Book Review: Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea, A Curriculum Appetizer


Over the last century, there have been numerous historical books written about the ancestors of Liberians, but Dr. Carl Patrick Burrowes’ book, “Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea,” offers compelling insight quite apart from many other historical works that exist on the land and its people.

Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea: A history of the Liberian People Before 1800 is not just a historical book about the ancestors of Liberians but also Africa. It is an outstanding book that explores the life of earlier Liberians, their contributions to mankind and debunks the myth or negative stereotypes about them.

The book reveals the bias and Eurocentric views in the writings of earlier Europeans as well as Arab scholars whose works downplayed the positive contributions of Africans, most especially blacks. Eurocentrism patronizes and sanitizes Western history and culture while demonizing non-Western culture and history.

As a result of the demonization of non-Western culture and history, these scholars developed the Hamitic myth or theory, which classified Africans into two groups. The northern African as superior to or more advanced than black-skinned populations of Sub-Saharan Africa.

This and other numerous hidden revelations that the book contains, which is relatively untold, make it a perfect inclusion to the country’s national curriculum as one of the prescribed history textbooks because it connects the missing dots and pieces in our history.

Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, the Associate Vice President for Academic Support Services at AMEU and a passionate advocate for arts and culture, said the book fills a significant void in knowledge of the West African nation of Liberia.

“In forging a national identity, people should understand their ancient past and acknowledge the choices that their ancestors made in becoming a part of a community within their eventual homeland. For a country still recovering from a violent civil conflict, this may be the greatest contribution a historian can offer. This is a must read, not only for academics and scholars worldwide; it is a story that the Liberian people need to hear,” she wrote.

Dr. Thomas Jaye, who is an author and Deputy Director for Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), noted that the book debunks the longstanding myth that the history of Liberia started from 1822. In so doing, it has radically shifted the paradigm.

“On the contrary, the book provides a narrative of the history as it unfolded over the past centuries and points out that the country’s relationship started with the rest of the world earlier,” writes Dr. Jaye, adding: “Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea presents telling details, coupled with a rigorous analysis, which provided a considerable knowledge about the country’s past in a lucid way.

Each chapter of the 337-page book gives comprehensive details of the ancestors of Liberians, their kinds of trade, religions, political systems and the impact of the slave trade as well as their contribution to human civilizations which has actually been downplayed.

Dr. Burrowes, a Ph.D. holder and 1976 cum laude graduate of Harvey University, took 30 years of research work to compose the book in order to present facts in an accurate and balanced historical book about the ancestors of Liberians.


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