Aborigines' Rights Protection Society
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Originally formed by traditional leaders and the educated elite to protest the Crown Lands Bill of 1896 and the Lands Bill of 1897 that threatened traditional land tenure, the Aborigines' Rights Protection Society became the main political organisation that led organised and sustained opposition against the Colonial Government, laying the foundation for political action that would ultimately lead to Ghanaian independence. J. W. Sey, J. P. Brown, J. E. Casely Hayford and John Mensah Sarbah were co-founders.
The formation of the ARPS came at a period during the late 19th century in which the African, Gold Coast educated elite were being systematically barred from high-ranking positions in the colonial government. It was this exclusion, in part, that fueled both the “cultural nationalism” and “anti-colonial political activity” that sparked the creation of the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society in 1897. As part of the emergence of cultural nationalism during the late nineteenth century, members of the educated elite throughout the Western African region began to return to their traditional roots by either reclaiming their “original African names, when these could be discovered,…” or … “new African names when they could not, …”. This reclamation of nomenclature influenced the naming of the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society, as it was originally conceived as a branch of the Aborigines' Protection Society of London but later renamed so as to serve as its own unique entity with a direct connection to the African continent in general and the Gold Coast in particular.
An analysis of the impact of the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) is typically constrained to the society’s impact on local politics in the Gold Coast region. However, the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society was interested not only in the protection of the rights of the native and colored peoples in the Gold Coast but also with the larger global struggle of colored people everywhere from America to Britain and the West Indies. The Society’s interest in the affairs of people of color abroad was predicated on the notion of the salience of race beyond the confines of an African context and the commonalities between different contexts of the subversion of race to support systems of oppression. The connection of the ARPS with the global movements for freedom and rights for people of color began with interactions between the leaders of ARPS with other anti-imperialist and pan-Africanist leaders abroad and ended with ARPS’ involvement with the 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress.
Despite the focus on the basis for the founding of the ARPS on the resistance of the Lands Bill of 1987, a common critique of the ARPS was that its members sought to garner greater financial and political gain for the African bourgeoisie and elites, rather than the common people. Part of this critique lied in a disjuncture between the espoused values of cultural nationalism by the ARPS that advocated a fight for the native peoples and the connection that the ARPS had with the colonial government.
- J. W. Sey
- J. P. Brown
- J. E. Casely Hayford
- Willem Essuman Pietersen (c.1844-1914)
- J. E. Biney
- H. van Hien
- Kobina Sekyi
John Peter Allotey Hammond was the Secretary and later a member of the Coussey Committee Joseph William Egyanka Appiah (later Jemisimiham Jehu-Appiah) later became a member through Attoh Ahuma, and was part of the delegation that went to UK to protest to the Queen to release all Ghana lands into the hands of natives.
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