Adelaide Casely-Hayford

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Adelaide Casely-Hayford
Adelaide Casely Hayford.jpg
Personal details
Born (1868-06-27)27 June 1868
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Died 16 January 1960(1960-01-16) (aged 91)
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Nationality Sierra Leonean
Profession activist, educator, writer
Religion Christian

Adelaide Casely-Hayford, née Smith (27 June 1868—16 January 1960), was a Sierra Leone Creole advocate, an activist for cultural nationalism, educator, short story writer, and feminist. She established a school for girls in 1923 to instil cultural and racial pride during the colonial years under British rule. Promoting the preservation of Sierra Leone national identity and cultural heritage, in 1925 she wore a traditional African costume to attend a reception in honour of the Prince of Wales, where she created a sensation.

Early life and education[edit]

Adelaide Smith was born on 27 June 1868 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to a mixed-race father (of English and royal Fanti parentage) from the Gold Coast and a Creole mother of English, Jamaican Maroon, and Sierra Leone Liberated African ancestry. The young Adelaide and her sisters spent most of their childhood and adolescence in England, where her father had retired in 1872 with his family on a pension of 666 poundsterling. She attended Jersey Ladies' College (now Jersey College for Girls), then at the age of 17 went to Stuttgart, Germany, to study music at the Stuttgart Conservatory. She returned to England, where, together with her sister, she opened a boarding home for African bachelors who were there as students or workers.[1]

Marriage and family[edit]

While in England, Adelaide Smith married J. E. Casely Hayford (a.k.a. Ekra-Agiman). Their marriage may have given her a deeper insight into African culture and influenced her transformation into a cultural nationalist. Their daughter Gladys Casely-Hayford became a well-known Creole poet.[2]

Return to Freetown[edit]

After twenty-five years abroad, Casely-Hayford and her sisters returned to Sierra Leone. Inspired by the ideas of racial pride and co-operation advanced by Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), she joined the Ladies Division of the Freetown Branch. She rose to be its president. In June 1920, she resigned from the association because of a conflict of interest between it and her proposed Girls' Vocational School. She toured the United States, giving public lectures to correct American notions about Africa.

Back in Freetown, Casely-Hayford embarked on establishing a vocational institution to help girls learn their cultural background and instil national pride. In October 1923, the Girls' Vocational School opened in the Smith family home with fourteen pupils. As principal, Casely-Hayford would have preferred the pupils to wear native dress to school, but their parents rejected this idea.

She spent her later years writing her memoirs and short stories. Her short story "Mista Courifer" was featured in Langston Hughes' African Treasury: Articles, Essays, Stories, Poems (1960), a collection of short works by African writers, published in the United States.

Legacy and honors[edit]

Casely-Hayford opposed the injustices of the colonial system and advocated cultural nationalism, earning the respect of British authorities.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Adelaide Casely Hayford (1868-1960), Cultural Nationalist and Educationist", The Sierra Leone Web.
  2. ^ "Gladys May Casely-Hayford ('Acquah Laluah')", in Margaret Busby (ed.), Daughters of Africa, London: Jonathan Cape, 1992, biographical note, pp. 217-18.

External links[edit]