Tue, 11/26/2019 - 22:35 By Akindele Decker
Rev Edward Jones
This December, one of the key highlights of the Fambul Tik’s Next Step Study Tour will be a symposium held at Fourah Bay College in early January. Presenters and Panelists will include some of the most notable scholars of the black Diaspora experience. Dr. Kevin Lowther, the author of “The African American Odyssey of John Kizell” will give a lecture on John Kizell, a native of Sherbro Island who was taken as a slave to Charleston in the 1700s, ran away, fought in the American Revolutionary War, and returned remarkably back to Sierra Leone in 1792 with 1000+ other African Americans. Kizell would later play a central role in the founding of Liberia. Also presenting will be Sierra Leonean Dr. Cyrus Macfoy, Botanist and Author of “Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine in Sierra Leone”. Dr. Macfoy presented on studies he conducted regarding botanic connections between Sierra Leone and the Gullah at Fambul Tik’s first Red Rice Luncheon in Beaufort County, South Carolina in 2006.

Another notable speaker, Sierra Leonean Dr. Nemata Blyden, a George Washington University Professor will give a lecture on her most recent book “African Americans and Africa”. The book delves into the ‘complex relationships’ African Americans have had with the continent, featuring figures such as the Rev. Edward Jones, a Charleston native of South Carolina. The relevance of Rev. Jones, Dr. Blyden’s book, and the venue, FBC in a way, helps to illustrate the historical nature and epic value of this Study Tour.

Based in Freetown and established in 1827, FBC is the oldest westernized College in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was to serve as the learning institution to prepare Africans, particularly those in Sierra Leone and West Africa, to take up their own affairs and lead efforts of spreading western civilization across Africa, as Missionaries. Even though the British has abolished slavery in 1807, the region was still an active trading zone for enslavement and transporting the enslaved to the Caribbean and Americas. There became a very aggressive counter effort by abolitionists and those who carried the ideals of liberty against the slave trade, and many stepped forward and played their part towards furthering the advancement of the African on the continent and in the Diaspora. Freetown was central in this. Between 1807 and the 1860\70s tens of thousands of enslaved Africans freed from slave ships before crossing the Middle-passage were settled in the Freetown Peninsular. Institutions such as Fourah Bay College and the Sierra Leone Grammar School (1845) were established to provide strong education and socio-economic foundation for them. European Abolitionists weren’t the only ones making major contributions towards this pursuit, even though many of them have been written about the most. Many West Indians and black Americans were also flocking to Sierra Leone and Liberia during this time to make their mark in this incredible moment of such an epic journey. Dr. Blyden’s Great-Great-Grandfather, the great Edward Wilmot Blyden, was one example of that. Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he sought out education in the United States where he was rejected because of his race, before choosing to settle in Liberia in the 1850s, where he established a notable career in education and government. Blyden who later became President of Liberia College, later settled in Sierra Leone where he further established his legacy as the “Father of Pan Africanism”.

Like his namesake, Rev. Edward Jones would encounter a similar journey to Africa. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Jones became the first black American to graduate from Amherst College in Massachusetts. His path led him to Sierra Leone in the 1830s, where he also furthered a career there as a Missionary, Educationist, and Town Superintendent. Rev. Jones became the first black Principal of Fourah Bay College in the 1840s, later also serving as acting Principal for the CMS Grammar School, also in Freetown, and the first westernized Secondary School in West Africa.

The connecting links illustrate such a connected history and journey that unravels the essence of this 2019 trip. On January 2nd, a group of over 30 Gullah people from South Carolina, Georgia, and other parts of the US, during their epic homecoming to Sierra Leone, will be part of the audience at Fourah Bay College for the historic lectures. They will witness the legacy of their South Carolina countryman, Rev. Edward Jones, over a 150 years later at the prestigious Fourah Bay College listening to renowned Scholars, one of which, Dr. Macfoy, was himself a former member of the FBC Faculty.

On so many layers, this trip truly marks a coming full circle for several aspects of the black experience. Fourah Bay College and Rev. Edward Jones, Sierra Leone and South Carolina, Gullah and Sierra Leonean.

There will also be an opportunity for the Trip goers to meet the Mayor of Freetown at the annual Ball. Interestingly, the Mayor just recently this year signed a Sister City pact with the city of Charleston, South Carolina. Oh the connections!