Former slaves brought Thanksgiving to Liberia — and restarted it

Liberia in West Africa was settled 200 years ago by an American colored race. Brenda Brewer Moore can trace the history of her family back to former slaves, explorers, surveyors and ambassadors, who became some of the most prominent figures in the newly adopted country. .. Known as Americo-Liberian, these settlers brought cultural traditions throughout the Atlantic Ocean, including Thanksgiving.

Both countries’ observations of holidays have been different for centuries. Liberia’s Thanksgiving takes place on the first Thursday of November, not the fourth Thursday. There is no traditional meal, says Moore. Moore means that two children, 12 and 14 years old, usually eat pizza and popcorn. In Liberia, she explains, celebrating people tend to see it as a religious opportunity. For those who don’t, it’s a day when American origin is often controversial.

Moore has many titles. She is the published author of a book for children, a female rights activist, a human resources expert, a Katatsumuri farmer, a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, and a kids education engagement project launched to connect students during the crisis of Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Is the founder of. Academic resources. We asked her to take on an additional job: Explain Liberia Thanksgiving to the Americans.

How exactly do Liberians celebrate Thanksgiving?

It depends on who you talk to. When I was growing up, I remember that a very religious mother insisted that we go to church. And that’s how we spent most of the day. Because it was a long and protracted case of thanking God for life and thanking God for his health. And if you know anything about black culture, the 1 hour service can be pulled out to 3 hours very easily. One stands up and gives a testimony, then they continue to get in the way with “Hallelujah!”. And “praise the Lord.”

Some other families have barbecues and grills at home. I don’t like cooking, so I think it’s a good holiday for my family to take a break and watch a movie. I have been very careful about not doing some of what my mother insisted on me, such as staying in church for 5 or 6 hours. If you are absent from school or work, take a break.

I’m 42 years old, but if you ask someone 20 years younger than me, you’ll be told to spend a Thanksgiving day on the beach with your friends. Some people consider Thanksgiving to be a holiday imposed by settlers from the United States. Why do we need to celebrate the imported holidays?

Are there any local holidays that are more like American Thanksgiving?

So, other than Independence Day, the holidays I see are celebrated by people, regardless of which side they are on. [Thanksgiving] Dividing that they are, it’s the birthday of the former president: William Tubman. It’s November 29th. And that’s not about him anymore. It was just a holiday that was adopted as the beginning of summer. This is the beginning of our dry and summer season. Probably the third biggest holiday after Christmas and Independence Day. You have November 29th, and that’s when everything really shuts down. People are cooking big and gather on the beach.

Therefore, I think that November is not the harvest season but the end of the rainy season. What is it like?

If it rains here, it will rain! Raindrops are like a massage. It has been raining for half a year and I am looking forward to the rain stopping at the end of November. It’s a very congratulatory day, so I think people are more connected to the word “Thanksgiving.”

You are a snail farmer. Is it a traditional Liberia dish?

Snails are not a traditional Liberia food, but they are a very beloved delicacy. People in West Africa love snails seasoned with lots of pepper and pepper. We like very spicy food.

What kind of food is usually served at a big holiday banquet?

Given the food that Liberians love, it’s definitely Jollof Rice at family events. There is no comparison with Jollof Rice in Ghana or Jollof Rice in Nigeria. Ours are just on the other side. Order Jollof Rice in Ghana, Jollof Rice in Nigeria, and Jollof Rice in Liberia now and they will be cooked with vegetables and different types of meat, so you can tell just by giving a presentation. There are shrimp, chicken, meat and pork chunks. Ghanaians and Nigerians will eat chicken on their own. It’s not Jollof rice. If you cook with us in Liberia and cook only one piece of meat, we consider it a poor man’s dish. Things are difficult for you. If there is only one meat, people will say this was not good.

What are the Liberians grateful for?

It evolves over time. Fifteen years ago, people were grateful for peace. We had just escaped from the civil war, so we said, “Thank God for peace, thank God for security, and thank God for stability.” There was a time when the country was separated in the sense that it could not move freely to another part of the country due to the conflict and could not access certain resources.

I am now grateful that there is no flood like my neighbor in Sierra Leone next door. Elections usually take place at this time of the year, so I am grateful for the change of government. So there are many prayers around peaceful elections.

What are you personally grateful for?

Thank you for launching the 25th library two months ago. Our organization travels around the library to create local communities. When I started this in 2014, someone said, “This is a place to go nationwide in that it affects the lives of thousands of children and is deeply involved in the education sector.” Would have been. Ha, me? So we are grateful for the resources we have been commissioned by Liberia and the reception from the communities in which we participate. And I am grateful to my family. My family was very supportive. Because in order to do what I do, I often need to leave them.

And I am grateful for peace. Because I experienced a civil war — I ran and hid in different spectra. I am grateful that my children do not have to experience what I had to experience. I commute by car this morning and tried to give chewable multivitamins. And they refused it. Every morning it’s a hassle for them. So I said to them, “Let me tell you why I’m always sticking about taking your multivitamins.” I told them during the war, I Many of us have become stunted. We were supposed to grow and didn’t grow because we couldn’t get the kind of nutrition that the growing children should have. And now I don’t want you to be 42 and 5’1 “like me. I want you to grow to your genetic height as much as possible. So grow and eat vegetables I want. What we take for granted now is something that used to be a luxury for us.

What should Americans know about Liberia at this Thanksgiving?

Liberia has had a very strong connection with the United States over the years. As we evolve as a nation, I think people are beginning to question this relationship and how American culture affects our culture. Dress, how to speak. Or how much of that relationship with his father really benefited our country in a sustainable way almost 200 years later. The younger generation has access to more information. There are many more who are interested in the issue of social justice and are not afraid to ask questions like their parents and ancestors.

A little more of our identity is attached to the United States, some of which was not realistic. Therefore, the United States will become independent in July. We take ours in the same month. America has Thanksgiving in November and we have Thanksgiving in November. We hold elections at the same time that the United States holds elections. However, due to heavy rain here, turnout is low. So we, the people, are now questioning more. I think that’s a good thing. I’m grateful that you can reflect the changes and hopefully be effective in the process of asking.

Vicky Hallett A freelance writer who regularly contributes to NPR.

Copyright 2021 NPR. For more information, please visit

Former slaves brought Thanksgiving to Liberia — and restarted it

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