Sierra Leone has a long and complex connection with Britain.
During the American War of Independence many black loyalists who fought for the British were former slaves who were promised freedom by Britain. After the British lost the warm any ended up living in London at the end of the 18th century, destitute and on the streets.
A Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor was set up and a plan was hatched to send them thousands of miles away in 1787, to establish a new colony of freed slaves in Sierra Leone. It was known as Freetown.
Later, when in 1807 Britain made the capture and trade of new slaves illegal, Freetown would again play a role in Britain and Africa’s intertwined history.
With competitors' businesses still booming, the Royal Navy made an extraordinary transition–from an enforcer of slavery to a liberator. A special taskforce was setup, the West Africa Squadron, to intercept slaveships and free the Africans onboard.
The Squadron only managed to capture around 6% of the slaveships heading across the Atlantic. Nevertheless, over 50 years of patrolling three thousand miles of African Coast, between 1808–1860, it liberated 150,000 Africans and brought them to Freetown.
This photo was taken for Black and British: A Forgotten History, a BBC series revealing the extraordinary long relationship between the British Isles and people whose origins are in Africa.


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