Read about the first Igboman to propose Biafra in 1865
Archival materials obtained by Irohinoodua show that an Igbo man proposed an independent nation for Igbo as early as 1865 and some 49 years before 1914 when Nigeria emerged.
James Africanus Beale Horton was an Igbo who was born in 1835 and died in 1883. He made the proposal for a sovereign Igbo nation when he was 30 years old.
Horton had send to a letter to the British Government with a proposal titled “The Empire of the Eboes/Igboes and Eboes” with the Requirements Necessary for Establishing that Self Government Recommended by the Committee of the House of Commons, 1865: and a Vindication of the African Race.”
His proposal contained the following demands
· A Self-governed independent nation
· Igbo army,
· Igbo currency
· Support for modern civilisation and economic empowerment.
Horton wrote in the letter that the Igbo race was the most emulative, intelligent and adaptive “race” in West Africa, and with modern support, they will vindicate the black race.
He also supported the hypothetical but controversial Jewish migration origin of the Igbos at that time.
Horton was born in the then British colonial Sierra Leone, near Freetown. His parents were former recaptive Igbo slaves. Horton lived in Gloucester until 1847 when he moved to Freetown to attend the local Church Missionary Society School (CMS). In 1853 he was moved to Freetown’s Fourah Bay Institution to train for a ministry in the Church of England. His seminary studies ended two years later when the CMS selected him to study medicine in preparation for a medical career in the British army. Horton attended Kings College in London for three years and then Edinburgh University for a fourth year to earn an MD.
In 1859 Horton was commissioned back to West Africa as a staff-assistant surgeon in the British army. His works led him to correlate topography and human health, developing theories that eventually would earn him a reputation in the medical world and a promotion to the army rank of surgeon-major.
Horton became more concerned with politics during his military service in West Africa. Horton refutes the derogatory racial theories about Africans rife in Victorian Britain and its empire. However, Horton also consider himself, a loyal subject of the British establishment and envisioned that Britain should have a strong cultural and technological influence in the development of Africa. Thus his philosophies, radical when colonial powers were dominant, have acted as a basis for the future advancement of African independence and nationalist ideologies.
At 45, Horton retired and returned to Freetown, where he continued to promote African education as the key to self-governance, and he further provided scholarships to hopeful young Africans. He also took a keen interest in Africa’s technical and economic development and Opened a bank called the Commercial Bank of West Africa. His business and gold mining exploits made him one of the richest men in Africa by 1880.
Although his dream of an independent Self-governed Igbo nation was not realised in his lifetime, his political thoughts birthed the African political thoughts during the colonisation of Africa after his death.
James Africanus Beale Horton died in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 1883.
Beverton, A. (2021). James Africanus Beale Horton (1835-1883) •West African countries and peoples, British and native
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