Meet Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a slave who became Africa's first Anglican bishop

Archbishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther
  • Crowther was born as Ajayi in Osogun, now Iseyin Local Government Area in Oyo State, Nigeria back in 1809.
  • He was sold into slavery after slave raiders captured him and others. This happened when he was over 10 years old.
  • He managed to beat the odds and make history in the process.

Meet Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a Nigerian slave who ended up becoming a linguist and the Anglican "Bishop of the countries of Western Africa beyond the Queen's dominions."

After young Crowther (at the time his name was Ajayi) was captured along with his mother, baby brother, and other family members, he was sold and put on a ship going to America to be resold.

The vessel was intercepted by the British Navy’s Anti-slave trade patrol and taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone. There, all the slaves on board were set free.


It was in Sierra Leone that the young Nigerian boy was introduced into Christianity. Once he got baptised and became a Chistian, he changed his name to Samuel Crowther - a prominent clergyman in England who was one of the pioneers of the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS).

In 1826, he left for England where he attended St Mary’s Church and the church’s school. He returned the following year and joined others as pioneer student of a newly opened Anglican missionary school called Fourah Bay College. Here, he studied Latin, Greek and Temne, and later taught in different schools.


In 1841, Crowther was chosen to join a missionary expedition to Niger by James Fredrick Schon.

Noticing his immense contributions towards the Niger Expedition, Schon sent a letter to the church authorities telling them all about Crowther's work and recommending that he be ordained.

After the expedition, Crowther was recalled to England, where he was trained as a minister and ordained by the Bishop of London.

He went back to Africa in 1843 where he opened a mission in Abeokuta, in today's Ogun State, with an Anglican missionary named Henry Townsend.


In 1864, he was ordained as the “Bishop of the countries of Western Africa beyond the Queen's dominions” which made him the first African Bishop in the Anglican Church.

Crowther had a lot of achievements including initiating the Christian-Muslim discourse in the Upper and Middle Niger regions.

One of his biggest accomplishments was translating the bible to the Yoruba language. He also compiled Yoruba versions of the dictionary, grammar book, and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer along with 'A Vocabulary of the Yoruba Language.' He also worked on other languages including Igbo and Nupe.

Crowther's Yoruba bible can be found in Nigeria's first storey building located in Badagry, Lagos state.


Crowther married a schoolmistress named Asano who adopted the name Susan after she became a Christian. She was one of the captives from the ship who resettled in Sierra Leone.

They had several children including Dandeson Coates Crowther who became a minister and eventually the archdeacon of Niger Delta in 1891.

Their second daughter, Abigail, married Thomas Babington Macaulay and the two had Herbert Macaulay.


Crowther and Susan's grandson, Herbet, would grow up to help bring an end to British colonial rule in Nigeria.

Crowther passed away on December 31, 1891, in Lagos state. He died of a stroke.

Enhance Your Pulse News Experience!

Get rewards worth up to $20 when selected to participate in our exclusive focus group. Your input will help us to make informed decisions that align with your needs and preferences.

I've got feedback!


Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: