Programs - Sierra Leone

Our Shared Histories workshop began on Friday, December 28, with the Americans’ arrival to their hotel in the Aberdeen section of Freetown, where they were met by their Sierra Leonean colleagues. The workshop was organized around a series of lectures led by Professor Joe Opala, who covered the early history of Sierra Leone, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the Amistad revolt, and Professor Joe Alie, who covered the twentieth century history of Sierra Leone, from the struggle against colonialism, to the post-independence era and the war years.

The group also visited prominent historical and cultural sites, such as the slaving fort at Bunce Island. This was a first time visit for both the US teachers and the Sierra Leone teachers. A tour of Freetown’s historic downtown area and historic Fourah Bay College were other highlights in a busy week.

In the final days of the workshop we traveled to Yagala, a village in the heart of the Wara Wara mountains in northern Sierra Leone. There we were welcomed with dancing and a group meeting, which seemed to have been attended by the entire village. We ended our visit there with a hike the top of the nearby Wara Wara mountain by way of a steep trail, with some scrambling up rock faces. At the summit of the mountain are the remains of an old fortified city that had been used as a refuge from the slaving parties who would raid nearby villages, looking to take captives for the slave trade.

What we hope will prove the most enduring aspect of the workshop was the opportunity for Sierra Leone and U.S. teachers to get to know one another, share classroom experiences, and discuss classroom collaborations. The group will reunite in June 2019, when the Sierra Leone teachers come to Yale University for a ten-day workshop on the Black Struggle for Freedom, Justice and Equality.