Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford (Peterhouse, 1896)

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Described by many of his peers as the “uncrowned king of West Africa”, Casely Hayford was born in 1866 in the Cape Coast (present day Ghana). He was lawyer, educator, journalist and politician most known for his contributions to the theory of Pan- Africanism.

As a boy, he attended the Wesleyan Boy’s High School in Cape Coast and later Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone. After his early studies, Casely Hayford returned to Cape Coast and spent several years as a teacher and principal in Wesleyan schools. During this time was also the subeditor of a weekly newspaper, the Gold Coast Echo. Although he eventually lost his position as a principal due to his journalistic activities through the paper, he continued to be politically active contributing to articles in the Gold Coast Chronicle as well as the Wesleyan Methodist Times.

He travelled to the Britain in 1893 to study law at St. Peter’s College, Cambridge, and the Inner Temple London. He completed his training in 1896 and shortly after returned to Cape Coast. There he established an active, admired private practice and grew more active in the political sphere. He was at the forefront in the fight to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, providing legal services and writing extensively on the importance of protecting traditional institutions and lands. Casely Hayford also held elected positions and was the president of the Aboriginal Rights Protection Society (1910), nominated to Legislative Council (1916), and vice president of the Congress of British West Africa (1920). He was awarded an MBE in 1919.

It has been well noted that Casely Hayford tutored and mentored many of the nationalist leaders in West Africa as well as other part of the continent. He served as an inspiration for Ghana’s independence movement leader and first president, Kwame Nkrumah. He died in Accra on August 11, 1930.

This profile is adapted from an archive entry on Blogspot.