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  There is a curious group of Lagosians and Nigerians who you may not be able to tell apart these days. Many had their ancestors come to Lagos more than a century and have since naturalized to the culture of the city but you may not be able to tell them apart from the indigenous Awori Yoruba of Lagos.
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They are most distinguished by their English last names. They have been known to identify as Yoruba nowadays but in the beginning, it was not so at all. The Saro is the name given to a returnee group of people of African descent who began settling in Lagos from 1840 until the early 1900s. They are distinct in that most of them migrated from other British colonies, Sierra Leone. The name Saro is a corruption of ‘Salone’ which is in itself, a corruption of Sierra Leone. The Saro became known for their association with the colony of Sierra Leone. The colony of Sierra Leone was established to ensure a home for the liberated slaves who found it difficult acclimatizing to very racist and unfriendly conditions in metropolitan Britain and other parts of the English-speaking British Empire. They became the minority Krio population of Sierra Leone who in spite of their small size have such immense and profound change in the country’s history.
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The Krio were typically well educated than the indigenous population. The tussle between both groups came to define both Sierra Leone and Liberia’s history. The affinity for the British made them the subjects of choice. The British began to employ the service of these men and women elsewhere in West Africa especially Lagos. Lagos was especially attractive because many of these former slaves could trace their origins back to Yorubaland. The Saro were mostly Catholics. They were of different ethnic stock from Igbo, Efik, Yoruba and Nupe in origin and when they returned, they settled along the coastal fringes. they proved to be the readiest subjects of the British and a conduit between the government and the natives. The fact that they were educated and highly Anglicized made them the creme de la creme of the crop among the black population of Lagos in the late 19th century. The Saro had a condescending view of natives both in Sierra Leone and Nigeria and it was for this reason that they endured many conflicts with the local elite in the west of Nigeria. Elsewhere, they were majorly missionary leaders. Among the more prominent of the Saro are Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Simon Jonas, John Augustus Payne, Richard Beale Blaize, Mohammed Shitta Bey and James Pinson Labulo Davies. The Saro are not as prominent in Lagos today as they have successfully integrated into Yoruba speaking societies of Lagos such that you cannot tell them apart today. That said they hang on to their unique heritage as you can hear it in their names. Featured Image Source: Black History Month
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This article was first published on 29th March 2021


Some call me David. Others, Emerie. Others, (unfortunate fellows) Biggie. I like to think that I have sense and that is why I write too. Otherwise, I draw and paint and sing (in the bathroom) and love to make people laugh. I love to understand how things work and that’s why I love DIY videos and YouTube of course. Follow me on Twitter @EmerieOkwara

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