DIS NIGGA GANGSTA A FUQ
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a Black History Month 2018 black power special in honor of the opening of Black Panther and the revelation of the existence of the Wakandans.
In Black History Month 2018: The Province of Freedom, we explored Sierra Leone which Great Britain founded as a utopian homeland in West Africa for the resettlement of Black Loyalists who had fought for their freedom on the British side in the American Revolution.
We saw how African-Americans founded Freetown in Sierra Leone and how their settlement grew through the addition of black slaves freed by the Royal Navy from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. We saw that more African-Americans can trace their ancestry back to Sierra Leone than to any other country in Africa. Sierra Leone now offers dual citizenship to African-Americans through DNA testing.
There is no country though in Africa to which African-Americans have a more personal and meaningful connection than Liberia. It was founded by thousands of African-American settlers as the “Land of the Free” who were freed from slavery in the United States and returned to their ancestral homeland in Africa. I don’t believe there is another story which we will cover in Black History Month 2018 that is more revealing than the story of the forgotten African-American homeland.
Have you wondered how African-Americans would have fared without Whyte Pepo? In Liberia, African-Americans were set free to assume an independent position in the world. They were free to realize their full potential and human dignity with the support of the United States, but without the obstacles of racism, slavery, segregation, white supremacy and white privilege in their path.
Protected by the U.S. Navy from predatory European imperialists, Liberia alone escaped the fate of other African nations which were swallowed up by rival European empires during in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. How did the world’s third great experiment in black freedom and equality (Haiti was the first such experiment, Sierra Leone was the second) work out in practice?
The American-Liberians created a replica of the U.S. government complete with their own Star Spangled Banner, President, Vice President, Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court. They even created their own (black) version of the Declaration of Independence:
“We, the representatives of the people of the commonwealth of Liberia, in convention assembled, invested with the authority of forming a new government, relying upon the aid and protection of the Great Arbiter of human events, do hereby in the name and on behalf of the people of this commonwealth, publish and declare the said commonwealth a free, sovereign, and independent state, by the name and title of the Republic of Liberia.
While announcing to the nations of the world the new position which the people of this Republic have felt themselves called upon to assume, courtesy to their opinion seems to demand a brief accompanying statement of the causes which induced them, first to expatriate themselves from the land of their nativity and to form settlements on this barbarous coast, and now to organize their government by the assumption of a sovereign and independent character. Therefore, we respectfully ask their attention to the following facts:
We recognize in all men certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the right to acquire, possess, enjoy, and defend property. By the practice and consent of men in all ages, some system or form of government is proved to be necessary to exercise, enjoy, and secure their rights, and every people have a right to institute a government, and to choose and adopt that system, or form of it, which in their opinion will most effectively accomplish these objects, and secure their happiness, which does not interfere with the just rights of others. The right, therefore, to institute government and powers necessary to conduct it is an inalienable right and cannot be resisted without the grossest injustice.
We, the people of the Republic of Liberia , were originally inhabitants of the United States of North America.
In some parts of that country we were debarred by law from all rights and privileges of man – in other parts, public sentiment, more powerful than law, frowned us down.
We were excluded from all participation in the government.
We were taxed without our consent.
We were compelled to contribute to the resources of a country which gave us no protection.
We were made a separate and distinct class, and against us every avenue of improvement was effectively closed. Strangers from other lands, of a color different from ours, were preferred before us.
We uttered our complaints, but they were unattended to, or only met by alleging the peculiar institutions of the country.
All hope of a favorable change in our country was thus wholly extinguished in our bosoms, and we looked with anxiety for some asylum from the deep degradation.
The western coast of Africa was the place selected by American benevolence and philanthropy for our future home. Removed beyond those influences which oppressed us in our native land, it was hoped we would be enabled to enjoy those rights and privileges and exercise and improve those faculties which the God of nature has given us in common with the rest of mankind.
Under the auspices of the American Colonization Society, we established ourselves here, on land, acquired by purchase from the lords of the soil.
In an original compact with this society, we, for important reasons, delegated to it certain political powers; while this institution stipulated that whenever the people should become capable of conducting the government, or whenever the people should desire it, this institution would resign the delegated power, peacefully withdraw its supervision, and leave the people to the government of themselves.
Under the auspices and guidance of this institution which has nobly and in perfect faith redeemed its pledge to the people, we have grown and prospered.
From time to time our number has been increased by immigration from America , and by accession from native tribes; and from time to time, as circumstances required it, we have extended our borders by the acquisition of land by honorable purchase from the natives of the country.
As our territory has extended and our population increased our commerce has also increased. The flags of most civilized nations of the earth float in our harbors, and their merchants are opening an honorable and profitable trade. Until recently, these visits have been of a uniformly harmonious character; but as they have become more frequent and to more numerous points of our extended coast, questions have arisen which, it is supposed, can be adjusted only by agreement between sovereign powers.
For years past, the American Colonization Society has virtually withdrawn from all direct and active part in the administration of the government, except in the appointment of the governor, who is also a colonist, for the apparent purpose of testing the ability of the people to conduct the affairs of government, and no complaint of crude legislation, nor of mismanagement, nor of mal-administration has yet been heard.
In view of these facts, this institution, the American Colonization Society, with that good faith which has uniformly marked all its dealings with us did by a set of resolutions in January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-six, dissolve all political connections with the people of this Republic, returned the power with which it was delegated, and left the people to the government of themselves.
The people of the Republic of Liberia , they, are of right, and in fact, a free, sovereign, and independent state, possessed of all the rights, powers, and functions of government.
In assuming the momentous responsibilities of the position they have taken, the people of this republic feel justified by the necessities of the case, and with this conviction they throw themselves with confidence upon the candid consideration of the civilization of the world.
Liberia is not the offspring of ambition, nor the tool of avaricious speculation.
No desire for territorial aggrandizement brought us to these shores; nor do we believe so sordid a motive entered into the high consideration of those who aided us in providing this asylum. Liberia is an asylum from the most grinding oppression.
In coming to the shores of Africa, we indulged the pleasing hope that we would be permitted to exercise and improve those faculties which impart to man his dignity; to nourish in our hearts the flame of honorable ambition; to cherish and indulge these aspirations which a beneficent Creator had implanted in every human heart, and to evince to all who despise, ridicule, and oppress our race that we possess with them a common nature; are with them susceptible of equal refinement, and capable to equal advancement in all that adorns and dignifies man. We were animated by the hope that here we should be at liberty to train up our children in the way that they should go; to inspire them with the love of an honorable fame; to kindle within them the flame of a lofty philanthropy, and to form strongly within them the principles of humanity, virtue, and religion.
Amongst the strongest motives to leave our native land – to abandon forever the scenes of our childhood and to sever the most endeared connections – was the desire for a retreat where, free from the agitation of fear and molestation, we could approach in worship the God of our fathers.
Thus far our highest hopes have been realized. Liberia is already the happy home of thousands who were once the doomed victims of oppressions; and, if left unmolested to go on with her natural and spontaneous growth, if her movements be left free from the paralyzing intrigues of jealous ambition and unscrupulous avarice, she will throw open wider and yet a wider door for thousands who are now looking with an anxious eye for some land of rest.
Our courts of justices are open equally to the stranger and the citizen for the redress of grievances, for the remedy of injuries, and for the punishment of crime.
Our numerous and well-attended schools attest our efforts and our desire for the improvement of our children. Our churches for the worship of our Creator, everywhere to be seen, bear testimony to our acknowledgment of His providence.
The native African bowing down with us before the altar of the living God, declares that from us, feeble as we are, the light of Christianity has gone forth, while upon that curse of curses, the slave trade, a deadly blight has fallen, as far as our influence extends.
Therefore, in the name of humanity, virtue, and religion, in the name of the great God, our common Creator, we appeal to the nations of Christendom, and earnestly and respectfully ask of them that they will regard us with the sympathy and friendly considerations to which the peculiarities of our condition entitles us, and to that comity which marks the friendly intercourse of civilized and independent communities.”
The American-Liberans took “American values” back to West Africa. They brought back every aspect of America except Whyte Pepo including the Stars and Stripes:
In the aftermath of the American Revolution, White Americans were divided over the best way to end slavery. The anti-slavery movement colonized the entire political spectrum from abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison who advocated the immediate abolition of slavery on moral and religious grounds to gradualists and colonizationists like John Randolph and Henry Clay who advocated the gradual elimination of slavery and the removal of free blacks to a colony in West Africa.
The story of Liberia begins witht the American Colonization Society which was founded in 1816 to facilitate the repatriation of African-Americans to sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. Congress appropriated $100,000 for this unusual philanthropic alliance of Quakers, Southern slaveholders, and free negroes to acquire a 36 mile long strip of land on the coast of West Africa in 1821. This settlement was renamed Liberia in 1824 which evolved into the Republic of Liberia which has existed to the present day.
Over the course of the next 23 years, Liberia erected a capital named Monrovia in honor of President James Monroe, a prominent supporter of the colonization movement. Liberia also expanded in size as four other American colonies were absorbed into the emerging black homeland. With the assistance of Northern and Southern state legislatures and the support of the U.S. federal government, around 10,000 African-Americans emigrated to Liberia between 1821 and 1867. In 1847, the colony was persuaded by the American Colonization Society to declare its independence and assume its separate and equal station among the great powers of the earth as a protectorate of the United States.
For the next 133 years, these American-Liberians ruled Liberia which they dominated through the True Whig Party, which they organized in 1869, and lorded over the 95 percent of the Liberian population that belonged to the 16 indigenous African tribes of what used to be known as the Pepper Coast. The Liberians were set free and cast ashore on the coast of West Africa to prove to the world, especially to the white supremacists of the United States, that they were “susceptible of equal refinement” and “capable of equal advancement in all that adorns and dignifies man.”
The American-Liberians quickly established themselves as a black aristocracy that ruled with absolute power over Liberia. They emulated the planter class of the American South by wearing top hats and morning coats to mark their social status. They built Antebellum-style homes with pillared porches, gabled roofs and dormer windows. The indigenous Liberian tribes were considered an inferior race and were excluded from the government by restricting voting rights to property owners. The American-Liberians segregated themselves from the natives who were excluded from Liberian citizenship until 1904.
By 1870, Liberia had sunk into debt to its European creditors, which is a story that played out in Haiti and other Latin American republics. The financial crisis dragged on for decades with Liberia going bankrupt in 1906 followed by the U.S. taking control of its finances (again like Haiti) in 1912. This was followed by a return to insolvency (also reminiscent of Haiti) in the 1930s.
A century ago, Americans believed Haiti and Liberia were proof that Africans suffered from a racial weakness and lacked the capacity for self-government:
“The experience of Liberia and Haiti show that the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organization and lack genius for government. Unquestionably there is an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature. Of course, there are many exceptions to this racial weakness, but it is true of the mass, as we know from experience in this country. It is that which makes the negro problem practically unsolvable.”
– Secretary of State Robert Lansing, 1918
In 1931, Liberia was accused by the United Nations of practicing “forced labor … hardly distinguishable from slavery” on Firestone’s rubber plantations. The company was granted a 99 year concession there in 1926 and maintains the world’s largest natural rubber operation there to this day.
Between 1945 and 1980, Liberia was propped up by $780 million dollars in foreign aid from the United States. It was the spearhead of American opposition to communism in West Africa during the Cold War. In spite of enormous foreign assistance, the majority of Liberia’s population after 133 years of freedom and equality were living in squalor without access to electricity or clean drinking water in 1980. The Liberian government derived the vast majority of state revenues from taxes paid by Firestone, the Liberian Iron Mining Company and by licensing its national flag to foreign merchants for a modest fee.
African-American supremacy in Liberia came to an explosive end on April 12, 1980 when a group of seventeen soldiers led by Samuel Doe, an indigenous Liberian from the Krahn ethnic group, scaled the gate of President Daniel Tolbert’s Executive Mansion, overpowered the guards, and murdered Tolbert in his pajamas. They fired three bullets into his head, gouged out his right eye, and disembowled him.
The African-American ruling class was violently overthrown by a military coup d’état. Ministers and officials of the Tolbert government were rounded up, put on trial before the “People’s Redemption Council,” and were sentenced to death. In this video, a crowd of thousands of Liberians laugh and jeer in Monrovia as the thirteen high-ranking officials in the Tolbert administration are executed by a squad of drunken soldiers who were tied to telephone poles on a beach in Monrovia, who fire volley after volley into their American-Liberian overlords. The mob screams, “Freedom! We got our freedom at last!”
Ten years later, President Samuel Doe was executed on state television during the Liberian Civil War. The United States spent another $500 million dollars in the 1980s propping up the Doe regime which polarized Liberia along ethnic lines as Doe upheld Krahn supremacy, murdering and torturing his rivals, and indiscriminately murdering, raping, and oppressing the other indigenous tribes in Liberia.
In this infamous video, President Samuel Doe is tortured as his rival Commander Prince Johnson sips a Budweiser and orders his ears cut off. Doe was later able to end his suffering by bashing his brains out against a wall until he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The torture and execution of President Samuel Doe in Liberia was only the beginning of the bloodshed and suffering in the (Black) Land of the Free.
A few years ago, Don Cheadle and Chris Rock made headlines by publicly yearning for Obama to “do some gangsta shit” in his second term. There was a considerable amount of frustration in the African-American community with Obama’s leadership style.
America’s first black president came across as a milquetoast moderate and a loser in his fights with the Republican House over raising the debt ceiling. He disappointed the African-American base who were waiting for Obama to start acting like a more authentically black leader.
What is an authentically black leader? What does it mean to go do some gangsta shit? These are questions which provide us with an occasion to discuss the leadership style of one of the greatest African-Americans of our times. The execution of President Samuel Doe was the beginning of the Charles Taylor warlord story arc that would dominate Liberia for the next fourteen years.
Charles McArthur Taylor was an American-Liberian who spent his early twenties as a college student studying economics at Bentley College in Waltham, MA and Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. During his nine years in America, he became actively involved in Liberian student politics and developed a reputation as a dissident. After returning to Liberia following Doe’s coup d’état, Taylor became the director of the Liberian government’s General Services Agency and was placed in charge of procuring goods, works and services worth more than $100K. He used this position to take commissions on each government contract he arranged and embezzled more than $900K into his American bank account.
After he was accused of embezzlement in 1983 by the Doe administration, Charles Taylor fled to the United States but was detained in Somerville, MA after Doe issued an arrest warrant and a request for his extradition to Liberia. He paid off his prison guards with $50,000 in bribes in 1985, sawed through a barred window in a laundry room in the Plymouth House of Corrections and used a knotted sheet to escape from a maximum security prison. His wife and sister-in-law picked him up at a nearby hospital and he drove a getaway car to Staten Island where he fled the United States.
Like Fidel Castro in Cuba, Taylor spent the next four years as a revolutionary drifting around Africa, searching for allies, and plotting to overthrow the Samuel Doe regime. With the support of Libya, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire, he raised and trained a rebel army of 168 guerrilla fighters and launched an invasion of Northern Liberia with his self-styled National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) on Christmas Eve 1989. As we have already seen, there are 16 indigenous tribes in Liberia in addition to the American-Liberians. When the American-Liberian ruling class was overthrown by Samuel Doe in the 1980 coup d’état, Doe took power and relied upon his co-ethnic Krahn tribesmen to retain power.
In 1985, Doe was nearly overthrown by a coup d’état led by Thomas Quiwonkpa (his former partner in the coup that had overthrown Tolbert), and he responded with a violent crackdown on the Gio and Mano tribes in Nimba County that left thousands dead. Seizing on the volatile ethnic resentments boiling underneath the Doe regime, Charles Taylor and the NPFL launched the Liberian Civil War to overthrow Doe and Krahn tribal supremacy.
Thousands of Gio and Mano yearning for vengeance against Doe soon flocked to Charles Taylor and the NPFL. Doe responded by sending in the Armed Forces of Liberia (mostly drawn from his own Krahn tribe) and massacring Gio and Mano civilians. It wasn’t long before Liberia was embroiled in a full scale tribal war over control of the Liberian state. Within six months, the NPFL (which split into two factions under Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson) had overrun Liberia and was laying siege to Monrovia. At that point, Nigeria and its allies in ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) intervened in the conflict to prevent the Liberian Civil War from spilling over into other countries and destabilizing the entire region.
President Doe was captured, tortured, and executed in September 1990. In the wake of his death, this left behind three factions in control of parts of Liberia: Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson (NPFL), Nigeria and ECOWAS, and the Krahn supporters of Doe who were driven out of the country and who reorganized themselves as the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO).
From 1990 to 1996, these three factions (NPFL, ECOWAS, and ULIMO) fought over the spoils of war in Liberia. Charles Taylor established himself as a warlord in control of “Greater Liberia” outside of the capital in Monrovia. He made hundreds of millions of dollars trading in gold, diamonds, iron ore, timber, and stolen goods in his territory. It was during this period that the Liberian Civil War became infamous for its crossdressing child soldiers and drug addicted cannibals who fought naked. The most famous of these Liberian generals is General Butt Naked (he fought for ULIMO under Roosevelt Johnson) who used to mutilate innocent children and drink their blood and converse with Satan before going into battle.
After 14 peace agreements, the warlords finally agreed to end the fighting in 1996 and submit to demobilization and national elections. Charles Taylor was finally elected president of Liberia in 1997 on the most original campaign slogan in the history of democracy: “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him.” He won 75 percent of the vote because Liberians hoped that allowing him to legitimately take power would finally end the bloodshed. The U.S. mediators which included Jimmy Carter threw their hands up in the air and endorsed the election as a triumph for democracy.
In 1999, the ULIMO reorganized as Liberians United for Democracy in Liberia (LURD) and resumed the war – this being the Second Liberian Civil War – with the support of Sierra Leone and Guinea. By 2003, the Côte d’Ivoire backed Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) had emerged in the south. The two rebel groups fought Charles Taylor and the Armed Forces of Liberia until they had taken over two-thirds of the country. Fearing another bloodbath in Monrovia, the international community pressured the United States to intervene in the conflict. The French had intervened in the Ivorian Civil War in Côte d’Ivoire. The British had intervened in Sierra Leone Civil War. The argument was made at the time that Liberia was an American responsibility in light of our strong ties to The (Black) Land of the Free.
In 2003, President George W. Bush intervened in the Second Liberian Civil War – the man who was accused of “hating black people” by Al Sharpton and the NAACP after Hurricane Katrina – and dispatched the USS Kearsarge to the coast of Liberia. The threat of American military intervention and occupation forced Charles Taylor to surrender power and go into exile in Nigeria.
W. doesn’t hesitate to point out the irony in his Decision Points memoir:
“But the suggestion that I was a racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low. I told Laura at the time that it was the worst moment of my presidency. I feel the same way today …
On Sunday of that week, Day Fourteen, I made my third visit to the Gulf Coast. I choppened onto the USS Iwo Jima, which had docked in the Mississippi River. Two years earlier, I had deployed the Iwo Jima to free Liberia from the dictator Charles Taylor.”
W. was telling the truth: he really had liberated Liberia from an evil African-American dictator, a man who was despised by his own people, and he was hailed in Liberia as a liberator in the way that the neocons had falsely presumed he would be in Iraq.
The U.S. intervention in 2003 quietly marked the end of the (Black) Land of the Free. After 220,000 Liberians and 50,000 Sierra Leoneans had lost their lives in senseless fighting between rival warlords, the U.S. was finally moved to shoulder the White Man’s Burden in West Africa.
Liberia has effectively become a U.S. colony since the 2003 intervention. From 2004 to 2006 alone, the U.S. poured $1.6 billion dollars into Liberia to stabilize and rebuild the country. $172 million was spent on Liberia in 2009. America underwrites the U.N. Mission in Liberia which has flooded the country with thousands of peacekeepers to keep the warlords and child soldiers on a leash.
In November 2011, Liberia held the freest and fairest elections in its history. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was reelected President of Liberia, but tellingly Prince Johnson (the man who sipped the Budweiser while torturing Samuel K. Doe) won third place with 12 percent of the vote. She peacefully ceded power to George Weah last month after ruling Liberia since 2005.
In recent years, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been devastated again by the Ebola epidemic which started in neighboring Guinea. The (Black) Land of the Free is ranked #177 in the UN Human Development Index. It has failed in its mission to show that free Africans are “susceptible of equal refinement” and “capable of equal advancement in all that adorns and dignifies man.”
General Butt Naked has converted to Christianity though. Maybe there is hope for the Alt-Right!