Copyright [year?], University of California Press. All rights reserved.
How to pass our leisure moments in Sierra Leone has ever been a problem to the enlightened members of this community. It has led to many devices to while away the dull monotony of our idle moments—devices that have taken as firm roots on the soil as the ephemeral mushroom.
Reflections of this nature may, no doubt, be exercising the minds of many people here, on reading the flamboyant advertisements about "A Grand Oriental Concert," "under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor and Mrs. R. J. Wilkinson,"[1
] etc., to which Miss Kathleen M. Easmon[2
] and Mr. Alec D. Yaskey have subscribed their names as Secretaries.
Ere this sees the light of day, those who had spare cash to throw into the concern, would be discussing how oriental the Oriental Concert has been and what degree of grandeur attended the efforts of its promoters. But what concerns the thinking section of Freetown is this—to what object are the proceeds to be devoted?
Mrs. Casely Hayford's[3
] name has been associated in the public mind, during the last three months, with a scheme for a technical and industrial school for our girls, operating under the aegis of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Mrs. Hayford is known to be President of the women's section of the local division of that Association.
With this knowledge and understanding the U.N.I.A. members took up the scheme warmly. Posters were placarded about the streets and notices were read from most of the Freetown pulpits announcing the scheme. Collection boxes marked U.N.I.A. were distributed to the women members who tramped from house to house and collected something like sixteen pounds odd. Concurrently with these events, subscription lists were prepared and issued to the female members of the Association, Mrs. Hayford and her niece Miss Easmon, undertaking to solicit funds from the Europeans of this city. So far, so good.
At this juncture arrived the Sierra Leone Delegates[4
] to the Accra Conference, one of whom took strong exception to the movement for raising funds. This Delegate contended that funds were urgently needed to carry out the mandate of the National Congress and that any attempt to divert the pecuniary resources of Sierra Leoneans would operate disastrously against the interests of the Congress. At the same time it became known that Mrs. Hayford had, without the privity of the U.N.I.A., approached the Accra Congress for help towards the scheme, and that she virtually received a rebuff.
Mrs. Hayford had given out in public and at meetings of the U.N.I.A. that she and Miss Easmon would travel down the coast to solicit funds for the scheme. The Delegate above alluded to gave her distinctly to understand that any such move by her would be countered by him: that he would cable to the various centres down the coast, warning the people of her probable activities among them. If however [s]he would sit tight for a while and throw in her lot with the Congress[,] she and her scheme would be favourably entertained in the near future. That gave the quietus to the "Coast" excursion.
Almost immediately after, Mrs. Hayford engaged the members of the U.N.I.A. in a wrangle as to the legal interpretation of certain clauses in the Constitution of the Association and after a while publicly appeared under the new role of sole protagonist of the Technical and Industrial scheme, without so much as deigning officially to inform the executive of the U.N.I.A. of her intention.
But the U.N.I.A. was not to be so cavalierly treated. The Executive Secretary demanded accounts affecting the funds raised for the scheme.
After a rather stormy women's meeting, she handed fifteen pounds odd to the lady-treasurer as amount raised through the collection boxes. This was reported at the last general meeting of the Association which decided on sending a deputation to demand a full statement affecting all moneys collected for the scheme.
Thus far my information goes; but I have since learnt that Mrs. Hayford informed the ladies and gentlemen whom she has congregated under her wings for the purposes of her new move that she had sixty-five pounds in hand which she had banked.
The interesting question naturally arises, To whom does this amount belong? To Mrs. Hayford, the new body, or the U.N.I.A., the members of which laboured to create this fund?
These are questions the public have a right to ask, hence this article, which I trust will elicit a satisfactory reply from Mrs. Hayford, before she leaves for America, whither she is bound on a mission connected with this self-same scheme.
] Adelaide Casely Hayford (1868–1960), Sierra Leonean feminist, educator, and UNIA division leader, was born into Creole society in Freetown but spent much of her childhood and young adulthood in Europe, where she was educated. She married the Gold Coast lawyer Joseph Casely Hayford in England in 1903 and gave birth to their daughter, Gladys Casely Hayford (later a poet recognized by patrons of the Harlem Renaissance), before the marriage dissolved. She returned to Freetown in 1914 and sought work as a teacher, becoming involved in community affairs and serving as an officer in the local YWCA as well as "lady president" of the Freetown UNIA division. By 1919 she and her niece, Kathleen Easmon, were actively raising funds for a Freetown school for girls, with a curriculum including both vocational training and domestic science, along with elements of African culture designed to develop racial pride. UNIA women helped in this endeavor until a dispute arose over the UNIA's authority over the educational enterprise, whereupon Casely Hayford separated herself from the organization. Given the difficulties in raising funds in Freetown, she decided to travel to the U.S. for support. She left Sierra Leone in July 1920, soon after the meeting reported in this document. In a 31 July 1920 editorial, the African World
(London) praised Casely Hayford's efforts in paternalistic terms, noting that her initiative "shows immense progress in native thought." After more than two years in the U.S., she returned to Freetown and in October 1923 opened the Girls' Vocational School with fourteen students in attendance. Her financial problems continued, and only after a second trip to the U.S. in 1925 was she able to establish a source of American funding. Though first envisioned as a technical school for young adults, the school was spurned by Freetown women and thus was reorganized as an elementary school with an emphasis on African culture and the arts. In 1926 and 1927, Casely Hayford made another trip to the U.S., participating in the 1927 Pan-African Congress in New York. She continued to operate her school until 1940 (Barbara Bair, "Pan-Africanism as Process: Adelaide Casely Hayford, Garveyism, and the Cultural Roots of Nationalism," in Imagining Home: Class, Culture and Nationalism in the African Diaspora,
ed. Sidney J. Lemelle and Robin D. G. Kelley [London and New York: Verso, 1994]; Rina L. Okonkwo, Heroes of West African Nationalism
[Enugu, Nigeria: Delta Publishers, 1985], pp. 92–105; Cromwell, An African Victorian Feminist
The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers,
ed. Robert A. Hill
(Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2000).
Electronic version based on
The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers,
ed. Robert A. Hill,
(Berkeley: University of California Press, [year?]). On the Web at http://mep.blackmesatech.com/mep/ [Accessed 4 January 2018]