Afterlives Confab Ends Today -Generates Interest In Further Research

MONROVIA – After series of presentations and discussions on wide range issues on the transatlantic slave trade, the Afterlivss of Slaves Conference being hosted  and organized by the University of Liberia and its partners, the Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC currently taking place the EJS Ministerial Complex, Congo Town, Monrovia, will come to a successful end today with a renewed interest in further research on some of the topics and discussions held under a very charged academic and intellectual environment.

Held under the theme, “Colonization, Christianity and Commerce: The Afterlives of Slavery in the TransAtlantic World”, the major event which is taking place for the first time in Liberia has been discussing various topics on the transatlantic slave trade that resulted in the forced relocation and enslavement of approximately 10.7 million Africans in the “New World,”  and is being attended by scholars and other participants from the Americas, Europe and Africa as well as government officials, diplomats, researchers, academics, journalists, civil society organizations, among others

At yesterday’s session , Dr. William Ezra Allen, Chairman of Planning Committee of the Conference, University of Liberia delivered the second keynote address on the topic, “Adopting “Merica People” ways: re-examining Liberia’s assimilation policy in which he said his task in the presentation was to find out whether assimilation was “unidirectional” meaning only the indigenous benefited from the settlers through teaching various skills, or changing their religion to become Christians or through the consumption of the kind of food they ate or the means of farming to produce farm products or it was a mutually beneficial exercise that benefited both the settlers and indigenous people.

He said contrary to the assertion of being unidirectional, results from the extensive research he has done from archives and works done by other scholars, assimilation was a kind of “collaboration that benefited both parties.

A Quote from Jehudi Ashmun an agent for the American Colonization Society (ACS) who wrote a letter back to the United States of America about the different weather and farming methods in Liberia at the time must have presented the picture that it was a very difficult situation for the settlers to engage in farming.

“Here you can find neither winter, spring, summer nor autumn…you must learn an entirely different way of farming…..It is vastly important that your new grounds should be cleared, well burnt, planted and fenced before these rains…it is not possible to do either, well afterwards”

   He also quoted from Thomas Buchanan, Governor of Commonwealth of Liberia in 1840, “There is no reason to expect that agriculture will thrive in Liberia without working animals than in Iowa or Michigan, and if the settlers…..clear the land and plant it by manual labor.

Dr. Allen said given the information provided by the two former leaders of the settlers, it was possible that the settlers must have learnt the new farming techniques from the settlers to have succeeded with their farming to the extent that a brand of coffee produced in Liberia at the time won an international award in the United States of America, “probably using the farming methods of the indigenous people”.

He said in the area of food consumption, he was informed by research that the settlers  not being able to find flour and yeast to make bread, used powdered yam, eddoes, and cassava, some produced by the indigenous people or bought from traders from South America, like Brazil.

Of particular interest to his presentation, he said, the word Dumboy, which is a product of cooked cassava and pounded in a mortar was originally from the Bassa word for “cassava pounded in a mortar” but because the settlers could not pronounce it well, they took the name Dumboy which has come to remain today.

With respect to changing of indigenous names to the westernized names of the settlers, the erudite educator mentioned former President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose father was originally a Karnley, was named as Carnley to reflect the name thei settlers were used to.

“My father, who was taken in by a family named McCrity, was given the last name of Johnson….His first name, Karnley, was westernized to Carnley. At the age of fifteen or sixteen, Carney Johnson was born in the name of assimilation and to be accepted, he had to experience a rebirth”, the former President said in her book, “This Child Will Be Great”.

A panel discussion on the names and contributions of some African abolitionists who fought to end slavery was held and featured historians from Ghana and Nigeria. While Emmanuel Saboro spoke on “On George Ferguson and Local Abolitionism in 19th Century Northern Ghana, Michael E. Odijie, spoke on “The Strategies, networks, and ideas of local abolitionists in late 19th century Accra: the case of Francis Fearson.

Monsuru O. Muritala of Nigeria presented on “The life of Mustapher Adamu: a historical and biographical sketch of abolitionism in colonial Lagos, Nigeria and Ugbede J. Ineke also of Nigeria,  spoke on Local abolitionism, status and the struggle for identity in Central Nigeria, 1900-1960.

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