Giving Voice to the Voiceless

Scholar. Intellectual. “Book man.” These have become cuss words among some Liberians. But not for me.

I have devoted my life to scholarship. I more than enjoy it. I love it. And I’m proud of what I do. Why?

Unlike many other fields, success in scholarship is based mainly on the merit of a person’s ideas. Not charisma. Not looks. Not “who you know.” Ideas don’t win because someone with a big reputation pushes them. Instead, good ideas enhance the reputation of the scholars who push them.


Weeding Out Bad Ideas

Scholarly research rests upon a system of checks and balances. Each field has its own association. Mechanical engineers are separate from historians of ancient India. At least once a year, each group sponsors a competition to find the best ideas in their field.

To ensure winners based on merit, these associations accept submissions from anyone in their field without regard to name or rank. At the heart of these competitions is a “double-blind” review process.CPB@BilbioNatlParis

People who submitted ideas and those who judge their submissions are known by numbers, not their names. That way scholars who submit papers don’t know who the judges are. And judges don’t know them either. As a result, judges can’t favor their friends or punish their enemies.

But that is just the first step in a long process. Anyone whose paper is chosen must present his or her ideas at a public and open meeting. In that context, scholars will receive comments and criticism designed to improve their ideas.

After that, scholars face another blind-review process when they submit their ideas for publication. Here, too, anonymous reviewers will judge if the ideas are fit for publication in academic journals or books.

The research process is not perfect. No human system is. But it consistently weeds out bad ideas and advance good ones. For 100s of years, it has produced improvements in daily life. Electricity, crime control, early childhood education. All of these fields exist, thanks to scholarship-for-hire, available to the highest bidders.


The Ill Fruits of Liberian “Book Men”

Proud as I am to call myself a scholar, I fully understand why many Liberians today distrust and even revile “book people.Their cynicism stems from this bitter truth: Liberia’s most prominent and vocal “scholars” have borne mostly ill fruits.

For 40 years, Liberia has been held hostage by discredited ideas and policies promoted by a small group of advocates masquerading as scholars. Many have never undergone a blind review process. For them, a Ph. D. is a ticket to a political career.British National Archives

These “scholars” operate as guns for hire, willing to say and write whatever pleases their political paymasters. As a result, worthless ideas never die. In the absence of blind review, they just get recycled over and over again.


Seeing Cooperation, Not Just Conflict

Hours spent with neighborhood friends fishing in Stockton Creek, hunting birds with slingshots and playing soccer led me to see Liberia as a quilt woven from many cultures. That insight would deepen during my years at St. Patrick’s High School, which drew students from all parts of Liberia and diverse economic backgrounds.

Getting to St. Patrick’s, on the opposite side of Monrovia, required taking a “holeh, holeh” bus, crowded with fellow passengers from all walks of life. My route involved stops at Point Four, Logan Town, Free Port, Clara Town, Vai Town and Waterside Market, before heading uptown to the fancy shops, government offices and cinemas on Broad Street. Those years planted the seeds that germinated into these book.

My approach to history is rooted in the view that ethnic groups and polities are dynamic, not frozen. It assumes that relationships between groups throughout history are characterized, not just by conflicts, but also by cooperation too. I also strive to present the history of Liberians in connection with the rest of Africa and larger trends in the world.


New Books Offering A New View

I have two books scheduled for publication in 2016. Both are written from an African perspective (See Research2). One is Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea: A History of the Liberian People Before 1820. The title is a bit poetic but the subtitle is self-explanatory. It presents the long neglected history of those who lived in the region before Liberia was created.

My other book is Black Christian Republican: The Writings of Hilary Teage, Founder of Liberia. It presents the never-before-told story of Hilary Teage, a newspaper editor, Baptist pastor, successful merchant and public servant. While each of his achievements was significant in itself, taken together, they were remarkable, especially for a man who was born a slave.

In the words of a contemporary, Teage made the single greatest personal contribution to the “framing and establishment” of the Republic of Liberia. Despite little formal education, he displayed a mastery of several genres of writing and fields of knowledge. To Liberians, who are recovering from a devastating civil war that left schools decimated, Teage offers an inspiring example of what individuals can accomplish through discipline and self-directed study.

I choose the title Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea because kola and sea salt were two commodities that first put the area now known as Liberia on the map, so to speak. These discoveries by some of our earliest ancestors attracted others to this region.

The title Black Christian Republicanism reflects the core thinking of Hilary Teage. Unlike many Liberian intellectuals today, he did not borrow his ideology from elsewhere; he created it. His ideas were not a hodge-podge of scraps; they were tightly integrated and coherent.

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Click below to access some of my research:

  • John Brown Russwurm, co-founder of America’s first black newspaper and first black governor of Maryland in Africa
  • Functionalism and Cultural Studies, a literature review
  • A Southern ideology in early Liberia
  • Between the Kola Forest and the Salty Sea: A History of the Liberian People before 1820 (forthcoming)
  • Black Christian Republicanism: The Writings of Hilary Teage, Founder of Liberia (forthcoming)


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    PatrickFeb 24, 2016

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    PatrickFeb 24, 2016

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    PatrickFeb 13, 2016

  • AmazonLink
    PatrickFeb 13, 2016


LiberiaPedia Databases

Here are some resources you can use. Find stories to share with the children in your life. Or check the Acts for people, places and organizations in the past:


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LiberiaPedia Databases

Robertsport tonnage duty engraved bills City of Monrovia charter Daniel B. Warner Georgianna M. Hilliard National Fair Ma Dilemma Tale J. Gearing ports of entry H. W. Dennis Putu Junk River James R. Moore treasury department Mah revenue Liberia College highways travel journal secretary of treasury state prison H. R. W. Johnson Charles B. Dunbar Dey Historical Account Po-RIver people Nancy A. Woodson Edward James Roye Vai H. Underwood J. J. Roberts Schooner Lark taxes superintendents Edina township paper currency Clay Ashland Rachel Perdue auditors legislative journals elections colonial records of the Republic Maryland County William Harris Francis Burns slave trade at Gallons George W. Deadrick foreign mineralogists constitutional amendment Kuwaa boundaries of the counties small pox Dan J. T. Gibson Loma Beverly R. Wilson James M. Horace Grand Bassa County Jeremiah Hilliard rebellion Otillia Julien Jordan militia Kissi John B[radberry] Jordan Careysburg Henry Roadman Presbyterian Missionary Society Benjamin Anderson superintendent Marshall commissioners for international exhibition Gola Costa Guarda Kru Thornton Belton R. A. Sherman Bandi boundaries of the Republic S. C. Fuller Rev. S. J. Mills import duties judiciary R. E. Murray WIlliam H. Hill Morality Tale Amos Herring recaptured Africans Naffaw find site for capitol in interior duties on imports Sapo Tchien music United States of America salaries of civil servants New Georgia Ghee's Mountain justice of the peace courts Alfred F. Russell John Perdue Z. B.Roberts smallpox in Maryland Mechlin river Sikon Grebo James Thomas Brig “Town of Liverpool” James L. Sims Philadelphia international exhibition navigation secretary of the treasury T.H. Amos library City of Buchanan charter American Colonization Society crimes B. V. R. James ginger spring guns John Day Naffaw people commerce Granville Woodson Sinoe David Banaker licenses Provisional Monthly Court Bassa Why Things Are the Way They Are Trickster Tale armed force James R. Amos Settra-Kroo 1856 Sinoe War Mende Francis Payne Regina Coeli Kpelle revenue cutter Padee Samuel F. McGill Fantasy and Wonder adjournment of legislature punishment of crimes land grant to immigrants Nair Mountain Lexington payment of duties