LIBERIA: Speedy at Work

Liberia's ramshackle capital of Monrovia used to look a little like a gigantic Mississippi riverboat minstrel show. The men at the Masonic Lodge dressed in top hats and black morning coats; the ladies at the Baptist church wore flowing skirts and bandannas; and everybody spoke in an exaggerated Deep South drawl. In these mannerisms they imitated both their forebears, freedmen who returned from the U.S. in 1822 and subsequently founded Africa's first republic, and their president, William Vacanarat Shadrach ("Uncle Shad") Tubman, who ran the country with a kind of dandified despotism...

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