Aku speaking peoples of The Gambia represent less than
2% of the population and their language is a hybrid of Creole
and the English language. Akus hold prominent positions in society
as prominent public administrators, engineers, journalists, teachers,
pastors and private business people.
They are predominantly of the Christian
The Aku's origins are from the descendants of former recaptured
(these were people who were rescued from intercepted ships attempting
to take them from West Africa to the Americas after the abolition
of the slave trade in 1807), who were repatriated back to the
West coast of Africa in the 19th century. Their origins date back
to the late eighteenth century when 400 impoverished Africans
were sent to Sierra Leone from London. They were followed by ex-soldiers
who had fought for the British in the American War of Independence
and were promised freedom if they fought on the side of the British.
By 1850 the Akus were spread across West Africa in small communities
from Gambia to Bioko Island off the West African coast.
In the 1830s the British began a large scale transfer of some
recaptured former slaves from Sierra Leone to Bathurst (now Banjul)
and up-river to Georgetown (Janjangbureh)
in the Central River Division of The Gambia. The community excelled
compared to the indigenous communities as they had the advantage
of being better English speakers and the British saw them as a
way to spread Christianity and European values.
Many were engaged in the fields of teaching, the clergy, clerical
work, skilled building workers and labourers. Some distinguished
Akus emerged such as Thomas Rafell and Thomas Joiner who were
both wealthy businessmen. However, the most prominent of them
all was Edward Francis Small who was at the leading edge of politics
from the 1920s when he called for independence
and self-rule and is regarded as the father of modern Gambian
politics. The Aku community themselves were active proponents
of nationalism throughout the sub-region.
Other Ethnic Groups