Concluding note on the sources of information

Quite some information on secret societies, ritual killings, 'juju', a.s.o. originates from missionaries. This should not surprise. First, most of the foreign missionaries lived many, many years in the country, often in the 'Hinterland', knew well its people, and usually spoke the local language. The Liberian Government's economic 'Closed Door Policy' prevented the presence of foreign traders and investors - until the 1930s and 1940s when the door was slowly opened. Episcopalian Mission: Click to supersizeA second explanation for the missionaries' reporting of these horrific traditional practices was that they had every reason to paint the natives as wild heathens who scared each other with voodoo, masks, secret societies and ritual killings because this justified their presence and efforts to convert these heathens into Christianity. Though not comparable, slavers used the same argument to warrant their trade in human beings since thus these people were saved from these immoral and unhealthy practices. 

The missionaries' motivation to disclose ritual malpractices concurred with the prevailing mentality of the Americo-Liberian colonists who were all Christians. It also explains the latter's feelings of superiority towards the native peoples - shown at many occasions and at all levels, even up to the Presidency. They, the newly arrived from oversees, were christianized and civilized whereas the indigenous masses were barbaric, wild and uncivilized. In their eyes this justified their mission: to colonize this region and these peoples in order to bring civilization, prosperity and the Christian belief. Besides, wasn't this one of the main reasons behind the creation of the colonization societies in the United States of America? 

Against this background it is no longer surprising why cases of ritual murders and activities of secret societies, leopard men, and so-called heartmen were frontpage articles and headlines in the Liberian press including the most gruesome pictures. The fact that a small number of Americo-Liberians associated themselves with these practices and demonstrated to share these traditional beliefs is another story which will be told in Part II. 






















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Episcopalian Mission, near Cape Palmas, Maryland 1850