Royal Naval Museum

Samuel Adjai Crowther (1809-1891)

Heroes of the Squadron

Samuel Crowther

NAME:

Samuel Adjai Crowther

LIVED:

Born in 1809 at Ochugu in the Yoruba country, West Africa

Died on December 31st 1891

POSITION IN THE SQUADRON:

Crowther was not a member of the West Africa Squadron but later became the Bishop of Niger.

WHEN DID HE JOIN THE SQUADRON? 

The West Africa Squadron liberated Samuel Crowther from a slave ship in 1822.

TELL ME MORE ABOUT HIS LIFE:

Adjai was only 12 or 13 when he was kidnapped into slavery in 1821. He, his mother and sister were captured together with many others, and they never knew whether his father and other relatives were killed or captured. Adjai was separated from his loved ones and sold to Portuguese slavers. The slavers placed Adjai and the others on a slave-vessel to be transported, along with many other kidnapped and enslaved Africans.

Fortunately, HMS Myrmidon, under the command of Sir Henry Leeke, detained Adjai’s ship in the following year, before it could even leave port.  Adjai and many others were rescued and taken to Freetown, a settlement for liberated Africans in Sierra Leone.   Educated in a missionary (religious) school in Freetown for the next few years, Adjai was baptized on the 11th of December 1825 and he then took the name Samuel Crowther. 

Crowther enjoyed languages and learnt to speak English fluently; he also studied Greek, Latin and Temne (the language spoken in Sierra Leone). In 1826 he was taken to England to attend Islington Parish School, returning a year later to study as a teacher at Fourah Bay.  In time, Samuel became a teacher at Fourah Bay himself. Soon after, he met another schoolteacher, Asano Susan, who had been rescued from the same ship as Crowther, and would later become his wife.

Although Samuel enjoyed teaching, his religion was very important to him and in 1841 he became a missionary on the Niger.  After this, Crowther was recalled to England, where he trained as a minister and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1843.  In the same year, Crowther returned to Africa and opened a mission of his own in Abeokuta, Nigeria.  His interest in languages persisted  and he translated the Bible into Yoruba, wrote a Yoruba dictionary and published several books of his own on African languages.

In 1864, Crowther was ordained into the Anglican Church as a Bishop.

WHAT IS HE BEST REMEMBERED FOR?

Samuel Crowther is one of the few enslaved Africans that we know anything about to have been liberated from slavery by the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron.  He was also the first African Bishop ever to be ordained in the Anglican Church.

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