Chapter 17 A reconsideration of James Africanus Beale Horton of Sierra Leone (1835–1883) and his legacy
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In West African Countries and Peoples: A Vindication of the African Race, James Africanus B. Horton (1835–1883) laid the foundation for what could have become independent countries . . . if a complete change in British policy had not occurred a decade later. A member of the Sierra Leone elite, trained in Great Britain, he saw the values of British civilization both as a potential benefit for Africa and Africans and as a path to their political and social emancipation. His book, published in 1868, which inspired many of his contemporaries, constitutes a landmark in the history of African political thought. Horton first discusses the much-debated issue of the intellectual abilities of the ‘African race’. Drawing his ideas from numerous publications and from his own experience as a medical doctor posted in British establishments along the West African Coast, he suggests various constitutional solutions, from monarchy to some kind of democracy, depending on local history. His work provides both a clear counter-argument to rampant pseudo-scientific racism and a political manifesto for Africa at a decisive moment when everything seemed yet possible. Furthermore, Horton’s contribution, using the concept of African Nationality, belongs to the history of pan-Africanism.

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