Slave Owners of West Africa: Decision Making in the Age of Abolition

By Sandra E. Greene | Go to book overview

1
Amegashie Afeku of Keta:
Priest, Political Advisor,
Businessman, Slave Owner

[There are] certain character traits I have observed in the Amegashie family,
especially on the male side! My own grandfather and an uncle were also of the
belligerent breed.

        —William Sohne1

THIS STATEMENT BY William Sohne, a great-grandson of Amegashie Afeku, offers a particular perspective on the character of Amegashie Afeku. It is one that focuses on his legacy as a parent. According to Sohne, Amegashie demonstrated and passed down to some of his offspring such a high degree of assertive stubbornness that it could be quite off-putting.2 Other perspectives about Amegashie come from documents written by German missionaries (who operated in the area in the late nineteenth century) when Amegashie was at the height of his reputation as priest, political advisor, businessman, and slave owner. They, too, found him very difficult, as did the British colonial officers who had the responsibility of overseeing the town of Keta where Amegashie lived and worked most of his life. Virtually everyone seems to agree, whether the assessment comes from the vantage point of a twenty-first-century descendant or from late nineteenth-century contemporaries. What did he do to deserve such a long-standing negative reputation?

Amegashie came of age in the mid-to-late nineteenth century when significant changes were occurring in West Africa. The establishment of Sierra Leone in 1787 and the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807 brought to the region a radically different understanding of the ethics and economics of the centuries-old institutions of slavery and the enslaved. These new understandings, championed largely by Europeans and Western-trained African missionaries,3 challenged the notion that the West African export trade in human beings to the Americas was an unfortunate necessity, and that the mildness of slavery in Africa distinguished it from slavery in the West. Abolitionists promoted their ideas through word and deed, and forced others to at least listen to them because of their association with the British colonial government. West Africa’s political

-13-

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Slave Owners of West Africa: Decision Making in the Age of Abolition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Amegashie Afeku of Keta- Priest, Political Advisor, Businessman, Slave Owner 13
  • 2 - Nyaho Tamakloe of Anlo- Of Chieftaincy and Slavery, of Politics and the Personal 31
  • 3 - Noah Yawo of Ho-Kpenoe- The Faith Journey of a Slave Owner 54
  • 4 - Concluding Thoughts 84
  • Notes 89
  • Bibliography 107
  • Index 121
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