John Mensah Sarbah

John Mensah Sarbah
Born (1864-06-03)3 June 1864
Anomabu, Gold Coast
Died 27 November 1910(1910-11-27) (aged 46)
Nationality Ghanaian
Occupation Lawyer, political leader

John Mensah Sarbah (3 June 1864 – 27 November 1910)[1] was a lawyer and political leader in the Gold Coast (now Ghana).


John Mensah Sarbah was born on Friday, 3 June 1864, in Anomabu, in the Fante Confederacy in the Gold Coast. He was the eldest son of John Sarbah (1834-1892), a merchant of Anomabu and Cape Coast and a member of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast, and his wife Sarah.[2] Mensah Sarbah was educated at the Cape Coast Wesleyan School (later renamed – by Mensah Sarbah himself – as Mfantsipim School) and then at Taunton School in Somerset, England, matriculating in 1884.[2] He subsequently entered Lincoln's Inn in London to train as a barrister, and was called to the English bar in 1887 – the first African from his country to qualify in this way.[2][3]

In 1897, along with J. W. Sey, J. P. Brown and J. E. Casely Hayford, Mensah Sarbah co-founded the Aborigines' Rights Protection Society, which became the main political organisation that led organised and sustained opposition against the colonial government, laying the foundation for Ghanaian independence.[4][5]

Mensah Sarbah was appointed a member of the Legislative Council in 1901,[6] and was re-appointed in 1906.[2]

In the first birthday honours of King George V, Mensah Sarbah was recognized with the award of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George in 1910, a few months before his sudden death at the age of 46, on Sunday, 27 November 1910.[2][7][8]

Personal life

In 1904 he married Marion Wood from Accra and they had three children.[9]

Contributions to education

He was dedicated to the promotion of secondary education and was responsible for various initiatives, including the founding of a Dutton scholarship at Taunton School in memory of his younger brother, Joseph Dutton Sarbah, who had died there in 1892.[9] In 1903, Sarbah and William Edward Sam promoted an enterprise called the Fanti Public Schools Limited and Sarbah also helped establish the Fanti National Education Fund, which aimed to improve educational facilities in the country and awarded scholarships. He founded a scholarship at Mfantsipim School and helped pay the salaries of the staff when the school encountered financial difficulties.[9]


In 1963, a residence hall of the University of Ghana was named Mensah Sarbah Hall in his honour for his services to education,[8] with a statue of John Mensah Sarbah is in front of it. Members of the hall are known as Vikings as a reference to him who is a true Viking for his country. Sarbah House at Mfantsipim School is named after him.

Selected bibliography


  1. S. Tenkorang, "John Mensah Sarbah, 1864–1910", in Transactions of the HYistorical Society of Ghana, Vol. XIV, No. 1, Legon, June 1973 (pp. 65–78), pp. 65, 76. Some other sources (including Magnus Sampson, 1969) give 6 November 1910 as the date of Mensah Sarbah's death.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Magnus Sampson, Makers of Modern Ghana: From Philip Quarcoo to Aggrey. Volume One, Accra: Anowuo Educational Publications, 1969, pp. 119-29.
  3. L. H. Ofosu-Appiah, Sarbah, John Mensah, Dictionary of African Christian Biography.
  4. "Ghana - Early Manifestations of Nationalism", Library of Congress A Country Study: Ghana.
  5. Nti, Kwaku, "Action and Reaction: An Overview of the Ding Dong Relationship between the Colonial Government and the People of Cape Coast", Nordic Journal of African Studies 11(1): 1-37 (2002).
  6. The London Gazette: no. 27320. p. 3925. 11 June 1901.
  7. Tenkorang (1973), p. 76.
  8. 1 2 "Sarbah, John Mensah", in Keith A. P. Sandiford, A Black Studies Primer: Heroes and Heroines of the African Diaspora, Hansib Publications, 2008, p. 401.
  9. 1 2 3 L. H. Ofosu-Appiah, "Sarbah, John Mensah", Dictionary of African Christian Biography.

External links

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