The African Academy was set up by a group of reformers
called the Clapham Sect. The Clapham Sect included Henry Thornton, William Wilberforce,
Zachary Macaulay and the Reverend John Venn. The 'Clapham Sect' fought to abolish
slavery. As part of their campaign they brought boys from Africa to be educated
at what became known as the African Academy. This happened between 1799 and 1805.
It is hard to know what the boys must have felt as they
arrived in London. We only have lists of names and places of origin in the Parish
Register. The letters below have been written to try and imagine what their
experience must have been like.
Author: †Lin Carey
|Find Out More...
Click on the notes at the end of each letter as you
read the story. They will give you lots more detail.
To Duke Geloram of the Susoo County, Sierra Leone, Africa.
My Dear Father,
I cannot yet write very well in English, but my school-teacher says I make progress.
So I mean to keep my promise to you and tell you some of the things that have
happened since I came to England.
I arrived here in the spring of this year with Mr Macaulay
and twenty other boys from our country. Of all these I knew only two at the start,
William Fantimance and James Bubucaree, but at the end of our long voyage we were
all friends. There were also four girls with us, who were not to attend our school,
and were sent to be taught in another town when we landed.
Once arrived in England we were put into a number of covered carriages drawn by
horses, to take us to the village of Clapham. It rained very hard as we travelled,
so that we thought we had come in the rainy season, but we were told that this
sort of weather happened all the year round here.
From the bright green fields we saw on all sides, I think
this must be a rich country, but much in it is strange. We passed through towns
with great buildings all pressed together, and some of them as tall as trees!
The house where we stay now has many rooms, and one of them is just for eating.
The English eat three times a day, men and women sitting down together, and for
the most part they do not wash before eating as we do. Our first meal was mutton,
with a lump of yellow stuff called pudding which I could not eat,
but I am more used to their food now.
We are sent to school in a big, square stone house where
we sit in rows to practice our letters and learn
the Bible. Many of the other boys have already been taught both these things back
at home, and I am behind them. But I mean to work hard, as you told me, and to
come home full of learning.
[See notes about this letter]
3, Church Buildings,
My Dear father,
Much has happened here since my last letter. We have moved to a new schoolroom,
at the home of a Mr Sharp who is the friend of our Director. I was not very
well able to tell you about the houses here before, but I will try to describe
them now. Clapham is called a village, but to us when we arrived it seemed a
great town. The houses are made of stone or bricks, and many of them stretch
upwards with one floor built upon another. At Mr Macaulayís home, where
we stay, the ceilings are so high that a tall man cannot touch them, even on
the upper floors where we sleep.
Behind the houses are enclosed fields that they call their gardens, filled with
fruit trees and plants I never saw before. Our school-house stands in a garden
behind a whole row of houses which the English call a terrace, all joined
together. At first it is impossible to tell where one house ends and the next
begins, but there is a great stone archway in the wall near one end of the row,
and walking through that we come to grass and trees, and then to another house
of red bricks. Inside, we climb a staircase to a big, echoing room with chairs
and desks set out for each of us. There are whole shelves of books, and the
ceiling is arched, as they are in the English churches. It makes us feel important
to have such a grand room made just for us, though it is often cold.
The English people are all very kind to us. When we first came here many of
the neighbours visited us and brought us presents of food, which tasted very
strange to me. Even stranger was the sight of so many white people all around.
I had grown used to Mr Macaulay and his friends, and to the red-faced sailors
on the ship, but I had seen few white women. Most of all, I was struck to see
boys and girls of my own age with such strange pale skins. I believe I stared
at them as much as they stared at me. In a short time, however, we grew used
to each other, and now we sometimes play together on the great heath-land that
they call the Common, which is opposite our house. They have shown me many games
that I mean to teach my little brothers when I return.
As the weeks passed it grew colder and colder, and even with the great fireplaces
they have here and all the bedding that we could pile on top of us, we began
to shiver at night and could hardly work during the day. There came a day when
it was so cold in the schoolroom that the ink froze, and we were sent home to
huddle around the fire. The next morning I looked out of the window as I woke
and saw the Common all white! I called to the boys who shared my room to come
and look. My friend Samuel Tamro thought that some white flower or grass had
grown overnight, but running out to look closer we found the same white stuff
on the road and on top of the gateposts. Touching it, we found that it was very
cold, and melted away to water in our hands. One of the older boys, William
Small, then said he had seen this white stuff before, and it was called snow.
None of us have ever seen it in Africa, but a few of the boys lived in a Western
country called Nova Scotia before they came to Sierra Leone. William said that
he remembered snow falling from the sky there when he was very young.
The cold went on for a very long time, and many of us became ill because of
it. We were greatly relieved when Spring came again, although Samuel and George
Kizell, who share my room, are still coughing. Now that we no longer shiver
all day our schoolmaster, Mr Greaves, has set us to work harder. If we are to
go home as good Christians, he says, we must be baptised, and first we need
to be instructed fully. As well as writing and reading our Bibles, we also learn
counting, and sometimes Mr Greaves shows us how to work wood and metal. I am
studying hard, and hope to make you proud of me.
Please give my respects to my mother.
Your dutiful son,
[See notes about this letter]
3, Church Buildings,
I hardly know how to tell you the news. My friend George Kizell is dead! So
are five others, including William Small and William Fantimanceís cousin
David. Last winter was colder than the one before, and so damp that we all caught
chills. Mr Macaulay and his wife sat us in front of the fires in our rooms,
wrapped us in blankets and made us drink canary wine, but I thought I should
never stop shivering. When spring came at last I recovered, but five or six
of the other boys were still so weak they could not rise from their beds. Then,
in the summer, there was an attack of a disease they call measles. Those of
us who fell ill suffered coughs and fever, and red spots appeared all over their
bodies. After this they quickly grew weaker, and most died. George seemed to
rally at first, but to my great grief, he had been so weakened by his illness
over the winter that he could not fight the disease, and he died at the end
of June. Only three boys who caught the illness survived.
I could not write to you until the school was declared free of infection, but
please be reassured that I am healthy, though very low in spirits.
Mr Macaulay and Mr Greaves have declared that some of us are to be baptised
all together at the end of this month. Most of the boys they have chosen are
those who are furthest ahead with their Bible studies, but we suspect that one
or two are picked because they are weak and sickly, and our guardians still
fear for them. James Fantimance, the younger brother of David, told me that
the Reverend from the church came to baptise his brother privately, only the
night before he died, so that his soul would go to heaven.
Samuel and I comfort each other as best we can. We are not to be baptised now,
but Mr Greaves says that we are doing well in our studies. He and Mr Macaulay
talk as if we shall all go back to be missionaries and teach our countrymen
to be Christians. But although I wish to be a good Christian, Father, I do not
know if I can be a missionary. I cannot be glad that David and George and the
others are in heaven. I would rather they were alive again. But Mr Macaulay
says that everything that happens is Godís will.
I miss my home more than ever now, but I shall stay here and do as my teachers
tell me. Please give my love to my mother and brothers. I pray to be able to
see you again.
Your affectionate son,
[See notes about this letter]
Lory Gelorum lived at the African Academy for another three
years. He was finally baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham in 1805, as were
William Fantimance and Samuel Peter Tomro. But the boys at the Academy continued
to suffer from the cold and from illness, and half of them died. After 1805
the remaining students were sent back home to Sierra Leone.
baptismal record for Lory Geloram