John Mensah Sarbah

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John Mensah Sarbah (3 June 1864, Anomabu – 27 November 1910)[1] was a lawyer and political leader in the Gold Coast (now Ghana).


John Mensah Sarbah was born on Friday, 3 June 1864, in the Fante Confederacy in the Gold Coast. He was the eldest son of John Sarbah (1834-1892), a merchant of Anomabu and Cape Coast and a member of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast, and his wife Sarah.[2] Mensah Sarbah was educated at the Cape Coast Wesleyan School (later renamed – by Mensah Sarbah himself – as Mfantsipim School) and then at Taunton School in Devon, England, matriculating in 1884.[2] He subsequently entered Lincoln's Inn in London to train as a barrister, and was called to the English bar in 1887 – the first African from his country to qualify in this way.[2][3]

In 1897, along with J. W. Sey, J. P. Brown, J. E. Casely Hayford he co-founded the Aborigines' Rights Protection Society, which became the main political organisation that led organised and sustained opposition against the colonial government, laying the foundation for Ghanaian independence.[4][5]

Mensah Sarbah was appointed a member of the Legislative Council in 1901,[6] and was re-appointed in 1906.[2]

In the first birthday honours of King George V, Mensah Sarbah was recognized with the award of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George in 1910, a few months before his death at the age of 46.[2][7]

Contributions to education[edit]

  • Initiative of educational scholarships
  • Dedication to the promotion of education
  • Establishment of secondary schools
  • Funding secondary education


A residence hall of the University of Ghana is named Mensah Sarbah Hall in his honour.[7]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • 1897 - Fanti Customary Laws: a brief introduction to the principles of the native laws and customs of the Fanti and Akan districts of the Gold Coast, with a report of some cases thereon decided in the Law Courts
  • 1904 - Fanti Law reports
  • 1906 - The Fanti National Constitution: a short treatise on the constitution and government of the Fanti, Asanti, and other Akan tribes of West Africa, together with a brief account of the discovery of the Gold Coast by Portuguese navigators, a short narration of English voyages, and a study of the rise of British Gold Coast jurisdiction, etc., etc.
  • 1909 - The Palm Oil and Its Products


  1. ^ Some sources (including Magnus Sampson, 1969) give 6 November 1910 as the date of Mensah Sarbah's death.
  2. ^ a b c d e Magnus Sampson, Makers of Modern Ghana: From Philip Quarcoo to Aggrey. Volume One, Accra: Anowuo Educational Publications, 1969, pp. 119-29.
  3. ^ L. H. Ofosu-Appiah, Sarbah, John Mensah, Dictionary of African Christian Biography.
  4. ^ Ghana - Early Manifestations of Nationalism, Library of Congress A Country Study: Ghana
  5. ^ Nti, Kwaku, "Action and Reaction: An Overview of the Ding Dong Relationship between the Colonial Government and the People of Cape Coast", Nordic Journal of African Studies 11(1): 1-37 (2002)
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27320. p. 3925. 11 June 1901.
  7. ^ a b "Sarbah, John Mensah", in Keith A. P. Sandiford, A Black Studies Primer: Heroes and Heroines of the African Diaspora, Hansib Publications, 2008, p. 401.

External links[edit]