Joseph Jenkins Roberts: A Love for Liberia

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2022-02-25 18:51Z by Steven

Joseph Jenkins Roberts: A Love for Liberia

StMU Research Scholars: Featuring Scholarly Research, Writing, and Media at St. Mary’s University
St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas

Antonio Holverstott

Portrait of Joseph Jenkins Roberts taken by Augustus McCarthy circa 1840-1860 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1846, the governor of the African colony of Liberia, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, called for a referendum to determine Liberia’s path towards independence. Eager colonists in the settlements of Monrovia, Bassa, Greenville, and Maryland affirmed their desire to have an independent Liberia.1 However, the legislature was designated as the final judge to determine the fate of the colony’s future. During this historic moment, Roberts was seeing his vision of independence take shape in reality. The story of Joseph Jenkins Roberts and Liberia’s autonomy was unique among stories of national independence, similar to the United States’ exit from the British Empire in the middle of the 1770s and similar to the Haitian Revolution where slaves revolted against the unfair treatment of the French government.

The story of Roberts’ stride towards obtaining independence for Liberia began when he became the colonial sheriff in 1833.2 One year after he took office, the colony’s main financial supporter and sponsor, the American Colonization Society (ACS), started to experience financial insolvency due to their failure of not being able to secure sufficient funds from the United States federal government and state legislatures. The questionable origins of the ACS and prejudiced motives of a percentage of its members made the organization look unappealing in the eyes of the government. In 1816, the ACS was founded as a product of a growing post-Revolutionary War movement advocating for the emigration of African Americans back to Africa.3 The end result of this emigration was the formation of a new sovereign state.4

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