Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a small country on the Western coast of Africa. It borders Liberia and Guinea. Many languages are spoken in Sierra Leone, including Krio, Temne, Mende, English, Koranko, Vai, Fula, Madingo, and others.  Major ethnic groups such as the Temne and Mende migrated into Sierra Leone from Mali and Guinea as early as the 1400s.  The migrants brought with them a wealth of West African stories, music, language and other amazing contributions of Mande and Mane cultures.

During the 1700s and 1800s, the current capital city, Freetown, served as a key location during the trans-atlantic slave trade, particularly around events that led to the end of the slave trade.  In 1787 and 1792, two groups totaling  about 1.500 black settlers from America, Canada, and London arrived in Sierra Leone and established the free settlement of Freetown.  Freetown became a hub for freedom and in 1800, about 500 Jamaican Maroons also arrived.  Between 1807 and 1860s, over 70,000 West and Central Africans were rescued from slave ships and resettled in Freetown.  By the 1850s, words from over 100 African languages could be heard in Freetown.

Today, Freetown remains a cosmopolitan city with a rich and diverse mix of cultures from Africa and the African Diaspora.  18th and 19th Century-old Historic sites that chronicle the middle-passage can be found all across the city.

Historic Site

Board House “Bod Os”

Board houses can be found all across Freetown, in the city as well as in the mountain villages along the peninsula. It is believed that some of the oldest board houses were built as early as the 18th century in Freetown. Their unique architecture style has been attributed to the black Settlers who arrived in 1792 and the Maroons from Jamaica who arrived in 1800. Similar ‘Bod Os’ structures are also found historically along the American South and some Caribbean Islands.

Historic Site

Big Market “Big Makit”

In 1861, a building was built at the heart of Freetown, by an Afro-West Indian builder, Charles Hazelborg. The site of the building had served as a local food market since the 1790s. The building has been rebuilt several times since, however the site has functioned as a marketplace for over 200 years. It now serves as one of the most popular local marketplaces for arts and crafts created by local artisans.