Freetown

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Freetown

Freetown, city (1995 est. pop. 519,500), capital of Sierra Leone, W Sierra Leone, a port on the Atlantic Ocean. Located on the Sierra Leone peninsula, Freetown is the nation's administrative, communications, and economic center, as well as its main port. The city's economy revolves largely around its fine natural harbor, which is capable of receiving oceangoing vessels and which handles Sierra Leone's main exports. Industries include food and beverage processing, fish packing, rice milling, petroleum refining, diamond cutting, and the manufacture of cigarettes, paint, shoes, and beer. Lebanese play a major role in local trade, especially wholesaling. Roads and a railroad link Freetown with the interior of the country and the city is served by an international airport in nearby Lungi. Guma Dam provides water and hydroelectric power for Freetown. The area was settled in 1787 by freed slaves sent from England by British abolitionists, including Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson, who started the Sierra Leone Company. In 1792, Freetown was founded by former slaves from Nova Scotia sent out by the company. Freetown was used by the British as the base for creating (1808) the Sierra Leone Crown Colony, and from 1808 to 1874 it served as the capital of British West Africa. In 1893 it was made the first British colonial municipality in Africa, with the right to elect a mayor. During World War II, Britain maintained a naval base at Freetown. Although they constitute only a minority today, descendants of the freed slaves, called Creoles, play a leading role in the city. Freetown is the site of the Univ. of Sierra Leone (1967), which incorporates Fourah Bay College (1827) and Njala Univ. College (1963), and also of a technical institute.

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