You are invited to attend the next instalment of the 2013-2014 Tubman Speaker Series. The Harriet Tubman Institute warmly welcomes Richard Anderson, PhD Candidate in History at Yale University. Anderson will be speaking on: “The Making of the Aku: Ethnicity in Sierra Leone’s Yoruba Diaspora.” He will be presenting on Thursday, November 14, 3:30-5:00pm. 305 York Lanes. Come out and join in the conversation!
This talk will focus on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of Yoruba speakers landed in nineteenth-century Sierra Leone as a result of the British Navy’s efforts to suppress the transatlantic slave trade. From the 1820s onward, Yoruba in Sierra Leone were known as the “Aku,” and were identified by several colonial governors and subsequent historians as the “largest and most cohesive group” in the colony. Yet in their homelands the Aku had known themselves by much more localized identities and did not possess a common name. This talk traces the origins and various meanings of “Aku” in Sierra Leone and beyond, the role of language in shaping identity, and the interaction between Islam, Christianity, and Orisha worship in defining the Aku. It considers the shifting relationship between diaspora and homeland, as Aku merchants and missionaries returned to coastal towns near their ancestral homes.
Richard Anderson is a fifth-year PhD candidate in Africa history at Yale University, focusing on pre-colonial and colonial West Africa. His dissertation, entitled “Recaptives: Community and Identity in Sierra Leone, 1808-1863″ explores the social and cultural history of freed slaves settled in and around Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown. Prior to Yale, Richard completed his BA in History and Political Science at the University of Waterloo, and a Master’s in African Studies at the University of Oxford.