Freetown, Sierra Leone
Freetown Quick Facts
Freetown, population 1,070,200 (2004), is the largest city and capital of Sierra Leone, lying on the Freetown Peninsula on the Atlantic coast. The city is a port on the Atlantic Ocean. Freetown’s economy revolves largely around its harbor, which handles Sierra Leone’s main exports. Industries include fish packing, rice milling, petroleum refining, diamond cutting, and the manufacture of cigarettes. Freetown is located at 8°31′N 13°15′W
Notable buildings in the city include Freetown Law Courts, the Slave Gate and Portuguese Steps, St John’s Maroon Church (built around 1820), St George’s Cathedral (completed in 1828), Foulah Town Mosque (built in the 1830s) and the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral. Also in Freetown are assorted beaches and markets, and the Sierra Leone Museum featuring the Ruiter Stone, nomoli and masks.
The area was first settled in 1787 by freed slaves sent from England around the Cotton Tree, said to have previously been a slave market, by British abolitionists, who started the Sierra Leone Company. It was burnt by local tribes under King Jimmy in 1790.
Slaves who had fled the newly-independent USA to England were resettled here by the British Government. In 1792, Freetown was founded by former slaves from Nova Scotia, and survived being pillaged by the French in 1794. The indigenous inhabitants revolted in 1800, but the British retook control, beginning expansionism which led to the creation of Sierra Leone. From 1808 to 1874 the city served as the capital of British West Africa.
The city was the scene of fierce fighting in the late 1990s. It was captured by ECOWAS troops seeking to restore President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1998, and later it was unsuccessfully attacked by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.