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Sunday, 26 June 2016

How I was captured into slavery – Ajayi Crowther’s 179-year old letter

Ajayi Crowther, the first African bishop of the Anglican Church had a rough background.
He was 12 years old when he was captured, along with his mother and toddler brother and other family members, along with his entire village, by Muslim Fulani slave raiders in 1821 and sold to Portuguese slave traders.
In his 1837 letter to Rev. Williams Jowett, then Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, Crowther narrated his capture into slavery and rescue.
Letter of Mr. Samuel Ajayi Crowther to the Rev. Williams Jowett, in 1837, then Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, detailing the circumstances connected with his being sold as a slave.
Rev. and dear Sir,
As I think it will be interesting to you to know something of the conduct of Providence in my being brought to this Colony, where I have the happiness to enjoy the privilege of the Gospel, I give you a short account of it, hoping I may be excused if I should prove rather tedious in some particulars.
I suppose sometimes about the commencement of the year 1821, I was in my native country, enjoying the comforts of father and mother, and affectionate love of brothers and sisters. From this period I must date the unhappy, but which I am now taught, in other respects, to call blessed day, which I shall never forget in my life.
I call it unhappy day, because it was the day in which I was violently turned out of my father’s house, and separated from relations; and I which I was made to experience what is called to be in slavery – with regard to its being called blessed, it being the day which Providence had marked out for me to set out on my journey from the land of heathenism, superstition, and vice, to a place where His Gospel is preached.
For some years, war had been carried on in my Eyo (Oyo) country, which was always attended with much devastation and bloodshed; the women, such men as had surrendered or were caught, with the children, were taken captives. The enemies who carried on these war were principally the Oyo Mahomendans, with whom my country abounds- with the Foulahs (Fulbe), and such foreign slaves as had escaped from their owners. Joined together, making a formidable force of about 20,000, who annoyed the whole country. They had no other employment but selling slaves to the Spaniards and Portuguese on the coast.
The morning in which my town, Ocho-gu (Osogun), shared the same fate which many others had experienced, was fair and delightful; and most of the inhabitants were engaged in their respective occupations. We were preparing breakfast without any apprehension; when, about 9 o’clock a.m. a rumour was spread in the town that the enemies had approached with intentions of hostility. It was not long after when they had almost surrounded the town, to prevent any escape of the inhabitants; the town being rudely fortified with a wooded fence, about four miles in circumference, containing about 12,000 inhabitants, which would produce 3,000 fighting men. The inhabitants not being duly prepared, some not being at home; those who were, having about six gates to defend, as well as many weak places about the fence to guard against, and, to say in a few words, the men being surprised, and therefore confounded – the enemies entered the town after about three or four hours’ resistance.
Here a most sorrowful scene imaginable was to be witnessed! – women, some with three, four, six children clinging to their arms, with the infant on their backs, and such baggage as they could carry on their heads, running as far as they could through prickly shrubs, which, hooking their blies and other loads, drew them down from the heads of the bearers. While they found impossible to go along with their loads, they endeavoured only to save themselves and their children: even this was impracticable with those who had many children to care for.
While they were endeavouring to disentangle themselves from the ropy shrubs, they were overtaken and caught by the enemies with a noose of rope thrown over the neck of every individual, to be led in the manner of goats tied together, under the drove of one man. In many cases a family was violently divided between three or four enemies , who each led his away, to see one another no more.
Your humble servant was thus caught-with his mother, two sisters (one an infant about ten months old), and a cousin – while endeavouring to escape in the manner above described. My load consisted in nothing else than my bow, and five arrows in the quiver, the bow I had lost in the shrub, while I was extricating myself, before I could think of making any use of it against my enemies. The last view I had of my father was when he came from the fight, to give us the signal to flee: he entered into our house which was burnt some time back for some offence given by my father’s adopted son. Hence I never saw him more-Here I must take thy leave, unhappy, comfortless father! – I learned, some time afterward, that he was killed in another battle.
Professor Ade Ajayi’s book on Crowther, source of this letter
Professor Ade Ajayi’s book on Crowther, source of this letter
Our conquerors were Oyo Mahomendans, who led us away through the town. On our way, we met a man badly wounded on the head struggling between life and death. Before we got half-way through the town, some Foulahs (Fulbe), among the enemies themselves, hostilely separated my cousin from our number, here also I must take thy leave, my fellow captive cousin! His mother was living in another village. The town on fire – the houses being built with mud, some about twelve feet from the ground with high roofs, in square forms, of different dimensions and spacious areas; several of these belonged to one man, adjoined to, with passage communicating with each other. The flame was very high.
We were led by my grandfather’s house, already desolate; and in a few minutes after, we left the town to the mercy of the flame, never to enter or see it any more. Farewell, a place of my birth, the playground of my childhood, and the place which I thought would be the repository of my mortal body in its old age.
We were now out of Osogun, going into a town called Isehin (Iseyin), the rendezvours of the enemies, about twenty miles from my town. On the way we saw our grandmother at a distance, with about three or four of my cousins taken with her, for a few minutes: she was missed through the crowd to see her no more. Several other captives were held in the same manner as we we were: grandmothers, mothers, children, and cousins were all led captives. O sorrowful prospect! The aged women were to be greatly pitied, not being able to walk so fast as their children and grandchildren; they were often threatened with being put to death upon the spot, to get rid of them, if they would not go fast as others, and they often as wicked in their practice as in their words. O pitiful sight! Whose heart would not bleed to have seen this? Yes, such is the state of barbarity in the heathen land. Evening came on; and coming to a spring of water we drank a great quantity; which served us for breakfast, with a little parched corn and dried meat previously prepared by our victors for themselves.

Protests in London as 2m people call for 2nd referendum on EU

Anti-Brexit protests broke out on the streets of London after a petition for a second EU referendum attracted 2 million signatures within a day.
The protests came despite a record 33.5 million people taking part in the referendum-the highest in any election since 1992-in which Leave won with 51.9 percent, a margin of 1,269,501 votes.
And today, Labour legislator David Lammy says Thursday’s result was non-binding and Parliament should now vote on whether Britain quits the EU, potentially ignoring the vote.
He says some ‘leave’ supporters now regret their votes and we should not destroy the economy ‘on the basis of lies and the hubris of Boris Johnson.’
Two million people have now signed the petition, which the Government must now consider debating in the House of Commons, which it must do for any which gets more than 100,000 names.
But the majority of signatures are from people in London and areas with a high population of students, which predominantly voted Remain, meaning the result may not be any different.
Thousands came from north London, Cambridge and Oxford, while more than 3,000 of David Cameron’s constituents also signed the petition.
The results from the historic EU referendum are awaiting a final declaration and the United Kingdom is projected to have voted to LEAVE the European Union.
Demonstrators waved EU flags, held posters saying ‘Yes 2 EU’ and banners claiming the older population ‘stole our future’.
Because it easily passed the 100,000 target, MPs will be forced to consider the proposal in Parliament this summer.
The petition demands the Government re-stage the referendum because the winning vote for Leave was less than 60 per cent and was based on a turnout of less than 75 per cent.
The result revealed stark divisions between young and old, north and south, cities and rural areas, and university-educated people and those with fewer qualifications.
In London a separate petition is calling on Mayor Sadiq Khan to declare the capital independent from the United Kingdom, and apply to join the EU.
Although the decision is not legally binding on MPs, it would be an act of political suicide for any group to attempt to override it and order a second referendum after months of hard-fought campaigning.
Anti-Brexit protests were also held in other UK cities, including Edinburgh, where Remain won by a vast majority – a result reflected in all 32 local authorities in Scotland, triggering demands for a second Scottish independence referendum.
Any petition that receives more than 100,000 signatures within six months must be considered for debate by MPs in Parliament.
Any petition that attracts more than 10,000 in the time period requires a response from the Government.
By lunch time today the petition had already attracted more than 1,308,147 signatures.
The result of the EU referendum should be overturned by a Commons vote next week, a Labour MP has insisted.
Former minister David Lammy said the poll, which produced a narrow, surprise, win for the Leave side, was non-binding and parliament remains sovereign.
The Tottenham MP said the Commons, where a majority of members backed Remain, should ‘stop the madness’ of Brexit.
‘Wake up. We do not have to do this. We can stop this madness and bring this nightmare to an end through a vote in parliament.
‘Our sovereign parliament needs to now vote on whether we should quit the EU.
‘The referendum was an advisory, non-binding referendum. The Leave campaign’s platform has already unravelled and some people wish they hadn’t voted to leave.
‘Parliament now needs to decide whether we should go forward with Brexit, and there should be a vote in Parliament next week.
‘Let us not destroy our economy on the basis of lies and the hubris of Boris Johnson,’ Mr Lammy said.
The petition – started by William Oliver Healey this morning – states: ‘We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based on a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.’
The House of Commons Petitions committee will now be forced to consider staging a debate in Parliament on the proposals for a second referendum.
Their next meeting is on Tuesday after MPs return from a mini-recess, although it might have to wait until the following week to be discussed.
The petition reflects the anger among the 16.1 million voters who backed staying in the EU – particularly young voters in London and across Scotland, who overwhelmingly backed Remain.
Three in four 18-24-year-olds voted for Remain in the referendum and more than half (56 per cent) of 25-49-year-olds backing the pro-EU option, according to initial estimates of the vote breakdown by YouGov.
It was those who may have to live with the consequences the longest who seemed most disappointed with the result.
According to a YouGov poll, the youngest of the electorate voted overwhelmingly to Remain, while it was older voters who were most keen on Brexit.
The survey, conducted after voting closed, found 75 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 voted to remain in the EU.
Some 56 per cent of voters aged between 25 and 49 voted for Remain, but the figure dropped to 44 per cent for 50 to 64-year-olds and just 39 per cent for the over-65s, according to the poll.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron described the result as a ‘great injustice to future generations’.
‘Their future has been taken away by older generations,’ he said, in a speech following the result.
‘What a tragedy that older voters, the people who have been able to benefit from European integration, have removed the opportunity for those coming behind them.’
But those who emerged victorious from the country’s momentous decision sought to reassure those on the losing side.
In his victory speech at Vote Leave headquarters, Boris Johnson said: ‘I want to speak directly to the millions of people who did not vote for this outcome, especially young people, who may feel that this decision involves somehow pulling up the drawbridge, because I think the very opposite is true.
‘We cannot turn our backs on Europe, we are part of Europe, our children and our grandchildren will continue to have a wonderful future as Europeans.
‘It is the essence of our case that young people in this country can look forward to a more secure and more prosperous future, if we take back the democratic control.’
A poll carried out for The Times at Glastonbury music festival found 78 per cent had voted before setting off, with 83 per cent of those surveyed saying they backed Remain and just 16 per cent supporting Brexit.
Daily Mail of London
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