Lamina Sankoh: One of the most prominent and fearless political leaders in pre-independence Sierra Leone

In celebration of Black History Month, The African Dream celebrate one of the most inspiring, fearless, and prominent Sierra Leonean heroes in history, Lamina Sankoh — one of the few men that introduced sanity and intellectualism into Sierra Leone politics. A national hero who stood by his conviction that Sierra Leone should be one country, and that its inhabitants should live and work as one; thus the birth of “One Country, One People”.

Originally born Ethelred National Jones on 28 June 1884 to ethnic Creole parents in Gloucester, a mountainous village in the Western Area Rural District of Sierra Leone. Although his original birth name was Ethelred National Jones, in the early 1920s he decided to changed his name to Lamina Sankoh because deep in his heart he felt the name Ethelred National Jones, which is typically Welsh, had no sanguine relationship with him an African.

Lamina Sankoh went to four schools; the Village school at Gloucester, the Cathedral School, Albert Academy and the C.M.S. Grammar School. He went to Fourah Bay College where he graduated with a B.A. He later travelled to England where he studied Theology and Philosophy at Wycliffe College, Univerity of Oxford, in 1921.

Lamina Sankoh returned to Freetown in 1924, however, his relations with the church weren’t therefore cordial owing to his moot sermons. He was ordained a priest and appointed parson of the Holy Trinity Church, a post he control till 1927. Even though he was ordained a priest and appointed curate of the church of the Holy Trinity, Lamina Sankoh was also a lecturer at the Fourah Bay College, the University of Sierra Leone where he lectured Logic. As a radical Christian whose views on Christianity and the church didn’t align, Lamina Sankoh was discontent with the dearth of progressive thinking within the Holy Trinity Church in Sierra Leone. He so resigned his curacy and once more proceeded to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland where he studied Education at the University of Oxford. A year later, he travelled to the United States of America where he instructed at Tuskegee Institute at Alabama, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and therefore the State faculty at Orangeburg, South Carolina. In 1930 he went back to the United Kingdom where he was active within the West African Students Union (WASU), a political third house agitative for self-government. He was an everyday contributor to the WASU Journal, of that he later became editor.

Lamina Sankoh was pivotal in pre-independence Sierra Leone. As one of the key pre-independence leaders, Sankoh was one of the prominent people who founded the Peoples Party in 1948, one of the first political parties in Sierra Leone. The Peoples Party eventually became the Sierra Leone People’s Party, one of the major political parties in Sierra Leone — and one of the only two political parties to rule Sierra Leone since independence. Lamina Sankoh dedicated most of his life to the unification of the former British colony of Freetown and its protectorate. As fearless as he was, Lamina Sankoh was a radical churchman, and a political writer, analyst and educator, he took an active role in the reconstruction of the Freetown City Council. In 1948, Lamina Sankoh was elected councillor for the Central Ward in Freetown municipality. He was the President of the Freetown Adult Education Society and resumed his teaching role at Fourah Bay College, as a lecturer for the second time he lectured Adult Education.

Lamina Sankoh founded the Sierra Leone ARO (Co-Operative) Society and established a Penny Savings Bank for his supporters. In 1948, Lamina Sankoh started his own newspaper in Freetown called “The  African Vanguard.” He established an African church where theology and philosophy were relatively free of ”western influences,” as he always said in his past sermons.


Colonized by the British in 1787, Sierra Leone, like many other West African countries faced colonial atrocities from the British for decades. The British, one of the world’s greatest looters in history, were mostly interested in one of the most valuable and precious resources, diamonds — which can be found in Sierra Leone. The British Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor which was a charity for ”poor blacks” decided to create a town in Africa for freed slaves. The colonization of Sierra Leone can be compared to the colonization of America in terms of how the natives were treated. Sierra Leoneans at that time were treated as inferior beings, they were taxed very heavily on their own land and they were denied their fundamental human rights. Although Freetown was a city for ”freedom,” slavery continued in Sierra Leone outside of Freetown. The slave trade was not stopped until 1928 when all major countries in the world abolished the slave trade. Like other British colonies, the people of Sierra Leone did not gain political, social, and economic freedom from the British and were denied their right to democracy not until 1961 with the tireless efforts of the likes of Sir Milton Margai and others. Sierra Leone is a country with more than a dozen tribes all with different beliefs and cultures. Even though this might not be an excuse for the divisiveness of the country which is caused by politics, the country’s four main regions are divided into East (which was designed to be the SLPP stronghold), North (designed to be the APC stronghold), South (designed to be the SLPP stronghold), and West (designed to be the APC stronghold but can also be the deciding region) — these politically motivated divided regions is the bedrock of Sierra Leone’s core corrupt political system embedded with tribalism and nepotism.

It was however in national politics that this competent political philosopher made his most lasting impact. He founded the People’s Forum, a cultural organisation intended to examine the values held by Sierra Leoneans. When almost the entire colony was misguided enough to uphold the idea of a “united country based on segregation and prescriptive rights,” this colony-born man had the courage to stand by his conviction that Sierra Leone was one country, and that its inhabitants should live and work as one (source Sierra Leone Web).

Lamina Sankoh was a fearless political leader, analyst, and writer who dedicated almost his entire life to instilling sanity, unity, and intellectualism into Sierra Leone politics. Lamina Sankoh played a great but significant role in ensuring that there every Sierra Leonean is a Sierra Leonean and should be treated equally irrespective of his/her tribe, region, religion, or political affiliation. His commitment and untiring efforts to unite British Sierra Leone at the time constitute a significant contribution to the process of national integration and inclusion. His dedication to uniting the British Freetown Colony and its protectorate will forever be remembered.

Lamina Sankoh died in 1964 shortly after the country gained independence from the British. To honour his legacy, a prominent street in central Freetown was named after him, Lamina Sankoh Street.


Author: Abu Bakarr Jalloh

Abu Bakarr Jalloh is a Sierra Leonean content writer, author, Neo Pan-African and founder of The African Dream, an online platform for inspiring, positive and compelling African stories. Contact: WhatsApp: +23276211583