Liberated Africans

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Liberated Africans in Nigeria during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century where freed slaves who migrated to Nigeria in the beginning of the 1830s. They were known locally as Saros (elided form of Sierra Leone) or Amaros: migrants from Brazil and Cuba. They were mostly freed and repatriated slaves from various West African and Latin American countries such as Sierra Leone, Brazil and Cuba Liberated "returnee" Africans from Brazil were more commonly known as "Agudas". Most of the Latin American returnees or Amaros started migrating to Africa after slavery was abolished on the continent while others from West Africa, or the Saros were recaptured and freed slaves already resident in Sierra Leone. Many of the returnees chose to return to Nigeria for cultural, missionary and economic reasons.

The newly arrived immigrants resided in the Niger-delta, Lagos and in some Eastern Nigerian cities such as Aba, Owerri, and Onitsha. [1] Though, many were originally dedicated Anglophiles in Nigeria, they later adopted an indigenous and patriotic attitude on Nigerian affairs due to a rise in discrimination in the 1880s,[2] and were later known as cultural nationalists. See: Brazilian_quarter


Life in Sierra Leone

While living in Sierra Leone or Freedom Province as some called it, many residents became exposed to the Christian faith as a result of the work of British missionaries who established some Churches, a few grammar schools and a pioneer Educational institution, the Fourah Bay College. Relatively, the residents of Sierra Leone soon gained a fast start in Western education and were soon well trained and experienced in medicine, law, and the civil service. Many of them graduated from grammar schools and became administrative workers for the British imperial interest in the country. By the middle of the nineteenth century some of the African literati in Sierra Leone began to migrate to Nigeria, especially the colony of Lagos for economic reasons and some were administrative personnel who were reassigned to Lagos. An expedition of the river Niger by Ajayi Crowther furthered the evangelical interest of many Sierra Leaneans on Nigeria, many of whom had grown to be accessories of the missionaries and their effort.

Life in Lagos and Abeokuta

Lagos was a strategic and important fishing location for the original founders, the Aworis. It was established as a fishing community by Awori immigrants in the sixteenth century. The town later emerged as major economic base nurtured by immigration from nearby ethnic groups led by the Ijebus, then the Ijaws, the Binis, and the Egbas. Trade with Euorpeans also fueled the commercial rise of the city.[3] By 1880, Lagos had already become a cosmopolitan city. Sierra Leonean immigrants started moving to Lagos in the 1840s. Many of the immigrants were of Egba and Oyo heritage and some were familiar with Yoruba traditions and culture. They assimilated fairly well with the Yorubas, and coupled with an earlier training and interaction with the British in Sierra Leone, they were able to become part of the colonial society with little abuse from Lagos indigenes. The immigrants immediately rose to become commercial middlemen between residents of Lagos, Abeokuta and the Europeans.

In Lagos, the Saros chose Ebute Meta, Ologbowo, and Yaba as primary settlements. [4] The Saros mostly of Egba heritage established a few of the oldest churches in Lagos and also expanded the missionary work of the British in Nigeria. The Saros also emerged as a dominant commercial group in Lagos. Having developed a migratory forte, they had an edge as travelers who were able to go into the interiors to meet directly with various commodity producers and traders. They were the pioneer Southern Nigerian traders in Kola, a cash crop that later emerged as a viable and important export commodity for the Western region in the early twentieth century.[5] The Saros introduced the crop which was bought from Hausa traders across the River Niger into Southern Nigeria agriculture. The first Kola farm and the dominant trader in Kola, Mohammed Shitta Bey were orchestrated by Saros. They also did not drop their yearning for western education as they dominated the ranks professions open to Africans. They were lawyers, doctors, and civil servants.

Life in the delta

The Niger delta was a little bit dissimilar to Lagos and western Nigeria where the Yorubas were dominant. Lagos was much more cosmopolitan while the delta was comprised of different and varied ethnic groups of equal political footing. There was also little historical attributes that could foster cultural assimilation.[6] However, the immigrants soon found a home in a few cities especially in the new city of Port Harcourt. Port Harcourt was founded by British authorities in 1913 as a coastal center for the export of Palm oil and coal. A number of immigrants from Yorubaland, the Hausa states, Gambia and Sierra Leone soon came to the city to work. Some of the Saros were clergymen and others were transferred for administrative duty. The Saros emerged in the city as pioneers of African commerce as they became suppliers to the residents of the new city. However, life in Port Harcourt was rough for many Saros. Some came to the city as workers for British merchant houses and the colonial government. However, there was no job security afforded the immigrants in the new city. Some Saro workers were retired without pension and suffered much financial deprivation. The retired Saros asked to return home, and some were transported back with the help of colonial funds. The lack of promotion and retirement faced by immigrant Africans was partly as a result of a systemic wall against promotion of Saros and Africans by the British. The Saros in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abeokuta had earned the irritation of Europeans because of the achievement of a few immigrants in the clergy and business world. [7] This policy led to a gradual change among Saros especially those in the West. The idealistic revolt against the British was led in the missionary by James Johnson who decried excessive British interference in the affairs of the missionary society and who wanted more African involvement in promoting Christianity.


  • p 125.
  • Lorand Matory. The English Professors of Brazil: On the diasporic Roots of the Yoruba Nation, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 41, No. 1, Jan., 1999. p 89.
  • Kehinde Faluyi. Migrants and the Economic Development of Lagos, From the Earliest of Times to 1880. p 1
  • Faluyi, p 9.
  • Babatunde Agiri. The Introduction of Nitida Kola into Nigerian Agriculture, 1880-1920, African Economic History, No. 3, Spring, 1977. p1.
  • Mac Dixon-Fyle. The Saro in the Political Life of Early Port Harcourt, 1913-49, The Journal of African History, Vol. 30, No. 1. p 126.
  • Jonathan Derrick. The 'Native Clerk' in Colonial West Africa, African Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 326. p 65.
  • John Michael Vlach, The Brazilian House in Nigeria: The Emergence of a 20th-Century Vernacular House Type, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 97, No. 383, Jan., 1984. p 6
  • Faluyi p 11,12.