Samuel Ajayi Crowther

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The Most Reverend
Samuel Ajayi Crowther
Primate of all Nigeria
Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther 1867.png
Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop, 1867
Church Church of Nigeria
See Niger[1]
In office 1864 - 1891
Personal details
Born c. 1809
Died December 31, 1891(1891-12-31)
Education St Mary's Church;
Fourah Bay College

The Right Reverend Samuel Ajayi Crowther D.D. (c. 1809 – 31 December 1891) was a linguist and the first African Anglican bishop in Nigeria. Born in Osogun (in today's Iseyin Local Government, Oyo State, Nigeria), Crowther was a Yoruba man who also identified with Sierra Leone's ascendant Creole ethnic group.


Rev Samuel Crowther by Thomson 1828.
In Niger Territory, 1888

Ajayi was 12 years old when he was captured, along with his mother and toddler brother and other family members, along with his entire village, by Muslim Fulani slave raiders in 1821 and sold to Portuguese slave traders. However, before his slave-ship left port, it was boarded by a British Royal Navy ship under the command of Captain Henry Leeke, and Crowther was taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he was released.

While in Sierra Leone Crowther was cared for by the Anglican Church Missionary Society and was taught English. He converted to Christianity. On the 11th of December 1825 he had a rebirth by baptism and he named himself after the vicar of Christ Church, Newgate, London - Samuel Crowther, who was one of the pioneers of the C.M.S..[1] Ajayi was baptized by Rev. John Raban.

While in Freetown, Crowther became interested in languages. In 1826 he was taken to England to attend St Mary's Church in Islington and the church's school. He returned to Freetown in 1827 and attended the newly opened Fourah Bay College, an Anglican missionary school, where his interest in language found him studying Latin and Greek but also Temne. After completing his studies he began teaching at the school. He also married Asano (i.e. Hassana; she was formerly Muslim), baptised Susan, a schoolmistress, who was also on the Portuguese slave ship that originally brought Crowther to Sierra Leone. He married Susana (formerly Asano or Hasana), who like him was rescued from the slave ship and converted to Christianity. They had several children, among them Dandeson Coates Crowther, archdeacon of the Niger Delta.[2] His grandson Herbert Macaulay became one of the first Nigerian nationalists and played an important role in ending British colonial rule in Nigeria.


Crowther was selected to accompany the missionary James Frederick Schön on the Niger expedition of 1841. Together with Schön, he was expected to learn Hausa for use on the expedition. The goal of the expedition was to spread commerce, teach agricultural techniques, spread Christianity, and help end the slave trade. Following the expedition, Crowther was recalled to England, where he was trained as a minister and ordained by the bishop of London. He returned to Africa in 1843 and with Henry Townsend, opened a mission in Abeokuta, in today's Ogun State, Nigeria.[2]

Crowther began translating the Bible into the Yoruba language and compiling a Yoruba dictionary. In 1843, a grammar book which he started working on during the Niger expedition was published; and a Yoruba version of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer followed later. Crowther also compiled A vocabulary of the Yoruba language,[3] including a large number of local proverbs, published in London on 1852. He also began codifying other languages. Following the British Niger Expeditions of 1854 and 1857, Crowther produced a primer for the Igbo language in 1857, another for the Nupe language in 1860, and a full grammar and vocabulary of Nupe in 1864.


In 1864, Crowther was ordained as the first African bishop of the Anglican Church; he was consecrated a bishop on St Peter's day 1864, by Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury at Canterbury Cathedral.[4] That same year he was also given a Doctorate of Divinity by the University of Oxford.[citation needed]

Bishop Crowther was on the island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean west of Morocco for a conference. He was accompanied by his son, Dandeson, an archdeacon, on church business in March 1881.[citation needed]

Crowther's attention was directed more and more to languages other than Yoruba, but he continued to supervise the translation of the Yoruba Bible (Bibeli Mimọ),[5] which was completed in the mid-1880s, a few years before his death. He died of a stroke, in Lagos, on 31 December 1891.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b DACB.
  2. ^ a b c Buckland 1901.
  3. ^ Crowther 1852.
  4. ^ "Church news: consecration of three bishops in Canterbury Cathedral (Archived; subscription only)". Church Times (#74). 2 July 1864. p. 213. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 15 December 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ Crowther 1900.


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