Open letter to the people of the Republic of Liberia
By J. Patrick Flomo
Monrovia, the capital city of the Republic of Liberia, is named in honor of President James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States—and a slave owner. This honoring of a slave owner is a travesty to the autochthonous and should be an abomination to the children of the settlers (the Americo-Liberians). The 1810 census record shows that 49 enslaved individuals lived at Monroe’s Plantation in Highland, Virginia. This made Monroe one of the country’s largest slave owners (National Archives and Record Administration). Today, we are experiencing an epiphany from the lynching of George Floyd and must join the chorus to bring down and eviscerate the legacy of the symbols of slavery—the anathema of our humanity. It is time to change the name Monrovia.
The lynching of George Floyd by a Minneapolis White Police Officer has shed new light on the 17th-century African enslavement by Europe and the United States as its ugly legacy continues today—racism and bigotry. Globally, the symbols commemorating slave traders and slave owners are being toppled or eviscerated, e.g., Edward Colston (Bristol, England), Confederate statues in the American South and in Congress, the Confederate Flag, the statue of Christopher Columbus (at the State House of Columbus, Ohio), etc. This psychological trauma of black enslavement is being caught up in a vortex of the rapture of liberal Awakening.
To the Members of the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives and the People of Liberia: We cannot in good conscience continue to honor a slave master with the name of our capital, Monrovia. If we do, we validate a racist maxim that White is superior to Black. Others may argue that as president of the United States, James Monroe was able to get Congress to appropriate $100,00.00 (David Lamb) to fund the American Colonization Society (ACS) to facilitate the settlement of Liberia in 1820. I suggest that Monroe’s action was not motivated by the love of humanity or his disdain for the subjugation and bondage of the African slaves. Rather, like the majority of members (slave owners) of the ACS, he was fearful of a slave uprising.
In the course of human events comes a moment when a society with an ugly past must reckon with it. I believe, WE THE PEOPLE OF LIBERIA, must seize this moment in history to amend this ugly chapter of our history – the naming of our capital city in honor of a slave master. Liberia is said to be the land of liberty for the free slaves from America and captured slaves on the high seas. It is confounding and incomprehensible that the settlers and the PEOPLE OF LIBERIA today will continue to honor a man associated with the abomination of humanity called slavery.
I think the time has come for us, the PEOPLE OF LIBERIA, to join the rest of the “civilized” world to desecrate the symbols of Black subjugation. It will be unconscionable and abhorrent if we do not seize upon this awakening of America’s and Britain’s original sin – slavery and the continued institutionalization of racism — to remove the name of a slave master (James Monroe) from our capital city. This moment calls for a vigorous civil debate. I believe it is fitting and proper that WE THE PEOPLE OF LIBERIA change the name of our capital city.