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History Trivia: Robert Campbell


The best thing about Lagos Island is this: in the chaos that it has now devolved into is also has some of the oldest, fascinating and impactful histories of any place in Africa. Lagos is that important in the history of British West Africa that every other city on the coast had a link with it.

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So was it in the late 18th century, that it attracted black immigrants from all over the world. For instance, did you know that Campbell Street in Marina CBD was named after Jamaican bi-racial businessman, Robert Campbell?

Robert Campbel was born on May 29th 1829 to a Scottish father and a biracial mother. He moved to Lagos alongside his wife,  in the aftermath of occupation in 1862 and set about joining the ‘legitimate’ trade as the British buzzword went. He is, however, most remembered for given Lagos its first English language newspaper, the Anglo-African.

Now not much is written about him outside these facts but we do know that he was involved in a heated political matter of establishing a newspaper as the British were only just coming to terms with how important Lagos was for their sojourn in West Africa.

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The consulate in Fernando Po which held jurisdiction for Lagos was headed by conservatives who did not believe missionaries should go converting freed slaves and natives in the new colony. That attitude also extended to the matter of the wars that raged far north of the Lagos Lagoon between the war-like Ibadan and the Egba (the one the Yoruba call the Kiriji Wars).

It also affected how they saw the matter of establishing a newspaper, as they feared what the education that one might bring could mean for their still fragile rule over a colony they did not yet understand. The Foreign Office would overrule the consulate and Campbell’s paper was given a green light. It turned out to be as conservative as the name suggested.

More importantly, however, Mr Campbell was believed to be the most prominent if not first occupants of that street. Recall, that the southern ends of the island were set apart for European settlement to keep apart from the African quarters further north. One of the reasons was incessant fire outbreaks that tend to spread quickly because of the closeness of the settlements.

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David Okwara

Some call me David. Others, Emerie. Others, (unfortunate fellows) Biggie. I like to think that I have sense and that is why I write too. Otherwise, I draw and paint and sing (in the bathroom) and love to make people laugh. I love to understand how things work and that’s why I love DIY videos and YouTube of course. Follow me on Twitter @EmerieOkwara

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