Liberia (1927)

Liberia (1927)

We have not the full text of President King’s recent word concerning missions. But we would like to point out to those writers who are easily and hastily criticizing this decision and the Firestone concession that a more sympathetic attitude toward Liberia and her problems would better accord with the facts.

Of the great good will back of Christian missions and the spirit of sacrifice no one doubts. Education and sanitation in Africa and Asia owe a great debt to them. On the other hand they have much evil to answer for: they have helped introduce imperial aggression and harmful trade and they have interfered again and again with blundering ignorance into the delicate internal affairs of nations and peoples they did not understand. When a great rich foreign church establishes in a small poor African land a missionary church and school it can easily come to assume toward the little country an attitude of mastery and dictation which is annoying and dangerous. The American Church in Turkey and the English Church in China are grave political problems in those countries and if Liberia believes that foreign missions are endangering her stability and advance, then instead of swearing at her and calling her names it would be wiser and more Christian to sit in conference with the Liberians and find out how Christianity could help and not hinder that struggling land.

Again there is no warrant for the assumption that the new rubber industry in Liberia is bound to spell disaster. Liberia had to have modern industry. Without it the maintenance of her independence in the face of the Modern World was impossible. Her struggle with England, France and Germany was a struggle for adequate capital to support indigenous industries. In that struggle she was cheated of invaluable territory and saddled with unjust debt, but she emerged still independent. Liberia’s financial arrangements with Firestone are as equitable as any country could obtain and far better than anything ever offered Liberia before by any other country. The land is leased and not sold; the power of the government is fully recognized; the necessary loan for harbor facilities and other developments was secured in the open market and not from the Firestone Company; and disputes are to be settled not by the United States but by the League of Nations.

Certain it is that a great overshadowing corporation like this in a small country is going to wield extraordinary power; as great as that of the railroads and steel and oil interests in the United States. Liberia faces the same difficulty of controlling organized wealth as other modern lands with the disadvantage of being a “colored” country but with the advantage of having two or three million colored voters in the United States who can, if they have sense enough, curb the Firestone power in case it becomes over-aggressive.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1927. “Liberia.” The Crisis. 34(1):34.