John Mensah Sarbah

John Mensah Sarbah

John Mensah Sarbah

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John Mensah Sarbah (June 3, 1864, Anomabu – November 27, 1910) was a lawyer and political leader in the Gold Coast (now Ghana).


John Mensah Sarbah was born in the Fante Confederacy in the Gold Coast. After completing his secondary education at the Cape Coast Wesleyan School (later – by Mensah Sarbah himself – renamed Mfantsipim School ), he entered Lincoln's Inn in London to train as a barrister, and was called to the English bar in 1887 – the first African barrister from his country to qualify in this way.L. H. Ofosu-Appiah, , Dictionary of African Christian Biography

Later, Mensah Sarbah became a leading critic of British colonial rule, especially in connection with colonial land appropriation. Sarbah argued that land in Africa belonged to someone, and that therefore any confiscation by the British was illegal.

European imperialism created complex pressures for new African leaders. John Mensah Sarbah chose a path of utilizing Western standards in defence of African rights. Mensah Sarbah used English constitutional arguments to claim that the British had no right to rule the Gold Coast and were consistently violating established African Laws. He actively urged expanded responsibilities for educated Africans who could preserve Africa's traditional communal virtues. His multi-volume Fante National Constitution (1906) followed from his elaborate research on customary law. He also founded several organizations designed to protect...
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