booker t. washington portrait

The Liberia Connection

Letter to Seth Low, Tuskegee Trustee
February 16, 1909

My Dear Mr. Low

I had a long conference with the Secretary of State Bacon and with the Assistant Secretary Sunday night. The Liberian matter is practically reduced to the following point. The people of the State Department say they think I can save Liberia by going. If I do not go, they fear that the independence and usefulness of the country will be lost.

The Department is so impressed with the importance of my going at once that it is willing to use an emergency fund for expenses, either to defray the expenses of the entire commission of three or for me to go alone. Under the circumstances, using the permission granted me by the board of trustees. I have placed myself in the hands of the State Department. It seemed to me that this was the only thing to do, as it was a clear case of duty. I have a feeling that if the Department carries out its present plan to have the commission go on a man of war that the time required will not be very great and I can get back here in time to do a great deal of valuable work before the close of our financial year.

In going over our financial condition, in order to come out clear at the end of the year I find that we shall have to raise by the time $113,000 aside from assured income. I think I can do this. I shall have to put in a good deal of time on shipboard in writing letters. I shall keep you informed.

Troubles in Liberia are both internal and external. The British Government has marched troops into Monrovia and will keep them there until the American Commission arrives.

Yours very truly,
Booker T. Washington

1. Seth Low - member, board of trustees at Tuskegee

2. Emmitt J. Scott was chosen by Washington to go in his stead. The commission traveled to Liberia in 1911 and included Robert C. Ogden and John Wannamaker as well. As a result of the commission's negotiations, Liberia's debt was repaid to British bankers and France was discouraged from any further annexation of Liberian territory. A treaty was drafted in that year between France and Liberia to that effect.