Joseph Jenkins Roberts is often called the Father of Liberia. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 15, 1809. His mother Amelia was a fair-skinned mulatto woman, who lived as the concubine, or slave mistress, of a white plantation owner of Welsh origin, with the last name of Jenkins. Before his death in 1829, Jenkins freed Amelia and her children, while they were all still quite young. Amelia gave all of her children, but one, the middle name of Jenkins, suggesting that it may have been the name of their biological father.
After Jenkins’ death, Joseph’s mother Amelia, who was now free, married James Roberts, a wealthy freed black man from Petersburg, Virginia. Roberts gave her children his name and raised them as his own. In 1828 Joseph Jenkins Roberts, then 19 years old, married an 18-year-old woman named Sarah with whom he had a child. Following the death of James Roberts, Amelia with her three sons along with Sarah and her infant child, left Virginia and sailed for Liberia, which then was under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. Joseph’s next younger brother, John Wright, entered the ministry of the Methodist Church, and later became Bishop of Liberia. His youngest brother Henry became a doctor and practiced medicine in Liberia for many years. Joseph however decided to become a businessman engaging in foreign trade.
Both Sarah and their child died in their first year in Africa. Jane Waring Roberts, who was born in 1818, became Joseph’s second wife in 1836. She was the daughter of a Baptist minister who had come to Liberia in 1824.
In 1839 Roberts was appointed to be the Colonization Society’s storekeeper under the Society’s Governor Buchanan. When Liberia was named an independent commonwealth by the Society, he was elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor. In 1841, following the death of Governor Buchanan, Joseph Jenkins Roberts was appointed the next Governor. It was under these adverse conditions that “The Free and Independent Republic of Liberia” was founded. On July 26, 1847, the Americo-Liberian settlers issued their Declaration of Independence.”
Note: The History of Liberia & West Africa has been nominated for an award by the Florida Authors & Publishers Association. The presentation will be made at the association’s annual meeting in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel located at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, next Saturday, August 3, 2019. The newly Revised Edition of this book is now available at Amazon.com.