|CHAPTER XXXIII. -- EMIGRATION TO LIBERIA--SCHOOLS OF LIBERIA--MISSION SCHOOLS -- --FALSE IMPRESSIONS--IGNORANCE AND HELPLESSNESS OF -- EMIGRANTS--AFRICAN ARISTOCRACY.|
I am often asked if I favor colored people's emigrating to Liberia, Africa.
My answer is, "Yes," and "No."
Yes, if the right kind of emigrants go. For in this country, if the right kind of emigrants come, we need have no fears. But it is the flood of ignorant Italians, uneducated and untrained, and poor Polish Jews, and Irish, and Germans, who have no interest in America whatever, only for what they can get out of it, have no love for its institutions, no love for its government, have not been taught any of its principles, don't know anything about them, and don't care to--these are the people that we don't want in America; women ignorant, men ignorant, and, of course, herds of children equally ignorant; worse than the heathen in Africa, and much harder to enlighten, because they have been steeped in Romanism, and the African comes only with his superstitions, which he soon drops, under civilized and Christian influences.
Now, without there has been a vast improvement since I was there, the Liberian government is very poor, but makes out to manage somehow. And if educated, industrious, intelligent black men, with money, would go there, for the love of the race, and with the love of God in their hearts, and go with no other object than to sacrifice their lives and their money for the good of the republic and their fellowmen (and it would take but a little while to do that; but this is the only way for black men to go to Africa; and I believe this is the proper way), then I say, yes, emigrate.
On the other hand, I say "No." For I don't believe it is
God bless the Colonization Society. It was raised up at a time of imperative need; and so was John Knox, of Scotland; and Wesley of England. It did its work. But from the standpoint I look at it, I would move its disbandment forthwith, and let the white people who want the Negro to emigrate to Africa so as to make more room for the great flood of foreigners who come to our shores, know that there is a place in the United States for the Negro.
They are real American citizens, and at home. They have fought and bled and died, like men, to make this country what it is. And if they have got to suffer and die, and be lynched, and tortured, and burned at the stake, I say they are at home.
Like many of the foreigners that come, they are not all industrious; and to be poor, and ignorant, and lazy, is bad enough at home. But to be seven thousand miles away in a heatnen country, is ten times worse.
At first sight, it would seem all right; but one cannot know Africa in a week, or a month. It is quite easy for a stranger to go there and make a call or two, on some of the best people, have a fine dinner, big speeches, and all that (all of which they can give you), but, Lord bless you, that is not knowing the people, any more than it would be knowing the people in Italy because you dined with the king. And there is where people are so often deceived about Liberia, and often the real state of things is misrepresented. What a pity! What a pity!
I believe if the real facts in the case of that republic had been known twenty years ago, she would have been in a better condition, financially and commercially, and she would have had the sympathy, and respect, and admiration of the world. But the Liberians have a false notion that to speak of their failures or mistakes in any way, means to reflect upon them, because it is a black republic. But I never thought so, and told them I didn't believe
During my stay of eight years in Africa there was not a government school building in the republic, and never had been, as far as I could learn; but their schools were held in churches, or private houses. I remember there was a high school talked of and arranged for during the session of the Legislature in 1885 or 1886. A Mr. James Lewis, of Sinoe, was appointed by the government as teacher. I was in Greenville, Sinoe, when he returned home from the Legislature with his appointment.
Of course there was a great deal of talk about this new department of school work. Mr. Lewis was thought to be the man for the position. And I thought from the talk that they would erect a building for the purpose. But no; when Mr. Lewis opened his school, with quite a nice number of pupils, it was on the veranda of his own private dwelling; and his seat was a hammock!
Many times I have passed by, or from my window could see him, hearing his pupils recite, while he would be lying in the hammock. It was right in the public street, so it was not a thing done in a corner. I spent some weeks with his sister, Mrs. Marshall, almost opposite his house; so know whereof I affirm.
Then there were two other schools called government schools; one held in the Congregational Church, and another, said to be for natives, held in another part of town. This school was held about three times in a week, with an average attendance of five or six native boys, who lived in the families generally. The teacher was Mrs. Marshall's sister.
Of course the government had an inspector of schools; but if you were a friend of the inspector, or if you had a friend who was a friend of the inspector, it had more to do with your keeping the school than any other qualification.
Then people say, "Well, but they have a college." Yes, they boast of a college. I often told them that it did not come up to a good high school in this country, not in any sense. I think there was a time when it was in a better condition than it was when I was there. Whatever that was, I don't know. I simply speak of what it was during the eight years of my stay. To call it a college, I think, is a misnomer; for it led the people to believe that we had graded schools, and every requisite preparatory to a college course. But that is really not so.
There was no standard school book in any of the schools. The children used any kind of books they could get--Sunday School books, story books, or any book. Everywhere I went I inquired about the schools, and found the same statement. I visited a school one day where I found a very nice lot of children, singing from six to fourteen years of age. Many of them seemed to be very bright. They came to recite one at a time.
"Why don't you have them in classes?" I asked.
"Yes, that is what I would like to do," the teacher said. "But we haven't got the books. There are not four children in the school with books alike. Their parents send them with any kind of a book, and I am obliged to use it; and some of the children come and have no book at all; but they come."
"How do you manage?"
"I borrow a book from some of the other children, and hear the lesson."
"Then they can't study when they go home?"
"No," she said, "they just have to study in school."
"How long have you been teaching this school?"
"Two years," she said.
"Well, why don't you speak about it? Isn't this a government school?"
"Yes, but I have spoken, and I have gone myself to Monrovia, and done all I could about it; but it does no good."
And that was about the way I would find it everywhere, unless there was a mission school.
As I was going to Liberia, in 1882, when we got to Sierra Leone, a Liberian young man, a very nice lad, I suppose about seventeen years of age, Mr. Eddie Lisles, from Bassa, got on the steamer. I saw he was a very nice, interesting looking lad, and one day as he was sitting smoking, I went up to him and had a talk with him. I asked him his name, and where he lived, and he told me. He said he had been away at school.
"Away at school?" I said; "where?"
"At Sierra Leone."
"Sierra Leone? Why, they have a college at Monrovia, haven't they?"
"Yes," he said.
"Well," I said, "I'm surprised. I thought that the people would be sending their children from other places to Monrovia to the college."
He smiled, as though he thought I was green. And I was, too. He said: "I have a sister that is going when I go home."
"Have they good schools in Sierra Leone?" I asked.
"And don't the people in Sierra Leone send their children to the college at Monrovia?"
"No," he said.
It was all a mystery to me. I could not understand it. I felt inclined to think he was not straight. But still I said nothing more. Of course I understood it after eight years' experience and observation.
The mission schools have done the most good, I think. The Presbyterian Mission, at Clay-Ashland, at one time had a flourishing school. They had a fine, large, brick house, and outbuildings. When I first went to Africa, these buildings were all in good condition, but were unoccupied. The school was held in the hall, on the opposite side of the river. Mr. Albert King was the teacher, and as his home was on the other side of the river, I presume that is why the school was changed over there.
However, the former house and buildings were all standing when I first went there. I have often passed it as I have gone up the river. What a pretty situation it was, and how nice everything seemed to be around it. But, like the Methodist Seminary at Monrovia, and the Ann Wilkins school at Millsburg, and the school up at White Plains, and the seminary at Cape Palmas, was once flourishing, but had gone down. And that is one of the good things that Bishop Taylor has done for the Liberians--restoring and manning their schools, and establishing schools among the natives, and supplying them with teachers, and so helping the government to fulfill their promise to them, which hitherto they had not been able to do.
I was told that that was one of the causes of the Gredebo war: that the government had promised to establish schools among the natives, and send them teachers, and they had waited, and they had not done it.
I was glad when the Bishop had got these schools at Monrovia and Cape Palmas started again. There was a great deal of unpleasant feeling among the people at one time, because the Bishop began his work among the natives. They said that the Episcopal Mission had taught the Gredebos, and by educating them, they
The Gredebo people are very bright, clever people, and the missionary had a little company of the boys, students, organized, and was teaching them and training them in military tactics: and it was said that this military teaching and training was the cause of all their trouble with the natives afterwards.
Cavalla was the great school centre of the Episcopal work. Many of the Liberians, the older men, were educated at Cavalla; and it was a flourishing school. But, strange to say, whether the statement in regard to the natives giving them trouble because they were trained in military tactics at this school, is true or not, the fact is that all the war troubles that have threatened, and are threatening them, seem to be engendered at Cavalla; so much so, that just before I left Cape Palmas, that great mission station and school was broken up, and what pupils remained all came to Cape Palmas, and are there yet, I suppose. And the most of the trouble that Bishop Taylor's missionaries had, after they got to Cavalla, on their way up to their stations, came from the Episcopal Mission. It was a perfect mystery. We did not understand it. But that was a fact.
It was one of these mission stations that cost Bishop Taylor some three or four hundred dollars when they were trying to get up the river, after the Bishop had been up the river and made all his agreements with the kings and chiefs.
I was with him, sat in every council, and heard all the arrangements; Brother Pratt, his agent, was with him, also; and there was not a dissenting voice among the natives.
He didn't go to any town where the Episcopal missionaries had been; went to places altogether where there had been no missionaries at all, and was received kindly in all these places, and they begged him to come and send them a missionary to teach their people. They agreed to all the Bishop's propositions without a word; and the Bishop agreed to theirs. They agreed to give so many acres of land for a mission, cut and burn so much bush for a farm, and then plant it, and cut the timber and build a kitchen for the missionary. This was their part of the agreement.
Bishop Taylor's part was to send the missionary free of charge to them and give him all his outfit for six months.