LibPositives Historical Spotlight Sarah Ann Bourne Barclay

Sarah Ann Bourne Barclay was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1816, to Barbados national hero, London Bourne. She was the mother of the fifteenth president of Liberia, President Arthur Barclay, and grandmother of the eighteenth president of Liberia, President Edwin Barclay. In 1835, she married Anthony Barclay in Bridgetown, Barbados.

In April 1865, Sarah Barclay emigrated with her husband and eleven children from Barbados to Liberia after the third president of Liberia, President Daniel Bashiel Warner, issued an act entitled, “An Act authorizing the President to adopt measures to encourage emigration to Liberia from the West India Islands.” With this act, the President entered into arrangements to increase the population of Liberia by renewing the previous 1862 invitation that was extended to persons of African descent in West Indian Islands to come and settle in Liberia. The invitation was meant to aid worthy and industrious persons in the same islands to emigrate (Liberian Listener). This act granted each family 25 acres of land and each individual 10 acres of land. As such, the Barclay family arrived in Liberia in May 1865.

On January 16, 1866, a year after arriving in Liberia[1] , Anthony Barclay died, leaving Sarah Barclay with the responsibility of ten surviving children, five of whom were minors. She was also thrust into the role of leadership for more than three hundred other émigrés whom her husband had led to Liberia. It is a tribute to her that she successfully filled these roles.

Her children achieved remarkable success in their adopted home and the émigrés made outstanding contributions to the Liberian nation. From her ten children came two presidents, secretaries of state, chief justices, and countless other leading lights. Sarah Ann Bourne Barclay was a notable contributor to Liberia’s success. On July 3, 1895, she died in Monrovia, Liberia.


BARCLAY WOMEN IN LIBERIA, Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman, Liberian Studies Journal Vol. XXX.

Liberia History and Culture 

Anna Sherman-KartoComment