Sherbro people

Last updated
The Sherbro and its hinterland (1901) (14783305925).jpg
The Sherbro and its hinterland (1901)
Total population
191,000 [1]
Regions with significant populations
Flag of Sierra Leone.svg  Sierra Leone (Bonthe District and the Western Area)
Sherbro, Krio, Sierra Leone English
Traditional African religions, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Krio, Gola

The Sherbro people are a native people of Sierra Leone, who speak the Sherbro language; they make up 3% of Sierra Leone's population or about 201,000. The Sherbros are primarily found in their homeland in Bonthe District, where they make up 45% of the population, in coastal areas of Moyamba District, and in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, particularly in Freetown. During pre-colonial days, the Sherbro were one of the most dominant ethnic group in Sierra Leone, but today only few ethnic Sherbro are found in Sierra Leone. The Sherbro speak their own language called Sherbro language. The vast majority of Sherbro people are Christian.

Sierra Leone republic in West Africa

Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, informally Salone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast and Guinea to the northeast. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savanna to rainforests. The country has a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and a population of 7,075,641 as of the 2015 census. Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. The country's capital and largest city is Freetown. Sierra Leone is made up of five administrative regions: the Northern Province, North West Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area. These regions are subdivided into sixteen districts.

The Sherbro language is an endangered language of Sierra Leone. It belongs to the Mel branch of the Niger–Congo language family. While Sherbro has more speakers than the other Bullom languages, its use is declining among the Sherbro people, in favor of Krio and English.

Homeland concept of the place with which an ethnic group holds a long history and a deep cultural association

A homeland is the concept of the place where a: cultural, national, or racial identity had formed. The definition can also mean simply one's country of birth. When used as a proper noun, the Homeland, as well as its equivalents in other languages, often have ethnic nationalist connotations. A homeland may also be referred to as a fatherland, a motherland, or a mother country, depending on the culture and language of the nationality in question.


The Sherbro are primarily fisherman and traders. They have a rich culture, that has integrated some western culture and ideals. Their culture is unlike that of all other ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. The only Sierra Leonean ethnic group whose culture is similar (in terms of embrace of Western culture) are the Krio people, descended largely from African Americans who were freed by the British and came from Nova Scotia after the American Revolutionary War. The Sherbro and the Krios are close allies; they have intermarried from as far back as the 1790s.

Fisherman someone who captures fish and other animals from a body of water, or gathers shellfish

A fisherman or fisher is someone who captures fish and other animals from a body of water, or gathers shellfish.

Merchant businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others

A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. During the 16th-century, in Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: One term, meerseniers, described local traders such as bakers, grocers, etc.; while a new term, koopman (Dutch: koopman, described merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances, and offering added-value services such as credit and finance.

Western culture Norms, values and political systems originating in Europe

Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies that originated in or are associated with Europe. The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western culture includes countries in the Americas and Australasia, whose language and demographic ethnicity majorities are European.

As native to Sierra Leone, the Sherbro history dates to pre-colonial times. In the 18th century, the Sherbro began to get involved in the slave trade and became more powerful than the European slave traders. They began to employ the Mende people to work for them to find slaves to meet the growing demand. In the 1920s, the Sherbro people were still being ruled by their own chiefs.

Mende people ethnic group

The Mende people are one of the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone; their neighbours, the Temne people, have roughly the same population. The Mende and Temne each account for slightly more than 30% of the total population. The Mende are predominantly found in the Southern Province and the Eastern Province, while the Temne are found primarily in the Northern Province and the Western Area, including the capital city of Freetown. Some of the major cities with significant Mende populations include Bo, Kenema, Kailahun, and Moyamba.


The Sherbro were one of many ethnic groups living in Sierra Leone before the colonial era. The first interaction with Europeans came during the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers, settlers, and traders came to Sierra Leone.

Portuguese people ethnic group

Portuguese people are a Romance ethnic group indigenous to Portugal that share a common Portuguese culture and speak Portuguese. Their predominant religion is Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism, though vast segments of the population, especially the younger generations, have no religious affiliation. Historically, the Portuguese people's heritage largely includes the pre-Celts and Celts, who became culturally Romanized during the conquest of the region by the ancient Romans. A number of Portuguese also can trace limited descent from Germanic tribes who arrived after the Roman period as ruling elites, including the Suebi and Visigoths in northern Portugal, as well as converted Jewish and North Africans as a result of the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, especially in the Algarve region of southern Portugal.

The English followed soon after and in the 1620s, they had a number of agents trading and purchasing items in the Sherbro Country. The Sherbro intermarried with them. Like the Krios, the Sherbro have a more westernized culture than that of other Sierra Leone ethnic groups.[ citation needed ] The Krios generally intermarried with their allies the Sherbros from as far back as the 18th century.

Relationship with the Krios

De-tribalised Sherbro easily assimilate as Krio, given that they share the Christian faith and Western names.

Notable Sherbro

Thomas Corker was a prominent English agent for the Royal African Company and worked in the Sherbro, Sierra Leone. His descendants are still living in that area and are the Bonthe and Shenge Caulkers. Corker was originally from Dublin, Ireland; he was descended from the Dublin/Cornwall Corker family.

Kpana Lewis was a Sherbro chief from Sierra Leone and an opponent of colonial rule of the British. He exercised strong influence over all Sherbro chiefs. Part of his fame rested in his pervasive use of the Poro Secret Society to oppose the British colonialists. He was considered so powerful that, while Bai Bureh was allowed to return from exile after the 1898 Rebellion, Kpana Lewis continued to be held in exile in the Gold Coast, where he died in 1912.

Barnabas Root missionary

Barnabas Root, born Fahma Yahny, was the grandson of an American-born slave who had moved to Africa through the efforts of the American Colonization Society. Yahny attended the original Mendi Mission school in Mendiland, Sierra Leone, where he was educated by Mary McIntosh, an alumna of Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois, which was founded in the Calvinist tradition. The College and many of the Congregational churches of the city were active with the American Missionary Association.


See also


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