The 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 freed slaves, (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.