Following the establishment of the British rule in Lagos in the mid-19th century, the pre-colonial settlement became most central in West Africa, economically and administratively. Yet, scarce resources at the disposal of the colonial government and its exploitive nature prevented any serious remedy for the increasingly pressing residential needs. This article examines slum clearances in Lagos from the early 20th century until the de-colonization era in Nigeria (the 1950s), from a perspective of cultural history. This perspective reveals the width of the conceptual gaps between the colonizers and the colonized, and the chronic mutual misunderstanding regarding the nature of slums and the appropriate ways to eliminate them. Tracing the indigenous perceptions and reactions concerning slum clearance shows that the colonial situation was far from being an overwhelmingly hegemonic one.