Incomprehensive History Undermines Patriotism in Liberia

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Liberian Historian and writer, Dr. Joseph Saye Guannu (PhD),  has attributed the lack of patriotism in Liberians to “Incomprehensive” history which, he says, does not make all Liberians to feel a part of the country.

Dr. Joseph Saye Guannu who has published many Liberian History texts, including Liberian History Up To 1847, A Short History of the Liberian Republic, Liberian Civics and Liberian History Since 1980,  made the assertions in a recent exclusive interview with the Daily Observer.

According to Dr. Guannu, Liberian History is not only incomprehensive but also full of distortions, in which many Liberians who played major roles in defending the country do not see themselves well pictured.

Making a reference to a historic Liberian, Sao Boso, Dr. Guannu said this powerful Bopolu chief intervened in the land crisis between the settlers and the tribal people when conflict sprang up after negotiating for the Cape Mesurado.

“The tribal people after negotiation came together and said they did not sell land, and this caused the settlers to be on the Providence Island for sometimes.  When Sao Boso was contacted, he came and convinced the tribal people to consider their brothers, and through his influence the tribal group agreed to give the land; and that laid the basis of Liberia.  However, this man’s effort is not recognized in history written by some Liberians,” Dr. Guannu said.

He said most Liberian History texts only speak good about the settlers whose brothers and sisters wrote them (History), but completely sidelined the indigenous who played some major roles.

Furthermore, he noted that Liberian History gives honor and praises to some people who do not deserve such honor and praises.

Citing another reference, Dr. Guannu said the historical account that Matilda Newport was a teacher, shot a cannon to disperse tribal warriors and participated in flag making in 1847 is false.

Dissenting that note of this Liberian woman in the history books, Dr. Guannu confirmed that Matilda Newport did indeed exist and came to Liberia, she did not shoot a cannon, neither was she a classroom teacher; nor did she  participate in the making of the Liberian flag.  She was illiterate and died before 1847, said Dr. Guannu.

The Liberian historian and writer also pointed out that Liberian President Edwin James Barclay and others also played major role in preventing Liberia from being  colonized by Europeans, but such role is scarcely found in  Liberian History.

Additionally, he indicated that the Bong County Sande society zoe, Madam Suakoko, played active roles in assisting the Liberian Frontier Force to expand Liberian territories to Bong and Nimba, but some Liberian History texts make no  

Dr. Guannu did much of his studies in the United States of America and holds the PhD degree in History from New York City’s Fordam University, a Roman Catholic-run institution.  He noted that Americans have statutes of historic Americans all over that country, reminding people of what American patriots did for their country.

When others see these statutes and hear what people who are symbolized by them did, they gain courage and want to emulate them.

“But such is not the case with our country.  Suakoko, Sao Boso, Barclay and some tribal men who played roles in making Liberia what it is do not have statutes or have no streets named after them.  Such historical biases cannot allow people to develop patriotism, he noted.

In the 1970s, however, the Tolbert administration named Front Street, which overlooks the Water Side, as in memory of King Sao Boso.

With the negative impact Liberia’s historical  inconsistency makes on the citizens, Dr. Guannu said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has authorized a team of writers to rewrite the Liberian history, but this project is yet to kickoff.

Until Liberian History is inclusively written to make all Liberians see themselves in it, the spirit of patriotism will take long to develop.

However, he noted that minimum change is taking place in Liberians towards their country, but more needs  to be done if the country is to  compete successfully with other developing countries.

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