Writing history is not something I planned. It’s just the latest stage in a convoluted writing career. What began as a passion for poetry in high school, led to the practice of journalism, then to an interest in historical research.
I started writing for pleasure at St. Patrick’s High School, mainly short stories, brief articles for our mimeographed newsletter and poetry as an exercise in reflection and self-expression. My writing was encouraged by several of my teachers and by my father, who liked poetry.
As much as I enjoyed writing, a creative-writing career seemed far fetched. After all, the Liberian writers I knew– like Bai T. Moore and H. Carey Thomas – wrote on the side while holding down fulltime government jobs.
In 1971, when all major media were government-owned, including broadcast and print, some schoolmates at the University of Liberia and I started an off-campus mimeographed magazine called the Revelation. It was Liberia’s first mass-circulating independent publication in almost 20 years and routinely proposed solutions to social problems.
An example is my article “Eyes Right” that called for the Liberian army to be reorganized. The Tolbert administration quickly banned the magazine, and a few years later it was overthrown by the army. That coup began a downward spiral into violence from which Liberia is yet to recover.
From working on the Revelation magazine, I discovered two joys of journalism: my writing had an impact on society, and it generated immediate feedback from an audience.