“Freedom But Nothing Else”: The Legacies of Slavery and Abolition in Post-Slavery Sierra Leone, 1928–1956

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Abstract: This paper traces the post-abolition legacies of slavery in Sierra Leone by re-examining the violent protests surrounding the decolonisation process in 1955-56. Colonial investigators, charged with uncovering the causes of the disturbances, concluded that the legal abolition of slavery in the Protectorate of Sierra Leone in 1928 had left ex-slaves with “freedom and nothing else”. This paper connects the early history of the colony as both an area of slave-trading and the location of an imperial scheme to “develop” freed slaves into a colonial labour force to the late-colonial “community development” schemes through the lens of post-slavery. These enduring legacies left the so-called “young men” of the region pitted against rural elites as they faced being indefinitely kept in a youth-like dominated social position.