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A name that has come to be applied retrospectively to the black settlers and 'liberated Africans' who in the course of the 19th century came together in Freetown and in the villages of the Sierra Leone peninsula to form a new society with its own distinctive identity. It combined influences from Europe and America (the use predominantly of English surnames, Christianity, formal education) with elements that were distinctively west African (Yoruba societies, African family ceremonies, and local dietary preferences and cuisine). The Krio language is a distinctive Sierra Leone patois or creole that developed out of an earlier, more primitive form of west African coast-English that was the medium of communication between indigenous peoples (such as the Bullom and Temne) and European traders in the 18th century. It acquired from the liberated Africans a large lexicon of Yoruba terms. As the 19th century progressed the increasing wealth and education of Krio society made it restive under Sierra Leone's colonial governors and lent weight to Krio demands for its citizens to play a larger role in the administration. Krios were active as middlemen in the Colony's relations with the peoples of the interior, both as traders and as Christian missionaries. Within west Africa as a whole the Krios acted as the vanguard of 'civilization' and helped set up and man trading and missionary networks with other British possessions along the coast. Krio advancement suffered a setback with the declaration of the Sierra Leone Protectorate in 1896 and the growth of institutional racism that saw Africans debarred from the higher grades of the colonial service. In business also they lost ground to larger European trading firms and at the local level to Lebanese traders. They remain to this day well represented in property, in the medical and legal professions, and in higher education. But although individual Krios (notably I.T.A.Wallace-Johnson) have figured prominently in the politics of the Colony and in municipal government in the 20th century, in the lead-up to independence and in more recent years they have inevitably had a subsidiary role to up-country politicians representing the majority of Sierra Leone's population in the interior.

  • C.Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone (Oxford 1962)
  • J.Peterson, Province of Freedom: a History of Sierra Leone 1787-1870 (Evanston 1968)
  • A.Wyse, The Krio of Sierra Leone: an Interpretive History (London 1989)
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