Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's father was the son of a Gola Chief named Jahmale and
one of his wives, Jenneh, in Julejuah, Bomi County. He was sent to Monrovia
where his name changed into Johnson because of his father's loyalty to President
Johnson, Liberia's first Liberian-born president (1884 - 1892). Her father
grew up in Monrovia where he was raised by an Americo-Liberian family, McGritty.
Eventually he became the first native representative in the National Legislature.
Her mother hailed from Greenville, Sinoe County. She was the daughter of a
German trader and Juah Sarwee, a marketeer and trader. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's
mother was also sent to Monrovia where a member of a well-known Americo-liberian
family, Cecilia Dunbar, adopted and raised her.
The two thus met in Monrovia and out of this union , Ellen Johnson was born in
Monrovia, on October 29, 1938 (or 1939).
At the age of 17, Ellen Johnson married James Sirleaf whom she later divorced.
Her ex-husband died a couple of years ago. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the mother
four sons and has six grandchildren.
The above background information on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's tribal ancestors and
her parents is based on a statement she delivered at the All Liberian National
Conference, held in Columbia, Maryland, USA, on April 14, 2005.
Some excerpts from her speech:
(....) "My father, the son of the Gola Chief Jahmale and Jenneh, one of his many
wives, was born in Julejuah, Bomi County. As a result of my grandfather's
friendship and loyalty to President Hilary Richard Wright Johnson and on the
advice of the President, my father was brought to Monrovia, his name changed to
Johnson and he was given to the settler family, McCritty. He served in the usual
manner and suffered the usual humiliation of a country boy under the ward system
but he was able to get an education and become an apprentice which enabled him
to become a successful lawyer. He eventually became the first native
representative in the National Legislature and was included in several Liberian
delegations to meetings abroad."
(....) "My mother had a similar experience. She was born in Greenville, Sinoe
County, to a marketeer and farmer, Juah Sarwee and a German trader who was
forced to leave the country when Liberia declared war on Germany during the
first World War. My Grandmother was unable to take care of my mother so she sent
her to Monrovia to live with a family where she suffered unimaginable
indignities and humiliation until she was taken by the childless Cecelia Dunbar
who adopted her and treated her like her very own. My mother enjoyed the best of
available education and the full life of a settler family."
(....) "I don't know how my mother and father met for in those days, children
who "had to be seen and not heard" did not ask such questions of their parents.
But I do remember the good days we had with our foster Grandmother Cecelia and
all of her settler friends. However, I am glad that neither my father nor my
mother forgot their roots and so we spent a lot of time with my two illiterate
grandmothers, Jenneh and Juah. We also spent all of vacation time in Julejuah my
father's ancestral village where I learned most of all that there was to know
about village life including the long walks from village to village, swimming
and pulling canoe in the Kpo River, fishing with twine made from the palm tree,
bird hunting etc. etc."
(....) "Today, I go back to Julejuah to start, once again, the effort started by
me, my siblings and our children to bring some small measure of development to
our village, to restore what was destroyed by the conflict. I roam the village
and talk to the many cousins, old and young, many of whom have suffered in those
difficult days past because of their relationship with me. I reflect with pain
how that village has remained unchanged; in fact, changed only for the worse in
terms of development."
text of her statement