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Johnson, Samuel
1846 to 1901
Anglican
Nigeria


Nigerian churchman and historian, famous for his history of the Yoruba.

His father was one of the Saros, the people who came to Nigeria in the 1840s from Sierra Leone having lived there as "recaptives" taken off slave ships by the British Navy or as children born to such people in Freetown. They usually came from areas within modern Nigeria, many of them being Yorubas. He was from the Oyo area and claimed descent from the Alaafin Abiodun of Oyo. He was enslaved, freed at sea and resettled in Freetown. Like other recaptives he was given the European names Henry Johnson when baptized.

Henry Johnson and his wife Sarah had several sons who became famous in Nigeria, where they moved in 1857 to join the Church Missionary Society (CMS) mission under Rev. David Hinderer at Ibadan. The eldest, Henry, became a famous archdeacon with the CMS. The second, Nathaniel worked for the CMS as a teacher and catechist. The third, Samuel, was a clergyman and historian, and the fourth Obadiah, was the second Nigerian in the country's history to qualify as a medical doctor.

Samuel Johnson was born at Hastings, Freetown, on 24 June 1846. He moved to Yorubaland with his family and spent some time with them at Ibadan,--longer than planned because of the Ibadan-Ijaye war of 1860-62, one of many wars among the Yoruba kingdoms after the 1820s. From 1863 to 1865 he completed his education at the CMS Training Institution in Abeokuta.

From 1866 he worked as a schoolmaster under the CMS at Ibadan becoming, in 1867, assistant to Daniel Olubi, the CMS deacon at that time. He became superintendent of the Anglican Mission's schools at the Kudeti and Aremo stations in Ibadan, and in 1873 he visited Oyo, his ancestral homeland. In 1875 he became a catechist, and became involved in the Yoruba conflicts. The greatest of all the wars among Yoruba states, the Ekiti Parapo War, broke out in 1877 which Johnson dubbed the "Sixteen Year War." It involved Ibadan, the dominant military power, and Egbaland as well as the Ekiti states, which joined to form the Ekiti Parapo. Educated Yorubas, Saros in particular, were involved. Johnson played the role of a peacemaker. In 1881 he carried letters to Lagos from the Alaafin of Oyo suggesting British intervention to restore peace. The effort failed but Johnson and others continued their peace efforts. In 1885 he was a British government mediator between Ibadan and the Ijesha and Ekiti states. In 1886 the war ended in some parts, though it was to continue in others until 1893. British interventions to restore peace were to pave the way for British annexation.

In 1880 Johnson became a deacon. The following year he was sent to Oyo as a pastor, and in 1888 was ordained a minister. He helped foster the growth of CMS work in Oyo and contributed to the growth of christianity in the area. The Training Institution formerly at Abeokuta was eventually moved to Oyo in 1896 and took on the name St. Andrew's College. That followed the British occupation of Yorubaland, at first due to treaties signed by Obas in 1893, later, in Oyo, due to military action taken in 1895 to ensure full submission. Thus the Alaafin of Oyo, who had been a nominal ruler of the Yorubas from his capital at New Oyo from the 1840s, was subordinated to British rule. By then Samuel Johnson, who had carefully studied the traditions of his countrymen while at Oyo had almost completed a major work, a general history of the Yorubas. Finished in 1897, the manuscript was sent to the CMS headquarters in London, where it was lost without a trace.

Rev. Samuel Johnson died on 29 April 1901. He had been married twice, the second marriage with Martha Garba was celebrated at Lagos in 1895.

His brother, Dr. Obadiah Johnson, saw to it that his work on Yoruba history was not wasted after the mysterious loss of the manuscript. Over the years he compiled the book again from Samuel Johnson's notes. Obadiah Johnson died in London in 1920, and the book was published in London in 1921 by George Routledge and Sons, as A History of the Yorubas from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate, written by Samuel Johnson and edited by his brother. It is recognized as a pioneering historical study of high quality which ensured Samuel Johnson's fame.

 



Sources Consulted Include:

* Africa Year Book and Who's Who (London: Africa Journal, 1977).
* Africa Today, first edition, (Denver, CO : Africa Today Associates, 1981).
* Africa Who's Who, first edition, 1981.
* Africa Who's Who, second edition, 1991 (published by Africa Books Ltd., U.K).
* Ralph Ewechue (ed.), Makers of Modern Africa, 2nd edition (London: Africa Books, 1991).
* Daily Times of Nigeria (Lagos).
* Nigeria Year Book, 1974, 1975, 1976-1978, 1979, 1980 (Lagos : Nigerian Printing & Publishing Co.).
* S. Decalo, Historical Dictionary of Togo, 3rd ed., (London : Scarecrow Press, 1996).
* Ralph Uweche, Africa Who's Who, 1991 (Lagos, Nigeria: Africa Book Ltd.).
* J. C. Choate, The Voice of Truth International, 1991, Vol. 21 (U.S.A.)
* E. EL Hadj-Omar, Who's Who In Africa Dictionary.
* In the Land of the Pharaohs- An introduction to a 1968 case study by Khalil Mahmud, 2nd ed., (London : Cass, 1968).
* L. H. Ofosu-Appiah, Dictionary of African Biography, volume on Ghana & Ethiopia, volume on Sierra Leone & Zaire, (New York : Reference Publications, 1977-).
* Cyril P. Foray, Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone (London : Scarecrow Press, 1977).
* Gailey H. A., A History of Sierra Leone.
* I. Geiss, The Pan-African Movement (London : Methuen, 1974).
* L. C. Gwan, Great Nigerians.
* E. Kay (ed.), Dictionary of African Biography (London : Melrose Press, 1971-1972).
* Pan-Vegio Patriot Macdonald- H. Edward Wilmot
* R. K. Rasmussen, Historical Dictionary of Rhodesia Zimbabwe (London : Scarecrow Press, 1979).
* E. Rosenthal, Encyclopaedia of South Africa, 7th ed., (Cape Town : Juta, 1978).
* S. Ramgoolam, Seychelles Government Annual Reports.
* S. Taylor (ed.), The New Africans (London : Paul Hamlyn, 1967).
* V. Thompson and R. Adlof, Historical Dictionary of Congo (London : Scarecrow Press, 1996).
* Times Newspapers Ltd; Obituaries from the Times (Volume 1, 1961-1970; Vol.2, 1971- 1975)
* P. J. Vatikiotis, The History of Egypt, 3rd ed., (London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985, c1969).
* H. Zell and H. Silver (eds.), A Reader's Guide to African Literature (London : Heinemann, 1972).
* H. Zell, C. H. Bundy and V. Coulon (eds.), A New Reader's Guide to African Literature, rev. ed., (London : Heinemann, 1983).

ARTICLES IN LEARNED JOURNALS
* Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria (Ibadan : Ibadan University Press): Vol. V Nos. 2 & 3, 1970, (Adeleye, R. A.).
* Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria (Ibadan : Ibadan University Press): Vol. VI Nos. 204, 1969, (Ekejiuba, F.).
* Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, "A Biographical Sketch," (Omu Okwei), (Ibadan : Ibadan University Press): Vol. III No 4, 1967.
* Journal of African History, (London : Cambridge University Press): Vol. V No 3, 194 (Hopkins A. G.).

PERIODICALS AND NEWSPAPERS CONSULTED
Africa (Tunis : Ministère des Affaires Culturelles et de l'Information, 1971 ff).
Africa Diary (Delhi : Africa Publications (India), 1961 ff).
Africa Research Bulletin (Africa Research Ltd), (Oxford : Blackwell, 1964 ff).
Ambassador International (Vol 211; 1985).
Commonwealth Currents (1978).
Guardian (London, s.n.).
Independent (London, s.n.).
The Times (London).
West Africa (London : West Africa Publishing, 1917).