Did African Americans Enslave Liberian Africans?

Executive Summary

  • African Americans that moved to Liberia moved there to get away from slavery.
  • It is curious that these individuals imposed a slave or near slave system on the natives.


Liberia provides a fascinating story of how ex-slaves behave after being freed if allowed to enslave others. It is a story of a group of American blacks (or Americo-Liberians) that vehemently called out the history of slavery and racism in the US. However, at nearly the first opportunity, once they were in the position to do so, enslaved Africans in Liberia created a two-tier society where they were on top and exploited the indigenous African Liberians.

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The Origins of Liberia

The beginnings of Liberia are explained in the following quotation.

Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. – Wikipedia

IN 1821, a ship arrived at a place near where my hotel now stood (Monrovia lies on the Atlantic, on a peninsula), bringing an agent of the American Colonisation Society, Robert Stockton. Stockton, holding a pistol to the head of the local tribal chief, King Peter, forced him to sell – for six muskets and one trunk of beads – the land upon which the US organisation planned to settle freed slaves (mainly from the cotton plantations of Virginia, Georgia, Maryland). Stockton’s organisation was of a liberal and charitable character. Its activists believed that the best reparation for the injuries of slavery would be the return of former slaves to the land of their ancestors – to Africa. – The Guardian

The Need for Liberian Americans to Differentiate Themselves From What They Viewed as What Referred to as “Savage Africans”

The two groups usually lived far from each other, and their contacts were infrequent and sporadic. The new masters kept to the coast and to the settlements they built there, of which Monrovia is the largest. The newcomers, unable to set themselves apart from the locals by skin colour or physical type, tried to underline their difference and superiority in some other way. In the frightfully hot and humid climate, men walked about in morning coats, bowler hats and white gloves. Women wore stiff crinolines, heavy wigs, and hats decorated with artificial flowers. – The Guardian

The following photo illustrates this.

What is curious is that African Americans did not dress like this in the US at the time. Even the two young boys have formal hats. The people standing behind them are their servants of slaves. This is very similar to the Spanish in the New World. People of minor status back in Spain would often dress and behave in a way that gave the impression they were part of the Spanish nobility. The behavior of the American blacks in Liberia was to create a slave society where they were the slave masters. This occurred in a group of people who claimed to be so disgusted with slavery in the US that they left the US to get away from slavery. This is clear evidence that those American Liberians did not oppose slavery at all — they simply wanted to be slave masters.  

How Liberia Was Purchased

In 1822 the American Colonization Society began sending black volunteers to the Pepper Coast, the closest point of Africa and therefore the least expensive to reach, to establish a colony for freed blacks. By 1867 the ACS (and state-related chapters) had assisted in the migration of more than 13,000 blacks to Liberia.[17] These free African-Americans and their descendants married within their community and came to identify as Americo-Liberians. Many were of mixed race and educated in American culture; they did not identify with the indigenous natives of the tribes they encountered. They intermarried largely within the colonial community, developing an ethnic group that had a cultural tradition infused with American notions of political republicanism and Protestant Christianity. – Wikipedia

The Treatment of the Native Population by the Americo-Liberians

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated “bush“. The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power, and indigenous tribesmen were excluded from birthright citizenship in their own land until 1904, in an echo of the United States’ treatment of Native Americans.[10]

the Americo-Liberians replicated the only society most of them knew: the racist culture of the American South.

This seems to be a bit of a justification. Remember, the American Liberians wanted to leave the US and they claimed this was because of the legacy of slavery. So how can the excuse be that they only recreated “what they knew” if their argument for leaving was that they opposed “what they knew.” Furthermore, slavery was still commonly practiced in Africa at that time by Africans who had never been to the US. Therefore, what were Africans “reproducing?”

Believing themselves different from and culturally and educationally superior to the indigenous peoples, the Americo-Liberians developed as an elite minority that held on to political power.

They were culturally and educationally superior to indigenous Liberians. However, the question should be asked “why.” The reason is that they had been exposed to a level of society that was far superior to anything in Africa. American Liberians had been enhanced by their exposure to a white society. If American blacks today went to Africa, they would again consider themselves superior to African blacks because blacks in the US have been empowered by living in a society where it would be impossible for them to create themselves.

They treated the natives the way American whites had treated them: as inferiors. The natives could not vote and could not speak unless spoken to. Just as American Blacks were prohibited from marrying or having sexual relationships with white women, the natives could not marry Americo-Liberian women.

Well — isn’t that interesting? This is called racism in the US — however, as soon as the US blacks got to Africa — they employed segregation. That is they employed a Jim Crow system in Liberia.

The Americo-Liberian minority, many of whom were mixed-race African Americans, treated the native majority as White Americans had treated them: they were viewed as “racially” inferior and were denied the right to vote. To avoid “racial” contamination, the Americo-Liberians married within themselves. They, but not the natives, received financial support from supporters in the United States. They established plantations and businesses, and were generally richer than the indigenous people of Liberia, exercising overwhelming political power. – Wikipedia

When the US blacks in Liberia appealed for money from the US, they claimed they were in Liberia for emancipation, and left out the fact they had enslaved the US population. Therefore, US blacks in Liberia were not only riding the coattails of whites in the US after being raised in a white society, but they were also on a type of welfare from whites in the US to fund their conquering of Liberia.

Notice this quote.

they held American cultural, religious, and social values. Like many Americans of the period, the Americo-Liberians held a firm belief in the religious superiority of Christianity, and indigenous animism and culture became systematically oppressed. – Wikipedia

Unwillingness to Share Resources With Africans

[T]he fact is that for 133 years, a settler elite—a black-settler elite—which made up no more than 4 percent of Liberia’s population, had monopolized all political power and controlled access to the country’s resources. Its methods and its attitudes made those of the later-arriving white-settler elite in Rhodesia seem mild by comparison. – The Atlantic

Exactly. But if blacks do this, it is not considered a problem. If whites had moved to Liberia from the US and done the exact same things as US blacks, it would have been considered a grave crime, and those in black studies departments would have covered and promoted the story — but because it was done by blacks, black studies departments want what happened in Liberia to be forgotten. Most likely, they would accuse anyone who brought up the topic of racism.

The Ex-Slaves that Enslaved the Native Population

The African Americans began their settlement opposing slavery, and this was a point of contention in their battles with the native population (for which slavery was the norm).

This is described in the following quotation.

What really pitted settlers against native again went unspoken: the slave trade, a business for the natives, was an abomination to the settlers, who were determined to wipe it out as soon as they had the means to do so. For those who had escaped slavery in America, it was something more; it was a responsibility and duty to the millions of their brethren in slavery back home.

However, once firmly in control of the new Liberian land, this position did not hold, and they became slave masters and reveled in their superior social position versus the native Liberians.

To this end, the government in Monrovia allocated to each tribe (there are 16 of them) a territory where they were allowed to live – not unlike the typical “homelands” created for Africans decades later by the white racists from Pretoria. All who spoke out against this were severely punished. The chiefs of unsubmissive tribes were eliminated on the spot, the rebellious population murdered or imprisoned, its villages destroyed, its crops set afire. – The Guardian

These expeditions and local wars had a single overriding goal: to capture slaves. The Americo-Liberians needed labourers. And indeed, they started using slaves on their farms and in their businesses as early as the second half of the 19th century. They also sold them to other countries.

Amazing. They became slave traders as well as just users of the Liberian slaves themselves.

In the late 1920s, the world press disclosed the existence of this trade, plied officially by the Liberian government. The League of Nations intervened. The then president, Charles King, was forced to resign. But the practice continued by stealth. – The Guardian

Those who interfered in the Liberian slave trade were white. This was the norm in Africa. It was whites who stopped slavery in Africa before US blacks moved to Liberia. In my analysis of slavery I have concluded, as others have concluded, that without European colocalization of Africa, Africa would still have broadscale slavery. Again, black studies departments do not want this obvious conclusion being discussed. The evidence all points to whites being far more anti-slavery than blacks. However, in black studies departments (which are primarily funded not by blacks but by whites) the fake history of blacks fighting against slavery has to be the official story. It’s critical not only to black studies professors, but also to blacks that they be seen as morally superior on the topic of slavery, and this requires fake history, which not only extremist black studies professors, but blacks generally are very happy to propagate. This is why blacks have reached out to me to delete this article. Liberia is destructive to the ability to take a false superior position — and that is why I believe the majority of blacks want the history of Liberia hidden from public view. Liberians have also reached out to me to say that the article “makes Liberia look bad.” The term that is used often by blacks or Liberians is “offensive.” What is “non-offensive” is to say that slavery was not imposed by US blacks that slavery never existed in Africa and that it was entirely opposed by outside forces. That is non-offensive history is false history.

As with any slave society, the slavery of the natives reduced the opportunities for work for the new arrivals from the US. This is explained in the following quotation.

First-Hand Accounts of Liberian Slavery

As Peyton Skipwith wrote in his first letter home, “Those [settlers] that are well off do have the natives as Slavs and poor people that come from America have no chance to make a living for the natives do all the work.”

All the work. That is US blacks in Liberia set themselves up as the leisure class, while all work was performed by Liberians. The only difference between the US blacks and the native Liberians was that the US blacks in Liberia had been exposed to a white society, and were funded with white money.

Hostile observers, like the abolitionist William Nesbit, threw around the dreaded “s word” with abandon. “Every colonist keeps native slaves (or as they term them servants) about him, varying in number from one to fifteen, according to the circumstances of the master.” One thing we do know: natives were never legally recognized as slaves, as that would have been a violation of every constitution written for the colony – Another America

Naturally, as the US blacks in Liberia purported to be anti-slavery, they had to come up with a euphemism for their slaves. Interestingly, there was no anti-slavery movement that ever developed by the US blacks in Liberia. The universality of the agreement that native Liberians should be slaves to imported US blacks was a consistent feature of the US blacks in Liberia.

The African American View of the Natives

Like many settlers, Skipwith’s attitude toward the natives consisted of equal parts fear, anger, contempt, and paternalistic concern. He looked down on the Africans as lazy and duplicitous.

This is the exact interpretation at the time of US blacks by US whites.

When put to work, they had to be watched or they would slack off. They had no respect for property. In one letter, Skipwith lumped the natives together with monkeys as crop thieves. – Another America

Again — if a white person calls a black person a monkey it is a serious example of racism. But if a black person calls a person a monkey, it’s not to be commented upon.

The Letters from US Blacks in Liberia Commonly Using the Term Monkey to Describe Native Liberians

This is true of many letters sent home from American Liberians to their relatives in the US. Many of the letters include comments where the American Liberians refer to the Africans as monkeys and monkeys who should be enslaved. They also state that there is no way they could be “related to these monkeys.” It never seemed to occur to the US blacks in Liberia that the only thing separating them from “these monkeys” was they were improved by living in a white society.

Comparing Liberia Versus South Africa

As early as the middle of the 19th century, long before apartheid was instituted in southern Africa by the Afrikaners, it had been invented and made fresh by the rulers of Liberia – descendants of black slaves. – The Guardian

The Results of the Liberian Experiment

I began thinking of Liberia as a noble experiment that had ended awfully. Freed slaves, given the chance to govern themselves, had turned out to be no better than the white imperialists who had descended upon Africa around the same time. If there was any lesson to be taken from Liberian history, it was a general one about human nature: an oppressed people could readily become oppressors.

Hidebound by their Americaness and surroundedand outnumbered by natives, they could never reconcile their idealism with their pursuit of power and wealth. – Another America

I would not agree that US blacks performed no better. They performed worse. Again, white imperialists eventually ended slavery in Africa. The US blacks in Liberia never did.

This video shows the history and failure of Liberia. 

Did the Liberian Americans Ever Actually Oppose Slavery as a General Principle?

This all calls into question how much the African Americans who moved to Liberia opposed the practice of slavery versus opposing slavery solely for themselves.

They themselves were aggressively opposed to being slaves but took slaves when given the opportunity. This is a common relationship found in many areas of the world. Asians, Arabs, Africans, and many others don’t oppose slavery in principle but only oppose slavery for themselves or their group. Slavery is widely accepted to this day in India; as an example; the widespread acceptance of slavery or slave-like conditions in Islamic countries is covered in the article Did Slavery Ever Stop in Arab Countries?


One might ask why this story has so little coverage, even though it is so important to explain how American blacks would likely behave if allowed to enslave Africans. A few answers might be…

  • It does not fit with the inaccurate narrative that Africans aggressively oppose slavery.
  • It calls into question how much those that state they opposed slavery actually did, or merely opposed being slaves.

The fact that the Liberia story is little covered or discussed fits into a long-term pattern of censoring information about slavery that contradicts the official and inaccurate storyline. If a person brings up the topic of the history of Liberia and they are white, they will be called a racist. If a black person does it, they will be called an Uncle Tom. This provides a skewed perspective and is a form of selective outrage. Through selectively reporting the pattern of slavery (where whites own blacks), the vast majority of worldwide slavery — both historically and even more so in modern times, creates a highly inaccurate picture of the topic of slavery.

Are Blacks The History of Slavery?

Blacks have officially positioned themselves as the heroes of slavery. In the minds of the majority of blacks, black slaves freed themselves without the help of whites. However, the story does not fit with history. Blacks do not themselves want to be slaves, but there is little evidence that blacks do not want to be slaveholders. Liberia shows that blacks will very quickly switch to being slave masters if given the opportunity.

Blacks have rarely been in the position to enslave other races as their societies have been low in technological sophistication and organizational ability. Blacks have only historically been able to enslave other blacks. This is why the Liberian case study — where black Americans used the advantages, technologies, and weapons they attained through living in a white country, as well as white money against Africans at the first opportunity. Furthermore, Africans had an extensive slavery system in place when the Europeans first came into contact with them. And black-on-black slavery persists in Africa today. Hotspots of slavery include Mali and Mauritania. The places where slavery is most common in Africa are always where the influence of European colonization was the lowest.

This is an excellent primer on the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

The Response From Some Blacks to the Article

We received feedback from some blacks that they did not like this article because it proposed that Africans were more in favor of slavery than whites. However, looking at history, it is very difficult to reach the opposite conclusion. There was never any internal movement in Africa to abolish slavery.

Several blacks have reached out and have asked for this article to be taken down. I have asked them to provide evidence of factual errors in the article, but none of them replied. The idea they generally present is that taking down the article would make “blacks happier” and would make it appear as if blacks are somehow more innocent.

This fits with a pattern I have observed with blacks that the actual history is of far less interest than manufactured history which is appealing. If you look at the contributions of blacks globally to history you find it is extremely low — and for example, blacks working in universities or media in the US have demonstrated a very strong pattern of creating fake history. The 1619 Project at the New York Times — which proposes the US was founded when the first black slave was brought to the US, rather than in 1776, is along the same lines. If you don’t agree that the US was founded in 1619, then you are a racist. This combination of fake history and personal attacks is the norm when blacks enter the arena of historical analysis. It is irrational and self-centered by definition, but again, pointing that out will mean more claims of racism and then more requests for censorship and for the person to be fired from whatever job they hold. Furthermore, this line of thinking is adopted by major media entities and also the search engines. If you type in “inaccuracy black history,” one cannot find articles that point out this near-constant and universal distortion of history by blacks.

It brings up the question of what percentage of blacks are interested in actual history. Whatever the percentage it is clear that it is quite low. The fact that so many blacks want blacks “represented” in movies in societies where they did not exist — such as in 14th century Scottland, again brings up the same issue of interest in real versus politically convenient history. Recently, as the population of blacks has dramatically increased in the UK, black historians have proposed that many historical English figures were secretly black.

How The Accurate History of Liberia Causes Blacks “Pain” and Therefore Must be Censored

When I asked blacks who contacted me why they were asking for information that is accurate to be taken down, I was told the following:

  1. “it’s not about that” and
  2. “it’s not about accuracy.” And that
  3. “I would not understand.”
  4. And that it causes “blacks pain or to be emotionally” triggered to learn that American blacks quickly enslaved blacks when they arrived in Liberia.

There is also an undercurrent that slavery is no slavery unless the slave owner is white and the slave is black, which I explore in the article Is It Slavery if the Slave Owners is Not White.

This fits into a censorship pattern and groupthink in black society that any history that contradicts the desired history should be censored. This is also how things work in African countries, none of which have freedom of speech.

What This Says About The Likelihood That Modern Blacks Would Engage in Slavery if They Could

Another reason that blacks want this history covered up is because one has to recall the type of person who left the US to move to Liberia. This is the most aggressively “anti-slavery” blacks combined with those with the means to do so. Their proposed reason for leaving the US was the racism and previous slave system of the US. However, once given the opportunity, they became not only owners of slaves, but slave traders — trading Liberians anywhere they could. This indicates that some of the black biggest race scammers in the US, would most likely also turn other Africans into slaves if given the chance. So far blacks have demonstrated no real evidence that they are against slavery, as again it was European colonial influence that cut down slavery in Africa, not Africans. What blacks are saying when they critique slavery is that it is not the slavery they like because they are not the slave masters. That is not the same as being against slavery specifically, it only wishes that the positions have been reversed. Notice also that no blacks but black conservatives point out that Africans engaged in slavery as did other groups globally. To blacks, it is not considered slavery if the slave master is black.

How Much of the Problems Blacks Have With This Article Are Due to Race Scamming?

We cover this strategy by many blacks in the article How Making False and Selective Claims is Part of a Scam by Black Americans.

I cover another very important and telling topic regarding Liberia in the article How Corrupt Was The Liberian Government Set Up By Black Americans?