Liberia’s 170th Independence Day Oration, “Sustaining the Peace” by Herman Brown

Liberia’s 170th Independence Day Oration, “Sustaining the Peace” by Herman Brown

The Orator has a good topic for all Liberians, especially for those who the political and the social system have cruelly relegated to the rank of chronic poverty and growing inequality in our midst.

But my great disappointment is that Dr. Brown has killed my interest in his oration when he chose to use a contemptuous Liberian national anthem as thesis statement for his topic: “with hearts and hands our country’s because defending; we meet the foe with valor unpretending.”

I make this argument for reason simple and clear is that the national anthem contains bitter and hateful language of ungrateful Konguah or Americo-Liberians. To be honest and just, Liberians who understand the message that the anthem conveys feel terribly offended as we sing it.

For in the anthem, the Americo-Liberians or Konguah refer to native Liberians as foe or enemy after the natives gave them political and social immortality or freedom from social and political death.

Besides, the natives freely gave their land, 200 thousand square miles for the Konguah to defend their sovereignty and 2,497, 000 people to effect their population requirement for statehood while the Konguah had only 3, 000 people, a number not adequate for declaring Liberia independent.

The Konguah enjoy independence without shedding a drop of blood. But in their bogus history by Doris Henries and Abayomi Cassell and others, the Konguah celebrate their heroes and heroines. O what a shameful dramatic enterprise! O what a laughable pomp and pageantry that mocks at heroic achievement and human greatness! 

The Liberian national anthem is a song written by a bunch of angry gang with an evil agenda to enslave the 16 African tribes; a sacrilegious conspiracy against the natives who handed their native land over to a group that the natives mistakenly called their kinsmen. The national anthem continues: “we meet the foe with valor unpretending.” But the natives that the Konguah met were not foe or enemies.

They were redeemers who handed Liberia, that former West African region, over to the Konguah on the silver platter, without tears and without bloodshed. “We meet the foe with valor unpretending” the National Anthem says, the Konguah will use structural and physical violence on the natives with determination to crush or mow the natives like grass. But pathetically the Konguah will never discover a sound reason for their threat.

Their only desire was to take the land and enslave the owners. Mind you, the Konguah were loaded already with 362 years of evil from slavery. They had opportunity to enslave the natives by using their masters killing weapons; by doing exactly what their slave masters did to them in America and Europe.

The Konguah – Americo-Liberians/Congoes, border jumpers like C.D.B. King, the native lackeys, are still doing what the national anthem says: (1) they became the first settlers in Africa to introduce apartheid to Africa before South Africa. (2). They imposed unfair taxation, (3) Forced-labor, natives worked for Konguah without pay (4) natives were used as human car, donkey, cow or horse to convey Konguah in the hammock on their head to wherever they wished.

All of these were done for almost 2 centuries without pay, from 1822 to 1930, natives had no access to school, from 1847 to 1945, natives were not citizens of Liberia and so, they were not allowed to vote. But the Konguah recruited black people to Liberia to join them and practice social oppression against native Liberians. These recruits could vote, work in the high rank of government but not the natives. In fact, the word native in Liberia means “low social class”! But the orator, Dr. Brown eulogizes the national anthem in these words:

“When we sing, truly sing, not just with our lips, but from within our souls the stirring words of our national anthem do we not commit ourselves to lay aside every distracting loyalty, every vow or bond and work together, even in the face of clear and present danger, to defend without pretense our country’s cause? So, without pretense, let me lay bare some fundamentals before I endeavor to reflect what sustaining the peace might entail.”

It is ironic that the Orator, Dr. Brown, would suggest that without pretense Liberians should defend the cause of their country. It is true that without pretense the Konguah for 133 years had a one party rule, system, in Liberia from 1847 to 1980. It is also true that without pretense the Konguah with only 5% population dominated and are still dominating the entire political, economic and social system of Liberia.

Equally true, without pretense the Konguah denied the natives the right to education not until 1930, only when Mrs. Olivia Phelps Stokes gave $50,000 for the creation of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) for vocational education which the Konguah turned into a regular academic high school which I would argue denies Liberia of any opportunity to produce anything (i.e. food, shoemaking, jewelry, furniture, upholstery, etc.)

And, if the mission of BWI was not abandoned by the Konguah as Mrs. Stokes intended, Liberia would have been the giant for the supply of food and manufacturing items for Africa and perhaps, the world. For example, let us take a look at our rubber and iron ore production.

We have these natural mineral that could serve the economic interest of all Liberians, but due to the Konguah oppression and denial of the native Liberians in all aspects of development, Liberia is not a manufacturing state but consumer.

As I examine the words of the national anthem, it is apparent that we must take a careful look at the following:

“This glorious land of liberty
Shall long be ours and
We'll shout the freedom
of a race benighted” and the word “foe” in the anthem.

The use of the word “long” means a time frame, leaving one to wonder how long this glorious land of liberty will sustain or be for the Konguah? So, “long” should, therefore be changed to “forever.” The phrase “a race benighted” means ignorant or know nothing race, which I find belittling and dehumanizing to the black race.

The sentence “we meet the foe” I would argue the native Liberians were not the enemies but welcoming hosts to their black brothers and sisters who have been enslaved for 362 years. Therefore, “foe” should be changed to “friends or kinsmen” who would denote gratitude for the natives’ hospitality and generosity.

The Konguah degenerated their unity with the natives by selling the natives as slaves to European countries such as Spain, France, etc. at the rate of $20 per person. Liberians were dehumanized in Portuguese, Island of Fernando-Po, Sao Thommy, Chad, and French-Cabon where these Africans underwent excruciating inhumane condition—brutality and torture.

The number shipped to these countries by President Daniel E. Howard, President C.D.B. King, Vice President Yancy, Cess Pelham, Robert Draper, Samuel Ross, Mary Ann Bracewell, Igbo King is 14,300 Liberians who were haunted down and chained by the Liberian Frontier Force who preceded the present Liberian national guard upon the order of C. D. B. King and the Liberian authority.

This evil treatment by the Konguah constrained the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, to convene almost a year investigation in Liberia, from March 1930 to October 1930.

The investigation went against Liberia and Dr. Cuthbert Christy, an English representative of the League of Nations and his co-chair, Prof. Charles Johnson of the United States, recommended that Liberia was not qualified for independence and should not lead a subject people, Liberia should be placed under the League of Nations as a “Trust territory.”

This recommendation was fought against by the Blacks in the diaspora who felt that the loss of Liberian sovereignty is strong enough to deter freedom for black people for hundred years as a result, the diaspora black people and Konguah met in caucus and recommended that Pres. C.D.B. King and Vice Pres. Allen Yancy be forced to resign and replaced by a new government. But, most grievously indeed, not all the natives were returned. Among those who came back to Liberia, 50 were blind, 30 went crazy.

I think it is useful and proper to question the integrity of the Orator’s thesis statement in strict reliance on the following account: 1) Slaves no more, Letters from Liberia to America, 1822 – 1833 – 1869, edited by Bell I.

Wiley, testifying to the generosity and hospitality of native Africans they met, 2) report of the state of affairs from colonial authorities in Liberia, to the colonial office in Washington, DC, USA. But with the presence of the White colonists the Konguah restrained their evil plan until they declared Liberia independent after the Liberia Colony closed down in 1847, March 15.

Agent Jehudi Ashmun’s report to the American Colonization Society (ACS) concerning the state of affairs in Libetria. Ashmun testifies that the native Liberians are tractable and loving people. Besides, the Captain of the Colonial legion in Liberia, Captain R. F. Stockston, submitted his military report to Agent Ashmun on August 10, 1823, that the Monrovia Colony was peaceful; the Colony was not in danger and no gun shot was fired at an enemy. The colony remained peaceful until the Konguah assumed power in 1847 and opened the Pandora box thereafter.

In closing, I would like to make this observation that if we are serious about nation building and sustaining the peace, we must muster the courage to critically look at the National Anthem and its meaning to contemporary Liberia.

The idea expressed at the time, celebrated Konguah and native divide, I would submit these ideas are weapon to our national unity, and should be replaced or revised. Yes, Liberia should live on forever!

Prof. Joseph S. Johnson is former President, Cuttington University, former English professor, University of Liberia and Director of J.J. School of Technology – Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, USA, where he currently resides