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In 1906, Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston, a British explorer, botanist, linguist and colonial administrator published a groundbreaking two-volume book about the fledgling nation of Liberia, which was aptly titled: Liberia. Johnston’s expansive work depicted some of the earliest historical photographs of Liberia and its people on record.

The book, which covers the ancient history of Liberia from the earliest inhabitants through the period when Europeans first reached its coast, the slave trade, the founding of the Liberian nation and the early years of its evolution as Africa’s first independent nation, also includes an extensive description of the flora and fauna of Liberia.

Johnston first visited the coast of Liberia in 1882, then in 1885, and again in 1888 when “he landed at one place or another on its shores, collected in its forests, and took sketches or photographs of its people, animals, or plants.”1Johnston, H. H. (1906). Liberia. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Company. Johnston later

visited Liberia in “the summer of 1904 and the winter of 1905-06,”2Ibid during which time he took more photographs.

Johnston’s photographs, including several he obtained from other sources, which are displayed in the book, may probably be some of the earliest photographic images of Liberia and its people to have ever been taken.

Below is a compilation of 100 of these rare historical photographs of Liberia, which you probably have never seen before and may not see anywhere else.

NOTE: The photos are shown with the original captions, some of which are reflective of the cultural paternalism of the writer’s era. Click on the images to enlarge them.


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