus. Most has centered on colonial anti-slavery laws and the abolitionist actions of Europeans. The contributions made by native Africans have been nearly fully ignored. When talked about in any respect, Africans have been seen as resisting colonial efforts to abolish home slavery.

This focus is biased. Finding out native Africans’ contributions to abolition gives a fuller understanding of its historical past.

In a not too long ago printed paper, I analysed Nineteenth-century newspapers to make clear how Africans responded to colonial abolition of home slavery in Gold Coast. Specifically, I regarded on the function performed by James Hutton Brew.

Brew was one of many native African intellectuals behind the Fante Confederacy in Cape Coast. The Fante Confederacy motion was one of many first makes an attempt to institute self-governance in Gold Coast. The marketing campaign concerned conventional rulers of Fante communities working alongside educated natives in late 1860s and early 1870s.

Brew wrote the structure of the Fante Confederacy in 1871 and it stays a doc of historic significance. He was additionally a pioneer in West African journalism. He based the primary print newspapers in Gold Coast, The Gold Coast Occasions (in 1874) and The Western Echo (in 1885). His newspapers nurtured many later activists in Gold Coast, most notably J.E. Casely Hayford.

As editor of The Gold Coast Occasions in 1874, the 12 months during which Gold Coast turned a Crown colony and the British sought to abolish home slavery there, Brew’s editorial writings confirmed that Africans have been extra involved concerning the abolition of slavery of their communities than was the colonial authorities.

Brew and different African abolitionists additionally advocated sensible options such because the distribution of land to former slaves. For his or her half, the British sought primarily to appease anti-slavery teams in Europe by making a legislation to evince their dedication with out implementing it, or really making an effort to free slaves.

Finding out the contributions made by Africans to the abolition of home slavery helps to offer a extra correct and complete historical past. That is necessary as a result of the account of occasions given by the colonial regime, which varieties the idea of standard historical past, is a part of a political venture to justify colonisation.

British emancipation in Gold Coast, 1874

When Gold Coast turned a Crown colony in 1874, the British determined to abolish home slavery. Nonetheless, they confirmed little dedication to the trigger. The then British Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Colonial Governor of Gold Coast, George Strahan, formally outlawed slave dealing and slave holding. However they didn’t implement the legislation. And whereas they legally prohibited slave holding in Gold Coast, they anticipated slaves to proceed serving their masters.

The colonial secretary and the governor predicted that slaves wouldn’t instantly go away their masters due to their established associations and concern of poverty. The governor anticipated that the few slaves who did go away would face difficulties in securing their livelihoods and would thus finally return to their masters. He hoped that witnessing this hardship would discourage different slaves from looking for their freedom.

Informing conventional rulers of the British choice to outlaw slavery, the governor informed them that their slaves might proceed to work for them as earlier than and that the colonial authorities didn’t want to separate slaves from their masters.

Regardless of passing a legislation prohibiting slavery, the British colonial authorities didn’t need slaves to go away their masters. The liberty of slaves may incur a value that the federal government was not able to pay. Native slave house owners might fairly request compensation for the lack of their slaves. Slave holding was a type of property proper in Gold Coast and the British had a convention of compensating slave house owners after abolishing slavery in different areas.

Brew’s response

Not like the colonial administration, some native Africans, similar to James Hutton Brew, mentioned home slavery in depth, according to a distinct imaginative and prescient of abolition in Gold Coast.

When the British colonial governor began discussing emancipation, Brew made his place identified. In a observe within the Gold Coast Occasions on 20 October 1874, he referred to as on the governor to search out

an answer we belief will admit no misunderstanding and which won’t go away scope for the existence of slavery in any form, diploma or type.

In advocating whole emancipation, Brew noticed himself as following within the footsteps of the celebrated abolitionists of Britain’s anti-slavery motion. These included William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Thomas Fowell Buxton.

Brew believed that it will be unfair to abolish slavery after which place the freed slaves on the mercy of their masters within the absence of substitute livelihoods. He feared that “slaves who’ve thus obtained their freedom will likely be pariahs of society”, unable to search out properties or locations to relaxation. He wrote:

They are going to be pushed from village to village, from plantation to plantation, till they discover their emancipation an incubus on them, and a few of them as they journey inland will discover themselves {again in slavery}.

Brew urged the colonial authorities to “buy land or purchase some territory by treaty with the kings and chiefs on which it might hold, keep and assist the slaves emancipated by it” (The Gold Coast Occasions, 30 November 1874, p. 53).

He noticed distributing land to the freed slaves as a logical technique to stop them from remaining on the mercy of their former masters. He additionally referred to as on the British to pay compensation to native slave house owners, because it had accomplished for white slave house owners when slavery had been abolished earlier that century.

When the British proceeded with the emancipation legislation with out making any provision for the freed slaves, Brew accused the colonial authority of not being really involved about them. In response to Brew, the British needed to assert to have abolished home slavery within the Gold Coast with out following via.

Brew would later advise conventional rulers to jot down petitions to the queen, complaining about how the emancipation train had been carried out and requesting compensation. The colonial governor reacted by portraying males like Brew as “educated slave house owners” trying to protect their place by persevering with slavery.

After Brew

After Brew, there have been different clashes between African abolitionists and the British colonial authorities in Gold Coast. In 1889, for instance, a dealer in Accra named Francis Fearon wrote letters to anti-slavery campaigners in Britain revealing that the then colonial governor of Gold Coast, W.B. Griffith, was selling home slavery. By this time, slavery had been legally abolished.

However the British colonial regime in Gold Coast refused to implement the legislation correctly and typically even promoted home slavery for administrative comfort. Fearon and his community of African abolitionists fought in opposition to this.

My paper goes some technique to addressing the truth that the function of individuals like Brew and different African abolitionists has not been correctly acknowledged.

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