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Race, Religion, Nationalism, and the rise of the West African Middle Class, 1850 -1920  (2022 project)

In 1864 Samuel Crowther became the first African Anglican Bishop of West Africa. In that same year he received a Doctorate of Divinity from Oxford University. Prior to Crowther, there were no black Anglican priests, and prior to the nineteenth century Africans could seldom hope to attain a university education in Britain. However, during the nineteenth century Britain and America saw a noticeable increase in college and university-educated West Africans (mainly from Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and The Gambia) which in turn produced a burgeoning group of middle-class and elite writers, scientists, lawyers and journalists both within Britain, America and West Africa. Who were these West Africans, and why were they studying in Western institutions?


Four years after Crowther became an Anglican Bishop, Africanus Horton, the Sierra Leonean medical doctor, published West African Countries and its Peoples in which he stated that "the inhabitants of the Colony [Sierra Leone] have been gradually blending into one race, and a national spirit is being developed". Thus with the growth of this Western-educated African middle-class came questions of cultural assimilation, self-identity, and perhaps most importantly, the prospect of African independence. Based on this knowledge I want to investigate two important questions: firstly, how did West Africans actively participate in the representation of African culture, scientific knowledge, religion during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? And secondly, how did close engagement with Britain and America shape notions of West African nationalism and independence?