Connecting Liberia to the U.S.
Summer 2003: Volume 16, Number 3 By Angene Wilson
Those of us who served as Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia were amazed last summer to see “our” country the subject of a Congressional hearing and the topic of front-page news headlines. We have, however, been discouraged at the lack of knowledge about Liberia and especially its long connection with the United States. This lesson plan is one way teachers can add an historical perspective on Liberia; it complements the opinion piece, “Betrayal of Liberia”
Begin the lesson by reading to students the letter printed on the reverse, from Slaves No More, Letters from Liberia, 1833-1869, edited by Bell I. Wiley, University of Kentucky Press, 1980.
Ask students to explain what they learn from the letter. Monrovia, Liberia, should be familiar from the news.
• Who is the writer of the letter?
• Who might be the recipient?
• Where did the writer live before coming to Liberia?
• What might the fever be?
• What are the things that didn’t come with them by ship?
• What does Harris think about living in Liberia as compared to living in America?
• Why is it interesting that he is writing the letter on July Fourth?
Give students the challenge: How is Liberia connected historically to the United States? Divide students into small groups to research:
• The American Colonization Society and the founding of Liberia
• Missionaries in Liberia
• Firestone in Liberia
• Voice of America in Liberia
• Peace Corps in Liberia
Students could present their research on a poster, including a timeline. Many Liberians live in the United States today, and there are also many Americans who have lived in Liberia. As a follow-up, use them as speakers or resources. Look at the Friends of Liberia website, www.fol.org, for several statements that explain Liberia’s connections to the United States and why U.S. intervention is urged.
Monrovia, Liberia, July 4, 1848
Rev’d N. M. Gordon
I take this oppirtunity of writing you a few lines the object of which is to inform you of my helth and Condition up to this date. George, Frances, and my Self are all having the acclimating fever and have all bin down but I Give thanks to all might God that we have bin sparred and raised to our feet againe. I all So state that all of us are highly pleased with the Country and flatter our Selves that we will be able by using industry and Good Economy to Secure to our Selves a Comphortable and honorable living. This Country I believe to be the Colored man’s home. Why should we not be Contented? Please to make application to Messrs. Casady and Rainey Store in Louisville by which application you will assertain that things were left off—and a cupple of working tools and a cupple of watter buckets, one pare of shears belonging to Frances and the silk handerchiefs and all. So a box containing several dozen of blacking. Give my best respects to inquiring friends particularly my Colored friends. Tell them that we are all well Satisfied and we have grown to the full stature of men—an experience [they are] unacquainted with and will continue to be so long as they [remain] in America.
I have the honour to remain your humble servant.
From Slaves No More, Letters from Liberia, 1833-1869, edited by Bell I. Wiley, University of Kentucky Press, 1980.