I, Samuel Ajayi Crowther Part 1
This story is written from a first person point of view.
I was born in Osoogun town, Yorubaland. I am from the Yoruba tribe. We have a lot of interesting customs and tradition observed on different occasions. Take for instance at my birth, a diviner made a revelation that I was not to be initiated into any of the many cults of the different gods which made up the Yoruba pantheon. This, as the diviner believed he saw was because I was to be initiated into and to serve in the cult of Olorun (the Owner of heaven). This in a way is not a complete farce as I grew up and entered into the service of the Most High God isn’t that correct?
Samuel Ajayi Crowther (center) with missionaries, Keston, Kent, 1873
My early life and formative years was not in any way comfortable and rosy. You see, I was born in the times of war and unrest in the Yoruba kingdom at large. The old Oyo Empire had just being vanquished, and then the jihadists who by then were building up what would be a prolific Fulani empire was, in a way, a kind of threat to the Yoruba nation in general. Warfare, raiding, constant fear of being carted away as slaves thereby losing one’s family was the order of the day. Families were divided and some of them were carried far away from their hometown and roots. Although, the slave trade then was illegal, it was richly profitable and the Europeans along the coast were very active in the dealings.
I think I was just 12 when Osoogun was raided. My hometown was gone up in smoke, friends I had known since infancy gone, people I used to see on daily basis along the path to the stream, on the way to the farm, the ones who gathered to have fun and play games in the village square, the woman who sold palmwine for my father, Iya alaro who dyed my mother’s clothes, the chiefs we highly revered, the king and the great men of my village all gone. Some dead, killed, massacred, burnt to ashes along with their properties. My little mind could register the desolation and horror of the capture and burning down of houses.
“It was almost inevitable that I would become one of them, either captured or killed.”
It was almost inevitable that I would become one of them, either captured or killed. I was captured with a number of others from my village. My friends and fellow kinsmen of Osoogun village. Brothers and sisters who we talked and sang with under the moonlight seemed like strangers as everyone was immersed in his own thoughts of what the next day might bring; whether death or life.
Archbishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther Anglican Church in his hometown Osoogun, 2012
The tree Archbishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther was tied to before he was sold into slavery
I still shiver whenever I remember how those of us captured were tied to a tree by the neck. What sent cold chills down my spine is and will forever be the killing of those our captors see as unfit for the journey ahead of us. We learnt we will be sold to some traders who would in turn sell us and then we would be passed from buyers to buyers till we reach the white men who needed our brute strength for manual labour on their fields.
The lost feeling of being torn from one’s relatives were all what I would never forget hurriedly and of course they were to be recorded as the memories of the whole ordeal.
Part 2 coming up.
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