The Genesis of Liberia

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On this day (December 21) 200 years ago, a group of seventeen white men met at the Davis Hotel, Washington, D.C., to form the American Colonization Society. Comprising the elite of the then American ruling establishment, these men would include five US presidents and three Supreme Court Justices.

Contrary to the much held belief that Liberia was founded by freed Blacks from the US, these were the men, with reasons ranging from “divine impulse” to “repair the injuries inflicted” by their American forefathers and to where Blacks would “enjoy the advantages to which they are entitled by nature and their Creators,” who founded Liberia. But don’t let me spoil the story for you, read Dr. Artemus W. Gaye’s commentary “Remembrance” on page 4.

According to the Liberian author and academic, it is necessary for Liberians not to forget their history, which learning could be used to solve today’s issues.

Gaye said that the story of Liberia started with the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th Century (which gave the Jews and later Muslims of Spain the option of converting to Christianity, leaving the kingdom or facing death); to the founding of America by Christopher Columbus; the start of the Trnas-Atlantic Slave Trade; the insurrection in Haiti; and the formation of the American Colonization Society, which resulted in the formation of Liberia.

In remembrance of a little-known but important day in the history of Liberia, Dr. Gaye will host a “Remembrance” event at Bella Casa Hotel today (Wednesday, December 21) on 2nd Street, Sinkor, that includes the launching and signing of his book “Rooted Beyond Boundaries”; a movie screening of the acclaimed PBS film, “Prince Among Slaves”; a panel discussion; and dinner, starting at 6:00pm.

The film, “Prince Among Slaves” chronicles the true life African-Muslim-prince-turned-American-slave drama of Prince Abdul-Rahman, with historic and scholastic commentary along the way.

“The story begins with the Prince’s capture at the age of 26 during a military campaign against non-Muslims in Guinea in 1788, and follows his sale to British slave traders, transport to America on the slave ship Africa to New Orleans, arrival into bondage at Thomas Foster’s tobacco plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, the ensuing 40 years of enslavement and his eventual liberation.

“The unlikely story of his liberation began with a chance meeting with Dr. John Cox, who Abdul-Rahman’s father helped in Africa. Cox offered to buy Abdul-Rahman from Foster, but he refused. Two decades later Cox’s son William enlisted the help of local newspaper editor Andrew Marschalk to Abdul-
Rahman’s cause. Articles written by Marschalk caught the attention of then Secretary of State Henry Clay, who convinced President John Quincy Adams to free Abdul-Rahman. The liberated prince immediately purchased the freedom of his wife Isabella for $200, and remained in America for a year campaigning to free his nine children still enslaved on Foster’s cotton plantation. He toured the northern cities, petitioning abolitionist groups and politicians for the money necessary to buy his family’s freedom. He succeeded in raising only enough money for two of his children and their families who joined Isabella in Liberia.

The prince returned to Africa, but died before reaching his kingdom in Futa Jallon. The film ends with Prince’s living descendants from both sides of the Atlantic reunited for the first time at the fateful plantation in Natchez, with family members reacting to the discovery of their shared royal and slave heritage after nearly 200 years of disconnection,” according to Wikipedia.

“We need to know our history well to avoid this culture of exclusivity. We need to include others who are a part of us, and to know that we are a country of peoples and cultures,” added Dr Gaye.

The event starts this evening at 6pm.

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