We start our own Nigeria Black History month of February with Samuel Ajayi Crowther who was the first African bishop of the Anglican Church and the man who translated the Bible into the Yoruba language. Though many people don’t know, he was also instrumental in the translation of the Bible into the Ibo language as well.
He was born in Iseyin, Oyo state but when he was just 12 years old, some slave traders captured his family and sold them as slaves to Portuguese slave merchants in 1821. Luckily for Ajayi Crowther, he was released in Freetown, Sierra Leone by the Anglican Christian Missionary Society who took care of him and that was how he converted to Christianity and was taught the English language.
To show his appreciation, he named himself after the vicar of the church, Samuel Crowther and that is how he officially became known as Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
He became very interested in languages and was taken to England to study after which he returned to Freetown, Sierra Leone. By now he had mastered the Greek and Latin languages as a linguist and eventually became a teacher in the Fourah bay College.
It was around this time he started translating the Bible into the Yoruba language and also working on a yoruba dictionary. In 1843, a grammar book which he started working on during the Niger expedition was published and a Yoruba version of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer followed later.
Ajayi Crowther loved languages so much he also compiled a vocabulary of the Yoruba language including a large number of local proverbs. He also produced a primer for the Igbo language in 1857 and a primer for the Nupe language in 1860.
Samuel Ajayi Crowther died in 1891 but had established himself as a prominent feature in East Africa and also a respectable figure in both the Anglican church and the wider academic community with his work in linguistics.