|CHAPTER XXXIII. -- EMIGRATION TO LIBERIA--SCHOOLS OF LIBERIA--MISSION SCHOOLS -- --FALSE IMPRESSIONS--IGNORANCE AND HELPLESSNESS OF -- EMIGRANTS--AFRICAN ARISTOCRACY.|
Six months goes round very fast in Liberia, and in the huddled together manner in which they go on the vessel and the huddled together manner in which they are quartered in the receptacle where they are waiting to have their land assigned to them, many of them go down with fever. Besides, not being very valiant for bathing and making themselves clean, as the natives are, and, all considered, at the end of six months they are worse off than ever. They have traded off their meat, or flour, or cloth, that they have brought, some for medicine, some for a fowl, or something to help them while they are sick; and some of the people with whom they dwell have learned the art of living on these new-comers, and greenhorns. But the government is not to blame for that, any more than this United States is to blame for a man's being what is called a "sharper."
Then there are large boys and girls who cannot read or spell; neither can their parents; so these boys and girls go to school, and the children laugh at them, being almost young men and women, and saying, a, b, c; then they are ashamed to go, and their parents do not insist on it. They simply say:
"Well, I got on without any l'arnin', and if I have got on without any l'arnin', you children can get on the same."
In the course of a year or two, these fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys are pretty well on to men; and in a little while they are into politics. They cannot read or write.
Then among the young girls; some of them are very nice looking, and they will be married, for they are bound to marry in any event. Now, if the Colonization Society would send a good teacher with them, with books, so they might have school on the voyage, and then teach them for six months or a year after they get there, they would be better prepared to go into the schools. For, poor as they are there, they are high-toned for people who have never been to school.
In that way they would help; for a government that does not seek in every way to educate and instruct and enlighten its people, has a poor hope of long existence. It cannot go on perpetuating ignorance, and succeed.
I have heard of the Colonization Society's sometimes sending books with the emigrants; but, as a general thing, they are of the higher grade, and the agents hold them at such a high figure that only a few are able to get them.
When I saw this need I would have gladly gone every day myself, or have hired some one, to teach these children during the six months they were at the receptacle. But then there was not a spelling book or a primer to be had anywhere. There are no book stores, or stationery shops, where anything of that kind can be obtained. And for the sick, no dispensaries, no doctors, no hospitals, and not even a county poorhouse, as there is in this country.
I have gone to see many of them when they were sick, and suffering from great sores caused by a little insect called the chigoe flea, and they have said if they had some salve that they used at home, and knew about, it would help them. But it was not to be had there. Then there were herbs they knew at home, that were good for fevers; but they did not know the herbs in Africa, and if they got them they must pay for them.
Now, at home, in their own land, if they were ever so poor, they could help themselves in these little things; but in Africa they were really helpless. I wept for them, because I knew it, and could not help them.
Last March, when I met an emigration in New York of some forty odd, who had sacrificed their little farms, and what little they did have together, and were going to Africa to get rich forthwith, I tried to tell them what to take with them. I told them (for they had a nice company of boys and girls with them): "See to it that you send your children to school, such as there are there. If you haven't got school books, be sure you take a good supply. Make your children go to school. If they won't go, flog them. If you do not take books from here, you will not be able to get them in Liberia."
I told them all this and tried to help them all I could. The white people were very kind to them.
We did all we could in the church to take care of them the two weeks before they got off. But they mistook my meaning, poor things, and when they got to Liberia, they told them I had run down the country, and said there was nobody in Liberia fit for them to associate with, and made a terrible time;
But spending eight years in Africa among the people, and being known as I was known, and knowing them as I did know them, some of them were prepared to judge about what I did say.
Only a little while ago, I heard that some of these very ones, all that could get back, had come back.
If there was a hospital where they could be cared for, if for only a short time, it would not be so bad. But there is no such thing anywhere in the republic of Liberia, or was not while I was there, or ever had been. There was one talked of at Monrovia for five years; and they went so far as getting a lot, and laying the foundation; some of the timbers had been gathered, and had lain on the ground during the rainy season, which damaged them greatly; so that if it was ever built, all the work that was done five years ago, would have to be gone over again. How have they got on without these essentials all these years? Echo answers, "How?"
I do not know if the Colonization Society thinks so or not; but most of the white people think, and some colored people, too, I am afraid, especially those who go as emigrants, that all the Americo-Liberians are on perfect equality with each other in all their social relations; and that, because they are a colored republic, and an independent colored government, that they are all as one. But they never made a greater mistake; for in that republic there is grade and caste among them almost equal to that that is found among the upper-ten colored folks in America. So that the ignorant emigrant does not strike the highest and best grade of society when he first gets there.
That class stands off, and waits to see what he is; and the intelligent and better class of natives, as well. So they do not find companionship readily, or any sooner than the Italian, Jew, German, or Irish find companionship or society with the native-born American, and it is all nonsense for white people, or black people, to think any such thing.
I never knew what real, black aristocracy was until I was in Lagos and Sierra Leone. In Lagos I have seen as fine a turnout as I have seen on Fifth Avenue, New York; coachman and footman dressed in English costume; black ladies and gentlemen riding
There were very many black merchants in Lagos and Sierra Leone; their sons and daughters, many of them, are educated in England, Germany and France.
I have heard it said that in Sierra Leone some of the ministers are better Greek and Hebrew scholars than some of their bishops that were over them.
There is one thing that the Methodist Church in America is ahead on, and that is, there is more of a spirit of real consecration for missionary work among the Christian women in America than I found in England. In Lagos, in different places where the Wesleyans have large, fine mission houses, beautiful grounds, fine churches, boys' high school, girls' high school, they have the ministers, but not their wives.
They say they cannot live there; so while the ministers are in Africa--the part where I was--their wives are in England. But the Episcopals have high schools for boys and for girls, and a white lady principal and teachers for the girls' school, as well as men for the boys' school. Conservatism and denominational distinctions are very prominent. But they were all kind to me at Lagos, God bless them.
Before I close this chapter I will give a very brief account of a black heroine, who deserves this notice for the work she has done, and is doing in Africa.
Miss Susan Collins, the only colored student who has ever entered the Chicago Training School, and one of the noblest ladies that has left that institution for the foreign field, went to Africa in 1887, where she is at present laboring in Bishop Taylor's work, in Angola.
She has charge of a little sub-station, supported by Pungo Andongo station, and has started an infant training school.
No more faithful and self-denying missionary can be found anywhere than dear Susan Collins. I want to give place to this very interesting item for my own people, and also that others may see that there are colored women who can cope with any of the opposite race for real stick-to-itiveness and self-sacrifice and endurance. She has never left her post since she went to Africa, and has stood the climate well. God has wonderfully preserved her in health and strength, and has made a great woman of her.
I met her first with the party that went down the Congo. I went with them as far as Old Calabar; and of all the party, of sixteen or more, I perceived in Susie Collins, timber that meant something. She was a woman who had been well raised and will trained; she had good, broad, common sense, and knew how to do a little of about everything; she was patient, and of a happy, genial disposition: of high moral character and sturdy piety.
These are the qualifications that will generally stand the heavy pull in Africa. May God bless her, and continue to make her a blessing.