John Raban was a Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary in Sierra Leone. Raban was one of the first English clergymen to join the earlier missionaries from Germany recruited by CMS. He served at Freetown, Sierra Leone, for short periods between 1826 and 1834, ill health requiring regular leaves in England, and was head of Fourah Bay Institution from 1831 to 1832 and 1833 to 1834. Like his respected acquaintance Hannah Kilham, the Quaker advocate of the use of African languages in African schools, he investigated many of the languages spoken at Freetown by liberated slaves. In 1832-1838 he published three tiny volumes on the Yoruba language, representing the earliest study of that Nigerian language. Although elementary and crude, Raban’s studies encouraged further linguistic work in the Sierra Leone mission. They were the link between the earlier work on local languages, such as that by Gustavius Reinhold Nylander, and the later, more refined work on Nigerian languages, such as that of James Frederick Schön and Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Raban’s former pupil.
P.E. H. Hair
P. E. H. Hair, The Early Study of Nigerian Languages (2d ed., 1995), S. A. Walker, The Church of England Mission in Sierra Leone (1847). Raban materials are held in the CMS archives, Univ. of Birmingham.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.