“Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea” Points to True Liberian Identity

Dr. Carl Patrick Burrowes, author of the book: "Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea."

Dr. Carl Burrowes has announced that his highly acclaimed historical book, ‘Liberia Before 1800,’ which reveals the long-hidden history and culture of early Liberians, will be on sale during a lecture about the book tomorrow, Friday, at the Bella Casa Hotel.

Dr. Burrowes, an author of several books, including ‘Black Christians Republicanism’ and ‘Power and Press Freedom in Liberia,’ is highly regarded in the literary community as one of the greatest historical writers whose work brings to light a missing piece in Liberia history.

The author, who is Chairperson of the Department of Communication Studies, Morgan State University, Baltimore, explained that the book demolishes many negative stereotypes being portrayed out there about Liberia’s unique culture and provides a deeper understanding into the way of life of early Liberians and their contribution to mankind.

“Chapters like ‘Way of the Ancestors’ and ‘Crawling Ahead,’ ‘Falling Behind,’ debunk many of the myths about traditional African religion and show that Europe, America and the area of Liberia were almost at the same level of development when we first met people from those places. What put us behind them was when they took 11-million Africans away as slaves.

“The book is intended for us to understand who we are because our path to a brighter future begins with knowledge and appreciation of our past. But the journey has to become with us; that is why I wrote the book,” Dr. Burrowes said.

‘Liberia Before 1800,’ ‘Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea,’ which took 20 years of research to compiled, revealed that the different languages and ethnic groups of Liberia stemmed from a common root; Kola, which was once used in soft drinks, was discovered by our ancestors. Early European explorers learned from early Liberian seafarers how to navigate some dangerous currents and winds of the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the author, the book took more than 30 years of research because there were many challenges; but due to his passion to write the first complete researched history on Liberian lives before the creation of the state inspired him to preserve to complete the book.

“I was interested in oral history and folk tales from an early age. My interest deepened when my father brought home a book called Legends of Liberia. That book showed me that Liberian ethnic groups have many things in common, including Spider stories.

“The first challenge was, nothing had been written on our collective history from that period before. There were scattered stories about individual ethnic groups, so I had to bring those together.

“In addition, our oral histories had not been collected together in one place. I had to go through many sources to find them, including missionary records and studies by anthropologists,” he said. “I had no government support so the funds came from my own pocket during the period of the research.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Burrowes explained that he is currently writing a simplified version of the book, with many maps and pictures for junior high school-level readers.

‘I hope that foreign funding entities, legislators and other Liberians who can afford to will buy copies for schools and universities in various districts,” he said, adding, “I have already quietly donated copies to many students who were interested in the subject of the book.  But, it would be grossly unfair for me to spend 30 years and tens of thousands doing something important for Liberia then turn around and give away large numbers of copy without recovering what I put into it.”


  1. The 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, once said, “The future of nations cannot be frozen…..cannot be foreseen. If we are going to accomplish anything in our time we must approach our problem in the knowledge that there is nothing rigid or immutable in human affairs. History is a story of growth, decay and change. If no provision, no allowance is made for change by peaceful means, it will come anyway—and with violence.”

    Unfortunately, Liberia chose the latter….violence! Our civil war has taught us that we should learn from our history: that there exist a commonality among people of the Negroid Race; a commonality among the people of Liberia; and a commonality among those that were brought back to Liberia from bondage in the Americas.

    History has taught us it is far greater to settle our differences through peaceful means than through violence. Violence is a destructive means that killed quarter millions Liberians (250,000) and left Liberia’s economy decimated.

    Well done Professor Burrowes on your outstanding work: your outstanding research on Liberia’s history; Liberia’s culture; Liberia’s traditional religion and practices. All put into a single book called “Between the Kola Forest and Salty Sea.”

    In order for Liberians to solidify their national unity and strengthen their national identity, it is time to embrace our history no matter how undulated it may be. It is time to give credit to all Liberian historians and foreign writers of Liberia’s history.

    We need to introduce in-depth Liberian historical studies similar to African American Studies (AA Studies) in U.S. School and Colleges, as a mandatory course in Liberia’s secondary and college first year curriculum. “For a generation which ignores history has no past and has no future.”

    Again, thanks Dr. Carl Patrick Burrowes for your tireless effort in researching Liberia’s past.

  2. Mehn Dr. Burrowes, you are one of the greatest Liberians in the history of our beloved Liberia. I always thought that after what George Weah has done when it comes to projecting Liberia’s positive image to the outside world that we (Liberians) would not see another Liberian heroe soon but you have proved me wrong. What you have done is something that all Liberians should celebrate and support, I want to say as the Greboes say “taato” (thanks) and I would like to order three (3) copies for me and my two girls so that they read and know the history of the country of their roots even though they were born and growing up in the west. Please instruct me how to put in my order. Taato once more.

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