The History of Krio
The History of Krio
By Dr. Malcolm Awadajin Finney
(reprinted with permission of the author)
(history, attitudes and current use)
Krio is an English-based creole spoken mainly in Sierra Leone in West Africa. The name is proposed to be derived from Yoruba a kiri yo (we go-about-aimlessly full/satisfied) meaning “Those who habitually go about paying visits after church service”, as the Krios were wont to do (Fyle & Jones 1980). Circumstances leading to the emergence of Krio are highly debatable.
One view argues that Krio emerged from varieties of creoles used by settlers — mostly freed slaves primarily from four areas — who were resettled in the Sierra Leone peninsula, including Freetown, between 1787 and 1850 (Huber 1999, 2000). These four groups and their dates of arrival are identified as follows (Huber 1999, 2000):
The Black Poor: The Original Settlers (Black Poor) from England, numbering about 328 settlers, arrived from England in 1787. There is no evidence of any significant contribution of the Black Poor to the development of present day Krio.
The Nova Scotians: Slaves in America were promised freedom and much better living conditions in return for support for the British during the American war. After the war, about 3,000 slaves were relocated, in 1783, in Nova Scotia, Canada (a British colony), where they continued to endure economic hardship and epidemics. In response to their protests, the British decided to relocate them in a new colony in West Africa — the Sierra Leone peninsula, where most of the slaves were originally from, in 1787. Most of the first arrivals did not survive the hostility of the native community, primarily the Mendes. In 1792, close to 2000 freed slaves were shipped to Freetown from Nova Scotia.
The Gullahs: Slaves from West Africa and their descendants worked in plantations in the American South East, between North Carolina and Florida, and developed a pidgin, which later became Gullah creole — a mixture of English and West African languages. Though, vocabulary was derived primarily from English, its structure and pronunciation (including intonation), as well as idiomatic expressions, proposed to be were heavily influenced by those of the West African languages that the slaves used as a primary language. Gullah, still used in the American South, bears some similarities with Krio.
The Maroons from Jamaica: About 556 Jamaican Maroons (escaped slaves), deported to Nova Scotia in 1796 after an unsuccessful revolt, were transferred to the Sierra Leone peninsula in 1800. Creoles from the West Indies, particularly the variety brought by the Jamaican Maroon settlers, are proposed by Huber to have had significant input into what has now evolved into present day Krio. There are lots of similarities between Jamaican creole and Krio.
Another major group to be considered in the development of Krio is that of the Liberated Africans. After the British declared slavery illegal for their Subjects, their fleet patrolled the West African coast, intercepted slave ships and recaptured slaves, and released and resettled them in the Sierra Leone peninsula as the Liberated Africans (or Recaptives). These were by far the largest group and were resettled in the Sierra Leone peninsula over a period that stretch from 1808 (when Sierra Leone was declared a crown colony) to 1863. Huber estimates the number of Liberated Africans resettled in the Sierra Leone peninsula during this period at about 60,000, though only about 37,000 were alive in 1840. In 1860, the Liberated Africans and their descendants totaled 38, 375. click to continue
A Brief History
– A Living Link Between Sierra Leone, Gullah/Geechee People, and the Black Seminoles
Even today, we find a unique, powerful link connecting Sierra Leone and southeastern seabord of the United States. The Gullah/Geechee People, descendants of West Africans sold to slavery in the British North America, stretches from the southern North Carolina to the present day Jacksonville, Florida. The center of this people and culture lies in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia.
Living in the communities where often 90 percent of the population were black slaves, Gullah/Geechee people were able to preserve their African culture. While unquestionably African, Gullah/Geechee culture also owes its uniqueness to the melting pot that emerged in the southeastern seabord. Thousands of miles from Africa, a new, pan-African culture was born. Slaves hailed from a wide stretch of West African coast, from the Senegambia in the north to the present-day Angola in the South. Amalgamating different African foodways, languages, spiritual practices, music, crafts and other traditions, these Africans created a powerful, persistent culture that continues to thrive even today.
An off-shoot of this group are the Black Seminoles of Florida and Texas-Oklahoma area. Native Americans of Florida welcomed black runaways from the British colonies, creating another hybrid tribe that combined African and Native American folkways. After the forcible removal of Native Americans to the Oklahoma Indian Territory, many descendants of this group made their way to the Old Southwest. Black Seminoles continue to live in that area, keeping their African traditions alive in their new home.
With the settling of thousands of ex-slaves and some free blacks in Freetown and its peninsula, in Sierra Leone, Gullah/Geechee culture returned to the Motherland. These returnees form a strong link between Africa and the Gullah/Geechee people. Their language and traditions connect them to America and Africa alike. This bond keeps the descendants of the Creole-Krio and the Gullah/Geechee intrically and historically connected.
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