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On July 26, 1865, just a few months after the end of the American Civil War on May 9, the reverberations of that bloody conflict, ignited by the issue of slavery in the US and the rights of its people of African ancestry, did not go unfelt in the fledgling nation of Liberia, which was founded by freed men and women, and former slaves from America, as they celebrated their nation’s eighteenth year of Independence.

“Descendants of Africa, in other parts of the world, have been contributing, by noble deeds to the vindication of the race. And we cannot, in this connection, refrain from referring, with admiration, to the heroic deeds of our brethen in the United States. Indeed, we should be unpardonably indifferent if we could remain silent and unmoved spectators of such heroism, unlooked for by their oppressors, as they have displayed. We feel proud of their martial deeds and their valorous demeanor. We rejoice with them in their brilliant achievements and magnificent success,” intoned Edward W. Blyden, one of Liberia’s foremost intellectuals and an early proponent of pan-Africanism, in his Independence Day oration titled: Our Origins, Dangers and Duties.

Blyden was referring to the valor displayed by African Americans who had fought in the Union Army to defeat the southern slave-holding states that made up the Confederacy, and thereby, wresting their freedom from slavery’s clutches. Then, as the only independent African nation, Blyden said that notwithstanding “various discouragements and difficulties, joys and sorrows — in sunshine and shadow…” Liberians needed to strive to make their nation a prosperous and great nation.

As Liberia celebrates her 169th Independence Day, many of the themes that Blyden touched on in his speech still resonate today. Liberia has certainly experienced more than her fair share of vicissitudes through her years as an independent nation, including the appropriation of her territory by France and England during the early years of her independence, the challenge to forge an egalitarian union for the good of all her citizens, and an intractable number of years under a plethora of corrupt and myopic regimes, but Liberians would do well, more than ever before, to heed Blyden’s call to strive to live “in the glow of one common cordiality” for the welfare of the whole nation.

“We must as a holy and solemn duty, labor to benefit our country. We must not content ourselves with joining the general depreciation and lamentation concerning national decline and ruin. We must, we are in duty bound, to do all we can, by earnest effort and self-denial, to arrest the downward tendency of things. The love of country is a virtue. We are bound to seek it’s honor and welfare. We are under the strongest obligations to live, labor and suffer in its behalf,” Blyden said.


  • Robin M. Chandler

    Celebrating 169th with you! However, Ethiopia was the first independent African nation, effectively since Biblical times.

    • liberianecho

      Thanks Robin. Hope you had a wonderful 26! Yeah Ethiopia has been around for much longer than Liberia, but the difference is that it was a monarchy for most of its history. Liberia, on the other hand, was Africa’s first independent republic, where its political leaders were elected by the people…

      • Robin M. Chandler

        You are correct, Moco, regarding the form of rule differentiating the two independent African nations. Yet, technically Liberia was an ACS colony, including manumitted African repatriated slaves, for 17 years prior to independence and while a more democratic version of governance was in play in Liberia, the long-standing internal tensions between indigenous Africans and Americo-Liberians hardly conferred true citizenship and peaceful coexistence on the average Liberian, especially women. Some would even say that successive Presidents in Liberia behaved as did monarchs or oligarchs. But we began with a question concerning “first” or “only” to gain independence. For my money, I would prefer a shared vision of early African independence by two (rather than merely one) uniquely different nations-east and west-who persisted against western imperialism and domination in the midst of the ‘scramble for Africa’.

        • liberianecho

          Your are most certainly right Robin that Ethiopia and Liberia were two independent African nations that upheld their nationhood despite the rampant and brutal Western usurpation of other traditional African nations and peoples that were taking place all around them during the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa.’ The ‘only’ and ‘first’ claim that Liberians make here has to do with form of government, even though, for most of her history, Liberia fell short of practicing true republicanism.

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