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Wed, 03.15.1809

Joseph Roberts, Liberia’s First President born

Joseph Roberts

*This date celebrates the birth of Joseph Jenkins Roberts in 1809. He was a Black nationalist during American slavery.

Roberts was born in Petersburg, Virginia, the son of free Blacks whose heritage was more than seven-eighths white.  At the age of 20, he immigrated to Liberia with his mother and younger brothers.  He became a merchant, and also an unofficial aide to the white governor of the colony, Thomas H. Buchanan of the American Colonization Society, which sought the return of African freedmen to Africa.  On Buchanan’s death in 1842, Roberts was appointed the first Black governor of the colony.

In efforts to establish the political and economic stability of the colony, Roberts and other colonists sought treaties with native tribes and recognition from foreign powers.  In 1847, they proclaimed the new republic of Liberia, electing Roberts as their first president. In 1849, during a visit to England, he secured British recognition of Liberia as a sovereign nation; and in 1852, in another trip to continental Europe, he acquired recognition from other powers.

From 1856, he served as president of the new Liberia College and, during a prolonged financial crisis, served again as president of the republic from 1872 to 1876.  Joseph Roberts died February 24, 1876 in Monrovia, Liberia.

To Become a Political Scientist


The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
ISBN 0-471-23924-0

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