Adelaide Casely-Hayford, Pan African Cultural Nationalist, educator and a feminist
Through her upbringing in the United Kingdom and her extensive travels in the United States, she interacted with many influential leaders of African descent. Articulate and poised, her elite status and self-confidence did much to dispel the image of the so-called "barbarous Africa" wherever she went. Her life spanned almost a century of alien rule in Sierra Leone, during which her people experienced a bitter demotion from their early role as respected "native" agents and harbingers of westernization.
By the end of the nineteenth century, they had lost much of their privileged status in the colonial service and the church hierarchy, but they still remained a powerful influence in local society and politics as well as in West Africa at large, from Senegal to Angola. Mrs. Casely Hayford was a gifted raconteur as well as a recognized repository of her people`s oral history, and served as an important informant to indigenous and international scholars.
Possessing a rich mixed diasporic heritage, Adelaide Casely Hayford descended from British, West Indian, Fante (Ghana), and Mandingo (Guinea/Sierra Leone) ancestors. Adelaide Casely Hayford, nee Smith, was born in Freetown on June 27, 1868. she was the sixth child of William Smith Jr., the Anglo-Fante (Akan) Registrar of the Court of Mixed Commissions, and his second wife, Anne Spilsbury Smith, a Krio woman of independent means. The Smith family was quite large, for Adelaide`s mother bore one more child, while her father also had another set of seven children from an earlier marriage.
The young Adelaide spent most of her childhood and adolescence in England where her father had retired in 1872. The family stayed at Jersey Island, where they enjoyed the privileged life typical of the Victorian upper middle-class. She was just four years old. Her memories were of an idyllic childhood with no experience of overt racism, which perhaps reflects the fact that during this period, the ideology of racism had not yet crystallized as part of the theoretical framework of late nineteenth century imperialism. Her mother died when she was seven years old, and sometime later her father married a third wife, an English woman, who seems not to have been particularly friendly to her step-children.
In England, she attended the Jersey Ladies College, and at the age of seventeen proceeded to Germany to study music at the Stuttgart Conservatory. She learned the skills and accomplishments deemed suitable for young women of her class: basic educational skills, home-craft, a good understanding of literature, the art of conversation, and appropriate etiquette. Her musical training in Germany rounded off her training, from which she emerged as a versatile pianist and vocalist. After the death of her father, she and one of her sisters returned to Freetown in 1897 after twenty-five years abroad.
Having been gone for twenty-five years, she felt profoundly alienated from Krio society. With limited means of support, the two Smith sisters decided to set up a girls` school, but it was not quite as successful as they would have liked. Moreover, they became so frustrated with the overt hostility they met from many among the Krio elite that they decided to return to England in 1900. In London, their social circle embraced two distinguished Africans, Mrs. Victoria Davies, the Nigerian goddaughter of Queen Victoria, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the famous Sierra Leonean composer whose works were then acclaimed in Britain.
Mrs. Casely Hayford at the time of her marriage.Image from "An African Victorian Feminist", by Adelaide M. Cromwell. Frank Cass, London, 1986.
Whilst in England, together with her sister, she opened a boarding home for African bachelors. Adelaide Smith turned down many suitors on the grounds that they were not quite gentlemen enough, but in 1903, she met Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford (1866-1930), the Fante (Akan) man and the influential Gold Coast (Ghana) lawyer and nationalist. His first wife had died some years earlier. Though he never hid the fact that he still mourned her, he asked Adelaide Smith to marry him, and she accepted. They were married in England in 1903, after which they left for the Gold Coast. Then thirty-five years old, she was much older than was usual for a West African bride.
In the Gold Coast, she was no happier than she had been in Freetown, not even after the birth of their daughter, Gladys, who became one of West Africa`s first modern female poets. Mrs. Casely Hayford made little effort to learn Fante and did not try to understand Fante culture or the demands of living in an extended family situation. Moreover, her husband, like many elite West African men, did not let a legal western marriage restrict his relations with other women.
J E Casely Hayford. the Great Gold Coast Pan Africanist and celebrated lawyer, the husband of Adelaide Casely Hayford in his traditional beautiful Kente cloth.
Finally, in 1914, the couple agreed to a legal separation, and Adelaide Casely Hayford returned to Freetown. Although the terms of separation included a financial settlement, payments came sporadically, thus forcing her to find a livelihood for the support of herself and her daughter. In the Gold Coast, Adelaide Casely Hayford first emerged as a woman of public affairs interested in education and women`s emancipation. From this time, she gave a number of lectures on these two subjects and also began to take part in organizational life.
J. E. Casely Hayford was an active advocate of Pan-Africanism and cultural nationalism. It is probable that her marriage to J. E. Casely Hayford gave her a deeper insight into African culture and may have influenced her transformation into a cultural nationalist.
Gladys May Casely Hayford is the first Gold Coast (Ghanaian) female poet/writer. She was the daughter of the fante-Gold coast nationalist and solicitor and writer J E Casely Hayford and Adelaide Casely Hayford.She was born in 1904 and died in 1950.
After she returned to Freetown, her ideas on appropriate girls` education were greatly influenced by the ideas of Orishatukeh Faduma (1857-1946), a Sierra Leonean educator, Pan-African ideologue, who had recently returned from a prolonged period of missionary activity in North Carolina where he served for seventeen years (1895-1912) as the principal of an African American literary and industrial school. His views incorporated contemporary ideas on black industrial education as the foundation of future race progress that had been so well propagated by Booker T. Washington, a number of Protestant missions and the Phelps-Stokes Fund.
In Casely Hayford`s view, such vocational training would provide her pupils the basis for a remunerative trade should they ever find themselves required to earn their own livelihood. The prospective of her Girls` Vocational School emphasized home economics, particularly baking and making preserves, as well as instruction in African cultural forms, such as weaving, basket-making, and music. Unfortunately, many among the Krio elite opposed her vocational school. Not only did they refuse to donate funds, they also refused to enroll their daughters.
For a brief while, Adelaide Casely Hayford inspired by the ideas of racial pride and co-operation advanced by Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), she joined the Ladies Division of the Freetown Branch and served as the first president. Although she must have sincerely appreciated the UNIA`s ideas about a strong racial identity, the need for self-improvement and self-reliance, she seems to have been more interested in the UNIA as a potential vehicle for raising funds for her proposed Girls’ Vocational School. When a conflict arose over her use of funds raised under its auspices, she resigned her position in June 1920. Moreover, she faced stiff opposition from the local branch of the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA), which was highly critical of aspects of the Garvey movement. Because her husband was the driving force of the NCBWA, she capitulated to strong pressure exerted by local Sierra Leonean branch leaders to sever her ties with the UNIA. This experience proved so galling that she refrained from participating in overtly political movements and from then on confined her attention to her school, her writing, and public speaking
The same year (19200, she travelled to the United States to study Afro-American educational programmes for industrial education and to raise funds for the proposed Girls’ Vocational School. Nevertheless, her belief in cultural nationalism remained strong, and she now possessed an influential network of African American leaders who helped her enormously during her two trips to the United States.Greatly disheartened by the reception of her ideas concerning a vocational school, Adelaide Casely Hayford decided to go to the United States where she had every reason to believe she would find a more positive reception and better prospects for raising funds. Before she left, she contacted a number of American organizations involved in African American education and/or African industrial church missions.
Her express reasons for traveling to the United States were twofold: to investigate the operation of African American girls` schools and to raise money for her school. Accompanied by her niece, she left Freetown in July 1920 and did not return until two and a half years later. Some years later in 1927, she made a second trip to the United States, but it was not nearly as long, as productive or as memorable as her first.
Based in New York, Mrs. Casely Hayford first met with the young Paul Robeson, just then beginning his impressive musical and theatrical career. Her friend, Coleridge-Taylor, whose work was widely performed in the United States, helpfully provided her with an introduction. Then she attended the Annual Baptist Convention in Indianapolis, where she met Miss Naomi Burroughs, an influential educator, who invited Mrs. Casely Hayford to visit her school. Thereafter, Dr. Jourdan, Secretary to the Negro Baptist Foreign Mission Board, undertook the arrangements of many of her speaking engagements.
She toured extensively in the states along the eastern seaboard, the South, and the Midwest. She spent time at all the major historically black colleges, taking particular notice of the methods employed at Hampton, Tuskegee and Moorhouse. Wherever she went, she attracted large interested audiences who proved to be generous with their support, morally and financially. Unlike in Freetown, she had no trouble eliciting sympathy for her proposed school and its curriculum. Her ideas on vocational education resonated deeply with the important tradition of industrial training in African American education. Thus, she succeeded in setting up an American Advisory Board for her school composed of such distinguished leaders as Dr. J. E. Gregg of Hampton, Dr. R. Moton and Mrs. Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee, Miss Naomi Burroughs, Dr. Jesse Jones of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, and James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey, who at that time was associated with the Phelps-Stokes Fund.
|Adelaide SC Hayford on speaking tour in the United States.|
|Image from "An African Victorian Feminist", by Adelaide M. Cromwell. Frank Cass, London, 1986.|
While in the United States, Mrs. Casely Hayford also took an interest in African American organizations other than those involved primarily in education. She cultivated relations with the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and the League of Women for Community Service (LWCS). Among other leaders, she was well known to W. E. B. DuBois, who stayed in her house when he visited Freetown in 1924.
Kathleen Easmon Simango, niece of Adelaide Casely Hayford. She was a British-educated African artist. In the early '20s she and her aunt Adelaide Casely-Hayford toured the United States to raise money for a girls' school in Sierra Leone. They met with a variety of who's who of both black and white America, and gave lectures on African life at several HBCUs including Tuskegee, Hampton and Howard. They exhibited African sculptures and textiles, and staged theatrical performances in that hope that such demonstrations would help to dispel the common belief that Africa was a land of savages. Audiences around the country were enraptured by them, and Zeta's Alpha Chapter invited them to become honorary members . courtesy:http://tilukhalayi.com/african-sorors/
Back in Freetown, Adelaide embarked on her project of establishing a vocational institution which would “awaken in pupils a love of country, pride of race, an enthusiasm for the blackman’s capabilities and genuine admiration for Africa’s wonderful artwork”. In October 1923, The Girls’ Vocational School opened in the Smith Family home at Gloucester Street, opposite the Post Office, with fourteen pupils. As Principal, she would have preferred the pupils wearing native dress to school, but this idea was rejected by the community. However, on Africa Day, which was held once every quarter, the pupils dressed in African costumes and studied African history, folklore, songs and artwork, and played African games and danced traditional dances. She headed the school till she retired in 1940, and the school was forced to close down.A gifted public speaker, Adelaide advocated that Congress Day (the day marking the founding of the National Congress of British West Africa), like Empire Day, ought to be observed as a public holiday, and she canvassed mothers to explain the significance of the day to their children. She recognised the immediate need for a national University and called for the establishment of a professorship in the major African languages. Of especial significance was the emphasis she placed on arts and crafts as Africa’s unique contribution to world culture.
Despite Adelaide’s opposition to the injustices of the colonial system and her strong advocacy of cultural nationalism, the British authorities had sufficient respect for her to award her the King’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935, and the M.B.E. in 1950. She spent the final years of her life writing her memoirs and short stories. She died in January 1960, leaving behind her a legacy of cultural awareness which all Sierra Leoneans should emulate.
Selected Works by Adelaide Casely Hayford:
?A Girls? School in West Africa,? Southern Workman, October 1926.
?The Life and Times of Adelaide Casely Hayford,? West African Review, October 1953-August 1954.
?Mista Courifer,? in Langston Hughes (ed.), An African Treasury (New York: Pyramid Books, 1961)
?Should We Educate the African?,? West African Review, vol.10, April 1931.Casely Hayford, Adelaide.
?West Africa in America,? West Africa, vol.5, January 7, 1922, p.1656
?The Womanhood of West Africa: The Dawning of a New Day,? Elder?s Review, vol.9, October 1930
romwell, A. M. An African Victorian Feminist: The Life and Times of Adelaide Smith Casely Hayford 1868-1960 (London, 1986).
Okonkwo, Rina. "Adelaide Casely Hayford: Crusader for Women's Rights", Heroes of West African Nationalism (Enugu, 1985), pp.92-105.
Easmon, M. C. F. ?Auntie Dad: An Appreciation of the Late Adelaide Casely-Hayford of Sierra Leone,? West African Review, vol. 31, April 1960, pp.52-53.
Graves, Anna M. (ed.). Benvenuto Cellini Had No Prejudice against Bronze: Letters from West Africa (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1943).