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Composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Notable Sierra Leone Krio People:
|250,304 (4% of Sierra Leone's population)|
|Christianity (82%) (Islam) 18%|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Americo Liberian, African American, Black British, West Indian, Yoruba People|
The Sierra Leone Creole people are an ethnic group in Sierra Leone. They are the descendants of freed African American, West Indian and Liberated Africans slaves who settled in the Western Area of Sierra Leone between 1787 and about 1885 by the British. The settlers called their new settlement Freetown, as a land for freed slaves.[ Today, the Krio comprise about 4% of the population of Sierra Leone.
Like their Americo-Liberian neighbors in Liberia, Krio have varying degrees of European ancestry because some of the settlers were descended from white Americans and Europeans additionally. Alongside the Americo-Liberians, the Krios are the only recognised ethnic group of African-American, Liberated African, and West Indian descent in West Africa.
Like their Americo Liberian neighbors, Creole culture is primarily .
The vast majority of Creoles therefore have English last names, and a large number of them possess both English first names and last names. However, the Creole muslims overwhelmingly have Islamic first names, though the vast majority of them have English last names as well. Due to their history as members of historically Yoruba communities, many Creoles possess Yoruba middle names.
In 1787, the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the "Province of Freedom." Krio society developed into a mosaic of Liberated Africans (ex-slaves), and itinerant traders. Liberated Africans were themselves a mixed group, including Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Fante, and other ethnicities. The first Liberated African group to arrive was composed of individuals who had worked as servants in England, as well as blacks who had come to England from the Americas and West Indies, many of whom had served in the British military or escaped from slavery. In 1792, they were joined by Nova Scotians, former slaves who had fought for the British in the American War of Independence and resettled in Nova Scotia. In 1800, the British also deported Maroons, militant escaped slaves from Jamaica, to Sierra Leone. The largest of the groups which formed the Krio community were West Africans of mostly Yoruba descent, who were rescued from slave ships between 1807 and the 1860s.
These numbers were joined by many members of Temne, Limba, Mende, and Loko groups who were already present in Sierra Leone and assimilated into Krio culture.
The first settlers to found a colony in Sierra Leone were the so-called "Black Poor": African Americans and West Indians. 411 settlers arrived in May 1787. Some were Black Loyalists who were either evacuated or travelled to England to petition for a land of their own; Black Loyalists had joined British colonial forces during the American Revolutionary War, many on promises of freedom from enslavement.
The journey from England killed many of them but enough survived to establish and build a colony. Seventy white women accompanied the men to Sierra Leone; they were likely wives and girlfriends, though they are traditionally depicted as prostitutes from Deptford. Their Colony was known as the "Province of Freedom" and their settlement was called "Granville Town"' after the English abolitionist Granville Sharp. The land upon which their settlement rested was negotiated with a Temne chief, King Tom.
Although initially there was no hostility between the two groups, after King Tom's death the next Temne chief retaliated for a slave trader's burning his village. He threatened to destroy Granville Town. The Temne ransacked Granville Town and took some Black Poor into slavery, while others became slave traders. In early 1791 Alexander Falconbridge returned, to find only 64 of the original residents (39 black men, 19 black women, and six white women). The 64 people had been cared for by a Greek and a colonist named Thomas Kallingree at Fourah Bay, an abandoned African village. There the settlers reestablished Granville Town. After that time, they were called the "Old Settlers". By this time the Province of Freedom had been destroyed; Granville Sharp did not lead the next settlement movement.
The proponents and directors of the Sierra Leone colony believed that a new colony did not need black settlers from London. Instead, the directors decided to bring African Americans from Nova Scotia, despite the failure of the last colony. These settlers were Black Loyalists, American slaves who had escaped to British lines and fought with them during the American Revolution, to earn freedom. The British transported more than 3,000 freedmen to Nova Scotia for resettlement, together with white Loyalists. Some of the former African Americans were from South Carolina and the Sea Islands, of the Gullah culture; others were from states along the eastern seaboard up to New England. These blacks immigrated to Sierra Leone from Halifax Harbour on January 15, 1792 and arrived in Sierra Leone between February 28 and March 9, 1792. The Settler men cleared the forest and shrub and built a new settlement on the overgrown site that had formerly contained the Granville Town settlement. On March 11, 1792, the Nova Scotian Settlers disembarked from the 14 passenger ships that had carried them from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone and marched toward a large cotton near George Street. As the Settlers gathered under the cotton tree, the Settler preachers held a thanksgiving service and the white minister, Rev. Patrick Gilbert preached a sermon. After the religious services, the settlement was officially established and was designated Freetown. They had a profound influence on Krio culture; much of the Western attributes of Krio society came from the "Settlers" In Sierra Leone they were called the Nova Scotians or "Settlers" (the 1787 Settlers were called the Old Settlers). They founded the capital of Sierra Leone in 1792. The descendants of African Americans remained an identifiable ethnic group until the 1870s, when the Krio identity was beginning to form.
The next arrivals were the Jamaican Maroons; these Maroons came specifically from Trelawny Town, one of the five Maroon cities in Jamaica. These runaway ex-slaves numbered around 551, and they helped quell some of the riots against the British from the Settlers. The Maroons fought against the Temne during the Temne Attack of 1801.
The next migrations were smaller. West Indian soldiers from the 2nd and 4th West India Regiments settled in Freetown and in suburbs around it. Thirty-eight African Americans (consisting of nine families) immigrated to Freetown under the auspices of Paul Cuffe of Boston. Black Americans immigrating to Freetown, included Perry Lockes and Prince Saunders from Boston, Abraham Thompson, and Peter Williams from New York, and Edward Jones from Charleston.
The last and major group of immigrants to the colony were the Liberated Africans. Having been captured and put aboard slave ships for sale in the western hemisphere, they were liberated by the British Navy, which enforced the abolition of the international slave trade after 1808. The Liberated Africans, also called Recaptives, contributed greatly to the Krio culture. While the Settlers, Maroons, and transatlantic immigrants gave the Krios their Christianity, some of their customs, and their Western influence; the Liberated Africans modified their customs and culture to that of the Nova Scotians and Europeans, yet kept some of their ethnic traditions.:5 Initially the British intervened to ensure the recaptives became firmly rooted in Freetown society; they served in the army with the West India Regiment, and they were assigned as apprentices in the houses of Settlers and Maroons, as well. Sometimes if a recaptive's parents died, they would be adopted by a Settler or Maroon family. The two groups mixed and mingled in society. As the recaptives began to trade and spread Christianity throughout West Africa, they began to dominate Freetown society. Soon the Settler and Maroon society began to collapse.[why?] The recaptives began to intermarry with the Settlers and Maroons, and the two groups became a fusion of African and Western society.:3–4, 223–255
The Krio are primarily Christians at over 85% while some Krios are Muslims. The Krio Muslims are widely known as Oku. Like their Americo-Liberian neighbors, Krio have varying degrees of European ancestry because some of the settlers were descended from white Americans and Europeans additionally. There was considerable intermarriage between the Europeans who settled in the colony of Sierra Leone and the various ethnic groups that coalesced into the Krio identity. Alongside the Americo-Liberians, they are the only recognised ethnic group of African-American, Liberated African, and West Indian descent in West Africa.
The national language of Sierra Leone is English. The Krio speak a distinctive language:xxi named after their ethnic group. In 1993, there were 473,000 speakers in Sierra Leone (493,470 in all countries); Krio was the third-most spoken language behind Mende (1,480,000) and Themne (1,230,000). Krio speakers lived principally in Freetown communities, on the Peninsula, on the Banana Islands and York Island, and in Bonthe. Speakers in other countries lived in Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, and the United States. There is a significant linguistic influence from Yoruba. Krio is widely spoken throughout Freetown and the surrounding towns, such that Krio speakers are no longer presumed to be of the Krio ethnic group.
Krio culture is westernized as Krio held prominent leadership positions in Sierra Leone under British colonialism. The only Sierra Leonean ethnic group whose culture is similar (in terms of its embrace of Western culture) are the Sherbro people. Because many Sherbros interacted with Portuguese and English traders and even intermarried with them (producing Afro-European clans such as the Sherbro Tuckers and Sherbro Caulkers), like the Krios, the Sherbro have a more westernized culture than that of other Sierra Leone ethnic groups. The Krios intermarried with their allies the Sherbros from as far back as the 18th century. After independence all ethnic groups in Sierra Leone are inter-marrying increasingly.
The Krio observe traditional dating and marriage customs, whereby marriage is viewed as a contract between two families and Krio marry in church weddings. Relatives seek out prospective suitors for their kin from desirable families. When a suitor has been chosen, traditionally the groom's parents set a "put stop" day. After this day, the girl can no longer entertain other suitors. On the evening before the wedding, the groom's friends treat him to "bachelor's eve," a rowdy last fling before marriage.
Krios live in nuclear families (father, mother, and their children), but the extended family is important to them. Family members who do well are expected to help those who are less fortunate. They assist poorer relatives with school fees and job opportunities. Women typically shoulder the greatest domestic burdens. In most families, women care for the children, clean house, do the shopping/selling, cook meals, wash dishes and clothes, and carry wood and water.
Historically Krio fashion consisted of a top hat and frock coat for men and a petticoat for women. Like their Americo-Liberian neighbors, Krio men were said to adhere to the "religion of the tall hat and frock coat". Today, teenage fashion—jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers—are very much in style among young people. However, older Krios still dress conservatively in Western-style suits and dresses.
Krios typically eat three meals a day, the largest in the morning or near midday. The noonday meal of some Krio is rice and fufu, a dough-like paste made of cassava pounded into flour. Fufu is always eaten with a "palaver sauce" or plassas. This is a spicy dish consisting of spinach greens with tripe, fish, beef, salt pork, and chicken. A West African one-pot meal, jollof rice, is a staple dish. Other favorites include rice with various soup, rice bread, and salad. Krios enjoy alcoholic drinks such as beer, gin, and palm wine.
Krio practice certain African rituals in connection with rites of passage. One such ceremony is the awujoh feast, intended to win the protection of ancestral spirits. Awujoh feasts are held for newborns and newlyweds, and on other occasions.
When someone dies, pictures in the house are turned toward the wall. At the wake held before the burial, people clap loudly to make sure the corpse is not merely in a trance. The next day the body is washed, placed in shrouds (burial cloths), and laid on a bed for a final viewing. Then it is placed in a coffin and taken to the church for the service, and lastly to the cemetery for burial. The mourning period lasts one year. On the third, seventh, and fortieth day after death, awujoh feasts are held. The feast on the fortieth day marks the spirit's last day on earth. The family and guests eat a big meal. Portions of the meal are placed into a hole for the dead. The pull mohning day — the end of mourning — occurs at the end of one year (the first anniversary of a death). The mourners wear white, visit the cemetery and then return home for refreshments.
Krios have inherited a wide range of tales from their ancestors. They entertain and provide instruction in Krio values and traditions. Among the best loved are stories about the spider. The following is a typical spider tale:
Once the spider was fat. He loved eating, but detested work and had not planted or fished all season. One day the villagers were preparing a feast. From his forest web, he could smell the mouth-watering cooking. He knew that if he visited friends, they would feed him as was the custom. So he called his two sons and told both of them to tie a rope around his waist and set off in opposite directions for the two closest villages, each holding one end of the rope. They were to pull on the rope when the food was ready. But both villages began eating at the same time, and when the sons began pulling the rope, it grew tighter and tighter, squeezing the greedy spider. When the feasting was over and the sons came to look for him, they found a big head, a big body, and a very thin waist!
Krio families typically live in two-story wooden houses reminiscent of those found in the West Indies or Louisiana. This style of housing was brought by the "Settlers" from Nova Scotia, and as early as the 1790s, the Nova Scotians had built houses with stone foundations with wooden superstructures, and American-style shingle roofs. Despite their dilapidated appearance, Krio houses have a distinctive air, with dormers, box windows, shutters, glass panes, and balconies. The elite live in attractive neighborhoods like Hill Station, above Freetown. A large dam in the mountains  provides a reliable supply of water and electricity to this area.
The Krio homeland is a mountainous, narrow peninsula on the coast of west Africa. The whole of Sierra Leone covers some 72,500 square kilometres. At its northern tip lies Freetown, the capital. The peninsula's mountain range is covered by tropical rain forests split by deep valleys and adorned with impressive waterfalls. White sand beaches line the Atlantic coast.
As a result of normal immigration patterns, the Sierra Leone Civil War, and some discrimination at home, many Krios live abroad in the United States and the United Kingdom. What has been called the "Creole Diaspora" is the migration of Krios abroad. Many Krios attend formal and informal gatherings. A Krio Heritage Society is based in New York City, with branches in places like Texas. Historically, Krio spread Christianity and their lingua franca throughout West Africa, and because of this, Krio communities exist in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea and Liberia. Many Krios traded throughout West Africa, and some settled in new countries. Krios who settled in Nigeria were known as Saros, and there is a thriving community there. Krios who settled in the Gambia are known as the Aku; they make up an elite community in Gambia. Many recaptives returned to their original homes after being freed in Freetown, as most kept their anglified names, they took partially new identities back to their homelands.