The African Academy

8 Rectory Gorve & St. Pauls Churchyard, Clapham, London, SW4

Tube: Clapham North (Northern Line)

Between 1799-1806 a group known as ‘The Clapham Sect’ made up of key abolitionist campaigners such as William Wilberforce, Thomas Buxton and Granville Sharp, set up the ‘African Academy’, a school aimed at educating boys of African descent between the ages of 10-17. Students at the academy learned a range of subjects, however there was a clear focus on religious instruction, due to the Clapham Sect being primarily a Church of England social reform organisation.

Little is known as to why the African Academy ended so prematurely after only 7 years. Possibly reasons are that its sponsors had felt it outgrew its usefulness or financial lifespan or that the children were now too old for schooling and were ready to leave for colonies in Sierra Leone or elsewhere.

What is known however is that only six students had survived by 1806 from what is believed to be a measels outbreak and not far from where the African Academy once stood, is St. Pauls Churchyard, where some of the young African males were buried. Although their tombstones have since been cleared, the Clapham burial register reveals plenty on the origins of these young African students.

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