Sherbro Tuckers

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The Tuckers of Sherbro are an Afro-European clan[1] from the Southern region of Sierra Leone. The clans progenitors were an English trader and agent, John Tucker, and a Sherbro princess. Starting in the 17th Century, the Tuckers ruled over one of the most powerful chiefdoms in the Sherbro country of Southern Sierra Leone, centered on the village of Gbap.

Clan History[edit]

In the 1620s, England had a number of agents in the Sherbro region of Sierra Leone; these traders were looking for camwood, ivory, and other such items, and traded with the locals. They were also looking for slaves to fulfill a growing demand for slave labor in the West. In the late 17th century, the Gambia Adventurers and the Royal African Company began sending many agents to the region. In 1665, an agent in the service of the Gambia Adventurers called John Tucker left England and went to Sierra Leone alongside Zachary Rogers (progenitor of the Afro-European clan the Rogers). Upon arriving in Sherbro Country, John Tucker and Zachary Rogers took the daughters of a Sherbro chief as their wives as was customary in order to gain trading rights in the region.[2] Multiple children were born to these unions.

Being a matrilineal society, the descendants of John Tucker were able to maintain claims to the chieftaincy throne. The children of John Tucker and the Sherbro princess gained control of their mother's kingdom and utilised their father's name. Politically, the Tuckers would become one of the most influential and prominent Sherbro families during the 17th and 18th centuries, and were able to expand their powerful chiefdom into other territories. Although they maintained European connections (some of them going to England to attend school), they remained thoroughly 'Africanised' taking part in local cultural institutions such as the Poro Society.[3] It was only through such local institutions [4][5] that they were able to gain control over more territory.[6]

Besides maintaining claims to chieftaincy, some Tucker descendants became powerful traders and middlemen between African and European business interests. Their strong ties to European culture and language helped them expand their influence over the Sherbro trade industry. Particularly in the Southern Sierra Leone slave trade, members of Afro-European clans such as the Rogers, the Caulkers, and the Tuckers played an integral role as middlemen, allowing them to accumulate material wealth as an emergent merchant class.[7][8] In the wake of abolishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the colonization over the Sierra Leone hinterland by the British, the Sherbro region would lose economic importance as colonial interest became concentrated in the capital, Freetown.

In the mid-19th Century, The American Missionary Association joined the British colonial project by evangelizing in the Hinterland, with a zeal spurred on by The Amistad Revolt. On land granted to Sengbe Pieh and the Amistad returnees, the association would go on to establish an American Mission School in territory under the control of Sherbro Chief Harry Tucker.[9] Graduates of such schools would go on to secondary schools such as Albert Academy and The Harford School in Moyamba. After receiving a Western education at such schools locally, hinterland youth, including many Tucker descendants would become integrated into the colonial government apparatus. Along with Freetown's Krios, such Western-educated hinterland youth would also help in the negotiations of Sierra Leone's independence.[9] Several Tucker descendants also became a part of the country's first government as part of the Sierra Leone People's Party.

Tuckers today[edit]

Today, the Sherbro-Tuckers have descendants living all over the world. They are still a well known, prominent family in Sierra Leone, and are known there for their distinctive looks particularly their 'big eyes'. Many Tuckers still even hold positions of power in Sherbro society. They are also known for their strong emphasis on a good education.

All of the Tuckers in Southern Sierra Leone are descendants of the first John Tucker and his African bride. Though the European connection is all but gone, the Tuckers are still very westernized in their style of dress and behavior. Through historical intermarriages, some Tuckers are related to the Caulkers, Rogerses, and Clevelands of today. The Tucker family history has an oral testimony and a written testimony, both of which maintain their own traditions about their European ancestor.

Miscellaneous[edit]

Not all 'Tuckers' in Sierra Leone are descendants of John Tucker; some are Krios who are descendants of the Nova Scotian settlers who were African American slaves resettled in Freetown, Sierra Leone after the American Revolution.

Notable Tuckers[edit]

  • Patricia Kabbah - late First Lady of Sierra Leone and late wife of President Kabbah
  • Thomas DeSaille Tucker - Educator, lawyer, and co-founder of Florida A&M University.[10]
  • Peter L. Tucker - Chairman of the Law Reform in Sierra Leone
  • Henry Tucker - a powerful Merchant prince during the mid-18th century
  • B. J. Tucker - a former NFL Football Player
  • Harrison Tucker - late Ambassador and Chair of Black and Hispanic Studies Department of Bernard Baruch College
  • Hon Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie - former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Sierra Leone
  • Richelieu Dennis - co-founder of the personal care line Shea Moisture, his grandmother was a descendant of the Sherbro Tuckers. In 1912, Sofi Tucker established the family tradition and craft of making and selling handmade shea butters and African black soaps in Sierra Leone, passing the recipes down to her grandson.

Resources[edit]

Tucker, Peter L. The Tuckers of Sierra Leone, 1665-1914

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tucker, Peter L. (1997-01-01). The Tuckers of Sierra Leone, 1665-1914. publisher not identified. 
  2. ^ George, Claude (1967-01-01). The Rise of British West Africa: Comprising the Early History of the Colony of Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Lagos, Gold Coast, Etc. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780714616674. 
  3. ^ Lang, George (2000-01-01). Entwisted Tongues: Comparative Creole Literatures. Rodopi. ISBN 9042007370. 
  4. ^ Osagie, Iyunolu Folayan (2010-07-01). The Amistad Revolt: Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820327259. 
  5. ^ Miers, Suzanne; Kopytoff, Igor (1979-01-01). Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299073343. 
  6. ^ Fyfe, Christopher (1967-01-01). A Short History of Sierra Leone. Longmans. 
  7. ^ Shaw, Rosalind (2002-04-08). Memories of the Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226751320. 
  8. ^ Mills, Job Smith (1898-01-01). Mission Work in Sierra Leone, West Africa. United Brethren Publishing House. 
  9. ^ a b Barber, John Warner; Abraham, Arthur (1840-01-01). The Amistad revolt: struggle for freedom. Amistad Committee. 
  10. ^ Culp, Daniel Wallace, ed. (2006-07-06). Twentieth Century Negro Literature Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro.