Today we present in the History Column one of the many rural newspapers published in Liberia between the 1950s and 1960s. This one being featured today is called the Lorma Weekly and was published in Wozi, Zorzor District, Lofa County on January 24, 1964 by the literacy program of the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL).
The literacy program in Liberia was formally started in 1948 by the government of Liberia, in collaboration with the Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal Churches.
A renowned international literacy expert named Frank Laubach was sent out to spearhead the program. He trained many Liberians in adult literacy through the churches. Among those who did the program under him were Reverend Byron Traub and his wife Margaret, both of whom were part of the nationwide Lutheran school system. They taught at Lutheran schools in the Meuhlenberg Mission near Millsburg and Harrisburg on the St. Paul River, at Totota and in Sanoyea, where one of their daughters, Mae Gene Traub Best, was born.
The literacy program spread to Yandequelleh, near Totota and was later established in Totota Town, where the Lutheran Mission, elementary school and church were built.
In Totota, the teachers worked in the Kpelle language, and in Wozi, they worked in the Lorma language.
The Lorma Weekly was published in Wozi. The Wozi program was started by three Lutheran missionaries, Paul Slafford, Gerry (Gerald) Currrens and Margaret Jim Miller, daughter of the lengendary American Lutheran missionary in Liberia, Ma Miriam Miller, mother of Margaret Jim. Margaret Jim managed with the program until the late 1980s when she returned to the USA.
Mr. Yella Quaqua was the last supervisor in charge of the Wozi program when, during the Liberian civil war, the United the Liberation Movement for Democracy (ULIMO), under the command of warlord Alhaji Kromah, attacked and burned down the Wozi Literacy Center, including the church. Yella Quaqua was killed during that attack. The Wozi Literacy Station still lies in ruins. The new Lutheran Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel Jensen Seyenkulo, said the church does plan to rebuild Wozi, but it will have to be a long-range, five to 10-year plan.
In early 1964 Secretary E. Reginald Townsend of the Department of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (DICA-now Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism-MICAT), gave the Press and Publications Bureau a supervisory role over all rural newspapers. Several of these papers were published on a weekly or monthly basis in all the then nine counties of the republic. There were several in some counties. In Nimba alone, for example, there were the Sanniquellie Sun, the Ganta News and the Kample Post.
Today, we present the Lorma Weekly in its original form, scripted in the Lorma language, with an English translation. The newspaper, published on January 24, 1964, features the new Executive Mansion, an ultramodern presidential palace completed in time for President Tubman’s fifth inauguration. The story, which gives even the date of dedication, January 3, 1964, is very descriptive, giving information about the building that even today’s generation does not know.
The Mansion is currently undergoing renovations following a 2006 electrical fire that caused extensive damage. The woman architect now supervising the renovation of the building is Mrs. Karen Richards Barnes, daughter of Winston Richards, whose office, Milton and Richards, Liberia’s oldest architectural firm, played a key role in the design and supervision of the Executive Mansion.
The supervision work is expected to be completed by the end of this year, 2014.
Here is what the Lorma Weekly wrote and published about the Executive Mansion in 1964:
The New Mansion
The new Executive Mansion, dedicated on Jan. 3, is truly a splendid building, unsurpassed in its kind in Africa.
It has eight floors and 310 rooms. It has a few stairways, but nine elevators.
They say there is meaning to the plan of the mansion. The curve of the building suggests the embrace of welcome extended to all who seek help from the Chief Executive. The building has its back to the ocean, suggesting the strength of the decisions that are made in the executive branch.
There is a pool of water all around the building. The building contains 55 offices, a laundry, a clinic, a library, a theater, a dance room, a church, several kitchens, and a sewing room. The building is air-conditioned.
President Tubman says the building should be as a proverb for the citizens of the country. As it is a splendid work, so we should strive for excellence; as it is a bold and giant venture so we should attempt great things; as it represents hard work and sacrifice, so we should not fear suffering in the performing of our noble tasks.