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ADELAIDE CASELY HAYFORD
(1868-1960)
CULTURAL NATIONALIST AND EDUCATIONIST

Adelaide Casely Hayford, a strong advocate of cultural nationalism, was an educationist, short story writer and ardent feminist. HerAdelaide Casely Hayford determination to ensure that Sierra Leoneans preserve their national identity and cultural heritage caused her in 1925 to attend a reception in honour of the Prince of Wales in traditional African costume, causing a sensation.

Adelaide Casely Hayford, née Smith, was born in Freetown on June 27, 1868. The young Adelaide spent most of her childhood and adolescence in England where her father had retired in 1872. In England, she attended the Jersey Ladies College, and at the age of seventeen proceeded to Germany to study music at the Stuttgart Conservatory. Adelaide and her sisters returned to Sierra Leone after twenty-five years abroad.

After spending a few years in Freetown, she returned to England where, together with her sister, she opened a boarding home for African bachelors. It was during this period that she married J. E. Casely Hayford, a lawyer, who was an active advocate of Pan-Africanism and cultural nationalism. It is probable that her marriage to J. E. Casely Hayford gave her a deeper insight into African culture and may have influenced her transformation into a cultural nationalist. Inspired by the ideas of racial pride and co-operation advanced by Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), she joined the Ladies Division of the Freetown Branch on her return and became its President. She resigned from the Association however, in June, 1920 because of a conflict of interest between the UNIA and the proposed Girls' Vocational School she intended to establish. The same year, she travelled to the United States to study Afro-American educational programmes for industrial education and to raise funds for the proposed Girls' Vocational School. In the United States, proudly attired in African costume, she gave public lectures aimed at correcting the misguided American notions about Africa.

Back in Freetown, Adelaide embarked on her project of establishing a vocational institution which would "awaken in pupils a love of country, pride of race, an enthusiasm for the blackman's capabilities and genuine admiration for Africa's wonderful artwork". In October 1923, The Girls' Vocational School opened in the Smith Family home at Gloucester Street, opposite the Post Office, with fourteen pupils. As Principal, she would have preferred the pupils wearing native dress to school, but this idea was rejected by the community. However, on Africa Day, which was held once every  quarter, the pupils dressed in African costumes and studied African history, folklore, songs and artwork, and played African games and danced traditional dances. She headed the school till she retired in 1940, and the school was forced to close down.

A gifted public speaker, Adelaide advocated that Congress Day (the day marking the founding of the National Congress of British West Africa), like Empire Day, ought to be observed as a public holiday, and she canvassed mothers to explain the significance of the day to their children. She recognised the immediate need for a national University and called for the establishment of a professorship in the major African languages. Of especial significance was the emphasis she placed on arts and crafts as Africa's unique contribution to world culture.

Despite Adelaide's opposition to the injustices of the colonial system and her strong advocacy of cultural nationalism, the British  authorities had sufficient respect for her to award her the King's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935, and the M.B.E. in 1950. She spent the final years of her life writing her memoirs and short stories. She died in January 1960, leaving behind her a legacy of cultural awareness which all Sierra Leoneans should emulate.

 

SIR ERNEST SAMUEL BEOKU-BETTS
(1895-1957)
JURIST AND PUBLIC SERVANT

Sir Ernest S. Beoku-Betts was among the many prominent Sierra Leoneans who won recognition for their country during the Sir Ernest Samuel Beoku-Betts colonial era. A brilliant lawyer, Sir Ernest, who later became a judge, was also an outspoken and popular politician.

Sir Ernest was born on March 15, 1895 in Freetown, in the Crown Colony of Sierra Leone. He was educated at the Leopold Educational Institute, Fourah Bay College (Durham University), and University of London. He was called to the Bar in 1917. Alongside his legal practice, Sir Ernest devoted a lot of his time to civic matters, serving first as member of the Freetown City Council and then as mayor (1925-1926). As a mayor, he did much to secure the general improvement of the city and the reorganisation of the Freetown City Council. Sir Ernest was one of the first three Africans to be elected in 1924 to the Legislative Council, and he served as the first Urban Member.

In 1937, Sir Ernest quit politics for the bench and was appointed police magistrate. Later, he became the first Sierra Leonean  Puisne Judge (1945), the first Sierra Leonean West Africa Court of Appeal Judge (1946), and the first Sierra Leonean Vice-President of the Legislative Council (1953). He was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth in 1957, the second national to be so honoured. He died the same year.

Sir Ernest is best remembered for the many legal laurels he won for Sierra Leone during the colonial period. He was a dedicated nationalist who also served in most of the constitutional committees before independence.