Samuel Ajayi Crowther

(1807-1892)

Africa’s First Black Anglican Bishop, Translator and Scholar

Born at Oshogun in Nigeria around 1807, he was captured in war by an opposing tribe in 1821 and sold to a Portuguese slave ship in 1822, only to be freed by the Royal Navy on the same day as he was sold.

Placed in the care of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), he became literate in English, and was baptized as Samuel Crowther in 1825.

In 1826 Samuel arrived in England to attend Islington parish school.

Returning to Africa the following year, he attended the new Fourah Bay College, founded by the CMS in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to train Africans as schoolmasters and clergymen.

He was appointed tutor there in 1834.

He trained at the CMS Missionary College in Islington and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1843.

His scholarly work included the publication of his dictionary and grammar of Yoruba in 1843 and his translations of the Book of Common Prayer and Bible into Yoruba; he also made studies of other languages.

In 1864 Samuel was consecrated bishop of Western Africa, presiding over African clergy in the Niger mission, since European clergy, refusing to serve under an African, remained under the white bishop of Sierra Leone.

In his later years similar racial conflicts and the suspension of the African clergy including his son, Dandeson Coates Crowther, Archdeacon of the Lower Niger, resulted in the Niger Delta churches declaring themselves a self-governing body within the Anglican Church.

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther died in 1891.

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