Liberian Ambassador George S.W. Patten Sr., in Winston-Salem on Saturday, praised the historic ties between the city’s Happy Hill neighborhood and his country of Liberia.
Patten, Liberia’s ambassador to the United States, Canada and Mexico, then urged Winston-Salem residents to visit his country, where a group of local enslaved people emigrated 185 years ago.
Patten was among 10 speakers Saturday at the Second Annual celebration of the Salem and Liberia, Africa, historical marker at the corner of Liberia and Free streets. The marker is in Winston-Salem’s oldest African American neighborhood. About 60 people attended.
The Happy Hill neighborhood “has a rich history that I even didn’t know,” Patten said. “Folks from here in 1836 left these shores and went to Liberia. This is history. This is family.”
In 2022, Liberia will celebrate its 200th anniversary, Patten said. The American Colonization Society organized the emigration of free Blacks from the United States who traveled to West Africa, where the country of Liberia was established, Patten said.
The first free Blacks from the U.S. arrived in 1822.
“Many died on their way at sea, but still many landed on the shores of what we call Liberia,” Patten said.
Next year, Liberians will celebrate their country’s history and their friendship with the United States, Patten said.
Liberia has a population of about 4.94 million people. The country survived a recent civil war and the deadly Ebola virus.
“A lot has been done in our country,” Patten said. “You need to go now to see what the folks who left these shores — what they did.
“It was, in my view, an experiment to see whether the Black people could govern themselves,” Patten said.
Liberia is a striving, Democratic country with a rich culture, Patten said.
During the event, Martha Hartley, the director of Moravian research for Old Salem and Gardens, spoke about the history of the Happy Hill neighborhood.
“We stand on the landscape of freedom,” Hartley said. “But this was once a place of human bondage.”
Two centuries ago, Salem’s doctor, Henry Schumann, had a farm on the land where he enslaved Black people, Hartley said.
“Like most religious groups in America, the Moravians did not object to slavery. But in Salem, they sought to limit its impact by keeping enslaved numbers low and the Moravian work ethic high,” Hartley said. “Regulations prohibited people owning slaves in town. And so, on outlying farms like this, enslaved people were permitted.”
Schumann eventually decided to move into Salem, but its rules prevented him from taking his enslaved people with him, Hartley said. In 1836, he freed 17 people and sent them, with six other free people, to Liberia in West Africa. Most of the emigrants were associated with Saint Philips Church in Salem, and the love feast was held in the church as a farewell, Hartley said.
Source: Winston -Salem Journal