Teacher, author, lawyer, politician, Pan-Africanist, and founder of the National Congress of British West Africa (one of the continent's first Pan-African organizations). In the period following WWI JE Casely Hayford was probably the most important nationalist leader in Africa.
Date of Birth: 29 September1866, Cape Coast, Gold Coast, West Africa
Date of Death: 11 August 1930, Gold Coast (now Ghana)
An Early Life
Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford was born on 29 September 1866 at Cape Coast, part of the Gold Coast Colony (now Ghana) of West Africa. His father, Reverend Joseph de Graft Hayford, was a minister of the Methodist Church and a prominent figure in Fanti politics; his mother was from the elite Brew family (a mixed heritage dynasty descended from the European trader Richard Brew who arrived in Africa in 1745). JE Casely Hayford grew up as part of the privileged Gold Coast elite.
Casely Hayford was educated at the most prominent school in the Gold Coast, the Wesleyan Boys' High School in Accra. He completed his studies at the Fourah Bay College of Freetown, Sierra Leone. It was while in Sierra Leone that he fell under the influence of one of the key thinkers of Pan-Africanism, Edward Wilmot Blyden. (Blyden had fled to Sierra Leone in 1871 after his polemic against people of mixed race -- he referred to them as 'mulattos' -- was revealed to the pubic in Liberia.)
Becoming an Nationalist
On completing his secondary education, Casely Hayford returned to Accra and took up a teaching post at the Wesleyan Boys' High School, but was shortly dismissed for his political activism. In 1885 he was given the chance to become a journalist by his uncle, James Hutton Brew, on the Western Echo, of which he was the founder. By 1888 Casely Hayford was editor, and the paper was renamed the Gold Coast Echo. Two years later he became co-owner of the Gold Coast Chronicle. Casely Hayford's journalism was politically motivated -- like many amongst the educated elite of the Gold Coast, he saw it as his rôle to advocate nationalistic ideals.
At the start of the 1890s Casely Hayford decided to pursue a career in law, and became an articled clerk with a lawyer in Cape Coast. In 1893 he traveled to the UK and began studying economics at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He completed his legal studies in 1896, when he was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple, Inns of Court. While in the UK he met, and married, Adelaide Smith -- a Sierra Leonean Creole, nationalist and feminist, who became a prominent Pan-Africanist writer in her own right.
The Aborigines' Rights Protection Society
Casely Hayford returned to the Gold Coast and established his own legal practice. In 1897 he became legal advisor to the Gold Coast section of the Aborigines' Rights Protection Society (GCARPS) which had just been founded and was campaigning against a restrictive land act introduced by the colonial government -- the Crown Lands Bill of 1897 -- which effectively removed land from indigenous Africans and awarded it to the colonial authorities. GCARPS was the first anti-colonial organization founded in the Gold Coast, and was run by local chiefs and the Western educated elite.
Casely Hayford was back in London in 1903, when he published his first book: Gold Coast native institutions: With thoughts upon a healthy imperial policy for the Gold Coast and Ashanti. When the British took over Ashanti, deporting the young king and demanding the sacred Golden Stool (they claimed they were bringing an end to barbarous customs and human sacrifice and slave-raiding in the region), Casely Hayford remarked in his book: "[T]he talk of human sacrifices and barbarous customs and slave-raiding is all cant. What lies behind it all is the desire for the good things of Ashanti that would come into the pockets of the British capitalist. How many thousands are mowed down by the Maxim in a single expedition? And in times of peace are not 'rebel chiefs' freely hanged? The Ashanti loathes the hangman's noose, but gladly lays his neck upon the execution block. The latter he accounts honourable death, if death he has deserved; the former he regards as a disgraceful exit which his soul abhors. I do not personally approve of executions and slave-raiding, or of slavery in any shape or form. But what calls for loud protest is, that these should be made a cloak for cant -- an apology for the use of the Maxim gun -- when all the time all the world knows that you are simply taking part in the scramble for the black man's country. It is unpalatable, I know; but it is true all the same."1
1 Extract from Gold Coast native institutions. With thoughts upon a healthy imperial policy for the Gold Coast and Ashanti by JE Casely Hayford, 1903, page 269.