A British Missionary in the Asante Capital Thomas Birch Freeman

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A British Missionary in the Asante Capital  by  Thomas Birch Freeman

A British Missionary in the Asante Capital by Thomas Birch Freeman
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In 1839, Thomas Birch Freeman, a British missionary, visited Kumasi, the capital of the powerful Asante Empire. “A British Missionary in the Asante Capital” is an excerpt from Freeman’s journal, describing a royal procession, or ceremony, that he sawMoreIn 1839, Thomas Birch Freeman, a British missionary, visited Kumasi, the capital of the powerful Asante Empire. “A British Missionary in the Asante Capital” is an excerpt from Freeman’s journal, describing a royal procession, or ceremony, that he saw in the city.Freeman (1809-90) was born in Hampshire, southern England.

His father was an enslaved man of African descent, and his mother was a white servant. As a young man, Freeman was involved with the evangelical Christian Methodist Church. In 1837 he volunteered to go to the Gold Coast (Ghana) with the Wesleyan Missionary Society. After arriving on the Gold Coast, he traveled through the territories of the Asante, Dahomey and Egba (a Yoruba subgroup) in what are now Ghana, Togo, Benin, and western Nigeria.The Asante are an Akan ethnic group living in what is now Ghana (formerly called the Gold Coast).

The Akan are a group of people who speak similar languages and share some cultural similarities. In pre-colonial times, however, the Akan people were divided into many different clans and polities.The Akan-speaking regions of Ghana are rich in gold. The mining and export of gold in the region brought wealth to local kingdoms. In medieval times, the Akan gold was mostly exported northward, to Savannah or Sahel kingdoms such as Mali and Songhai, and then across the Sahara Desert to the Arab and Berber states of North Africa.

Some of the gold from the Akan states, and from other parts of West Africa, ended up in medieval Europe. West Africa was, in fact, one of the main sources of gold in Europe before the colonization of the Americas.After the arrival of European ships on the West African coast in the 1400s, the Akan gold producers began to ship gold to the coast, where Europeans set up “castles”, or trading posts.

Gold was the main commodity sought by the early European traders. The major Portuguese trading post in what is now Ghana was called “El Mina” (“the Mine”), and the whole region was called the Gold Coast by Europeans.There were several different Akan kingdoms in the area between the 15th and 18th centuries. Around the beginning of the 18th century, the Asante, based in the town of Kumasi, began expanding their territory, incorporating surrounding Akan clans and kingdoms.

The founders of the Asante Empire were Asantehene (king) Osei Tutu and his high priest Okomfo Anokye.By the late 17th century the Atlantic Slave Trade had begun to supplant the gold trade on the Gold Coast. The demand for enslaved workers was driven by the growth of sugar plantations in the Americas, especially in Brazil and the Caribbean.

The Asante conquest and the wars between rival Akan kingdom helped to fuel the trade, as the kingdoms sold their prisoners of war to Europeans. The Asante kingdom, like the kingdom of Dahomey to the west, became a major slave-trading nation. So many enslaved people were shipped from the Gold Coast that Akan people formed the largest single ethnic group in many late 17th and 18th century colonies, especially in the British and Dutch Caribbean.Great Britain abolished its slave trade in 1807, and, for the rest of the 19th century, gradually extended its rule over the Gold Coast.

British expansion sparked a series of Anglo-Asante wars, ending with the kingdom’s conquest in the late 19th century. The kingdom became part of British-ruled Gold Coast, which was renamed Ghana after independence in the 1950s.In this text, Freeman describes a royal public ceremony in the Asante capital Kumasi in 1839. Similar Asante royal ceremonies still take place in Kumasi today, with displays of gold and elaborate costumes similar to what Freeman described. An Asante king still rules in modern-day Ghana, along with many other ‘traditional rulers’.



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