King James Cleveland

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King James Cleveland (1754?–1791) was King of the Banana Islands in Sierra Leone.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

James Cleveland was born to William Clevland, an Anglo-Scot, and Ndamba, a Kissi woman, on the Banana Islands off Sierra Leone.[2] His father had been working as a trader for the Royal African Company. His ship went aground off the Banana Islands in 1730. Settling there with other survivors, his father appointed himself as king.[3] William Clevland sent his son James to school in Liverpool, England.[4]

Political power[edit]

When Cleveland returned to Sierra Leone, the young man was initiated into the Poro society of men in the Banana Islands. Through the Poro, he recruited an army with which to attack his rival Charles Caulker, whom he killed and decapitated.[5]

Cleveland married and had a son William, named after his father. His succession as king, when the elder Cleveland died, was contested by Stephen Caulker.

William Cleveland served as king from 1791 to 1797, when he was killed by Caulker. Also the mixed-race descendant of an English trader and African mother, Caulker and his family established a powerful political dynasty in Sierra Leone, becoming involved in mainland affairs.[1]

James Cleveland and his wife also had a daughter, who died shortly after her marriage to Henry Smeathman.


  1. ^ a b Ben M. Cahoon, "Sierra Leone Traditional States", World website, accessed 29 April 2014
  2. ^ Caulker-Burnett, The Caulkers of Sierra Leone, p. 56
  3. ^ Imodale Caulker-Burnett, The Caulkers of Sierra Leone: The Story of a Ruling Family and Their Times (Xlibris, 2010), p. 32[self-published source]
  4. ^ Mouser, Bruce (2004). "African academy 1799-1806". History of Education. 33 (1).
  5. ^ Christopher Fyfe, A Short History of Sierra Leone (London: Addison-Wesley Longman, 1962).