An Abridged History

Featured left: Sierra Leonean Flag



The Sierra Leonean Creole people (or Krio people) is an ethnic group in Sierra Leone. Creole people are descendants of freed African American, West Indian and Liberated African slaves who settled in the Western Area of Sierra Leone between 1787 and about 1885.

The colony Sierra Leone was established by the British, supported by abolitionists, under the Sierra Leone Company as a place for freedmen.



The first settlers to found a colony in Sierra Leone were the so-called "Black Poor": African Americans and West Indians. Four hundred and eleven settlers arrived in the colony on 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.

Many died on the journey from England but enough survived to establish and build a colony. Seventy white women accompanied the men to Sierra Leone; they were likely wives and girlfriends. Their colony was known as the "Province of Freedom" and their settlement was called "Granville Town"' after the British abolitionist Granville Sharp. The British negotiated for the land for the settlement with the local Temne chief, King Tom.


The second settlers; some 1,200 black loyalists and their leader, Thomas Peters immigrated to Sierra Leone from Halifax Harbor on January 15, 1792. They arrived in Sierra Leone between February 28 and March 9, 1792. 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 tree near George Street. As the Settlers gathered under the tree, their 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. 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.

 Thomas Peters, born Thomas Potters (25 June 1738 – 1792), was one of the Black Loyalist "Founding Fathers" of the nation of Sierra Leone in West Africa. Peters, along with David George, Moses Wilkinson, Cato Perkins and Joseph Leonard, were influential Black Canadians, who recruited African settlers in the Province of Nova Scotia for the colonization of Sierra Leone. Today, the Creoles comprise about 5% of the population of Sierra Leone.



The next arrivals were the Jamaican Maroons; these Maroons came specifically from Trelawny Town, one of the five Maroon cities in Jamaica. The Maroons mainly descended from highly military skilled Ashanti slaves who had escaped plantations and, to a lesser extent, from Jamaican indigenous people. The Maroons numbered around 551, and they helped quell some of the riots against the British from the Settlers. The Maroons later 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 were 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. These Black Americans included Perry Lockes and Prince Saunders from Boston; Abraham Thompson, and Peter Williams from New York City; and Edward Jones from Charleston, South Carolina.


The last major group of immigrants to the colony was the Liberated Africans. Held on slave ships for sale in the western hemisphere, they were liberated by the Royal Navy, which, with the West Africa Squadron, enforced the abolition of the international slave trade after 1808.

The Liberated Africans, also called Recaptives, contributed greatly to the Creole culture. While the Settlers, Maroons, and transatlantic immigrants gave the Creoles their Christianity, some of their customs, and their Western influence, the Liberated Africans modified their customs to adopt those of the Nova Scotians and Europeans, yet kept some of their ethnic traditions. 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. Sometimes if a child's parents died, the young Recaptive 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. The Recaptives intermarried with the Settlers and Maroons, and the two groups became a fusion of African and Western societies.

The settlers had a profound influence on Creole culture; many of the Western attributes of Creole society were conveyed by the "Settlers", who continued what was familiar to them from their past lives. 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 Creole identity was beginning to form.

Like their Americo-Liberian neighbors in Liberia, Creoles have varying degrees of European ancestry because some of the settlers were descended from European Americans and other Europeans. Though the Jamaican Maroons, some Creoles probably also have indigenous Jamaican Amerindian Taino ancestry. Alongside the Americo-Liberians, the Creoles are the only recognized ethnic group of African-American, Liberated African, and West Indian descent in West Africa. As with their Americo-Liberian neighbors, Creole culture is primarily westernized. The Creoles developed close relationships with the British colonial power; they became educated in British institutions and held prominent leadership positions in Sierra Leone under British colonialism.

The vast majority of Creoles reside in Freetown and its surrounding Western Area region of Sierra Leone. The only Sierra Leonean ethnic group whose culture is similar (in terms of its integration of Western culture) are the Sherbro. From their mix of peoples, the Creoles developed what is now the native Krio language (a mixture of English, indigenous West African languages, and other European languages). It has been widely used for trade and communication among ethnic groups and is the most widely spoken language in Sierra Leone.

The Creoles are primarily Christian, at 90 percent and are the descendants of freed African American and West Indian slaves who were virtually all Christians. However, some scholars consider the Oku people as Creoles although some Oku scholars distinguish between the Oku and the Creoles. However, because the Creoles are a mixture of various African ethnic groups with some European and possible Amerindian ancestry, while the Oku are principally of Yoruba descent.

Due to their history, the vast majority of Creoles have European first names and surnames. Many have both British first names and British last names.

The Creoles settled across West Africa in the nineteenth century in communities such as Limbe, Cameroon, Conakry, Guinea, Banjul, Gambia, Lagos, Nigeria, Abeokuta, Calabar, Accra, Ghana, Cape Coast, Fernando Pó. The Krio language of the Creole people influenced other pidgins such as Cameroonian Pidgin English, Nigerian Pidgin English, and Pichinglis. Thus, the Aku people of the Gambia, the Saro of Nigeria, Fernandino people of Equatorial Guinea, are sub-ethnic groups or direct descendants of the Sierra Leone Creole people. The Americo-Liberian ethnic group is the sister ethnic group of the Sierra Leone Creole people.


The Creoles are primarily Christians at over 85%. Some scholars consider the Oku community to be Creoles, although some scholars reject this premise given the differentiation in cultural practices between the Oku and Creoles. Like their Americo-Liberian neighbors, Creoles have varying degrees of European ancestry because some of the settlers were descended from white Americans and other Europeans. There was considerable intermarriage between the Europeans who settled in the colony of Sierra Leone and the various ethnic groups that coalesced into the Creole identity. Alongside the Americo-Liberians, they are the only recognized ethnic group of African-American Liberated African, and West Indian descent in West Africa.


The national language of Sierra Leone is English. In addition to English, the Creoles also speak a distinctive Krio language 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 Temne (1,230,000). Krio speakers lived principally in Freetown communities, on the Peninsula, on the Banana Islands, York Island, and in Bonthe. Speakers in other countries lived in Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, and the United States. Krio was strongly influenced by British English, Jamaican Creole, Igbo and Yoruba Krio is widely spoken throughout Freetown and the surrounding towns, such that Krio speakers are no longer presumed to be of the Creole ethnic group.



Ɛk’abo                         Welcome

Ɛkushe                         Hello or well done

Odaro                          Good night

Odabo                         Good bye


Creole culture reflected American and British cultures and values. The Creole 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 Sherbro interacted with Portuguese and English traders and intermarried with them (producing Afro-European clans such as the Sherbro Tuckers and Sherbro Caulkers), some of the Sherbro have a more westernized culture than that of other Sierra Leone ethnic groups. The Creoles intermarried with their allies the Sherbros from as far back as the 18th century. Since independence, all ethnic groups in Sierra Leone are inter-marrying increasingly.

Creole families typically live in one or 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, Creole 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 [17] provides a reliable supply of water and electricity to this area.

The Creoles observe traditional dating and marriage customs, whereby marriage is viewed as a contract between two families and Creoles 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.

Creoles 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 Creole fashion consisted of a top hat and frock coat for men and print frock, print kabaslot. petticoat and wool or silk slippers for women. Like their Americo-Liberian neighbors, Creole 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 Creoles still dress conservatively in Western-style suits and dresses.


Creoles typically eat three meals a day, the largest in the morning or near midday. The noonday meal of some Creoles 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, and chicken. A West African one-pot meal, jollof rice, is generally a dish for festive occasions i.e. feast days weddings etc. Other favorites include rice with various soup, rice bread, and salad. Creoles enjoy alcoholic drinks such as beer, gin, and palm wine.


Some Creoles 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 in remembrance of deceased family members generally the first anniversary of their passing but may also be held on the occasion of the five, ten, fifteen years anniversaries, etc. A naming ceremony or "pull na doh" on the seventh day following the birth is held to celebrate the birth of a new born. Ashobis, (parties) at which every guest is expected to wear the same type of materials, are held on the day of the wedding or some days after, for newlyweds.

When someone dies, pictures in the house are turned toward the wall and all mirrors or reflecting surfaces covered. At the wake held before the burial, people clap and sing "shouts"(negro spirituals) 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 mooning 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.


Creoles have inherited a wide range of tales from their ancestors. They entertain and provide instruction in Creole values and traditions. Among the best loved are stories about Anansi the spider.[14] The following is a typical spider tale: