Samuel Ajayi Crowther
Samuel Ajayi Crowther
|Primate of all Nigeria|
Crowther as bishop in 1867
|Church||Church of Nigeria|
|Died||31 December 1891|
|Education||St Mary's Church;|
Fourah Bay College;
Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c. 1809–31 December 1891), was a Yoruba linguist and the first African Anglican bishop in Nigeria. Born in Osoogun (in what is in Lanlate, Oyo State, Nigeria), he and his family were captured by Fulani slave raiders when he was about twelve years old.
Crowther was freed from slavery at a coastal port by the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron, which was enforcing the ban against the Atlantic slave trade. The liberated peoples were resettled in Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone, Ajayi adopted an English name of Samuel Crowther, and began his education in English. He adopted Christianity and also identified with Sierra Leone's then ascendant Krio ethnic group. He studied languages and was ordained as a minister in England, where he later received a doctoral degree from Oxford University. He prepared a Yoruba grammar and translation of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer into Yoruba, also working on a Yoruba version of the Bible, as well as other language projects.
A grandson of King Abiodun, through his mother, Afala, Ajayi was around 12 years old when he and his family were captured, along with his entire village, by Fulani slave raiders in March of 1821 and sold to Portuguese slave traders. His mother Afala, who was later baptized with the name Hannah, toddler brother, and other family members were among the captives. His father, Ayemi, was most likely killed in the raid of his village or shortly afterwards.
The British outlawed the Atlantic slave trade in the early 19th century and used their navy to patrol the coast of Africa. By that time, Spain and Portugal still permitted the international slave trade in their colonies in the Americas, and the British empire and the United States still allowed slavery, but had banned the trans-Atlantic importation of slaves. Before the slave ship left port for the Americas, it was boarded by crew from a British Royal Navy ship under the command of Captain Henry Leeke. They freed the captives, and took Ajayi and his family to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where they were resettled by local authorities.
While in Sierra Leone, Crowther was cared for by the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) and was taught English. He converted to Christianity. On 11 December 1825 he was baptized by John Raban. He named himself after Samuel Crowther, vicar of Christ Church, Newgate, London, and one of the pioneers of the CMS.
While in Freetown, Crowther became interested in languages. In 1826 he was taken to England to attend the school of St Mary's Church in Islington, which had established a connection with free Africans in the 18th century. He returned to Freetown in 1827. He was the first student admitted to the newly opened Fourah Bay College, an Anglican missionary school. Because of his interest in language, he studied Latin and Greek of the classical curriculum, but also Temne of West Africa. After completing his studies, Crowther began teaching at the school.
Marriage and family
Crowther married a schoolmistress, Asano (i.e. Hassana; she was formerly Muslim), baptised Susan. She had been liberated from the same Portuguese slave ship as Ajayi, and was among the captives resettled in Sierra Leone. She had also converted to Christianity. Their several children included Dandeson Coates Crowther, who later entered the ministry and in 1891 became archdeacon of the Niger Delta.
Their second daughter Abigail, married Thomas Babington Macaulay, a junior associate. Their son and Crowther's grandson, Herbert Macaulay, became one of the first Nigerian nationalists, and played an important role in ending British colonial rule in Nigeria.
Crowther was selected to accompany the missionary James Schön on the Niger expedition of 1841. Together with Schön, he was expected to learn Hausa for use on the expedition. Its goal was to stimulate commerce, teach agricultural techniques, encourage Christianity, and help end the slave trade. Following the expedition, Crowther was recalled to England, where he was trained as a minister and ordained by the Bishop of London. Schön wrote to the Church Missionary Society noting Crowther's usefulness and ability on the expedition, recommending that he be prepared for ordination.
Crowther began translating the Bible into Yoruba and compiling a Yoruba dictionary. In 1843, his grammar book, on which he had begun working during the Niger expedition, was published. A Yoruba version of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer followed later. Crowther also compiled A Vocabulary of the Yoruba Language, including a large number of local proverbs, published in London in 1852.
He also began codifying other languages. Following the British Niger Expeditions of 1854 and 1857, Crowther, assisted by a young Igbo interpreter named Simon Jonas, produced a primer for the Igbo language in 1857. He published one for the Nupe language in 1860, and a full grammar and vocabulary of Nupe in 1864.
Crowther had become a close associate and friend of Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies, an influential politician, mariner, philanthropist and industrialist in colonial Lagos. The two men collaborated on social initiatives in Lagos, such as the founding of The Academy (a social and cultural center for public enlightenment) on 24 October 1866. Crowther was the first patron and Captain J.P.L Davies was the first president.
In 1864, Crowther was ordained as the first African bishop of the Anglican Church; he was consecrated a bishop on St Peter's day 1864, by Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury at Canterbury Cathedral. He had continued his studies and later received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford.
In March 1881, he and his son Dandeson attended a conference on the island of Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean west of Morocco. Crowther had begun to work in languages other than Yoruba, but he continued to supervise the translation of the Yoruba Bible (Bibeli Mimọ), which was completed in the mid-1880s, a few years before his death.
Death, burial, exhumation, and reburial
In 1971 the Lagos State Government under Mobolaji Johnson wanted to redevelop the site of the cemetery for new government offices and issued notices to families of the deceased. Seth Kale, Anglican Bishop of Lagos, representing the Anglican community and Crowther's family, delayed exhumation and reburial until 1976. An elaborate ceremony was held at a new burial site and a cenotaph was installed at Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos.
- Posted by Otedo News Update on February 23, 2011 at 9:58pm in Useful info; Discussions, View. "Yoruba Enslavement of African Ancestors, Major Blocks on W.African Transatlantic Slave Trade". ihuanedo.ning.com. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
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- "Church news: consecration of three bishops in Canterbury Cathedral". Church Times (#74). 2 July 1864. p. 213. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 15 December 2014 – via UK Press Online archives.
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- "Crowther awaits reburial". The Nigeria Nostalgia Project 1960-1980 on Facebook. Daily Times of Nigeria 1971. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
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- "Crowther, Samuel Ajayi, Nigeria, Anglican". Dictionary of African Christian Biography. Archived from the original on 11 July 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
- Oluniyi, Olufemi Olayinka (2017). Reconciliation in Northern Nigeria: The Space for Public Apology. Frontier Press. ISBN 9789789495276.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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- Page, Jesse (1888). Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy who Became Bishop of the Niger. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company. p. 64. Retrieved 12 April 2015.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Hair, Paul Edward Hedley (1967). "The Early Study of Yoruba, 1825-1850". The early study of Nigerian languages. Cambridge U. P. in association with the West African Languages Survey and the Institute of African Studies, Ibadan.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Page, Jesse (1892). Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy who Became Bishop of the Niger. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Walls, A. F. (January 1992). "Samuel Ajayi Crowther (1807-1891) Foremost African Christian of the Nineteenth Century" (PDF). International Bulletin of Missionary Research. 16 (1): 15–21. doi:10.1177/239693939201600104. S2CID 147655489.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)(subscription required)
- Buckland, Augustus Robert (1901). Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co. .
- Childe, A F. (1852). Good out of evil, or, The history of Adjai. London: Wertheim and MacIntosh.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Noll, Mark A. (2009). The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0-8308-2847-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Lewis, Donald M. (2004). Christianity Reborn: The Global Expansion of Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-2483-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Crowther, Samuel Adjai (1900). Bibeli Mimọ Tabi Majẹmu Lailai Ati Titun. (Holy Bible in Yoruba.). London.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Crowther, Samuel Ajayi; Vidal, Owen Emeric (1852). A Vocabulary of the Yoruba language, Together with Introductory Remarks by the Rev. OE Vidal. London: Seeleys.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- The Church Missionary Atlas: Containing an Account of the Various Countries in which the Church Missionary Society Labours, and of the Missionary Operations. Church Missionary Society. 1896. p. 23.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Oluwatayo Adeuyan, Jacob (2011). The Journey of the First Black Bishop: Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther 1806-1891. AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781463407322.
- Iheukwumer, Okechukwu. "Anglicanism In Igboland". Igbo Youth Choir of Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Samuel Ajayi Crowther.|
- Works by Samuel Ajayi Crowther at Biodiversity Heritage Library
- Works by Samuel Ajayi Crowther at Open Library
- Works by or about Samuel Ajayi Crowther at Internet Archive
- "Crowther, Samuel Ajayi". Dictionary of African Christian Biography. Boston: Boston University School of Theology. 2002. Archived from the original on 11 July 2014.