1800’s Back to Africa Movement

To recount the journey of early settlers in the Back to Africa movement, the tour begins on the historical Stockton Creek along the Mesurado River and on to Providence Island in 1822. Eighty seven freed blacks who initially settled on Sherbro Island in Sierra Leone in 1820 as part of the American Colonization Society’s plan to resettle them on the motherland, relocated to Providence Island, once a slave factory called Dazoe, and from there began to rebuild their lives and what would become the world’s second black independent nation. From Providence Island, the tour continues at the Liberia National Museum on Broad Street, for a with its impressive and educational “Waves of Time” exhibition, spread over the first two floors of the Museum. The exhibit explores the flow of Liberia history and culture through sculptures, artifacts, antiques, documents, photos, videos and other expressions. The Museum’s back lawn features a Presidential Automobile exhibition of cars used the motorcades of President William V. S. Tubman, President William R. Tolbert, President Samuel K. Doe and President Charles G. Taylor. Around the corner is the Centennial Pavilion which halls hosted the grandest and most elaborate state balls. Outside a monument erected on July 16, 1947 at the 100th anniversary of Liberia features three ‘gilded’ statues – Liberia’s first President Joseph J. Roberts accepting the Liberian flag on August 24, 1847; a bare-breasted girl depicting the indigenous population of Liberia; and opposite her, a girl wearing a simple dress representing the Americo-Liberians - each extending her hands to President Roberts. The everlasting candle whose flames burned for many years no longer burns, but the remnant of that candle is still there next to the burial site of Liberia’s longest running President William V. S. Tubman. Less than a 2-minute stroll uphill will lead you to what has been described as the “cornerstone of the nation,” the Providence Baptist Church. This is Liberia’s first Christian church built in 1825 and one of Africa’s oldest churches, and was built by freed blacks that settled in Liberia. Visitors can tour the old stone sanctuary with original pews and other artifacts. On the dedication of the sanctuary, Reverend Lott Carey exclaimed, “It is quite a comfortable house, thirty by twenty, and sealed inside nearly up to the plates, with a decent pulpit and seats. The historical Ashmun Street is named for Jehudi Ashmun, a strong and resolute African American who stood firm in his negotiations for the land to establish themselves on the Continent. Born in Champlain, New York, Ashmun sailed on the Elizabeth out of New York in 1820, one of the first eighty-seven to brave the return to Africa. He became the first governor of the new colony at Providence Island. On Ashmun Street is the College of West Africa (CWA), established in 1839 as a vision of Melville B. Cox a Methodist missionary from Edenton Street United Methodist Church in the US. The historic stained glass window in the College's Cox auditorium reads, "Though a thousand fall, let not Africa be given up." Words spoken by Cox who died of malaria, only four months after arriving in Liberia. Africa and Liberia’s first female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a graduate of CWA. Next to CWA is one of the first churches built in Liberia, the First United Methodist Church. The Methodist mission established 1822 in Liberia is Africa’s oldest Methodist mission outside of the United States. The Movement brought over nearly 2,000 freed black men and women who built their family residences and commercial properties similar to those they had left behind. The belt between Ashmun and King Sao Boso Streets still have some of these structures, testament to their days in the United States. A perfect end to this experience is at the highest peak in Monrovia, the Ducor Hill, from where the only city in Africa planned and built by African Americans lays at the foothill. President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, an African American merchant who arrived in Liberia in 1829 and rose to become the Country’s and the world’s first African American President’s monument is situated here.