Slavery in Liberia: Family Assessment

Figure 1.--This early-20th century portrait is entiteled, "Wealthy merchant of Monrovia with his wife , two sons , cook, and a couple of house boys." The cook is presumably the bare-chested young woman. We have no additional information on the group, but in many African family portraits, the lack of cobering often denotes slavery. There is no evudence that this is the situation here, but we suspect that the terms of employment were not what we would today consider to be a normal contractual arrangemt. Also notice the chain-like jewelry. Or is it jewlry-like chain?. A CIH reader has prided a good assessment of the photograph.

A CIH reader provides an assessment of this photograph. "Liberia didn't have a legal state of slavery. Anyway "the Blacks coming from America, that were the leading class, didn't search the integration of all the people of the nation. They managed the independence ad a deal of a caste. The public istruction was very poor and the economy dilapidated" (Joseph Ki Zerbo, Histoire del l'Afrique Noire, pg. 463). In 1930 the League of Nations accused the Liberian government to reduce indigenous people in a condition similar to slavery. About the element of the photo. Bare breasts was often a sign of slavery among Muslims. Here modesty rules state that free women have to cover the breast. That is not the case of Liberia. Anyway in the photo the wealthy family wear American style clothing and the bare breasts of the servant (perhaps slave de facto) are clearly a sign of her low condition. I too had the impression of a chain hanging to her neck. It could be a great rosary (at least I see the same figure). In this case the woman were Catholic. That would show that her condition of serfdom/slavery was only a matter of real racism."


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Created: 6:16 PM 6/18/2017
Last updated: 6:16 PM 6/18/2017