The story of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther was born in Nigeria, Oyo State, Iseyin Local Government formally Osogun. He was born in 1809 and died on December 31, 1891. His mother was noted to be a descendant of King Abiodun. In 1821 his entire family was capture by the Fulani Slave raiders and were sold to the Portuguese slave traders. He was later released in Freetown, Sierra Leone because the British Royal Navy boarded his slave ship.

During his new life in Sierra Leone, he was cared for by the Anglican Church Missionary Society where he learnt English and was converted to Christianity. Crowther became a Vicar of a church in Newgate, London after he was baptized on 11 December 1825 by John Raban. After his studies, he returned to Freetown in 1827 and became a school teacher where he got married to Children. One of his most recognized grandchildren is Herbert Macaulay (Thomas Babington Macaulay and Abigail Crowther’s son).

In 1841 he was selected to accompany the missionary James Schön on the Niger expedition with the aim to spread commerce, teach agricultural techniques, spread Christianity, and help end the slave trade. After the expedition, Schön wrote to the Church Missionary Society noting Crowther’s usefulness and ability Crowther was recalled to England, where he was trained as a minister and ordained by the Bishop of London. He came back to Nigeria with Henry Townsend to open a missionary in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

His contribution to Christianity in Nigeria especially Yoruba was when he began to work on 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, including a large number of local proverbs, published in London in 1852.

He also began codifying other languages. Following the British Niger Expeditions of 1854 and 1857, Crowther, assisted by a young Igbo interpreter named Simon Jonas, 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.

He became the first African Bishop of Anglican Church in 1864 on St. Peters day by the Canterbury of London. He also received a Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford. He completed the supervision of the Yoruba Bible in the mid-1880 before his death.

He died of a stroke on 31 December 1891 in Lagos. He is widely celebrated in the African and Nigerian Christian community and was also added to the liturgical calendar of some Anglican churches, including the Episcopal Church (United States) and the Church of Nigeria.

Compiled by SEUN APHOR



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