University of Liberia (UL) Vice President for Institutional Development and Planning, Associate Professor Weade Kobah-Boley says the establishment of Liberia, its name and the Constitution are direct consequences of slave trade.
Serving as keynote speaker at a symposium organized in observance of Black History Month in the Auditorium of UL Capitol Hill campus recently, Prof. Kobah-Boley provided historical education for young students and participants.
“Changing the name that existed here in Monrovia as we know it from Christopolis to Monrovia, this means our capital city as a legacy of slavery, still bears the name Monrovia named after the U.S. President James Monroe, who himself was a slave trader,” said Prof. Boley.
On Wednesday, February 22, 2023, the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation (KAICT) at the University of Liberia organized a symposium in celebration of Black History Month.
The symposium was held under the theme: “The Contemporary Legacies of Slave Trade on Liberia.”
In her keynote address at the symposium, Prof. Boley narrated that on July 26, 1847, the settlers declared independence, and they named the area they occupied as Liberia, meaning Liberty, and named the capital Monrovia.
She explained further that the American Colonization Society (ACS) appointed the governor of the newly established colony, and the governor also appointed leaders of the colony.
The UL Professor added that the governor wrote the rules, and laws governing the colony, giving rise to what Liberians inherited as the imperial presidency.
Before the 1847 Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, she said the governor exercised the function of the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary.
Quoting American Historian Carter G. Woodson’s book titled the Mis-Education of the Negro, Prof. Boley said if Liberia failed, it was not the failure of the black man to run governments, but that immigrants to Liberia took with them the only system of governance they knew – Slavocracy.
She added that slaves in America were educated to conform to the needs of those who would enslave them, believing in the power of the strong.
“It is no accident today that the political power in our country is believed to be exercised by the strong,” she said.
According to Prof. Boley, the president is so strong that people by nature conform to anything, even if it is not in their interest.
For over one hundred years of independence, she noted that native Liberian men and women did not participate in the body politics of their country, were not allowed to vote, and could not own property until 1948.
“Though the leadership changed, exclusionism remains the hallmark of Liberian political life. Even today, with our multi-party system, it is still winners take all,” said Prof. Boley.
However, she told the symposium that the 1847 Constitution charged the United States with injustices that forced the blacks to leave America and resettle in Liberia.
Referencing the 10th Annual Report of the American Colonization Society for the colonization of free people of color of the United States, she said slave states in North America were interested in getting rid of the free black slaves.
Reasons were that the number of free people of color had increased rapidly from 60,000 in 1790 to 300,000 by 1830; and slaves were rebellious, and many whites also believed that they were racially inferior.
Prof. Boley detailed that many whites felt that integrating people of color with whites was not desirable; therefore, it was necessary to send them where they came from.
As the tide against slavery changed in the 19th century, she said the Grain Coast as Liberia was known, was selected as a location for the emancipation of free blacks from America.
As early as 1816 when the Colonization Society was founded, she said, they were harboring these thoughts of sending black Americans back to Africa.
But she said most blacks rejected this idea and believed they were no more Africans.
Consequently, she said many blacks who came to Liberia did not come willingly. In 1822, she said the first group was sent to Liberia with support from their various colonization societies.
She said the Americans were getting a little bit frightened that the black people were getting too many. They had fought in the American Civil War, and they were starting to rebel.
She added that the Americans were frightened that by keeping a large number of blacks in America would not have helped their political situation.
So in 1822, the signing of an agreement between officers of the American Colonization Society and local chiefs granted the Society possession of Cape Mesurrado, giving rise to the first land purchase agreement recorded in Liberia. Prior to this, she said all lands were communal.
“Because most of those people came from the Congo basin, we refer to them as Congo people. They were about five thousand that came to these shores. They settled in what we know today as Congo Town, Oldest Congo Town, and to the surprise of many of you, Matadi,” she explained.
Further, Prof. Boley stated that they found it easy to assimilate because they did not have the experience of going to slavery, so they easily inter-married with Liberians and as a result they did not have too much of distinction of those people in Liberia today.
Yet, she said, Americo-Liberians are referred to here as civilized people or as Congo.
Ghanaian Ambassador to Liberia H.E. Kwabena Okubi-Appiah, expressed delight to have been invited to celebrate a very important day with the participants in recognizing the Black History Month in Monrovia.
He explained that the Black History month started in 1926 as a way to acknowledge the achievements of black ancestors.
He said those personalities broke down barriers, stood against injustice, and overcame the darkest days.
Also speaking, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister for Operations Matenokay Tingban said the issue of human rights should not be a lip service, suggesting that it should come from the bottom of the hearts of both blacks and whites. He said all races must be treated equally.
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