I Married a Liberian Chief

In the 1960’s, as a white college student, I married my anthropology professor who was a hereditary Mende chief from Liberia, West Africa.  In our 41 years of marriage, he took me to Liberia and we lived with our three boys in his remote tribal village for a year. After he retired, we wrote a book together on the cycle of racism (including Americo-Liberian bravado) in Liberia, called Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to LiberiaBelow is an excerpt from that book in his words:

The Americo-Liberians Berated Tribal People to “put them in their place”

During a visit to Liberia in the 1970’s, I met Ed Cooper, the new Director of Motor Vehicles. Ed was an outside child with something to prove. He bragged that his native mother was a powerful zoe. He drove a huge Cadillac and wooed all kinds of women.

Anita and Ben Wedding Photo

Wedding photo

Ed and I were crossing the intersection at Randall Street to use the pay phone on the other corner. As we walked across, a taxi making a right turn with the light, slowly approached us and slowed to a stop.

Ed shouted to the African-Liberian taxi driver, “Do you want to KILL us? What’s the matter with you BOY!”

The taxi driver said, “Boss man, the light was for me.”

Ed said, “Light or no light. Look at me. Do you know who I am? Do you know who you’re talkin’ to? An’ you know this man here?”

Slaves to Racism Book Cover

“Oh, boss man, I beg you.”

The traffic was beginning to pile up behind the taxi. I told Ed, “Let the guy go, Ed. Please.”

Ed said to the taxi driver, “Let me see your license. Do you know who I am?”

When the driver showed him his license, Ed grabbed it and said, “I can keep this right now and put you in jail. You’ll never drive a taxi again. And you telling me, light, light. No light! When you see me, you stop! You understand that?”

The taxi driver said, “Oh, boss man, Yes, Sir.”

Ed stood in the middle of the street and yelled at the backed-up traffic, “No one pass! You stay right there! You people all stop!”

The Americo-Liberian Bravado Continued

Americo-Liberian Bravado - Monrovia, LiberiaHe told me, “B.G., I’m gonna teach this countryman something.”

For the next ten minutes, Ed made the taxi driver beg for his license back. Then Ed said, “I’m gonna give you your license back but if you do this once more. You see me?”

The taxi driver said, “Yes, Boss man.”

Speak loudly!”

Man and woman standing togetherYes, Boss Man!”

“Say it like you mean it!”

YES, BOSS MAN!”

“I’m letting you go now. We’re gonna cross the street and if you move one inch before that, I’ll put you in jail.”

The taxi driver waited. When we came out of the phone booth, we saw him still holding up traffic. I said, “Ed, that wasn’t right. The guy slowed down. You know he had the light.”

Americo-Liberian Bravado - Monrovia, Liberia

E­­d said, “You’ve been away too long, B.G. I’m tellin’ you. These country people. If you give ‘em an inch, they’ll take a foot. He’ll never forget what happened today.”

I said, “But, Ed, you’re the Director of Motor Vehicles and you held up traffic. There were lots of cars behind him. There may have been some ‘honorables’ in those cars.”

He said, “That’s nothing. I’d be glad. I’m in charge of all the traffic in Liberia and they’ll see that I’m doin’ my job.”

It Cost Him His Job

Two months later, the president sacked (fired) Ed because he humbugged (harassed) so many people coming in to get their driver’s licenses.

Our Love Story

After my husband died in 2009, I wrote our love story to honor him and tell how God worked in our lives.                       Beyond Myself Book Cover by Author Anita Katherine Dennis