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Full text of "Negro culture in West Africa; a social study of the Negro group of Vai-speaking people, with its own invented alphabet and written language shown in two charts and six engravings of Vai script, twenty-six illustrations of their arts and life, fifty folklore stories, one hundred and fourteen proverbs and one map"

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Negro culture in West Africa 




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NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 



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Frontispieoe 



VOUXG VAI WOMAN 



NEGRO CULTURE 
IN WEST AFRICA 

A SOCIAL STUDY OF THE NEGRO GROUP OF VAI-SPEAKING PEOPLE 
WITH ITS OWN INVENTED ALPHABET AND WRITTEN LAN- 
GUAGE SHOWN IN TWO CHARTS AND SIX ENGRAVINGS 
OF VAI SCRIPT, TWENTY-SIX ILLUSTRATIONS OF 
THEIR ARTS AND LIFE, FIFTY FOLKLORE STOR- 
IES, ONE HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN PRO- 
VERBS AND ONE MAP 

By 

GEORGE W. ELLIS. K.C., F.R.G.S. 

For eight years Secretary of the United States Legation in 

Liberia; author of "Liberia in the Political Psychology 

of West Africa," "Islam as a Factor in West 

African Culture," "Dynamic Factors in 

the Liberian Situation,'' etc. 

Introduction by 

FREDERICK STARR, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Sc.D. 

Professor and Curator of Anthropology in the University of Chicago. 

It tboui tbt world — Africans htlfing in the work — that the African has a culture of bis own — 
to explain that culture, and assist him to develop it. — The African Journal and Mary H. Kinssley, p. 7. 

Edward Wilmot Blyden. 




NEW YORK 

THE NEALE PUBLISHING COMPANY 

1914 



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6>56 



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Copyright, 1914, by 
The Neale Publishing Company 






I At. 



VAIL-BALLOU COMPANY 

BINaHAMTON AND NEW YORK 



To my mother 

AMANDA JANE ELLIS 

whose thrift and industry rendered me indispensable 
aid and assistance in all my efforts for educational ad- 
vancement, and whose unsullied life and Christian char- 
acter remain to me a perpetual source of inspiration to 
lofty thought and noble achievement, this volume is 
gratefully and respectfully dedicated. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

PAQK 

INTRODUCTION ii 

PREFACE 17 

I THE RELATION OF THE VAIS TO THE NEGRO . 21 

The Vai Country a Portion of the Great Negroland 22 

Outside Influences upon Negroland 22 

The Origin of the Vais 25 

II PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF THE VAIS 

Personal Features, Size, Color, Eyes, and Hair . 29 

The Accepted Negro Type 31 

Influences of Climate in West Africa .... 34 

Decoration and Dress 36 

III ECONOMIC LIFE OF THE VAIS 

Importance of Agriculture and Cultivated Products 40 

The Consumption of Natural Products .... 41 

Traffic and the Articles Thereof 43 

Products of the Industrial Arts 43 

IV NATURE OF THE SOQAL INSTITUTIONS OF 

THE VAIS 

SoCTAL Conditions, Towns, Half-towns and Houses 47 

Aim and Principles of the " Devil Bush "... 49 

Aim and Principles of the " Greegree Bush " . . S3 

Marriage and the Family 56 

Scope and Influence of Witchcraft 60 

Social Functions, Deaths and Dances 66 

V POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT OF THE VAIS 

Nature and Form of Government y^ 

Distribution of Political Power 75 

Forms of Oaths and Ordeals 76 

Crimes and the Administration of Justice ... 82 

VI RELIGIOUS LIFE AND PRACTICE OF THE VAIS 

Idea and Conception of God . . 83 

Religious Ceremonies and Sacrifices 87 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

PAOB 

Reugious Function of the Medicine-man . . • • 92 

Islamic Faith among the Vais 94 

Christianity among the Vais . . • ... no 

VII STANDARD OF MORALS AMONG THE VAIS 

Before and After Marriage . • ... nS 

The Medicine-man as a Moral, .^gent I20 

MoR.\L Influence of their Religion i-fJ 

The Mor.\l Influence of their Social Institutions 126 

VIII VAI PROVERBS 

Proverbs ... . ■ 147 

IX VAI FOLKLORE STORIES 

FoucLORE Stories 186 

X VAI LANGUAGE, CULTURE, AND CONCLUSION 

Vai Language in General ... 259 

History of Written Language 262 

Elements op Vai Culture 265 

Conclusion and Negro Civiliz.\tion 273 

Index 277 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Young Vai Woman . Frontispiece 



FACING 
PAGE 



Vai Machine for Weaving Clotb . .... 28 

Native Bags for Trinkets . ... 38 
Native Fetiches and Symbols of Authority ... .48 

Vai Leather Shoes and Handbags . 56 

Vai Spear and Knives in Leather . . . 66 

Vai Hoes, Pipe, Snuff Horn, Whip, etc. 74 

Vai Cloth, Shoes, Ivory Mortar, Palm Strainer, etc. ... 86 

Vai Islamic Mosque . . .94 

Native Vai Crockery . . . 104 

Native Devil Parade . . .... 114 

Vai Cloth Hammock and Basket 122 

Vai Cloth and Cap . 130 

Some Vai Musical Instruments ... . . . . 138 

Phonetic Chart of the Vai Characters . .... 142 

Vai Grass Work in Caps and Bags ... . . 148 

Vai Dress, Farm and War Hats 158 

Vai Grass Work in Handbags 168 

Vai Grass Hammocks . . . . . . . 176 

Group of Native Singers . .... . . 184 

Native Chairs .... 192 

Native Bow and Arrows .... 202 

Two Kinds of Vai Canoes 218 

Vai Cloth and Gaming Boards ... 236 

Vai Wooden Plates, Spoons and Mortar .... . . 246 

Vai Stories in Vai Characters . 248, 250 

Native Vai Kitchen 266 

Map of Northwestern Africa . . . . . . . 276 



INTRODUCTION 

" Negro Culture in West Africa " needs no word of 
praise from my pen ; it stands fairly upon its own merits. 
But its appearance justifies a brief introduction. 

However uncertain many of the teachings of ethnology 
in regard to Africa may be, we may quite sharply dis- 
tinguish two masses among its dark peoples — the Bantu 
peoples in the south and the true Negroes further north. 
The division is based primarily upon language, but it 
is well borne out by physical type and by culture. The 
people to whom Mr. Ellis introduces us are representa- 
tive true Negroes of West Africa. What he tells us re- 
garding them will be true, for the most part, of all the 
populations lying to the south of the great desert and 
north of the Congo basin and stretching across the con- 
tinent from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. The 
special population, which he has studied, is the Vai (or 
Vei), lying in the neighborhood of Cape Mount and oc- 
cupying a considerable area stretching back into the hin- 
terland. 

They are by no means a decadent folk. They are vig- 
orous, energetic, enterprising. Not only are they physi- 
cally splendid, they are shrewd and acute in mind. They 
are Mohammedans, and that means that they are inde- 
pendent, even aggressive, in attitude. It is unnecessary 
for me to sketch their character and life; Mr. Ellis treats 
both in detail. But we may say that no people on the 
West Coast of Africa can better be taken as typical 

II 



12 INTRODUCTION 

and showing what the African can do, either when left 
to himself or when affected by outside influences. It 
was among the Vai that the only practical and actually- 
used script for the writing of an African Negro language 
has been produced. Mr. Ellis tells us of it and of its 
inventor Doalu Biikere. The name of this Negro Cad- 
mus deserves to be remembered, and from a people which 
produces such a man, something is justly expected in 
the present and in the future. So far as the present is 
concerned, the Vai population includes a plenty of 
shrewd, intelligent, industrious and useful men. It is 
new to most of the readers of this book, that there are 
Vai native Africans of pure blood, who possess libraries 
of Arabic books touching upon a considerable range of 
subjects. Among the Vai are men like Momolu Massa- 
quoi, who are useful alike to their own people and to the 
Americo-Liberians. His experiment of preparing text 
books in Vai, printed in Doalu Biikere's script will be 
watched with interest. From among the boys of his 
people many may be stimulated by the study of books in 
their own language and script to strive for high achieve- 
ment. To the Vai the Honorable J. B. McCritty, pres- 
ent Mayor of the City of Monrovia, traces much of his 
blood and unquestioned ability. 

The Vai are chiefly a Liberian population. There are 
many tribes of natives in the Republic, differing from 
each other in language, in character, in life. They may 
be rather readily divided into three groups. There are 
(a) pagan people, in the interior, in large part hardly 
affected by the outside world, almost ignorant that there 
is an outside world; (b) the Kru tribes of the coast, who 
know the white man; ambitious and energetic, they are 



INTRODUCTION 13 

pagans, or Christian converts from paganism; (c) the 
Vai, Mandingo and the like — Mohammedans, independ- 
ent and enterprising, traders by instinct. These three 
groups present three quite different problems to the gov- 
ernment of the Liberian Republic. Far out-numbering 
the Americo-Liberians, better adapted to their surround- 
ings, they must be utilized and assimilated or they will 
destroy. Properly utilized they will become the strength 
and bulwark of the nation. The group which presses 
and must most immediately play a significant part in 
Liberian affairs is that which includes the Vai. There 
are writers who demand that Liberia produce an actual 
African state. Delafosse, who as French consul lived 
in Monrovia and well knows the native populations criti- 
cizes the Liberians for too closely copying us. He be- 
lieves they should have developed the native culture, have 
founded a Negro nation, different from European types. 
His demand is unreasonable, impossible of realization. 
The story of Liberia's origin demonstrates the impossi- 
bility. Liberia had to repeat us, even in our errors, 
because she came from us, is of us. Had she tried to 
do what Delafosse suggests, she would long since have 
been suppressed by hostile and jealous European pow- 
ers. They would not permit such a nation to con- 
tinue for a year upon the W^est Coast of Africa. Li- 
beria must play the game as other nations, white 
nations, play it — or get off the board. Yet the Repub- 
lic would be better off and stronger if she learns some 
lessons of the natives, if she took some hints from them, 
if she absorbed and cultivated some things they have de- 
veloped. Among all her natives, there are none superior 
to the Vai. If Liberia cultivates close and intimate re- 



14 INTRODUCTION 

lations with them she must perforce be tinctured by them. 
Their social Hfe and cuhure will affect her. There 
should be vitality and helpfulness in the contact. 

In closing may I not say two words about our author? 
Mr. Ellis was eight years in Liberia as Secretary of the 
American Legation at Monrovia. He was a faithful and 
competent official, giving good service. He has been 
useful to Liberia since his return and his thoughtful and 
valuable articles regarding Liberian conditions and af- 
fairs have done much to keep American interest alive 
regarding the only republic in Africa. During the period 
of his service in Africa, Mr. Ellis found time and occa- 
sion to pursue the studies, the results of which are here 
presented. Consuls and diplomatic officers have excep- 
tional opportunities to enrich our knowledge of other 
lands and peoples. Many such officials — British, 
French, German, Russian — have made important con- 
tributions of that sort. American officials who have 
done so are surprisingly few. Mr. Ellis sets an example 
that is worthy of wide imitation. 

Mr. Ellis is the third colored man to make conspicu- 
ous contribution to the knowledge of conditions and 
peoples in the Liberian region. The name of Edward 
W. Blyden is known everywhere; his views upon social, 
political, religious and race matters of West Africa com- 
mand respect ; his " Christianity, Islam and the Negro 
Race" startled and instructed. Alexander Crummell 
did a great work as man and educator in two continents ; 
his " Future of Africa " and " Africa and America " will 
long be read with profit and delight. Neither of them 
have gone into quite the field which Mr. Ellis enters. 
But his " Negro Culture in West Africa " deserves a 



Introduction 15 

place upon our shelves alongside of the well known books 
of those famous men. As a scientific investigation, as 
a contribution to social problems, as a basis for political 
action, it has a definite mission. 

Frederick Starr. 
Chicago, June 20, 1914. 



PREFACE 

The view entertained of the Negro African abroad is 
largely conditioned upon the knowledge possessed of 
the Negro in Africa. In this thought then the present 
study may have some bearing upon the interracial under- 
standing between what is considered the two most di- 
vergent and dissimilar ethnic groups. 

The writer of the present volume went to West Af- 
rica to study the Negro African and his social conditions 
with Minister J. R. A. Crossland, who was appointed 
American Minister Resident and Consul General to the 
Republic of Liberia, in December, 1901, and continued 
his studies for nine years until about May, 1910, when he 
finally returned to the United States. 

During the administration of Minister Ernest Lyon, 
which began in July, 1903, the American Legation at 
Monrovia, Liberia, took more interest in native affairs, 
perhaps, than had ever been taken before. Besides my 
special studies numerous official trips were taken into the 
far interior under instructions from Washington to re- 
port upon the various tribes and the facts surrounding 
the interior Anglo and Franco-Liberian boundaries, from 
the Mano River on the northwest to the Kavalla on the 
southeast; so, that on numerous occasions private studies 
coincided with official duties. 

After going over much of the literature of West Af- 
rica and making some studies of the De, Gola, Kpwesi, 
Basa, Grebo, Kru, Mende, Kondo, Gbandi, Mandingo, 

17 



i8 PREFACE 

Vai and other West African tribes, the conclusion was 
reached that the field was so large and the work so dif- 
ficult, that in order to think of accomplishing anything 
worth while, it was necessary to select some particular 
group as a key to the African social situation, and to 
examine it as exhaustively as possible. 

The Vais were chosen because they belong to the 
Mande family, one of the most important and represen- 
tative of the many ethnic divisions of the African Black 
Belt, ntunbering among its members the Landogho, 
Kondo, Gbandi, Mende, Soso, Bambara, Mandingo and 
Vai-speaking peoples. In addition to what obtained in 
the character and culture of other tribes, the Vais had a 
written national orthography, invented independently by 
themselves, and besides Arabic used by their upper and 
lettered classes. 

The writer employed Vai scholars to instruct him in 
the Vai language and at times not occupied with his 
official duties as Secretary of the Legation, or Charge 
d' Affaires ad interim, he visited the Vai people, trav- 
elling across their country, during the different expres- 
sions of their social activities; cultivated the most inti- 
mate acquaintance in frequent conferences with Vai sa- 
vants and elders ; secured specimens of their arts, repre- 
sentative of the various phases of their social life, and 
deposited them in the National Museum at Washington, 
D. C. ; collected proverbs and folklore stories, and dur- 
ing nine years, embodied the results of his studies and 
the interpretations of Vai data in a manuscript under the 
title of " Negro Culture in West Africa." 

Having taken courses in economics and sociology 
and philosophy and psychology the writer began this 
study chiefly to extend his information along sociological 



PREFACE 19 

lines; but the work soon became so engrossing that he 
was carried beyond his original intentions. Much of 
the information which he had obtained concerning the 
Negro in Africa found in encyclopedias, geographies, 
and works on ethnology and anthropology, was disclosed 
to be unsupported by the facts as well as the general 
picture of the intellectual and social condition of the 
Negro in Africa, which has been so deeply impressed upon 
the outside world. 

His studies in West Africa revealed a Negro sub- 
stantially different to what for the most part is described 
in modem science and literature. Science had hitherto 
in the main been compelled to rely upon the reports and 
data supplied by transient travellers and resident visitors 
who little understood African mentality, institutions and 
society. But with the partition of Africa by European 
powers there came into existence an increasing body of 
European administrators and capable resident students 
who began to describe to the world the Negro African, 
something more like what he really is. 

And as eminent and necessary as are the important 
services rendered to science and the Negro by such dis- 
tinguished Caucasian writers as Sir Harry H. John- 
ston, K.C.M.G., K.C.B., Sir A. B. ElHs, Mary H. 
Kingsley, Lady Lugard, Dr. J. Scott Keltic, Count de 
Cardi, E. D. Morel, Dr. Robert H. Nassau and M. Felix 
DuBois, to the present writer it seems more necessary 
and imperative, that the Negro should explain his own 
culture and interpret his own thought and soul life, if 
the complete truth is to be given to the other races of the 
earthy 

Blyden, Hayford and Sarbah have blazed the way 
in West Africa; in Europe Tanner, Pushkin and Cole- 



20 PREFACE 

ridge-Taylor have taken their rank among the celebrities 
in painting, poetry and music ; while in America DuBois, 
Dunbar, Ferris, Miller and Washington have indicated 
in literature and education the services which the Negro 
everywhere must render to himself and the Caucasian, 
if he is to contribute his proper portion toward the ulti- 
mate concord and cooperation of the races in the great 
upward trend of social progress. Should there be any 
justification, therefore, for the publication of the fol- 
lowing manuscript, it is thought to be rather in the prin- 
ciple for which it stands than in the pride and glory of 
achievement. 

The writer wishes to acknowledge his grateful thanks 
and appreciation to the members of the Kansas Con- 
gressional Delegation, and especially to the Honorables 
Charles F. Scott, Charles Curtis, Chester I. Long, and 
J. D. Bowersock, for their continuous encouragement 
and support while on the field. 

For the high consideration and favor of Prof. Fred- 
erick Starr in writing the introduction, he is particularly 
gratified and grateful, not only because Prof. Starr is 
eminent as a scholar and anthropologist, but because of 
his travels in West Africa and his special knowledge of 
interior and tribal conditions in Liberian and Sierra 
Leone hinterlands. 

He wishes finally to acknowledge his indebtedness to 
the numerous Vai and West African Negro scholars and 
thinkers, who contributed toward the work of the present 
volume, and above them all to his noted teacher and 
friend, Mormoru Duclay. 

George W. Ellis, 
3262 Vernon Avenue, 

Chicago, Illinois. 

June 18, 1914. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN 
WEST AFRICA 

CHAPTER I 
THE RELATION OF THE VAI TO THE NEGRO 

THE Vai is one of the most interesting tribes in all 
Africa. It would be interesting if for no other 
reason than that, of the millions of Negroes of innumer- 
able tribes, it has the distinction of being the only one 
that has a national orthography. Ethnologically the Vais 
belong to the Mande Branch of the Negro race ; ^ they 
are very closely related to the Soso, Bambara, and Man- 
dingo peoples, and, like them, speak a branch of the 
Mande <^ongue.^ This family of the Negro race occupies 
the western part of High Sudan, between the 8th and i6th 
degrees of northern latitude and extending as far east as 
Timbuctu. Between Senegambia and Cape Palmas a nar- 
row strip of lowland separates High Sudan from the At- 
lantic. The Mande family extends into this lowland only 
at two points, — one in the Mande territory, the other in 
the country of the Vais. The tribes of this lowland speak 
varied languages, entirely different from the Mande, 

1 " Outlines of a Grammar of the Vai Language," by S. W. 
Koelle, p. II, London, 1854; "The Races of Man and Their Geo- 
graphical Distribution,'' by Oscar Peschel, p. 466, London, 1876. 

2 Mande and Mandingo, from same root manatus, meaning that 
the people worship this creature, a fish-god of the Songhays. Bin- 
ger. E. D. Morel's "Affairs of West Africa," p. 211. 

21 



22 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

among which might be mentioned the Basa, Kpwesi,^ 
Kirim, Nalu, Fiilup, Timne, Baga, Balanta, Bulom, and 
others. 

THE VAI COUNTRY A PORTION OF THE GREAT NEGROLAND 

The Vai country is a portion of the great Negroland, 
which is inhabited by an estimated population of more 
than thirty million Negroes. This Negroland was known 
among ancient geographers by different names, — some- 
times as Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigretia, and Tekrour, but 
more generally as Genewah, from which we have de- 
rived the word Guinea. The Land of the Blacks, now 
generally known as the Sudan, is a broad strip of terri- 
tory, between the 7th and 17th parallels north latitude, 
extending across the African continent from the Atlantic 
to the southern mouth of the Red Sea, and marked by 
a water belt of rivers and lakes from the Senegal to the 
sources of the Nile. Along the northern limits of the 
Sudan is the great desert of Sahara, beyond which lies 
the fertile strip along the Mediterranean, occupied by the 
Berber states. Connecting this fertile land of the north 
and the Negro belt is the valley of the Nile, which sug- 
gests the possible influences long exercised upon the Negro 
peoples. 

OUTSIDE INFLUENCES UPON NEGROLAND 

The Land of the Blacks was influenced by two great 
forces, one from Egypt and the other from the Arabs 
who conquered Spain, — which met each other in what 

3 Generally spelled Pessy. This spelling is according to the sys- 
tem accepted in London for the spelling of African names. See 
article on "Liberia" in the Geographical Journal for August, 1905, 
by Sir Harry Johnston, K.C.M.G., KC.B. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 23 

is now known as Nigeria. In this vicinity the practice 
of embalming the dead was practised until early in modern 
times. The eastern end of Negroland has the alphabet of 
Egypt and Arabia, while the western has that of Morocco. 
The decorative art of the Hausa States bears a strong 
resemblance to that of Egypt ; the town of Burrum had a 
tradition, at the time it was visited by Dr. Earth, that it 
had once been the habitation of the Pharaohs, and an 
Arab writer, by the name of Es Sardi, in his history of the 
Sudan, states that Kuka was at one time under the 
Pharaohs. 

We know that the Phoenicians settled in North Africa, 
and keeping in close touch with Egypt, carried their con- 
quest as far south as the Senegal, where they set up a 
kingdom over which Es Sardi states that twenty-two 
white kings reigned before the Hegira. Several nations, 
— among which were the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and 
Arabs, — in turn conquered Egypt and pressed upon the 
occupants of the northern states. The result of all this 
pressure upon the white people of that fertile strip that 
fringed northern Africa was that many of these people 
were driven into the desert, and later pressed upon the 
Negro peoples of Sudan. These outside influences had 
two main roads across the desert, — one through Tripoli, 
and one through Morocco. And through them poured 
all those Egyptian and Arabic forces that gave rise to these 
powerful Negro kingdoms in the Sudan, known as the 
Ghana, Melle, Songhay, Hausa, and Bornu kingdoms. 
Being rich in amber, gums, skins, cotton, gold, and other 
raw materials, for 800 years they flourished in turn, and 
with Europe and Asia carried on extensive trade across 
the desert waste. They were very powerful, and some 
of them had a standing army of upward of 200,000 



24 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

soldiers, with 40,000 picked archers. To Ghana were 
tributary twenty Negro kingdoms and the white Berber 
state of Audaghost. Some of the kings, — possessing 
two capitals, and living in fortified castles that had glass 
windows and were decorated with sculptures and paint- 
ings, — had pageantries of the most stately magnificence. 
Indeed, when England, Germany, and France were just 
emerging from barbarism in intellectual, scientific, indus- 
trial, and political development, some of these dynasties 
had attained a comparatively high degree of civiliza- 
tion; and geographers and historians mention Ghana, 
Timbuctu, and other interior towns as the re- 
sorts for the rich, the learned, and the pious of all 
countries.* 

Just as the white Africans of the fertile strip of the 
north pressed upon and influenced the Negroes all along 
the belt of Negroland, so the Negroes thus influenced 
pressed upon the Negroes toward the coast and south, and 
gave to many of them a great deal that they themselves 
had received through Arabic and Egyptian channels. As 
could only be expected, the finer Negro tribes are those 
that inhabit the northern portions of the great Sudan, 
and even to this day their teachers and scholars are in- 
fluencing the pagan tribes nearer the coast. The Vai 
tribe is one of the few tribes that has pressed to the coast, 
M^ith the evidences that it has been very much influenced 

* Chief authorities for Introduction: Es Sardi, "History of 
Sudan"; Second Book of Herodotus; M. Dubois, "Timbuctu, the 
Mysterious"; "Historical Account of the Kingdom of Tek-rour, 
Denham, and Clapperton '' ; Dr. Earth's "Travels in Central Af- 
rica"; Lady Lugard's "West African Negroland" and "Journal 
of the Royal Colonial Institute"; "West African Studies," by M. 
H. Kingsley; "Affairs of West Africa," by E. D. Morel. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 25 

by the finer Negroes of the interior, especially in the mat- 
ter of religious faith.^ 

THE ORIGIN OF THE VMS 

Whence came the Vais is a question to which I have 
received no conclusive answer. It is hardly probable that 
they have always remained on the coast where they are 
now, — in a country that extends from the coast several 
days' walk into the interior, and from about fifteen or 
twenty miles north of Monrovia, near Little Cape Mount, 
stretching northward to and including the Gallinas. It 
was in the latter section that the Rev. Koelle was in- 
formed in 185 1 that about twenty years before that time 
the Spanish slave-traders had instigated the chiefs of the 
Vais to increase their territory to the limits then existing.' 

In the interesting little book entitled " From the Dark- 
ness of Africa to the Light of America," published about 
1890, Mr. Thomas E. Beselow, a Vai prince, — then a 
student at the Wesleyan Academy, Wilbraham, Massachu- 
setts, and now living at Grand Cape Mount, Liberia, — 
gives the following account of the origin of the Vais: 
" More_tharL_two centuries ago a nomad tribe, number- 
ing hundreds of men and women, left Abyssinia and for 
many years wandered toward the country west of the 
central part of Africa, like the Helvetians in the time of 
Csesar. At last they arrived at a pleasant territory a 
little northeast of what is now the Republic of Liberia, 
and being pleased with the lay of the land concluded to 

^ Chief authorities for Introduction continued : " Christianity, 
Islam, and the Negro Race," by Dr. E. W. Blyden; "Intellectual 
Development of Europe," by J. W. Draper; Works of A. B. Ellis, 
3 volumes : " Yoruba, Ewe, and Tshi Speaking Peoples." 

8 Vai Grammar, by the Rev. S. W. Koelle, Preface, p. iii, before 
mentioned. 



26 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

make it their home and cease their wandering. This 
country was already occupied by a powerful tribe called 
the Gora." ' 

Mr. Beselow informs his reader that his mother told 
him this origin of the Vais, and he makes no attempt to 
prove that they came from Abyssinia only about two 
hundred years before. Later he gives as a reason ior 
their long journey westward that he had heard it said 
" that it was to escape the iron rule of a tyrannical ruler." 
But it is hardly probable that a tribe so small as the Vai 
made such a long journey through powerful states without 
being reduced to bondage, and it would have been very 
difficult for the Vais to reach their present abode without 
passing through the great Bornu and Hausa kingdoms. 
Moreover, there is nothing pointed out in the language, 
institutions, and ethnography of the Vais and Abyssinians 
even to suggest an assumption of a common origin ; and 
in view of the ethnological relation of the Vais to the 
Mandingoes, Bambaras, and other tribes, — to none of 
which any reference has been made, at least for the 
present, — the theory of the Abyssinian origin of the Vais 
must be regarded as highly improbable. 

The Rev. Koelle, who visited the Vai country about 
185 1 and wrote a Vai grammar, gives as his opinion that 
the Vais came from the interior.* This belief he based on 
the fact that on the north and south of the Vais lived 
people who spoke entirely different languages from theirs ; 
the Kirim was spoken on the north, and the relics of the 
Dewoi on the south, and other tribes have pushed to the 
coast to secure the commercial advantages thereof. 

^"Froni the Darkness of Africa to the Light of America," by 
T. E. Beselow, p. 22. Gora is usually spelled Gola or Golah. 
« " Vai Grammar," by the Rev. S. W. Koelle, Preface, p. iii. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 27 

Moreover, he found a tradition among the Vai people 
themselves " that they emigrated from a district of the 
Mande country." He thought that the emigration had 
taken place about two hundred years before 1851, on ac- 
count of the changes in the language, but not later than 
a hundred years, allowing for language differences that 
might have existed before the emigration. He thought 
also that the Mandes, — who, tradition says, were under 
the command of Fabule and Kiatamba,® — not only 
took the country but adopted the name of the conquered 
people.^" 

From what I learned in a trip across a portion of the 
Vai country, I think the opinion expressed by the Rev. 
Koelle is highly probable. At Grand Cape Mount there 
is a lake called Peso ^^ extending twenty-five or thirty 
miles into the interior, and I went to the end of it, stopping 
at the important towns, among which was Datia, — men- 
tioned by the Rev. Koelle, — and after a few days' journey 
into the interior I walked about a hundred miles across 
the Vai country to Monrovia. I was informed by numer- 
ous chiefs that the Vais came from the Mandingo country 
under the leadership not only of Fabule and Kiatamba, 
but of Cassu and Manoba, his son. A story was told to 

° The spear which Kiatamba brought with him is said to be now 
at Bomie, a town in the Vai country. I was at this town when 
the king died. 

1° There is a Mandingo word, andavai, meaning spht from, and 
it is very likely that the word Vai is derived from it. I was in- 
formed Ijy a Vai scholar that when the people now called Vais 
separated from the Mandingoes the remaining Mandingoes called 
those who left Vais, as an appropriate name on account of their 
action in separating from the main branch of the tribe. It is said 
that the separation was caused by the dissatisfaction of rival broth- 
ers contending for the Mandingan throne. 

11 From Mandingo Peling-So, meaning dove-pond, a small basin 
of water in which the doves washed. It is now a large lake. 



28 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

me to the effect that a Mandingo king of Musardu had a 
son who broke a law which, according to custom, for- 
feited his life, and that his father, who dearly loved him, 
to save his life escaped with him and a number of his 
followers, who made their way to the Tegya country and 
founded the Vai tribe. From this tradition it seems that 
Vai was not the name of the country subdued as was sug- 
gested by the Rev. Koelle ; yet in essential points the tradi- 
tions mentioned by him and the one told to me agree, 
except that the latter is somewhat more explicit. 
Whether it be true or not, it has the merit of being both 
possible and probable. 




VAI MACHINE FOR WEAVING CLOTH 



Facing Page 28 



CHAPTER II 
SOME PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF THE VAIS 

PERSONAL FEATURES, SIZE, COLOR, EYES, AND HAIR 

THE Vais are generally known to possess fairly 
good personal features, some of the men being 
handsome, splendid in physique, and intelligent in bear- 
ing. They have neither the strength and physical en- 
durance of the Kpwesi nor the stalwart frames of the 
Krus, yet they are not pigmies, but medium in size. The 
women are attractively developed and possess charms 
above all their sisters of the Gora, Kpwesi, Bandi, Basa, 
Bere,^ Kru, and other Liberian tribes. And some of 
them are very beautiful. At Datia I saw a young Vai 
maid of seventeen, who was so pleasing in her personal 
appearance that because of her beauty she was without 
doubt the belle of that town. She had just come from the 
" Greegree Bush," and was said to be betrothed to the 
son of the chief. There were many other good-looking 
Vai girls and women, which goes to show that personal 
beauty is a thing monopolized by no particular people. 

In color the Vais range from dark olive to coal black. 
The skin of the better classes of the Vais is smooth and 
velvety, while that of the lower classes is somewhat 
coarse and rough. On some of them I examined the skin 
that had been exposed to the sun and that that had not 
been so exposed. The parts affected by the sun seemed 

^ Sometimes spelled Bele. 

29 



30 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

darker and less oily than unexposed portions, and under 
the clothes of some of them I noticed little spots that were 
lighter in color. The body of the lower classes is almost 
entirely unclad, so only on a portion of the thigh and un- 
der the arm could I find places not habitually exposed to 
the sun, and the skin under the clothes is soft and oily in 
appearance and much lighter than in other places. Per- 
sons black in the face were brown in unexposed portions 
of the body or arm. The feet, being exposed to the 
weather, are often positively sooty and rough; yet the 
small, neat, smooth feet of many Vais naturally attracted 
attention and excited comment in the Vai country, and 
they may be seen any time in the Vai towns in the outer 
limits of Monrovia. 

The eyes of the Vais, so far as I have been able to ob- 
serve, range from black-brown in the color of the iris to 
dark hazel and what is called the neutral eye, the exact 
color of which cannot be distinguished at once. The posi- 
tion of the eyes in the head is similar to that of Euro- 
peans, the long axis being substantially in one horizontal 
plane. The eye is medium in size and usually has a frank 
and pleasant appearance. Now and then among the Vais 
one may see a Mongolian eye, with its compressed and 
outer angles, but this is very rare. 

The hair of the Vais differs very much in its quality, 
from the woolly to the undulating and wavy. It is usually 
black in color, and the better quality is more generally 
observed among the women, some of whom have hair in 
abundance and of great beauty. The hair of infants is 
of a brownish color, sometimes very light, and grows 
darker as the child advances in years. As a general thing 
the Vais have the hair uniformly distributed over the head, 
though the quantity possessed is usually moderate. The 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 31 

young men keep their hair cut very close, and the women 
have theirs long enough to be arranged according to their 
custom, — which does not require it to be very long. The 
Vai men have some beard, but not a great deal; and 
many of them have hair on their breasts, while both sexes 
have it in the armpits and on the pubes. Baldness is not 
commonly observed among the Vais, though now and then 
one will see very old men who are bald. The Vais and 
the Mandingoes shave the heads of the boys and young 
men, and if this has been practised for any length of 
time, it may be that this custom has had a tendency to 
strengthen the hair. 

The faces of the Vais are generally medium in size; 
some of them are short and broad while others are long 
and narrow, and now and then you will find one narrow- 
ing upward or toward the chin. The Vais have the 
Negroid nose, but the openings are not so large nor the 
nose so flat as in the case of the typical Negro. Among 
them, of course, may be found great varieties of noses, 
ranging between the Negroid and the straight; some of 
them are as represented in the Negro type, but this is 
not the rule. The lips, like the nose of the Vais, are not 
as shown in the Negro type, but are medium in size, with 
a slight turn to the upper and lower lips.^ And notwith- 
standing their custom of going barefooted, their feet are 
usually fairly well shaped, and sometimes even noticeably 
small and well shaped. 

THE ACCEPTED NEGRO TYPE 

" The typical Negro is a rare variety even among 

Negroes," 

2 " The thin lips of the European and their American descendants 
are a character that brings them nearer the monkeys." — Oscar Pes- 
cheL 



32 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

says Winwood Reade.* I have found this strikingly 
true among the Vais. In fact I have been able to 
see so little of the Negro type even among other tribes 
of West Africa that I have wondered how any ethnologist 
with a modicum of information of any African tribe could 
ever have given to the world such a cruel misrepresenta- 
tion as is embodied in the Negro type. Mr. Peschel calls 
them mistaken ethnologists, and gives their opinion of the 
Negro in these words : 

" The Negro was the ideal of everything barbarous and 
beastlike. They endeavored to deny him any capability 
of improvement, and even disputed his position as a man. 
The Negro was said to have an oval skull, a flat forehead, 
snoutlike jaws, swollen lips, a broad flat nose, short 
crimped hair, falsely called wool, long arms, meager 
thighs, and flat feet. No single tribe, however, possesses 
all these deformities." * 

At the time this Negro type, so graphically described by 
Mr. Peschel, was sent forth, with this seal of science and 
impressed upon the world, great nations were robbing 
Africa of her sons and dooming them to pitiless lives of 
unrequited toil. The consciences of kings and nations 
alike were lulled to sleep by the love and hope of gain. 
But human slavery was so cruel in itself, so repugnant to 
the natural rights of man, that its continuance in time 
necessitated the sanction and authority of science. As 

° " Savage Africa,'' by Winwood Reade, p. 516. 

* " Races of Mankind," by Oscar Peschel, p. 463. Dr. Anson P. 
Atterbury in his " Muhammudanism in Africa," although ' he is 
just and liberal in many respects, gives a similar picture of the 
Negro type, — a picture that can be found only in the imagination 
of those unacquainted vifith the Africans, p. 49. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 33 

slavery grew and was extended, its evils grew and were 
multiplied. There was consequently then an ever increas- 
ing demand for ethnologists to create a Negro type that 
was false, barbarous, and beast-like, — one that repre- 
sented the Negro as incapable of all improvement, and 
which would strengthen the sentiment that sought to bar 
the Negro from the human race. It is not necessary 
to say that the type bom of this slave sentiment fully met 
the demand, for it contained about all the deformities 
possible to a human being and has done incalculable harm 
to the Negro race. 

This false Negro type was set forth in encyclopaedias, 
represented in geographies, and described in works of 
ethnology and other books with ethnic features. It would 
be as unjust to say that there were no Negroes corre- 
sponding to this type as it would be to contend that such 
creatures are typical of the race; for there are some 
Negroes in every tribe whom this type hardly misrepre- 
sents. Every lover of the truth desires, — and it is due to 
the Negro race, — that his features, character, and in- 
stitutions be truthfully represented. Until it has been 
proved that the majority of the Negro peoples conform 
to the present accepted Negro type, in the interest of truth 
and ethnological science, the false Negro type should be 
changed to conform to the simple facts.^ The tribes of 
Africa are being studied now as they have never been 
studied before. Since Miss Mary Kingsley ceased her 
valuable contributions to the studies of African peoples 
many valuable books have been published concerning the 
life and institutions of African tribes, among which I 
might mention the works of Sir A. B. Ellis, E. D. Morel, 

^"Redemption of Africa," by F. P. Noble, p. i66; "Races of 
Man," by Oscar Peschel, p. 464. 



34 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

Sir Harry Johnston, Casely Hayford,^ John M. Sarbah, a 
native African, and the many writings of Dr. Edward W. 
Blyden, the eminent writer and sage of West Africa. 
The African is gradually being represented to the world 
as he really is. Mr. Benjamin Kid, a noted writer and 
author, says that the economic center of the world is 
slowly shifting toward the tropics.'^ If this be true, in- 
terest in Africa and Africans will increase with the years, 
and it is only a question of time when, to harmonize with 
the truth, the accepted Negro type must be changed. 

INFLUENCES OF CLIMATE IN WEST AFRICA 

West Africa has the reputation of having one of the 
worst, if not the worst, climate in the world. Since it 
acquired this i-eputation, however, many forces have been 
introduced for the improvement of West Africa, so that 
while the climate is still bad enough it is hardly as bad as 
it is reputed to be. You will find in the encyclopaedias 
that West Africa is still referred to as " the white man's 
grave." There is no doubt that the climate of West 
Africa is very severe. It is no respecter of persons, and 
the African sufifers as well as people from the temperate 
zone; but having been accustomed to centuries of expo- 
sure the African suffers less than do the members of 
other races. The natural effect of the climate in West 
Africa is to enfeeble both the body and the intellect. 
Young men often come to West Africa strong and stal- 
wart, but if they do not die they soon find their health 
seriously impaired by the malaria which lurks in the 

<■ Also a native African. 

7 The Independent, September 8, 1904, an article by Benjamin Kid. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 35 

wooded lowlands along the coast. A residence in West 
Africa necessitates taking medicine almost constantly, and 
then the man that takes it seems to fare little better than 
the rest. As you go interiorward the climate becomes 
more healthful. 

Europeans have been unable, as yet, to colonize to any 
great extent in West Africa. And the death rate is still 
high among those who go there for commercial or politi- 
cal considerations, though they seldom remain longer than 
a year, with a leave of six months on the continent. 
Among the natives many diseases may be found that are 
apparently peculiar to them and the climate. And just as 
the climate of West Africa, so inimical to man, enfeebles 
the body, it preys upon the mind.^ Its effect upon the 
memory is so noticeably bad that you often hear persons 
apologizing for having acquired a " West African mem- 
ory." 

The effect upon the will is quite as well known as that 
upon the memory. Persons coming from abroad find 
Africa very slow; they have determined to do many 
things; they criticise everjrthing and everybody, and ask 
why Africans do not move about briskly. After having 
been in Africa for years they find that their plans do not 
materialize. In a little while they cease to criticise, and 
later they take on the African movement. There is some- 
thing in the climate that makes any kind of work ex- 
tremely irksome. In West Africa the body loses its 
strength, the memory its retentiveness, and the will its 
energy. These are the effects observed upon persons re- 
maining in West Africa only for a short time, and they 
form a part of the experience of almost every person who 

8 "The Tshi Speaking Peoples," by Sir A. B. Ellis, p. 4. 



36 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

has lived on the West Coast. White persons, — with 
beautiful skin, clear and soft, and with rosy cheeks, — 
after they have been in West Africa for a while become 
dark and tawny like the inhabitants of southern Spain and 
Italy.® If we can detect these effects of the West African 
climate in only a short time upon persons who come to the 
West Coast, what must have been the effect of such a cli- 
mate upon the Negroes who for centuries have been ex- 
posed to its hardships? 

DECORATION AND DRESS 

In his admirable essay on education Mr. Herbert Spen- 
cer remarks that " Decoration always precedes dress." 
This truth is strikingly illustrated among the backward 
peoples. Yet there is not a great deal of decoration used 
by the tribes in Liberia. The members of the Kru tribes 
have tattooing on their faces, consisting of a blue mark in 
the center of the forehead running toward the nose, a blue 
triangle in each temple, and other marks on the arms. 
But the tendency thus to disfigure themselves is dying out. 
There is no decline in the use of clay, however, and it may 
be frequently seen in varied colors in Monrovia. 

Among the Vais I noticed on the body of the boys who 
had been in the Devil Bush two stripes, or rows, tattooed 
down the back and around the waist to the side. These 
rows were not colored, but were the simple scars which 
had been made by cutting. Girls from the Greegree Bush 
had across the small of the back a rectangle, artistically cut 
without coloring, and in size about three inches by eight. 

' Negroes from America and the West Indies fare but little if 
any better than the Europeans. Miss Kingsley says "that the de- 
scendants of the exported Africans have seemingly lost their 
power of resistance to the malarial West Coast climate." "West 
African Studies," by M. H. Kingsley, p. 53. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 37 

Other than the foregoing on the persons of the Vais I 
have seen no permanent marks. 

Decoration in the way of ornaments depends largely 
upon the wealth and standing of the wearer. The better 
class of men wear rings of silver or gold, silver and gold 
armlets and anklets, small deer horns ornamented with 
silver or gold, and various amulets of a religious import 
with gold or silver bands. Men of less means wear the 
same ornaments, but of less costly material. I have no- 
ticed some with iron and copper and brass anklets. 

Boys generally go unclad until they are ten or eleven 
years old, when according to station they wear a simple 
cloth tied about the loins or a short gown. The boys from 
the Devil Bush and the girls from the Greegree Bush, in 
honor of their coming out, wear various kinds of jewelry, 
beads, rings, horns, and silver breastplates. As a sign of 
virginity the girls wear beads about the hips and a very 
small horn suspended from the neck, containing medicine 
which it is said will kill any person who violates the per- 
son of the wearer. There are other signs, too; but of 
whatever nature they may be they are worn until mar- 
riage. White clay is used by the girls in the Greegree 
Bush, and those who are betrothed use brown clay, which 
is made from the fat of animals mixed with perfume and 
olives. There is another kind of clay that is usually 
worn by women at night, and which is highly scented with 
the bark of a tree. I ascertained that clay is used among 
the Vais for three purposes, — for decoration, for pro- 
tection to the skin, and as a medicine. Women during 
pregnancy use it as a medicine, and I saw many of them 
with this clay spread thickly over the entire person. 
When used for decorative purposes alone, different kinds 
are put on in artistic combinations, 



38 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

The ornaments of the king consist of his breastplate, 
rings, anklets, horns, and various armlets, all especially 
made for him. The king's ornaments are made of the 
best and most costly material to be had, and no one may 
wear any like his. 

In the matter of dress the Vais and Mandingoes wear 
much more than do most of the tribes in Liberia. The 
boys and girls wear little or nothing tmtil they are ten 
years old. Afterward the girls wear an apron made of 
beads, and the boys a breechcloth or gown. When the 
boys and girls come out of the Devil and Greegree Bushes 
they dress especially for the occasion. They have a full 
supply of clothes, with shoes and hats, besides beads, 
horns, leopard teeth, and various kinds of jewelry. The 
boys wear a silver breastplate, and the slaves are per- 
mitted to wear only one shoe. The men of the ordinary 
class among the Vais wear a cloth folded about over the 
breechcloth, while the gentlemen wear gowns or shirts and 
pants that are very loose and cut very much like those of 
the Qiinaman. The quality of the goods varies with the 
taste and wealth of the wearers. The common woman 
wears two or more cloths folded about the waist, gener- 
ally of country cloth or foreign-made goods, according 
to native fashion or taste. The more wealthy woman 
wears better and more cloth, and in addition a large silk 
handkerchief around the head and about the shoulders. 
Men of the best standing carry a whip on their shoulders 
as evidence thereof ; and younger men have a custom of 
carrying as a part of their dress a silk handkerchief over 
their shoulders. 

The Vai priests have a special dress which distinguishes 
them from the other people. They wear the best of 
clothes, according to Vai custom, — hat, shoes, and a long 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 39 

white gown, with a long string of beads around the neck. 
There is a special dress for war. The common soldier 
wears a shirt and short pants, a leopard-skin cap, and is 
armed with gun or war-knife, and a few have axes. Each 
one has a small bag containing medicine from the doctor 
who presages good by cutting sand on a leopard hide. 
The dress of the chiefs is made almost entirely of leopard 
skins. The cap, shirt, and pants have sewed on them 
little bags of medicine covered with red flannel. On the 
sides of the cap, and on the sides and back of the leopard- 
skin garments, are rows of sea-shells. A strip of ram fur 
is sewed down the center and hangs down the back of the 
general's cap. Each chief wears a breastplate of silver, 
containing medicine from the doctor, ranging in value 
from $25 to $100. 

The shoes of the king are made of the best leather, and 
his hats of the best cloth and grass. He has the finest 
gowns, pants, and country cloths made especially for him. 
In addition he has garments made of the skins of various 
animals like the leopard, with the best native trimmings. 
The king's most attractive dress consists of his coronation 
robes of scarlet cloth, and those which he selects to wear 
on ceremonial occasions when he is attended by all his 
important chiefs and warriors. The king has the most 
costly breastplate, beautifully carved, with a compartment 
in the center for the god of defense and his country medi- 
cine. He has a full supply of all the weapons of war, 
carved and ornamented with the rarest native decorations 
and designs. 



CHAPTER III 
ECONOMIC LIFE OF THE VMS 

IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE AND CULTIVATED PRODUCTS 

AGRICULTURE is the main dependence of the Vais, 
— in fact, of most of the tribes in Liberia. The 
products cuUivated are cotton, .rice, cassava,' Kaffir seed, 
corn, eddoes, pumpkins, pattoes, okra, potatoes, oats, 
bananas, oranges, plantains, lemons, limes, pawpaws, 
ground peas, ginger, and coffee. The head of the family 
has a farm, or farms. Every free young man must have 
a rice farm. The farming is very simple. The Vais 
possess servants consisting of captives taken in war and 
boys and girls secured from neighboring tribes for fifteen 
or twenty dollars in trade goods. The Vai men of high 
standing or wealth have their male servants to cut their 
farms in February and March during the drys ; and when 
the underbrush and timber are cut and burned the farm is 
turned over to the female servants to plant in April. The 
crops become ripe at different times during the year, but 
the general harvest time is in June and July. Some of 
the products are raised more than once during the year 
and gathered in early drys. Those who are not able to 
have servants of course do their own work. The same 
farmland is only used once in six or seven years. The 
Vais, on account of the prolificness of the soil, do little 
more than barely scratch the ground. 

1 Also spelled cassada. In Liberia it is spelled cassada and is so 
pronounced. Cassava is more widely known. 

40 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 41 

The land is supposed to belong to the whole tribe. The 
king and his council allot so much to each chief for the 
support of the towns and half-towns. The farms are 
generally near the half-towns. Individuals secure their 
farms from the chief of their section. As long as a man 
is cultivating a piece of land it belongs to him; but when 
he ceases to cultivate the soil it may be granted to some 
one else. Axes and cutlasses are employed in preparing 
the forest for burning, some of which implements are 
bought by the Vais near Liberian settlements, and others 
are made by their own workmen farther in the interior. 
The rice is scratched into the ground with a small hoe, 
African in design and make. After the clearing and 
burning of the farm the planting, working, and gathering 
of the crop are left to the female servants and the poorer 
classes of the Vai women. 

THE CONSUMPTION OF NATURAL PRODUCTS 

Aside from agricultural products the Vais have many 
native food materials, some of which are staple articles. 
I might mention such products as palm nuts, cola nuts, 
palm cabbage, wild yams, pineapples, walnuts, sherry, 
troes, palm wine, rusty and sour plums, monkey apples, 
spider groundnuts, and strawberries. The palm-tree is 
one of the most important trees in Africa. It is among 
the main supports of the native African. From this tree 
he gets palm wine, which is drunk a great deal by farm 
hands when working the farms. This wine when fresh is 
very pleasant and sweet, but when old is very intoxicating. 
It is usually procured in the morning. There are two 
methods, — one, to cut the tree down and tap the cabbage 
and allow the v/ine to drip into a basin; the other, to 



42 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

climb the tree, insert a tube in the cabbage, and catch the 
wine as it comes from the tube. 

This cabbage containing the wine is also good to eat 
and is very much enjoyed among the native peoples. The 
palm bears from four to seven bunches of palm nuts per 
annum, which ripen generally during the drys. These 
nuts are covered with a layer of oily substance, from 
which palm oil and butter are made. The nut contains a 
large seed, the outside of which is used by the iron, silver, 
and goldsmiths for fuel ; the inside, called the palm kernel, 
is shipped to Europe in large quantities from West Africa, 
and from it soap, oil, candles, and other articles are made. 
The branches of the tree are used for the covering of 
houses, and from certain other parts are made nets, 
baskets, mats, rice fanners, and other articles of domestic 
utility. In these palm-trees are certain large grugru 
worms, which are also eaten by the natives. The Kru- 
family are great people for making palm butter and rice, 
but their reputation can hardly be compared with that of 
the Vais for making palaver sauce. 

The Vais raise domestic animals and fowls. In the in- 
terior I noticed among them cows, goats, sheep, and bul- 
locks. I also saw geese, ducks, and chickens. With 
hooks, nets, and other devices they catch fish. With bows 
and arrows, and guns and various kinds of traps they hunt 
and catch the antelope, deer, wildcat, monkey, leopard, 
bushcow, elephant, and other animals. With their knives 
they attack, kill, and eat the boa-constrictor, and birds of 
the most gorgeous plumage fall captive to their hunting 
skill. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 43 

TRAFFIC AND THE ARTICLES THEREOF 

Another factor in the economic life of the Vais is 
traffic. To secure larger commercial opportunities was 
no doubt one of the chief motives which led them to press 
to the coast line. They engage in trade with Europeans 
and Liberian merchants at Cape Mount ; and formerly the 
Liberian settlement at Cape Mount had direct control of 
foreign trade. These Liberians constitute the most im- 
portant factor in distributing foreign articles to neighbor- 
ing tribes and in securing in return the products of West 
Africa. As soon as the rice season is over the Vais take 
up traffic among themselves and with their neighbors. 
Some of the articles which enter into this traffic are cotton 
goods, brass kettles, cap guns, sword blades, iron pots, 
crockery, powder, gin, salt, gun caps, tobacco, cheap 
jewelry, silk goods and other articles of like nature. In 
exchange for the above articles they secure rubber, 
piassava, cocoa, coffee, palm kernels, palm oil, ginger, and 
calabar beans, which constitute the principal articles for 
exportation from this part of West Africa. Vai traders, 
influenced by the profits of domestic and foreign traffic, 
penetrate far into the interior with their goods. For- 
eigners, as a rule, are not permitted to trade outside of 
the ports of entry, which gives to the natives a practical 
monopoly of the far interior trade. 

PRODUCTS. OF THE INDUSTRIAL ARTS 

Perhaps the most interesting phase of Vai economic life 
is that which includes the products which represent Vai 
industrial skill. The remarkable similarity between the 
design and products of the Vais and Mandingoes is very 
good evidence of the close relation of the two tribes in 



44 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

the past. I have been very much interested in securing 
some of the products of Vai industrial art and skill. I 
might call your attention to just a few ; 

1. Knives, swords, and spears, with common leather 
cases. 

2. Common and fancy snuff, and war horns inade from 
ivory and bushcow, and other horns. 

3. Fur-covered bags for trinkets, and so on, with 
leather ornamentations and round leather plaited straps. 

4. Various fancy bags made of grass for carrying 
money, medicine, and trinkets. 

5. Machine for weaving cotton cloth, made of wood 
and fiber. 

6. Rope, common and fancy hammocks, made of grass 
and other materials. 

7. Country hoes and cutlasses made from iron. 

8. Plates, bowls, and pots made from clay. 

9. Chairs, beds, and so on, made of bamboo, with 
caned bottoms. 

10. Country shoes of wood and decorated leather. 

11. Various kinds of drums made of wood and hides. 

12. Various kinds of caps and hats made of grass and 
country cloth. 

13. Country whips and symbols of authority made of 
leather and grass. 

14. Common and fancy-colored cotton cloth in great 
varieties. 

15. Spoons and plates and bowls made of wood, as well 
as canoes, mortars, and pestles. 

16. Ink and dyes made frorp leaves and barks. 

17. Rice fanners made of bamboo and other materials. 

18. Trays for various games such as moh, otherwise 
called king's game. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 45 

I noticed also a number of musical instruments used 
in plays and dances and when the king goes on a visit to 
any of his chiefs. 

1. The common drums consist of logs cut the desired 
length and thinly hollowed, with tanned hide stretched 
over one end and fastened with palm fiber. 

2. The women have sasas, made of gourds covered with 
thread nets and with shells attached, which strike against 
the gourd when the sasa is shaken. 

3. They have what they call king's drums, beaten by 
the king's musicians for the king's pleasure. They are 
made of small hollowed limbs with hide at both ends and 
strung around the sides, and they are seldom used except 
when the king is going out. These drums are carried 
under the arm and beaten with one stick made for the 
purpose. 

4. They have an instrument made of a sheet of iron 
rolled so as to be left hollow, and this hollow part is held 
in the palm of the left hand ; then there is an iron ring on 
the left thumb which is struck against the iron sheet after 
each beat made by a stick in the other hand. 

5. They also have an instrtiment made of two small 
baskets containing round pebbles which are shaken, one 
in each hand. 

6. Each king has a large war horn made of ivory and 
ornamented with silver or gold. 

7. They have a gourd with holes made in it, which is 
blown and fingered like a fife. In war times they talk in 
this instrument and call the names of warriors. 

8. I noticed an instrument made much in the shape of 
a ladder, with small sticks tied across two long bars, sus- 
pended beneath which were gourds diminishing in size. 

The Vais living in closest proximity to Liberian settle- 



46 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

ments have almost entirely ceased to make very many of 
the various articles that I have mentioned, because they 
can easily buy for a small price many of them from Libe- 
rian and foreign merchants who have been supplied with 
these articles by Europeans who have studied the tastes 
and wants of the African. But as you proceed interior- 
ward, more and more do you see the products which have 
been made by the skilled hands of the Vais. 



CHAPTER IV 

NATURE OF THE SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS OF 
THE VAIS 

SOCIAL CONDITIONS, TOWNS, HALF-TOWNS, AND HOUSES 

LIKE the tribes on the West Coast of Africa, the Vais 
are distributed over a thickly wooded country of 
wild and tangled forests, the natural abode of poisonous 
reptiles and the nightly haunts of ferocious beasts. Here 
may be found the prowling leopard, the fierce crocodile, 
and the manlike chimpanzee. Here may be seen the ele- 
phant, the buffalo, the hippopotamus, and the cruel, 
dreaded boa-constrictor lying for days in ambush for its 
prey. This section is principally drained by the Mano, 
Mafa, and Little Cape Mount rivers. At Grand Cape 
Mount is a lovely lake extending for miles into the in- 
terior, and beside it is a range of hills the insular crest of 
which at the coast is 1065 feet above the level of the 
sea. For seven months there is almost continual rain, 
and for five months it is dry with transitions of inter- 
mittent showers. The climate is very damp during the 
rains and very warm during the drys. The mean aver- 
age temperature at Monrovia is 83° F, with daily varia- 
tions from y']^ to 90°. Communication is slow and 
difficult, and to persons living away from rivers walk- 
ing is the only way of traveling. 

The Vai people are scattered over the Vai country in 

47 



48 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

towns and half-towns, which are connected with one an- 
other by narrow, winding foot-paths. The tendency is 
toward the social group. Here isolation would not only 
be unpleasant and inconvenient, but positively unsafe. 
Real African towns are the abodes of kings, past or pres- 
ent. In a town rice kitchens and the making of palm oil 
are prohibited. Towns are intended for comfort, pleas- 
ure, and the full enjoyment of the highest African life. 
-But the half-towns are industrial, — the main source and 
center of securing sustenance. The sites of the towns and 
half -towns are selected usually in some healthy spot where 
water is easily obtained; the former, where it would be 
difficult of approach to an attacking foe ; the latter, with 
reference to its convenience to the gardens and the farms. 
The towns are generally on hills, commanding wide views 
of the neighboring country, and surrounded with two or 
three walls of barricade twenty-five or thirty feet apart. 
On the sides of approach the ground is covered with large 
logs, at inconvenient distances apart, or with sharp sticks 
thickly stuck into the ground. 

The towns are social, the half-towns economic, centers. 
In the latter are found the rice kitchens, the making of 
palm oil, the raising of domestic fowls and animals. The 
towns consist of individual houses generally grouped 
about an open space in the center and not far distant from 
one another, with thoroughfares running both ways. The 
houses are usually circular, with cone-shaped roofs and 
dirt floors thrown up three or four feet above the general 
level. The lower framework is selected from the varied 
timbers of the country and is covered on the outside with 
mud. The roofing is chiefly of palm branches. The 
houses of the half-towns are temporary structures and 
change frequently with the changing of the farms. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 49 

The houses contain two rooms as a rule, and when there 
is more than one wife there is a house for each one. The 
kitchen is the place where are generally kept the pots, 
spoons, plates, rice fanners, cloth weavers, a few chairs, 
and a hammock. It has also a fire-hearth. In the other 
room, which is used for bedroom, are chairs and a bed of 
bamboo, wooden trunks, water pots made of clay, a rattan 
line or bamboo rack for the hanging up of clothes, country 
mats, and in some a fire-hearth. The towns of the Vais 
are kept very clean and the houses are noticeably superior 
to the houses of neighboring tribes. 

AIM AND PRINCIPLES OF THE " DEVIL BUSH " 

The " Devil Bush " is one of the most important social 
institutions of the Vais, — in fact, of most of the tribes 
in Liberia. It is but one of many whose social functions 
differ in form but whose general purposes are substan- 
tially the same. Among the various tribes it is known by 
different names, but its mission and purpose are always the 
same. It has been my observation that most of the social 
institutions of the natives ultimately tend to strengthen 
authority and to render government less difficult, and this 
is especially true of the " Devil Bush." The " Devil 
Bush " is a secret organization, and its operations are 
carried on in an unknown place. The penalty for divulg- 
ing its secrets is said to be death. I know that it is very 
difficult to ascertain much information regarding it. 

The head of the society is called a " Country Devil." 
He has sole power and is assisted by other members of 
the tribe versed in the principles of the organization. 
The society meets in what is called sessions, varying in 
duration from three to ten years. It admits only males 
that are between the ages of seven and fifty. When the 



so NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

organization is in session no one is allowed, under pen- 
alty of death, to visit the scene of its workings. The 
paramount aim of this society is to train young boys for 
African life. More definitely stated the boys are taught 
the industrial trades, native warfare, religious duties, 
tribal laws and customs, and the social arts. 

Aside from the secrets of the society it has purely an 
educational purpose. In the application of its principles 
there is no respect of rank. The bow and arrow may be 
called the Vai alphabet. Every morning the small boys 
are taught first to use skilfully this weapon. In addition 
they are taught to throw the spear and to wield the sword. 
In the afternoon they are taken on a hunt for small game, 
and later are given practice in target shooting and throw- 
ing the spear. After supper the boys take up singing and 
dancing. At this period they are taught also their duties 
to the gods, to whom a certain portion of their meals is 
said to be offered. Each boy is taught the sacrificial 
ceremony; they all clap, dance, and sing their songs of 
praise. 

When the boys have attained a certain advancement 
among other things they have sham battles, with 200 or 
150 boys on a side. A district is given to one side to be 
captured by the other. Each side has a captain, and at 
this stage of their development emphasis is placed upon 
the display of bravery. And sometimes the contests as- 
sume aspects of reality. When one side repulses another 
six times it is said to be victorious. They are next taught 
the actual methods employed in the higher phases of native 
warfare. The most diiificult feat in native warfare is the 
taking of strongly fortified and barricaded towns. Where 
the town to be taken is defended with powder and shot, 
the attacking party builds a barricade around the town 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 51 

to cut off its water and other supplies. When thus weak- 
ened the town is attacked. If repulsed, they re-attack the 
town and storm the barricades on a dark and rainy night 
when the loud thundering renders their approach un- 
heard. 

Besides teaching the above method of taking towns an- 
other is taught. The attacking party is arranged around 
a town, — four or five miles distant. A small band is 
sent to make the attack, with the understanding that they 
are to pretend to be frightened and flee. It is supposed 
that the smallness of their numbers will entice the war- 
riors of the town to follow ; who, having come out a cer- 
tain distance, are surrounded and taken by an unexpected 
force. 

And still another method of attack is taught. A man, 
as a friend, is sent into the town desired to be taken. 
Sometimes more than one are sent. Late at night, when 
everybody has retired except those on guard at the gates, 
these emissaries kill the sentinel at a certain gate and 
permit the attacking army to enter the town without the 
warning of the guards. Each man is supposed to take a 
house, and when the various warriors have seized the 
supplies and are ready for battle the war cry is sounded, 
and as the men of the town are fleeing for safety, amid 
the roar and excitement of the hour, they are pierced 
with spears and cut to pieces with swords wielded by 
warriors from unexpected quarters. 'Tis quite natural 
in such a confused contest in the dark that some women 
and children should be killed, but the custom is to spare 
them. The leaders who escape death are afterwards exe- 
cuted; the women, men, and children are held as slaves. 
And generally the town is burned to the ground. 

In addition to being taught the methods of warfare, the 



52 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

boys are taught the civil and military laws governing the 
Vai people. Every Vai man must know the law. And as 
the penalties for violating the laws covering military ex- 
peditions are so severe, the customs and laws relating 
thereto are of paramount importance to every Vai man. 
The king is commander-in-chief of the army. He seldom 
accompanies his army. It is commanded either by the 
general or a trusted chief. Before hostilities are declared, 
and before the first assault is made upon a tribe, a chal- 
lenge is sent to the enemy in the form of a human hand. 
The commanding officer selects some one to make the 
sacrifice. The hand is held out and cut off by another 
soldier. The man who takes the hand does not return 
as a rule, but the hand is returned with defiance or good- 
will. After a battle the soldiers are reviewed by the 
king, who executes those guilty of offenses and commends 
those distinguished for their bravery. On the day ap- 
pointed by him to receive the chiefs the prisoners are 
brought to be dealt with according to the decree of the 
king. No nobleman may be reduced to slavery; he is 
usually put to death. The king executes a captured king. 
The following evening all engage in the glee of the war- 
dance. 

The members of the " Devil Bush " are not only taught 
everything pertaining to practical war, but they are taught 
hunting as well. They are first taught to capture small 
game and later the larger and dangerous animals like the 
leopard, elephant, and buffalo. What the Africans call a 
real hunt requires about a month's work in preparation. 
The boys dig a large pit and surround the ends and sides 
with the trunks of large trees. With the pit of the apex, 
in triangular form two fences are built about a mile long, 
and with a mile between the two extremities. The sur- 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 53 

rounding country is encircled by the hunters and the ani- 
mals are driven into the pit. The smaller animals are 
eaten and the larger ones are sent to the king. As the 
valuable skins are preserved, the boys are taught to skin 
animals neatly. The ivories belong to the king, and vari- 
ous small horns are kept for amulets, and so on. These 
hunts are usually accompanied with much singing and 
dancing, after the cooking and eating of the game. 

There are many other things taught in the " Devil 
Bush," and some of the practices to which I have referred 
have receded, under Liberian influence, farther into 
the interior, and others yet have been discontinued 
altogether. There is another organization called " Al- 
lebigah." This is purely a secret lodge, and has ex- 
tensive influence among the Liberian tribes. The chief 
object of the lodge is to protect the individual mem- 
ber, and it is said that it will protect at all hazards. 
This society has lodges among the Vai, Mandingo, 
Kpwesi, Buni, Bandi, Bere, Gizima, Gora, and De 
tribes. 

AIM AND PRINCIPLES OF THE " GREEGREE BUSH " 

The " Greegree Bush " is a society for the training of 
girls for future life, just as the " Devil Bush " is for boys. 
It is death for a man to be found within the limits of the 
" Greegree Bush," no matter what his purpose may be. 
The sessions of the society are held near some town, yet 
few' in that town know the exact place. No one is per- 
mitted to approach the scene. It is said that the " Gree- 
gree Bush " begins when a girl who has not been in it 
pours water upon the head of the Zo who is generally in 
all the towns. Those who have been in it catch the candi- 
date and hold her, and send word to all the neighboring 



54 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

towns that a " Greegree Bush " is to be organized at 
once. 

The organization is under the direction of a Zo and Zo- 
Nockba. The Zo is the owner of the Bush and she comes 
to town for the greegree plays. The Zo-Nockba is the 
one who is versed in the art of training the girls in the 
aim and principles of the Bush, and during plays remains 
therein. The Bush is in session from three to seven years, 
and may be less. Upon the death of the king or Zo the 
Bush always breaks up. The number of attendants may 
be anywhere from five to two hundred. Usually girls are 
admitted at seven or eight years of age, although women 
may be admitted. A native woman is never considered 
much nor is she highly respected unless she has been in 
this institution. At the time of entrance a little horn 
with medicine and some little red berries is placed on the 
necks of the girls. If a girl violates her virginity while 
this horn is on her neck, she is tied facing the violater, and 
they are both stripped naked and whipped publicly in the 
town, and must pay a large fine before they may be re- 
leased. At one time the penalty was death to them both. 

When the Bush is over, early in the morning the Zo 
removes from the necks of the maids these little horns; 
for as long as they are worn the girls cannot marry nor 
must they be violated by man. They are taken to town 
for a " Big Play " by the Zo-ba known generally as the 
" Country Devil." The expense of the Bush is borne by 
the parents who have children there. Women are not 
allowed to look upon the " Country Devil." He is hide- 
ously dressed in a long gown ; has a wooden head with 
silver stripes around the eyes, shoes on the feet, and many 
native additions to make his appearance as frightful as 
possible. I recall a visit to Dadoo, a Vai town, where 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 55 

the king had died only a few days before. The three 
" Country Devils " in attendance at the plays came sud- 
denly through the streets about 8 o'clock at night. Such 
terror ! The women and children, — in fact, everybody, 
— were running and screaming and falling over one an- 
other in an endeavor to get into the houses. This 
" Country Devil " is a woman dressed as a man. It is 
impossible for anybody to see the " Country Devil " from 
the " Devil Bush " unless he belongs to the society. 

The " Greegree Bush " has both an industrial and an 
educational purpose. The girls are taught to embroider 
with gold and silver thread the tunics and togas of kings 
and chiefs. Some of them become very artistic in work- 
ing palm-trees, golden elephants, moons, half-moons, run- 
ning vines, and other objects and scenes of nature in 
various articles of apparel. The Africans have ways of 
dressing hair which are peculiarly adapted to their con- 
ditions and to them. I have noticed three ways. Using 
the center of the crown of the head, one way is to plait 
it in rows in all directions, with the ends turned in with 
a stick, comb, or ivory instrument made for the purpose. 
Another way is to plait it lengthwise of the head; and 
still another is to plait the hair with the ends out in single 
plaits, arranged in rows. The girls are taught hair-dress- 
ing in order that they may plait, besides their own, the 
hair of the richer Vais, some of whom have their hair 
oiled and plaited two or three times a week. 

Instruction is given in cutting inscriptions on shields, 
breastplates, and the like, and in housekeeping, singing, 
dancing, farming, sewing, weaving cotton, dyeing, mak- 
ing nets and mats and many other articles of domestic 
utility, decoration, and dress. I have seen Vai women 
making some of the most beautiful fancy baskets of vari- 



56 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

ous kinds to be found along the coast. In this institution 
they are also taught their duty to the king, the law, and 
especially that which refers to the women. The girls are 
taught their duty to their parents, to their future hus- 
bands, and the other duties belonging to thfc common lot 
of Vai women. Of course the influence of the " Gree- 
gree Bush " is now considerably weakened by the Liberian 
institutions on the one hand and the Muhammudan faith 
and customs on the other. So that now this institution 
falls far short of achieving its aims and putting into prac- 
tice its principles. It has its greatest power among the 
people that live near the interior limits of the Vai country. 
Near the Liberian settlements it amounts to almost noth- 
ing. 

MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY 

Courtship and marriage among the Vais seem very 
simple. The casual observer would think them devoid of 
love ; but they have their romances, their loves and dreams, 
their Romeos and their Juliets. Behind what seem to be 
mere form and custom are sentiments, though crude per- 
haps, which in other races we call love. It is customary 
for the father, when he thinks necessary, to provide his 
sons with wives. The son may be permitted to select his 
own wife. In either case the preliminaries vary but little. 
If the girl is very small, a straw is put in her hair by the 
suitor or his father. When a young man sees a maid 
that he desires for his wife, he calls upon her parents and 
presents them with a present or presents, varying in value 
and amount according to the wealth and standing of the 
persons interested. This is required in order to insure 
good faith on the part of the suitor. The making of these 
presents is called a " dash," which is very popular among 




VAI LEATHER SHOES AND HANDBAGS 

Facing Page 56 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 57 

native Africans. This " dash " may consist of gin, rum, 
brass kettles, cloth, and so on. At the time the suitor calls 
and " dashes " the parents he also confesses his love for 
their daughter. If the proposal is accepted and the con- 
tracting parties reside in the same town, the girl is sup- 
posed to call on the young man each day. Just as the 
father usually provides his sons with wives, so the parents 
of the girls generally arrange for their husbands. 

The majority of the girls are placed in the " Greegree 
Bush," and when they come out, if they are not already 
betrothed, they are in the marriage market. Very few 
girls in families of standing are not engaged long before 
they enter the " Greegree Bush." I have been informed 
that they have been pledged in instances before they were 
born, of coiu-se on the condition that they should prove to 
be girls. The explanation of this is family prestige. 
When a girl is about to be married she must be washed. 
The washing is supposed to wash away the " Greegree 
Bush Devil." For as long as she is unwashed she can- 
not be married. There is some expense connected with 
this washing, which is borne by the parents of the bride- 
to-be. When the man has built his home and is ready for 
his wife, her people dress her up and take her to him. 
The groom then " dashes " her entire family, — giving 
them leopard teeth, kettles, cloth, and one or two servants, 
the amount never being less than the expenditures of the 
parents in the rearing of the girl, including her training in 
the " Greegree Bush." During the period of engagement 
the young man must present from time to time to the 
parents of his betrothed gifts of such things as they may 
need and desire. 

When a young man marries a girl from another town, 
she brings to her husband some of everything she has. 



58 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

such as rice, plettoes, wori, salt, pepper, honey, palm 
oil, water, and even small fish, which she throws into the 
streams. She does this for independence, — so that if at 
any time she is taunted by her new acquaintances of the 
town, she may reply that she has brought her own things, 
and is therefore independent of them. Virginity is very 
highly prized by the Vais, as it is among most African 
tribes unaffected by outside influences. It is the custom 
of the parents to guarantee the virtue of their daughter 
given in marriage. Some member of the groom's family 
is selected to remain concealed near the room of the newly 
married couple for a few days after the marriage in order 
to secure the evidence of the bride's virginity. If she is 
not a virgin, the husband may annul the marriage if he 
so desires. He may recover what he has spent in 
" dashes " to the girl and her parents in his suit. On the 
other hand, if she proves to be a virgin, the husband shoots 
a gun. He breaks the good news to his wife's family and 
accompanies it with presents. And for two or three days 
there is a general rejoicing in both families and among 
their friends. 

The family among the Vais is polygamous. This form 
of marriage naturally leads to a broader definition of that 
term than the one that is accepted among the civilized 
nations of to-day. All the relatives of a Vai man and 
his wife are members of his family. Every man may 
have one or more wives, but he must provide a separate 
house for each one. While every man may have plural 
wives, there are some who have but one. But those who 
practise monogamy are not so many, I think, as has been 
supposed by some people who have given attention to na- 
tive Africans. I am led to this conclusion by the fact that 
the poor men are about as able to buy the poor women as 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 59 

the richer men are to buy the richer women. Moreover, 
the Vai women, when once obtained, are a source of 
economic strengfth to the family. By their industry most 
of the farming is carried on, and most of the products for 
dress and domestic use are made by their skill. Also the 
women obtain and prepare most of the articles for do- 
mestic and foreign trade. 

The Vai women generally are gentle to their children, 
and sometimes very loving. The rights of parents over 
their issue have been very great. At one time children 
might be killed for disobedience and disrespect, but Libe- 
rian and other influences wrought some modifications. 
A child may still be pawned. Along the coast the mar- 
riage bond is very loose, but far into the interior a wife 
may not be put aside at the pleasure of her husband. 
When men are away for a time, upon their return they 
test the fidelity of their wives by the sassawood ordeal.* 
This ordeal is very much dreaded, and no doubt is a very 
strong deterrent to some women who might be tempted 
to be unfaithful. When a wife leaves her husband for 
another man, the husband may recover from the latter, in 
addition to the purchase money, the value of every article 
that he has given to his wife during their marriage. If 
she leaves for any other reason, the husband may compel 
her return through her parents or the return of the pur- 
chase money and the value of all gifts that have been 
made to the daughter. 

A wife may be divorced for witchcraft or adultery, but 
for the latter a valuable consideration in goods and money 
is often accepted by the injured husband. When a Vai 
man has a number of wives he always has a head wife to 
whom the other wives are somewhat subordinate; and 
1 See Chapter V, 3, Oaths, Ordeals, etc. 



6o NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

upon his death his wives become the property of his eldest 
brother.'' And the head wife does not become the prop- 
erty of the eldest son, as Mr. Ellis observed was the case 
among the Yoruba- Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast 
of West Africa.^ 

THE SCOPE AND INFLUENCE OF WITCHCRAFT 

Witchcraft is common to certain stages of intellectual 
growth. 

" It is shaken off," says Mr. Draper, " as men 
and nations approach maturity." * 

We readily understand how natural it is for " child- 
hood to people solitude and darkness with un- 
realities " ; we ought as readily to comprehend how 
men and nations, in intellectual infancy, inhabit the 
universe with creatures of their fancy, and how 
they must in time throw those creatures aside as natu- 
rally as the developed mind dispels the delusions of 
earlier years. Every great nation of the earth has had its 
beliefs in some form of witchcraft. In early times some 
of these forms existed among the Arabians; later they 
were found among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans,'' 
and finally they held sway among the modern nations of 
Europe. Shakespeare opens Macbeth with the conversa- 
tion between three witches, and in Act IV, Scene 3, speaks 
of the crew of wretched souls which stay the cure of 
maladies, and describes how the king by a simple touch 
cures people swollen and ulcerous, 

2 But they may marry other relatives. 

3 " The Yoruba-Speaking Peoples," p. 185. 

*" Intellectual Development of Europe," by J^ W. Draper, p. iig. 
^ " Intellectual Development of Europe," by J. W. Draper, Vol. II, 
pp. 116-117. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 6i 
" pitiful to the eye, the mere despair of surgery." 

It is said that Dr. Johnson when a boy was touched by 
Queen Anne, and Mr. Draper quotes a passage which 
shows that so eminent a reformer as Luther was not en- 
tirely free from the baneful influence of witchcraft. 
History records that witches were put to death in Massa- 
chusetts ; and Mr. Lecky reminds us that the belief in the 
king's touch as a cure for scrofula was asserted by the 
clergy in the palmiest days of the English Church by the 
great University of Oxford, and survived the ages of the 
Reformation, of Bacon and Milton, and Hobbes and 
Locke.® You will hardly read a more eloquent descrip- 
tion of the physical phenomena which combined to produce 
the witch of Scotland than those impressive lines of 
Buckle, in which he portrays the character of this mistress 
of the Scottish demons, arisen from the decrepit hag of 
England to the mastery of evil spirits, spreading among 
the people the desolation and despair of terror.'' 

It is natural, therefore, that we should expect to find 
some strange superstitions among the Vais, surrounded as 
they are by the peculiar and extraordinary conditions of 
West Africa. We are not to be disappointed, for they 
believe that their dead are transformed into animals and 
birds and return to certain persons who employ them to 
the injury of others. The varied and unexplained phe- 
nomena of nature have impressed the Vai men with the 
existence of countless invisible spirits which visit calamity 
and death upon them. They believe that these spirits are 
in league with or under the direction of certain people, 

« " History of European Morals," by W. E. H. Lecky, Vol. I, pp. 

363-364. 

^ " Introduction to the History of Civilization in England," by 
H. Thomas Buckle, p. 649, revised by John M. Robertson. 



62 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

commonly known as wizards and witches, whom they call 
sua-kai and sua-musu. A person practising witchery is 
called a sua-mo, — sua meaning milt, which is used to test 
the practice of witchcraft, and mo. meaning man, or per- 
son. 

If anybody dies suddenly and mysteriously, it is be- 
lieved that he is either a witch or has been witched. A 
post mortem examination is held.* If certain portions in- 
side are found black and the sua refuses to float, the person 
is pronounced a witch. If he be a man, he is a sua-kai ; 
if a woman, a sua-musu. The body is dishonored, de- 
prived of all death ceremonies, and is hurried outside the 
limits of the town. This disgrace is supposed to attach 
to the family of the discovered witch. 

In case the test fails to establish the person as a witch, 
they set about to find the witch who caused the death of 
the deceased. In order to prove guilt or innocence, a 
number of suspected persons are subjected to one of the 
native ordeals.* Somebody is usually convicted and suf- 
fers the death and disgrace of a witch. This is the most 
dreaded and dangerous class of witches. It is believed 
that they go about at night riding people and bringing 
upon them sickness, death, and all kinds of calamities. 

The Vais have among them a man whom they call a 
beri-mo, — beri meaning medicine, greegree, or poison, 
and mo meaning man. He is commonly called a medi- 
cine-man. This was no doubt his original vocation, as 
indicated by the name, — to administer medicine to the 
sick. But he has undergone an evolution and has 
considerably increased his functions. He has been in- 
strumental in spreading the belief that he is in communion 

8 Everybody is examined after they are dead except Muhammud- 
ans and the chief women of the " Greegree Bush." 

9 Chapter V, 3. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 63 

with the invisible spirits and exercises some control over 
their conduct, so that the Vais believe that they can se- 
cure medicine from the beri-mo that will bring evil upon 
an enemy. His services are secured to witch an adver- 
sary, and the last of his many added powers is to give 
medicine that will counteract the influence of witch-medi- 
cine prepared by another beri-mo. 

There is a belief, as I have stated, among the Vais that 
witches come to your house and ride you at night, — 
that when the witch comes in the door he takes off his 
skin and lays it aside in the house. It is believed that 
he returns you to the bed where he found you, and that 
the witch may be killed by sprinkling salt and pepper in 
certain portions of the room, which will prevent the witch 
from putting on his skin. Just before they go to bed it is 
a common thing to see Vai people sprinkling salt and 
pepper about the room. 

It is also believed that witches take babies out at night 
and sacrifice them at witch-plays. It is believed that the 
babies are cooked in the small country pots. Parents 
often go to the beri-mo and get medicine which is put in 
a horn and placed on the outside of the door of the sus- 
pected witch; that is sufficient to keep the witch from 
entering the house and getting into his skin, which may 
be seen in the bed. They say the horn will fight the witch 
at the door until daylight, when they can catch the witch. 
The person suspected is actually in the house in bed, but 
they say that is only his skin, and cite instances when by 
this method they have caught witches. 

The alligator is sacred to the Vais. Along the rivers 
and the banks of the Peso Lake they are frequent visitors 
of the native towns. To kill one, they say, is death. 
Among the Vais there are alligator societies, the objects 



64 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

of which are to enrich the members and make them able 
through witchcraft to destroy their enemies. It requires 
the strongest nerve to become a member of one of these 
societies, for if required to do so one must sacrifice the 
dearest of his relatives. In order to join one must pay 
the required fee and " dash " to a member who goes to 
consult the alligators. He returns and generally reports 
the sacrifice to be made of a mother, father, or child, ac- 
cording to the designation of the alligators. If the 
person consents to the sacrifice, his application is ac- 
cepted, and he is cautioned to be brave-hearted and to 
fear nothing he may see or hear. If the candidate is will- 
ing to continue, on a night and place selected by the alli- 
gators, usually some river or lake, the applicant is led by 
the alligator-medicine-man into the water until it extends 
above his waist. The medicine-man again cautions him 
about being afraid of sights or sounds. He tells the 
candidate he will hear awful sounds and see four mon- 
strous alligators, but he must not fear ; that he must put 
his hand into the mouth of the fourth one, and take out 
the leaves to be found there. His hand must not tremble, 
lest it should get injured against the alligator's teeth. 
Then the medicine-man disappears. 

While the applicant is waiting alone the waters become 
disturbed, he hears a frightful noise, and three alligators 
approach, with a most vicious and menacing grin. He 
stands unmoved. Another frightful noise is heard, and 
a fourth alligator swims up, with open mouth. He 
calmly takes out the leaves, after which the medicine-man 
returns, and instructs him how to use them when he 
wishes to call the alligator and communicate to it his 
wishes. He then buys an alligator for himself alone, — 
an alligator that is to come at his call. It is said that 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 65 

many people become so enraptured with their alligators 
that the death of the latter means the death of the former. 
The natives appear to be sincere when they give instances 
where persons have immediately died after the death of 
their alligators. Some of these instances may be ex- 
plained by mere coincidence, the others, I think, by sui- 
cide, — that is, the owner chooses death after having been 
deprived of his alligator and poisons himself. 

During the early settlement of Cape Mount, the alli- 
gators were very troublesome to the Liberians, and they 
often destroyed children along the river. I am informed 
that a native boy passed through the yard of a Liberian 
woman, who asked him to bring her a pail of water from 
a brook near by, and offered the boy a small " dash." The 
boy refused and made some unpleasant answer, where- 
upon the woman said, 

" Go on ; the alligators will soon eat you." 

And in less than ten minutes a loud noise called 
the woman to the door, only to see a stream of blood 
and the mangled body O'f the little boy. As she 
hastened to the door little did she think and expect to see 
that her thoughtless prediction had come true. A native 
man who was standing near when she had announced 
this cruel fate said to the woman in his broken English, 

" Mammy, be you up country, we burn you for witch." 

At that moment they heard the reports of guns and saw 
people coming in from all directions to see the alligator 
which had caused so much destruction. Among those who 
came was a native man, who arrived just in time to say: 



66 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

"Too late; you have killed my medicine and killed 

myself." 

It is said he died shortly afterward. 

The people who deal with alligators say they have cer- 
tain times to see the alligators at their houses. When the 
time arrives the husband instructs his wives to remain 
away from the house and allow no one to approach. The 
Vais believe that the alligators turn to beautiful maidens, 
and that at their homes they spend hours in the art of 
witchcraft. It is said that the alligator brings money in 
his mouth whenever it is requested to do so. 

The Vais consider the owl the king of all witches. 
They believe that some old king transformed himself into 
the owl and became the king of witchcraft. The owl is 
called huhu. Whenever the cry of this bird is heard 
they tremble with fear. It is said when an owl sits upon 
a home at least one of its inmates is sure to die. 

SOCIAL FUNCTIONS, DEATHS, AND DANCES 

Among the Vais nearly all the ceremonies have a social 
phase; therefore, to this extent they are social functions. 
So that without a careful inquiry into the aim of these 
ceremonies and what constitutes their distinguishing fea- 
ture it is very easy to conclude that they are all alike. 
It has seemed to me that the various ceremonies of the 
Vais naturally divide themselves into two classes, — one 
with social enjoyment as the dominant note, and the other 
in which the spirit of sacrifice prevails. It is the former 
we are to consider. 

Unlike the Yoruba and Ewe-Speaking Peoples, the 
Vais have no ceremonies at the birth of children. In 
this respect they differ from some of the tribes in Liberia. 
When a Vai child is born, after a few days some of the 




VAI SPEAR AND KNIVES IN LEATHER 

Facing Page 66 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 67 

elder relatives take it from the room of its birth and 
name it for some member of the family, or for an an- 
cestor or an insect or an animal, or some object in nature. 
The name of the child depends almost entirely upon the 
impression made by its birth, appearance, or conduct. 
The name of the inventor of the Vai language is Biikere, 
— bu meaning gun, and kere war. The two words to- 
gether mean gun-war, and was no doubt suggested by a 
war in which guns were used. Biikere himself gave this 
interpretation to the Rev. Koelle.^" I know Vai men with 
the following names: Kari, serpent; Wonye, ant; 
Vombe, rat; Wuro, baboon; Tuna, flying dog; Tia, 
chicken; Surisuri, mosquito; and many others might be 
given in illustration of this practice. 

The first name given is the surname. When the child 
is placed in the " Greegree Bush " or " Devil Bush " ^^ 
it receives an additional name something like our Chris- 
tian name, and upon the profession of Muhammudanism 
another is added, the last being always placed first. This 
is the key to the understanding of the Vai names. Many 
are to be found like the name of the Vai inventor, 
Momoru Doalu Bukere. When a person has only two 
names the supposition is either that he has not entered the 
beri or that he has not accepted Muhammudanism. 
Momoru, the Vai for Muhammud, is a very common 
name among the Vais. 

Perhaps the first social ceremony in the life of the in- 
dividual is experienced on entering the beri and sande 
institutions. The boys receive on their backs the national 
mark ^^ and their second name, and they are circumcised 

i°Vai Grammar, by the Rev. S. W. Koelle, p. 19. 

11 " Devil Bush " in Vai, beri ; " Greegree Bush " in Vai, sande. 

^■2 See Chapter II, 3, " Decoration and Dress." 



68 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

if they have not been when quite small, according to cus- 
tom. The above ceremony is known as the beri-rite, in 
connection with which is prepared a large feast called the 
gbana. Very often the dishes for this feast are prepared 
in town and not in the beri, as was formerly done, so that 
you will now more often hear this feast called the gbana- 
bo. Bo is a verb meaning to bring out, and it is added 
to indicate the change in the place where the food is pre- 
pared. In both the beri and sande institutions there is 
a cleaned place in the forest known as fari, in which all 
the beri and sande ceremonies are held. After the beri- 
rite and feast a great dance is held in the fari, accom- 
panied by singing and the beating of drums. 

The head of the sande is called Zo-sande, and of the 
beri, Zo-beri. When these institutions come to a close, 
for weeks the beri-moenu ^^ are the occasions of many 
social gatherings. The first one is given when the Zo-ba 
brings them to the nearest town. All who have finished 
the beri and sande rites are held in the highest esteem, 
and many functions are given in their honor. They are 
dressed in the best attire ^* their people can afford, and 
they march through the streets of the town as if each one 
were walking for a prize. This is the great Vai com- 
mencement. To witness this brilliant and grand display 
people come in from all the neighboring towns. Parents 
gather with their friends to see the evidences of what their 
children have learned. The zest of hope brings the lover 
to see his maid. Some come to eat, drink, and be merry, 
and others to judge the utility and efficiency of the great- 
est institutions of the Vais. There is a large and sump- 

13 Beri-moenu, the plural of beri-nio, which means one who has 
gone through the beri-rite. 
1* See Chapter II, 3, " Decoration and Dress." 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 69 

tuous feast of chickens, goats, bullocks, and African 
products. After the dinner the dancing begins, and late 
at night one can hear the singing and the dull sound of 
drums keeping time for those still held by the charms of 
the dance. When this " Big Play " is over the beri- 
moenu go to their home towns, and there they are re- 
ceived with great rejoicing and social functions, with the 
native concomitants of eating and dancing. 

Before those who have had the beri and sande rites 
can marry they must go through a ceremony commonly 
known as " Washing from the Devil and Greegree 
Bushes." Certain instructions are given in these institu- 
tions regarding the sexes, and it is believed that if they 
are violated by those trained in them, the violations will 
be attended by severe punishments. So in washing it is 
believed that the force and effect of the instructions are 
removed. After the washing a dinner is prepared, after 
which comes the dance with its music and singing. The 
washing and dinner are attended by the friends of the 
family, whose entertainment and pleasure make up the 
social feature of the ceremony. 

Whenever a death occurs among the important men and 
women of the tribe it is always followed by a " Big Play." 
And for more than a week relatives and friends come with 
presents to the bereaved family. The women shave their 
heads and weep in sackcloth and ashes, assisted by pro- 
fessional mourners. In the event that relatives required 
for the final burial are absent, a temporary grave is made 
in the house, usually in the kitchen, for from two weeks 
to a year. When all the persons required have arrived, 
the body of the deceased is buried before the house, gen- 
erally in the yard. A large feast is spread. The maids 
dress and march through the streets. The singers sing. 



70 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

and the drums announce the merriment of the day. It 
is a social function in which everybody is supposed to 
participate. They dance until a late hour at night. 
From appearances no one would think that a funeral 
ceremony was still being performed. ^^ 

I learned that this strange custom is founded on the 
belief that the dead are where they can behold the conduct 
of the living. The latter believe if they do not honor the 
dead with a " Big Play " as they honor the living the 
dead will be displeased and visit upon them sickness, 
death, and other calamities. The extent of the feast and 
play varies with the wealth and distinction of the family 
of the dead. The male relatives of the deceased as a 
mark of mourning wear a bana, a small ring of bamboo 
bark, round their heads while the females wear it about 
their necks. The death of a man of high standing gen- 
erally leaves a number of widows. If a male relative of 
the deceased desires to. marry one he may propose by 
sending her what they call a fara sunda, a bamboo-band. 
If she accepts the proposal, she keeps the band ; if she de- 
clines, she returns it. 

Doubtless the most distinguished gathering among the 
native Africans is at the coronation of their king. Many 
Vai men of importance and letters have tried to tell me 
of the magnificence of the occasions when in the past the 
Vais have crowned their real kings. From them all I 
gather that it was the custom for the king to be attired 
in robes of scarlet or some brilliant color, adorned with 
tiger skins and made especially for the occasion. By the 
most skilful of native hands his robes had been figured 
with the forms of various animals. He wore the rarest 

15 1 was at the town of Bomie when the Vai king died, on April 
28, 1904, in the Vai country. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 71 

designs of the most expensive native jewelry made of gold 
and silver. His carved breastplate hung on his neck, and 
on his wrists were a number of leopard teeth. On his 
head he wore a cap, or king's hat, ornamented with shells 
and the fur of animals. Attended by all his chiefs and 
warriors, he appeared for the coronation. 

The head medicine-man sprinkles the king with powder 
and greases his face with oil and ointments. The king 
kneels before the medicine-man. Volleys of shot are 
fired by the soldiers near by, and in a little while he is 
declared king. The king is given a reception. A general 
dance is commenced, forming a circle about him; the 
music starts, the drums and clappers sound, and the dance 
continues. In order to express his admiration now and 
then a dancer or musician prostrates himself at the king's 
feet. And the ceremony is concluded for a while by 
serving him rum, wine, and whiskey. The king retires 
until the feast is announced. He again joins his sub- 
jects in partaking of the various native dishes, after which 
he is ready for the final act of the ceremony. The king is 
seated on his stool or chair, ready for the sacrifice, when 
the poor victims are brought forward and executed. 

A sham battle follows, in which the generals and war- 
riors of the realm vie with one another in the exhibition of 
their military tactics and skill. From all the towns come 
the best singers, clappers, drummers, and other musicians, 
to make the music for a grand dance in the square,'® 
which is usually in the center of the town. The Zo-bas or 
" Country Devils " lead the way for the best dancers of 
the country. From the circle to the square from i to 300 

^* It is not really a square ; it is an open place left for public 
functions and the dance, near the centre of the town ; sometimes 
it is square, and sometimes it is not. 



72 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

women, trained in the art of the native dance, make many 
figures, and some of them are so zealous and fantastic in 
their movements that they are borne exhausted from the 
dance. 

It is hardly necessary to mention the dance as a social 
function. It is one of the principal features of all native 
gatherings of whatever nature. In all the ceremonies of 
the beri and sande institutions, — such as the naming of 
children, marriages and deaths, and the functions in honor 
of the king, — the dance ranks with the feast. And these 
two together constitute the essence of all social expression 
among the Vais. It is a common saying that " When 
the sun goes down all Africa dances." " During suitable 
weather in almost every town there is a dance every even- 
ing. 

But there are various kinds of dances. Besides the 
common dance, the timbo, there is the ziawa, a dance ac- 
companied by a peculiar kind of song ; the ngere, another 
dance with a special song, and the mazu, a dance accom- 
panied by wild gestures of the arms. In the beri and 
sande societies special instruction is given in dancing, 
and many Vai women are graceful as well as highly pro- 
ficient in the native art. On lovely evenings the profes- 
sional singers and dancers go from house to house, sing- 
ing and dancing for the rich, for which they receive the 
customary " dashes." 

1' This often made statement is hardly true. Those who dance 
do so a great deal, but the great majority of Africans dance very 
little if any more than other races. Especially is this true of the 
Islamic tribes. 



CHAPTER V 

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT OF 
THE VAIS 

NATURE AND FORM OF GOVERNMENT 

IN nature and form the Government of the Vais is 
monarchial. The Vai country is situated in the 
British Colony of Sierra Leone and the RepubHc of 
Liberia, but principally in the latter. The whole is di- 
vided into petty kingdoms : Garwoola, Tombei, Teywa, 
Konae, Sowolo, and Jaryalor, the last two of which are 
known as Gallinas and are in the colony of Sierra Leone. 
The general laws are made by the kings of the different 
sections of the Vai territory in joint session, and by them 
communicated to their respective peoples. The Vais near 
Cape Mount elected a king April 25, 1904. A few days 
later I visited near the scene in a trip across the Vai 
country. A Vai man by the name of Gonda was made 
king. For this kingship for more than a century there 
have been two rival families, — the Bessy and Sandfish 
houses. The contests waged by the factions attached to 
these royal families have been the source of much trouble 
and bloodshed among the Vai people. 

Although Gonda was elected king of a section of the 
Vais, the governments of the sections have always been 
hereditary monarchies.^ The king, or koro-mandsa, is 

1 At Cape Mount the Vais over whom Gonda was elected king 
were called the Mafa people by the Americo-Liberians with 
whom I conversed, and those on the lake the Peso, for the lake. 

73 



74 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

the supreme head. The will of the king is limited by a 
supreme council composed of the noblemen of the realm, 
and by a kind of unwritten constitution, founded in the 
necessities for social life and intercourse. This unwritten 
constitution contains the understood natural rights of free 
Vai men, recognized and sanctioned by the practice of 
generations. The throne descends to the eldest son, if he 
be of age. No minor can become king. If there be no 
direct male heir capable of assuming the reins of govern- 
ment, it falls to the eldest brother of the king; if there be 
no eligible brother, then to the eldest nephew. No female 
can occupy the throne, according to customary law. Yet 
a woman has ruled over a portion of the Vai country. 

Taradoba was the favorite wife of King Arma, who 
died from a wound received in battle.^ The Capitol of his 
kingdom was at Bendoo. King Arma had a very am- 
bitious brother who was king over a large number of 
people northwest of the Vai country, and upon the death 
of the former he usurped his throne and made himself 
king over the Vais. Taradoba with five or six hundred 
warriors of her dead husband took possession of a south- 
ern province. By the new king of the Vais three attempts 
were made to subdue her, but she successfully repelled 
each invasion. It is said that she commanded her troops 
in person, distinguishing herself with such valor and suc- 
cess that one might fittingly refer to her as the Jeanne 
d'Arc of the Vais. She ruled for many years, and her 
son, Momolu Massaquoi, educated at Central Tennessee 
College, is now king over the Gallinas.' 

2 Taradoba is generally known by the name Sandemande. Tara- 
doba is a Gora word meaning brave, and it was given to Sande- 
mande on account of her prowess. King Arma died 25 or 30 
years ago. 

'His right is now, however, being contested by Sandemanpa, a 




VAI HOES, PIPE, SNUFF HORN, WHIP, &c. 

Facing Page 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 75 

As far as I have been able to ascertain there is no defi- 
nite tax levied by the king upon the people. It is a law 
that when any large meat is killed, like an elephant or a 
leopard, it belongs to the king. He always takes the 
head containing the teeth and the tusks which are very 
valuable, the former as articles of native dress, the latter 
principally as articles for export. It is also customary 
when the chiefs and important men from the provinces 
call upon the king to bring " dashes," consisting of rice, 
palm oil, servants, cloth, and so on. Besides, the king 
and members of his council receive compensation in set- 
tling disputes arising between the subjects. He also has a 
large number of domestic and field servants who produce 
whatever is desired. The other members of the council 
also receive " dashes " and have servants for the farm and 
trade. 

DISTRIBUTION OF POLITICAL POWER 

Among infant peoples governments derive their ulti- 
mate sanctions from force. The supreme power of the 
king is in his army. All the civil and political institutions 
receive added strength from the prestige of the king that 
is acquired in arms. So far as I have been able to ob- 
serve the power of government among the Vais as yet has 
not been definitely differentiated into well established and 
co-ordinate branches, with separate administrative officers 
supreme in their spheres. The departments of govern- 
ment are somewhat confused and very often have common 
officers. The king has his trusted generals, and the chiefs 
of provinces and towns usually command their men in 
war. The same chiefs are also the principal officers in 

Vai prince educated in England. He is now Chief Oerk in the 

Liberian Department of State ^t Monrovia, Liberia, 



76 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

the legislative, judicial, and executive government of the 
towns and half -towns and make up the supreme council 
of the state. The officer next in rank to the king is the 
prime-minister, called bore-be-den. The Vai word for 
chief of a town is mandas. 

In the government of the kingdom all matters, whether 
military or civil, affecting the tribe or disputes arising be- 
tween subjects of different provinces are decided by the 
king, prime minister, and the chiefs of the provinces who 
make up the council to the king. All matters affecting a 
province or town are decided by the chief of the province, 
with the chiefs of the towns as his council ; and in case of 
a town, by the chief thereof and the elders of the town 
as council. In half-towns the sub-chiefs have jurisdiction 
over matters therein, and may call other sub-chiefs to sit 
in the cases with them. The chief of a province may also 
call to sit with him chiefs of other provinces. The king 
is chief of the province and town in which he lives. The 
prime minister is usually chief of a province or of a town 
or of both. One may appeal from the sub-chief to the 
chief of a town, thence to the chief of a province, and 
finally to the king. 

FORMS OF OATHS AND ORDEALS 

Among the Vais are various forms of oaths. Among 
them I might mention the cassava-oath, the war-oath, and 
the medicine-oath. These oaths are used on different 
occasions, yet the binding force and effect of each is sub- 
stantially the same. The oaths taken by the Vais and 
other Africans in this part of West Africa are much more 
serious than oaths taken in civilized lands. Each oath- 
taker affirms that if he breaks his oath he should die or 
must die in a certain manner by definite means, and if he 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA ']^ 

breaks it he usually dies in the manner indicated. The 
medicine-oath is usually employed in ordinary matters 
where one swears to tell the truth. The medicine is 
wrapped in a piece of flannel and placed on a plate on 
which the oath-taker knocks with a small stick as he takes 
the oath. 

The war-oath is taken by the soldiers, binding them- 
selves to the king before going to war. The soldier 
taking this oath, while taking it, has a sword held to his 
throat as he beats with a small stick on a vessel contain- 
ing medicine prepared by the native doctor. The sword 
is used in this oath because by it the soldier usually meets 
his death. The warrior is very skilful with the sword, 
and can cut off a man's head with a single stroke. To 
break this war-oath is to insure certain death. The cas- 
sava-oath may also be used in civil matters, but when 
taken in connection with the spear it is very often em- 
ployed in making terms of peace between warring tribes. 

In August, 1904, a convocation of native kings was 
called at Monrovia, Liberia, to settle the intertribal war 
of the interior. There were in attendance about eighteen 
kings with twelve or fifteen hundred attendants. At the 
conclusion of the conference the kings took the cassava- 
oath. When this oath is about to be administered a gun 
is fired within the hearing of all. This means that if the 
oath be broken the next gunshot heard afterwards by the 
perjurer is to sound his death. The gun is washed out 
with water, which is preserved in a large bowl. In this 
black water are dissolved salt, powder, and ashes, and 
into this concoction are placed small pieces of cassava. 
Near by are bottles of gin. And when a spear is stuck 
into the ground with the point upwards everything is 
ready for the taking of the oath. Every native man is 



78 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

supposed to use these articles, some of them at least, — 
salt, powder, and cassava. The taking of these neces- 
saries signifies that if the oath-breaker has any of them 
in his stomach or eats any of them thereafter, they will 
help to kill him. The ashes are used to scour out the 
stomach and are supposed to assist the other articles in 
punishing the perjurer. 

Some disinterested person hands some of the medicine 
in a spoon from the bowl to the oath-taker after he has 
taken a piece of cassava with his mouth from the spear. 
As he eats the cassava the person or persons with whom he 
has had difficulty states the elements of the oath he must 
take. The person being sworn accompanies his eating 
cassava with frequent draughts of gin as he repeats the 
oath and concludes with the hope that if he breaks his 
oath his country will grow up in bush and that the medi- 
cine will kill him. In order to aid the action and to- 
increase the effect of the medicine the stomach is given 
a thorough cleaning out the day before the oath is to be 
taken. 

So much importance was attached to the oaths of Kings 
Pomopora and Tavadadua that I will venture to give them 
as recorded in my stenographic report of the proceedings 
of the conference. The following is the oath of Tava- 
dadua : 

" That if he brings war upon Pomopora, the medi- 
cine must kill him; that if there is any breaking of the 
oaths and he refuses to call Pomopora to the Govern- 
ment, the medicine must kill him ; that if any war is made 
north of the St. Paul River before it is returned it must 
be brought to the Government at Monrovia, and if he 
fails to do this the medicine must kill him." 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 79 

In taking this oath King Tavadadua drank the medicine 
after he had taken the cassava from the spear with his 
mouth. He held in his hand a small stick, which he beat 
on the bowl as he repeated his oath. The same was done 
by Pomopora, whose oath is as follows : 

" That he had heard of war, but if he had sent war to 
Gorgie the medicine must kill him; that if any further 
war is started and he goes and joins it, the medicine must 
kill him ; that if he hears any war news and fails to report 
it to the Government, the medicine must kill him." 

At this point Tavadadua had the following incorporated 
in Pomopora' s oath : 

" That if Pomopora hears of any war from the 
Kpwesi or Bele country against Tavadadua, he must 
report the same to the Government, and if he does 
not do so, the medicine must kill him." 

After the above oaths were taken they both joined in 
this oath : 

" That if they go into any war or hire anybody to fight 
the other or any of his people, the medicine must kill 
them," 

and they further swear 

" that if either of them hire anybody to give poison to 
any of the other's people or to either of them, the med- 
icine must kill him." * 

Like the oaths, the ordeals are many in form but one 

* Taken as given by an interpreter, a native chief who spoke 8 or 
10 different tribal languages. 



8o NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

in purpose and effect. They are all devices in the hands 
of the medicine-man by means of which the people seek 
to detect crime and to ascertain the infidelity of wives. 
The ordeals of the country bowl and mortar pestle are 
about the same and are frequently used in cases of steal- 
ing. When anything has been stolen, for instance, a 
number of suspects are stood in a row. The medicine- 
man prepares his medicine, and while he is mumbling 
some uninteUigible words some one passes with the bowl 
or mortar along the line of suspects, and the bowl or pestle 
is supposed to knock against the guilty person. The per- 
son toward whom is directed the greatest suspicion is 
generally the person knocked by the bowl or mortar. 
Everything depends upon the medicine-man, who is gov- 
erned generally by public sentiment but is not proof 
against influence and bribes. 

There is an ordeal of hot iron used both in the cases of 
stealing and of the infidelity of a wife as well as to prove 
innocence in general. A person charged with a crime 
must be willing to undergo the iron test or be considered 
guilty. When he stands the test the medicine-man washes 
out the mouth of the accused with his medicine and then 
inserts a red-hot iron. If he is innocent, it is believed that 
the iron will not burn the mouth of the person charged. 
It is the common belief that few if any guilty persons 
stand the test, so that most of the persons who stand it 
are innocent. It is said by some that the medicine-man 
washes out the mouth with a certain kind of medicine 
which prevents the iron from burning when he so desires, 
and vice versa. Many innocent people who are unable to 
satisfy the medicine-man get burned and are condemned. 
And it is thought that some guilty people may escape by 
buying the favor of the medicine-man. 




VAI GRASS WORK IN CAPS AND BAGS 

Facing Page 148 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 8i 

The ordeal of placing the hand in boiling-hot palm oil 
is used also when the wife is charged with being unfaith- 
ful, or when any person is charged with a crime. To 
prove innocence one must submit to the test. It is be- 
lieved that the hand is protected by certain medicine with 
which it is washed in the case of hot palm oil, as the mouth 
is in the case of the hot iron, and this ceremony, too, takes 
place under the same conditions and influences. To test 
the fidelity of the wife many ordeals are resorted to, but 
the favorite one is to make her drink sassawood tea. This 
ordeal is also used to prove innocence. In either case the 
person is supposed to drink about one quart of sassawood 
tea, which is rank poison. If the sassawood is immedi- 
ately thrown up the person is innocent ; if not, he is guilty 
and must suffer according to his offense. It is thought 
that the medicine-man makes this tea weak or strong to 
suit his plan to acquit or condemn, — that is, that the sassa- 
wood tea made a certain strength will be thrown up, and 
if not so made will be retained. 

In all the ordeals the medicine-man takes good pains to 
get his fee in advance. I remember another ordeal em- 
ployed by a Vai doctor to prove the guilt of a man who 
was said to have stolen a watch in Monrovia some time in 
August, 1904. 'A European had just arrived in town. 
He went to his apartments, took off his coat and vest, and 
laid them on the bed. In his vest he had a valuable gold 
watch, which was almost immediately stolen therefrom 
by one of the several native men employed about the 
house. In the town was a Vai medicine-man who claimed 
he could find out the thief. He took charge of the case, 
and had all the men in the house brought before him. He 
prepared his medicine, took three sheets of paper, wrote 
in his book, and while asking questions had each suspect 



82 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

draw the papers from the book three times. He said that 
on the third drawing, if the person were guilty, the paper 
would turn red. I was informed that the test was tried 
twice and that each time the same man was convicted. 

There were some who doubted the correctness of the 
tests, and the Vai doctor tried another with the same re- 
sult. He took a small rough stone and placed it three 
times under the lid of the eye of each person suspected. 
He said that the third time the stone would pass under the 
eyelid of the guilty party, and could be felt beneath the 
skin of the head. I was informed by many who saw the 
ordeal that the stone dropped each time from the eye of 
all but one man, — the one already convicted by the test 
of the papers turning red, — and that the third time it was 
put under the eyelid of this man it actually went up into 
his head. They said that one could see the upraised skin 
on his head made by the stone, that the man suffered great 
agony, and that to save his life the doctor had to remove 
the stone. This medicine-man was a very clever man, 
for I know he secured by his ordeals the faith and con- 
fidence of some rather intelligent men. I had this doc- 
tor call on me, but he soon discovered my object and I 
could not get him to perform anything before me or to 
call again. ^ 

CRIMES AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE 

The administration of justice among the Vais is very 
simple. The cases arising from time to time are divided 
into two classes, — criminal and civil. In each town and 
half-town there is a court, of which the chief or sub-chief 

° I recall a form of oath very sacred, taken by kings in times of 
mutual danger, to bind themselves together. It consists in touch- 
ing the ground, pointing toward the sky, then touching the tongue 
with the finger employed in the action. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 83 

is judge. From what I have been able to learn crimes 
have almost the same status as civil cases ; that is to say, 
the state does not recognize offenses as crimes against the 
state or society except in the cases of capital offenses. 
The injured family may or may not invoke the power of 
the Government. It may compromise a crime with 
the offending family, or person, as in a civil case, 
but when once the Government is appealed to its judg- 
ments are executed with strictness according to the native 
law. 

Murder, treason, and witchcraft are punishable by 
death. Such crimes as rape,® abduction, seduction, adul- 
tery, arson, and theft are punished by fines, imprison- 
ment, or flogging. The tendency, — and the more com- 
mon practice, — is to compel offenders to pay costs and a 
certain amount in goods to the injured party as in civil 
cases. In criminal matters appeals may be taken up as 
in civil matters. The practice is general among the Vais 
in criminal cases to appeal to some one or more of the 
ordeals and to abide the result. The authority of the 
state is invoked only when some satisfactory settlement 
cannot be made privately. 

When a criminal or civil case reaches the court, the 
procedure is the same. In either case the law among the 
Vais, as among most peoples, is expensive. A person de- 
siring to enter a suit calls upon the chief of a town and 
presents him with a " dash " called " cold water," — a 
much appreciated article in tropical Africa. This 
" dash " may consist of rum, gin, tobacco, and so on. 
After the " dash " the chief hears the statement of the 
case. When it is finished he sends his messenger with 

* Rape is a capital offense when committed against sande girls and 
members of prominent families. 



84 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

his cane or whip^ and summons his assistant and the 
elders of the town. He summons the defendant, and next 
the medicine-man to administer the oaths to the witnesses 
in the case. After the taking of the oaths the testimony 
begins. During the hearing of the testimony the mem- 
bers of the court ask such questions as they desire. 

When the testimony is finished both the plaintiff and 
defendant must " dash " the court; they call this " dash " 
putting them in the path. Every member of the court 
except the chief votes, and a majority rules. When the 
case is a tie each side pays half of the cost. In coming 
from the consultation the court is not allowed to talk to 
anybody. Before the members of the court can sit down 
after they have returned they must have another " dash " 
of cloth, gin, tobacco, and so on. In delivering the judg- 
ment the assistant chief speaks for the chief. Before the 
assistant talks they must be " dashed " again so the 
palaver,^ as they say, can be talked easy. If the plaintiff 
wins the case the judgment is that the defendant shall 
pay all costs, pay the amount adjudged to be due the 
plaintiff, and in addition give him one gown to put the 
said plaintiff in the path. It is believed that the plaintiff 
would have difficulty in finding the path home unless he 
should be given this gown.® 

' The king or chief has a symbol of authority which he carries 
and which he gives his messenger when he summons anyone. 
When the subjects see this symbol they dare not disobey the sum- 
mons. 

8 An adopted word used by the natives to express trouble or dif- 
ficulty in any form and under any conditions. 

^ Vais believe every man is in the right path, hence the require- 
ment when he is disturbed or taken out that he be put back. 



CHAPTER VI 

RELIGIOUS LIFE AND PRACTICE OF 
THE VAIS 

IDEA AND CONCEPTION OF GOD 

THE religious life and practice of the Vais consist 
of two elements, — the pagan and the Muhammu- 
dan. The former is their own. With all its defects, 
superstitions, and mysteries, it is still the means by which 
they have sought to find and serve their God. In a pri- 
vate conversation Dr. Blyden once said to me that " every 
race must find God for itself." Then the pagan life of 
the Vais is interesting to students of native religions in 
Africa. The religion of the Vais is a form of pantheism, 
and can best be understood from the religious acts of the 
people. They conceive God as the controller of the earth 
and skies and as manifesting Himself in spirits and nat- 
ural phenomena. They think He is too far away to serve 
them Himself, and that therefore it is not necessary to 
worship Him directly.^ This is a natural conception, for 
the ruling classes of Africans are accustomed to send their 
servants or slaves to attend to their affairs. When the 
people suffer any calamity they believe that their God is 
displeased with them, and that in some specific way an evil 
spirit has been chosen to punish them. Hence one finds 
the Vais wearing amulets sacred to their God and believ- 

1 This is not true of the Africans who have embraced the faith 
of Muhammud. 

83 



86 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

ing in the efficacy of these charms as long as they are 
worn. One will see them making sacrifices to natural 
things, not as if to God but as if to an object through 
which a spirit acted to their detriment or in which it 
dwells, and against whose displeasure it is necessary to 
protect themselves. 

So that the religious life of the pagan Vais is associated 
with certain natural objects or phenomena which are be- 
lieved to have rendered service, conferred favors, or in- 
flicted injury upon the people, and which are thought to 
be the abodes of indwelling spirits. The Vais consider 
themselves surrounded by the spirits of their dead and 
other spirits which can change themselves into living 
creatures and other objects, and which actually do evil to 
the individual and the tribe. The Vais consider it there- 
fore their first duty to satisfy and protect themselves 
against these spirits, and in doing so they think they are 
serving their God. Their religious life and practice seem 
to be limited to the native medicine, the various amulets, 
the fetiches, and tBe sacrifices that are deemed by them 
adapted to the discharge of their first duty. But behind 
and apart from all amulets, fetiches, and sacrifices, the 
Vais recognize a higher Power, and they call It Karmba, 
— God. 

So far as I have been able to observe the pagan Vais 
have not as yet risen to the conception of worshiping 
Karmba apart from any natural object or phenomena.^ 
They have always impressed me as being absorbed in 
protecting themselves in this life against invisible beings 
and spirits with which their fancy and imagination have 
peopled the earth. 

2 They call upon Karmba, however, in moments of great dis- 
tress and pain. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 87 

RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES AND SACRIFICES 

We have seen how the Vais honor their dead in a 
social function.* We now come to the consideration of 
the custom of the Vais of associating their dead with 
religious ceremonies and sacrifices. On account of the 
behef in spirits and their association with living crea- 
tures, material objects, and natural phenomena, sacrifices 
are made to different things in different sections of the 
Vai country, for sacrifices to the dead are not local but 
general. In all the Vai towns once or twice every year 
after the dead have been buried the remaining relatives 
visit the grave and carry with them rice, rum, palm 
butter, and so forth, which are placed near the grave. 
Then they go through a kind of ceremony in which they 
chant Vai songs in honor of the dead. They believe that 
where the dead are it is necessary for them to have food 
to eat. They think that the dead also need clothes or 
something to wear, and so they carry to the graves white 
cloth. All these articles are left at the grave, and it is 
thought that the spirit of the deceased will come for 
them. In thus providing for the dead they have the 
idea that if they do not so provide the spirits will be 
displeased and punish them for neglect. 

The object, therefore, of making sacrifices to the dead 
is to keep in the favor of the imaginary spirits thereof 
and thus prosper in life. Special ceremonies and sacri- 
fices are held for the very important men and women of 
high and ruling families. In these cases as in the others 
native food and cloth are sacrificed at the grave of the 
departed, but the ceremonies are much longer and far 
more impressive because they are participated in by the 

' " Social Functions, Deaths, and Dances,'' Chapter IV, 6. 



88 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

people generally, and sometimes extend beyond the limits 
of towns and provinces. 

We are thus brought to the consideration of another 
class of religious sacrifices, — a class which may be called 
local, because they grow out of the environment of a par- 
ticular locality. For example, in localities where the 
palm-tree flourishes sacrifices of a religious nature are 
made to palm-trees. When there is a scarcity of palm 
nuts, before the next palm nut season the chief of the 
locality where the scarcity exists selects a certain palm- 
tree, and on an appointed day the people are called to the 
palm grove and sacrifices are made to the tree selected. 
The sacrifices are accompanied by a ceremony, with sing- 
ing and drum beating. Certain medicine is placed on this 
tree and no one may gather palm nuts from it without 
suffering severe penalties. This tree is regarded with the 
greatest esteem. The reason for this sacrifice to this 
palm-tree is that the Vais believe that some one of the 
palm-trees, through its indwelling spirit, controls the rest. 
They think the spirit of the tree, being displeased, pre- 
vented the other palm-trees from bearing palm nuts, so 
they endeavor to secure its good-will by sacrifices. The 
palm-tree selected * is the one which gives the impression 
that it contains the dominant spirit. 

Along the rivers where alligators are plentiful and do 
violence to the people sacrifices of chickens, rum, rice, 
and so on are made to them. All along the shores of 
Lake Peso the alligators at one time were very destructive 
to human life, and the town of Sugary is now noted for 
having alligators that are kept as pets and witches and 
that are believed to be the possessors of evil spirits. We 

* Palm-tree the most important tree to native life, see Chapter 
III, " Economic Life of the Vais," 2, " Natural Products," etc. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 89 

have mentioned the alligator in its connection with witch- 
craft.* In certain localities, on account of its great men- 
ace to and destruction of native life, the Vais have con- 
nected it with the evil spirit, and they believe that it must 
have sacrifices made to it in order to appease its anger 
and to keep it in a friendly mood. 

In this connection I am reminded of a Vai legend in- 
volving the principle of sacrifice. During the early set- 
tlement of Manna Salijah, a section of the Manna coun- 
try. King Salee ruled. To-day the coimtry bears the 
name of this king Salijah. It is said that the alligators 
were very troublesome there. The natives were afraid 
to fish, and two or three persons were destroyed a day. 
Numbers of persons were missing every week. The an- 
noyance and dread became very great. Finally one of 
the old men had a dream. 

The old man said he dreamed that the alligators were 
very angry and wanted the favorite of the king, the son he 
loved best; nothing less would appease their anger; that 
this sacrifice would be followed by general prosperity; 
that regularly the steamers would call at Manna, trade 
would revive, and the people become rich. This dream 
was made known to the king and all his subjects. King 
Salee was sad but willing to make any sacrifice to save 
and enrich his people. He sought his favorite son, 
Vahnee Bamblu, told him the dream, and asked if he 
would willingly sacrifice his life to the alligators. The 
son consented, and was promised anj^hing he desired for 
three weeks. The king called together all his subjects to 
a big feast, and until the day for the sacrifice the revelry 
of eating, drinking, and dancing continued, with the 
music of horns, sasas, and the beating of drums. 

' See 5. " Scope and Influence of Witchcraft," Chapter IV. 



90 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

In the meantime a beautiful maiden was taken from 
the " Greegree Bush " and given to Vahnee Bamblu. 
Every wish of his was gratified. His head, neck, and 
Hmbs were decorated with jewelry of silver and gold ; his 
fingers were adorned with rings ; shoes were placed upon 
his feet ; he was donned in the most beautiful clothes, and 
was carried about in a hammock. He was attended by 
numerous servants who honored him and were ready to 
satisfy his every wish. The day for the sacrifice arrived. 
Vahnee Bamblu was bathed, clad in the finest clothes, 
dressed with, the rarest jewels, and after midday was 
placed in a canoe, carried to the center of the river, and 
with heavy weights sunk to the bottom thereof. 

At that moment a loud report resembling the roar of a 
cannon was heard sounding from below. It was so ter- 
rific that many persons on shore were frightened. The 
sound was interpreted to mean that the anger of the alli- 
gators was appeased and they were to enjoy general pros- 
perity. The people had great rejoicing. From that day 
the people of Salee were no more troubled nor destroyed 
by the alligators. Frequently steamers called and Manna 
became a large commercial port. The belief is common 
that if any of the descendants of King Salee or any resi- 
dents of Manna Salijah are capsized and are attacked by 
an alligator, they have only to mention the name of Vah- 
nee Bamblu, and the alligator will do them no harm. 

Very recently another old man had a dream. To him 
Vahnee Bamblu appeared, saying that he, Vahnee 
Bamblu, had become too old and that they must send 
some one else in his place, if they would enjoy better 
prosperity and become very rich. This dream is being 
widely circulated in the Vai country, but no active step 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 91 

is known to have been taken to make another sacrifice to 
relieve Vahnee Bamblu. 

To all the descendants of King Salee and his country 
this legend is told, and it is believed by them to be a fact. 

Now we are to glance at a class of religious sacrifices 
that are both general and local ; general in the sense that 
no locality is exempt from the operation of the clauses 
which give rise to the sacrifices, and local in that they are 
usually limited to a definite area at one time. I refer to 
the sacrifices to the spirits which control natural phe- 
nomena, such as lightning, droughts, thunder, and so on. 
When a drought destroys the crops the Vais conclude 
that some spirit is displeased. The most mysterious 
place near the fields is thought to be the habitat of this 
angered spirit. The people are called together to go to 
this place and there make the usual native sacrifice in the 
customary manner. 

When lightning strikes a house or tree near a town 
the object struck is thought to contain the displeased 
spirit, and a sacrifice is offered to it. I recall an illus- 
tration of this belief in the Vai town of Manjama. I 
arrived at this town on the afternoon of May i, 1904. 
About 4 p. M. I told the carriers to get some wood to 
make a fire with which to cook dinner. They got the 
wood, but the chief of the town took the wood from them 
and had it carried outside the town. He declared that 
the wood could not be burned in his town. Upon inquiry 
I found a door frame had been made of it for a house 
and that the lightning had struck it. The chief showed 
me the house with its shattered door frame. He told 
of the sacrifice to the spirit dwelling in the wood and 
pointed out his medicine fastened thereon, which he had 



92 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

placed there to cause God to keep the lightning out of his 
town. 

When I was about to take a canoe at Cape Mount to 
go to the extreme end of the lake known as Peso Lake, 
I had places pointed out to me where many persons had 
lost their lives when the lake was rough. Nearly all 
the rivers have places where persons are often capsized 
and drowned. The Vais believe that there are certain 
water spirits which live in the water and when displeased 
drown persons traversing the river or lake. At these 
particular places sacrifices are offered to keep these spirits 
in a friendly mood so that they will trouble no one. The 
natives make a sacrifice of a white plate, a white chicken, 
and a white piece of cloth. Should the canoe be about 
to capsize they believe that to drop the foregoing articles 
into the water will be sufficient to save them from harm 
and death. 

THE RELIGIOUS FUNCTION OF THE MEDICINE-MAN 

The medicine-man is a very important man. There 
are several classes of them. The importance of each 
medicine-man usually depends upon the class to which 
he belongs. In some way he is connected with almost 
everything, and in matters of religion he seems an in- 
dispensable factor. The mention of two classes will be 
sufficient for the present purpose. The head of the beri, 
called a beri-mo, belongs to the highest class of medicine- 
men. He has great political power, and is held in so 
great esteem that ^'ery few may see him. During the 
time that the youths are in the beri they are not only 
taught regarding the laws and matters of the Government 
but they are given instruction in religious duties, cere- 
monies, and sacrifices to the various spirits thought to 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 93 

bring good or ill fortune upon the Vai people. When, 
according to the instructions of the beri-mo, certain medi- 
cine is placed on a palm-tree, no one is supposed to gather 
palm nuts from or otherwise to interfere with this tree 
except under the pains and penalties of death. 

The \iolation of the religious laws is a very serious 
matter, and the beri-mo visits upon the violator certain 
death. These medicine-men meet in their council arid 
decide the punishment and the manner of its infliction. 
They are never known by the people. Generally some 
one in the family is instructed to execute the judgment. 
I am reliably informed by high Vai authority that death 
is generally inflicted by poisoning. It is said that a mem- 
ber of the family is commissioned to execute the sen- 
tences of the beri-mo-men in order to keep the tribe to- 
gether and prevent dissensions. Husbands kill their 
wives, sisters their brothers, and wives their husbands. 
Any person, a near relative, is liable to be selected for this 
work. No one can refuse ; to refuse is death. And thus 
the sight of the medicine of the beri-mo is quite sufficient 
to secure the religious respect for which it is intended. 

In contrast to this beri-mo, who is intensely serious, 
is the common medicine-man. His religious services may 
be obtained for his fee. If one is sick, for his fee he 
will, through his medicine, invoke the good offices of the 
invisible spirits. The belief is common that he can cure 
sickness in this way. I have heard of many instances 
where sick persons were told by this medicine-man to 
sacrifice a white chicken, to give away a white piece of 
cloth, and so on, and the patients did it and were restored 
to health immediately. The farmer who plants his farm, 
— which is open and exposed to any thief who may de- 
sire to steal from it, — consults the medicine-man, pays 



94 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

his fee, and gets medicine which, when placed upon a 
tree or bush near-by and seen by the thief, will cause 
him to drop the objects of his theft. The mourners visit- 
ing the graves of their loved ones with tokens of affec- 
tion and religious sacrifice may leave with these objects 
a bit of medicine from the medicine-man, wrapt appar- 
ently in a common rag, that will protect them all from 
the hand extended to defile the grave. 

This medicine-man represents himself as being in com- 
munion with and controlling the ruling spirits. His 
medicine is good for all the ills common to the native 
life. Among the other tribes, — like the Gora, Basa, and 
Kpwesi, unless they are trained under the Mandingoes 
or Vais, — the medicine-man is little more than a herb 
doctor. The industrious Mandingoes have sent their 
teachers among all the tribes between them and the 
coast. In no particular is their influence more visible 
than in the added functions of the medicine-man. It is 
now common to see the medicine-men traveling in Libe- 
ria, for they can secure practice and succeed when most 
other men would fail.''' Often with the practice of medi- 
cine is combined the function of the priest, and in all 
their religious work among the people the great and 
all-important doctrine is sacrifice, and this is the key to 
the pagan religious life of the Vais. 

ISLAMIC FAITH AMONG THE VAIS 

The history of Islam in West Africa is very interest- 

' " These Mori men certainly make more money than anyone else 
in the country, as they do nothing without being handsomely paid 
for it. They are the sole purveyors of the written fetiches. Every- 
body wears some sort of fetich or greegree, and of course every- 
body has to pay for it." " The Sherbro and Its Hinterland," by 
T. J. Alldridge, F.R.G.S., p. 105. 
















VAJ ISLAMIC MOSQUE 



Facing Page 94 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 95 

ing. The weight of authority is to the effect that it 
probably crossed the Sahara about the eleventh century, 
A. D., although the Tarik, a history of the Western 
Sudan written in the 17th century by Amir Es Sardi, 
contains a reference to a prince of the Songhai King- 
dom, who about 1000 A. D., became a follower of Mu- 
hammud. Upon the authority of Leo Africanus we be- 
lieve that many Negroes accepted the tenets of Muham- 
mud during the reign of Yusif Iben Tashfin, the founder 
of Morocco, as early at 1062 A. D. '' Dr. Barth, a Ger- 
man traveler, ascribes the introduction of Islam into 
Bornu to the year 1086, during the reign of Hume, who 
perhaps died on his way to or from the city of Mecca. 
Mr. Morel, an authority on West African Affairs, is of 
the opinion that Islam was in the region of the Senegal 
about the 9th century A. D.,* and pressed eastward, reach- 
ing Gao on the Niger near the opening of the nth cen- 
tury, and continued in a triumphal march to the great 
Negro kingdom of Kanem. Others contend that Islam 
came to the Sudan from the eastward. But whichever 
way it came, it came and from without, and was felt 
among the Negroes of the Niger Bend in the nth cen- 
tury ; and, — upon such eminent authorities as Morel, 
Dubois, Blyden, and others, — islam became an important 
factor in the religious faith and practice of the finer 
Negroes of the continent. It is said that throughout the 
northern portions of Africa the Koran, its sacred book, 
is read from the " Atlantic to the Red Sea, and from 
the Mediterranean to the Congo." Dr. Blyden, in the 
following words, well likened its phases to the English 
drum-beat described so poetically by Daniel Webster: 

T " Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race," by Dr. Blyden, p. 6. 
8 " Affairs of West Africa," by E. D. Morel, p. 210. 



96 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

" They keep company with the hours, and from lofty 
minarets encircle the globe with one unbroken strain of 
the mellifluous sounds of Arabia, — Allahu Akbar, AUahu 
Akbar." » 

Islam is a potent force in the religious life of the Vais. 
Whether the Vais accepted this faith before or since they 
came to the coast it is impossible toi say. The Rev. S. 
W. Koelle said fifty years ago that not more than one- 
fourth of them were Muhammudans. The number is 
much larger now. A Christian missionary at Cape 
Mount estimates that 95 per cent, of the Vais are Mus- 
lims." In most of the towns and some of the half-towns 
the Muhammudans have schools and mosques, and they 
are generally regarded as being somewhat superior to 
their pagan brothers. In the schools the boys are taught 
Arabic, and some of them become, quite proficient in it. 
Instruction is given in this language in order that the 
Koran and other works in Arabic may be read. In the 
mosques the adherents of Islam may be seen praying 
five times a day, but wherever they are they pray before 
sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, and just 
at night. It is said that when praying Muhammud 
turned his face to the West, — 

" Because," as he said, " from that quarter crowds will 
enter the religion of Islam and be among the most faith- 
ful of its adherents." ^^ 

8 " The Koran in Africa," by Dr. E. W. Blyden, in the Journal 
of the African Society, January, 1905. 

1" Miss Agnes P. Mahoney in a conversation and in a letter gave 
me this estimate in April, 1905, and later. 

11 " The Koran in Africa," by Dr. Blyden, in Journal of the Afri- 
can Society, p. 158. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 97 

Admirably the prophecy has been fulfilled. But the Vais 
in praying turn their faces to the East toward Kaaba, 
a sacred shrine in Mecca, believed to be a special gift of 
God and the favorite praying-place of Ishmael and Abra- 
ham. Some of the Vai Mussulmen are very devoted 
to their faith, which seems to possess their whole hearts. 
For thirty days they hold the annual fast of Ramadhan, 
at the close of which they celebrate the festival of Bairam. 
For hours I have listened to them gathered in a group, 
and with one person as a leader, chanting from memory 
the sacred lines of the Koran. 

There has been a great deal of discussion as to the 
character and effect of Islamism. One writer describes 
it in these words : 

" Islamism is in itself stationary, and was framed 
thus to remain; sterile like its God, lifeless like 
its first principle in all that constitutes life, — for life 
is love, participation, and progress, and of these the 
Koranic deity has none. It justly repudiates all change, 
all development; to borrow the forcible words of Lord 
Houghton, the written book is there the dead man's 
hand, stiff and motionless; whatever savours of vitality 
is by that alone convicted of heresy and defection." ^^ 

Doubtless the writer of this passage had in mind the 
effect of Islamism in Arabia, and it will hardly be dis- 
puted that there is some truth in what he says so far as 
the effect of Muhammudanism upon mankind in general 
is concerned. But when we come to the Negro in Africa 
the description is in violent contradiction to the fact. 
That Islamism is an important factor in improving the 

i^Palgrave's "Arabia," Vol. I, p. 372. 



98 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

morals of the Negro and in civilizing him has been most 
ably proved by such forceful writers as Thompson and 
Taylor, Reclus and Morel, Bosworth Smith, and Dr. 
Blyden. Speaking of the influence of the Arabian faith 
upon its entrance into the Sudan, Mr. Morel gives this 
important testimony of Joseph Thompson: 

" Under the fostering impulse and care of the new 
religion these backward regions commenced an upward 
progress." ^^ 

Mr. Thompson's testimony cannot be brushed aside with- 
out reason, for about 1884 he visited that portion of Ne- 
groland now known as Northern Nigeria, and he has been 
described by so voluminous a writer as Noble as 

" a scientific observer and the humanest, the noblest of 
African explorers since Livingstone." ^* 

Mr. Bosworth Smith is a remarkable Englishman in 
that he pored over the pages of the Koran and over the 
works of African travelers and savants until he was not 
only able to appreciate the spirit of Islam but to enter 
into it 

" in a manner which," as Dr. Blyden says, " but 
for the antecedent labors of Lane, Sprenger, Deutsch, 
and Weil, would be astounding in a Western scholar and 
Englishman." ^' 

13 "Affairs of West Africa," by E. D. Morel, p. 211. " Mungo 
Park," by Joseph Thompson in the " World's Greatest Explorers " 
series. Mr. Morel's book contains two of the strongest chapters 
ever written in favor of the influence of Islam on the Negro. 

""Redemption of Africa," by Noble, Vol. I, p. 68. 

ii> " Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race," by Dr. Blyden, p. 3. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 99 

Mr. Smith, while lecturing in 1874 at the Royal Insti- 
tution of Great Britain weighed and described the effect 
of the Muslim faith on the Negro with much of the 
accuracy of one who had spent some time in observation 
and study on the ground. He says: 

" Christian travelers, with every wish to think other- 
wise, have remarked that the negro who accepts Muham- 
mudanism acquires at once a sense of the dignity of 
human nature not commonly found even among those 
who have been brought to accept Christianity." ^® 

Yet, as just as Mr. Smith tried to be and was in discussing 
the Negro, the above passage shows that in some respects 
he still had the prejudice against which he so gallantly 
fought. He began the name of the black race with a 
small " n." And like so many of the present-day writers 
he was unable to see, as Dr. Blyden pointed out long ago, 
that the word Negro is entitled to the same distinction as 
Hindoo, Indian, and other race names, and that it is the 
height of inconsistency to write Congo, Vai, Basa, Man- 
dingo, and Ashantee with capitals and " negro " with a 
small letter.^ '^ For when did the parts become greater 
than the whole? 

The Geographic Universelle of M. Elisee Reclus is a 
classic in African literature. By it he " made the scien- 
tific world debtor for a vast treasure-house of natural 
science in its African aspects and relations." ^^ The 
author of this very valuable and important work speaks 
of the influence of Islam on the Negro in these words : 

1^ " Muhammud and Muhanomudanism," by R. B. Smith, Lecture 

I, p. 32. 

^'' " Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race," by Dr. Blyden, p. 

II, in a note. 

1* " Redemption of Africa," by Noble, author's note. Vol. I, p. ii. 



loo NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

" In Nigretia the propagation of Islam coincides with 
important poHtical and social changes. Large states 
were founded in regions hitherto a prey to a hundred 
hostile savage tribes. Manners softened. Solidarity 
sprang up between communities formerly engaged in 
ceaseless war. Muhammudanism enjoys more material 
cohesion than in Asia. . . . Their common belief tends " 
everywhere to diffuse the social ideas, habits, usages and 
speech of the Arab. ... At Mecca the most zealous pil- 
grims, those subject to most frequent fits of religious 
frenzy, are the Negroes of Wadai and Bornu and the 
inhabitants of northwest Abyssinia. Notwithstanding 
the difficulties of the journey, thousands of Tekrurs un- 
dertake the pilgrimage every year. In West Africa the 
propagators of Islam are Negroes." ^* 

There is no question but what M. Reclus is an able 
scholar. He was twenty years preparing what is now 
regarded as the most complete geography of the world. 
And it is extremely unlikely that a man, after the most 
extensive traveling, one endowed with the qualifications 
to render such eminent services to the world of science, 
would attribute to Islam a false effect on the Negro, con- 
trary to conventional opinion, and describe it with such 
force and minuteness, unless his opinion had been de- 
termined by the most convincing facts. The rejection 
of his statement requires either the disclosure of his 
ignorance or the impeachment of his character. As yet 
neither has been done. 

Dr. Blyden, the eminent Negro scholar, wrote in 
Fraser's Magazine in 1875 : 

" Muhammudanism in Africa counts in its ranks the 
18 " Redemption of Africa," by Noble, Vol. I, p. 68. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA loi 

most energetic and enterprising tribes. It claims as ad- 
herents the only people who have any form of social 
polity or bond of social organization. It has built and 
occupies the largest cities in the heart of the continent. 
Its laws regulate the most powerful kingdoms, — Futah, 
Masina, Hausa, Bomu, Wadai, Dafur, Kordofan, Senaar, 
etc." 20 

Thirty years afterwards, describing the sway of the 
Koran in Africa, this distinguished writer said : 

" If there were a railway from West Africa to the Red 
Sea, and you wished to avail yourself of it to journey 
to Egypt during the fast (you might accomplish the 
journey perhaps in seven days), you would during those 
seven days pass through a region where you would find 
every man, woman, and child in good health observing the 
fast. On the entire route, — 4000 miles, — you would 
notice that the fires were out in the daytime. Sixty 
milHons of people fasting at the same time! I believe 
that more than one-half of these are Negroes." ^^ 

More than thirty years ago Dr. Blyden was not only a 
scholar but had 

" enjoyed exceptional advantages for observation and 
comparison in the United States, the West Indies, South 
America, Egypt, Syria, West and Central Africa." 

As Director of the Department of Muhammudan Ed- 
ucation at Sierra Leone he has had the most favorable 

20 " Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race," by Dr. Blyden, p. 6. 
^^ " The Koran in Africa," by Dr. Blyden in Journal of the Afri- 
can Society, January, 1905. 



I02 NEGRO CULTURE IN A\'EST AFRICA 

opportunities for ascertaining the influence of Islam on 
the Xegro Muslims. And with a scholarship further 
broadened and enriched with thirty Acars of study and 
observation of life and letters in Africa and the world, 
Dr. Blyden speaks on this question with an authority 
A\hich must command respect if it does not force convic- 
tion. 

]\I. Dubois, the author of " Timbuctu the Mysterious," 
who while tra\eling in the Sudan secured some very 
valuable manuscripts,^^ used these words respecting the 
Negroes of this portion of Africa : 

" We possess the biographies of several hundred of 
these learned men, and all are related to one another in a 
more or less direct line. A cerebral refinement was thus 
produced among a certain proportion of the Negraic 
population which has had surprising results, as we shall 
see later, and wliich gives the categorical lie to the the- 
orists who insist upon the inferiority of the black races." -^ 

Against the facts presented by such distinguished 
writers we have the views of just as splendid a line of 
able men, — like Blerzey, Church, Noble, Kenan, and 
Freeman, — men who have formed their conclusions 
mainly from the observations of others, and who have 
not traveled and therefore ha^'e not studied the African 
and his institutions in Africa as much and as long as have 
Thompson, Dubois, and Blyden. But their conclusions 
in many respects are sound, and their distance has en- 
abled them to bring to their works a charm which per- 
haps a closer view would obscure. Mr. Noble tries to 

22 First complete copy of the Tarik, a history of Sudan. 
2s " Timbuctu the Mysterious," by Dubois, p. 278. 



\EGRO CITLTURE IX ^^•FST AFRICA 103 

take a very liberal interpretation of the Xegro, and M. 
Renan is renowned for his trenchant criticisms. A cita- 
tion from each of them \\nll be sufficient to indicate the 
general opinion of all these men. The influence of 
Islam is summed up by Raian as fi^vllows : 

" On ground none of tlie best Islam has done as much 
harm as good. It has stifled everything by its arid and 
desolating simplicity. . . . The essential condition of a 
diffused civilization is the destniction of Islam. The 
product of an inferior and meager combination of hu- 
man elements, its conquests have all been on the average 
plane. Savage races have been incapable of rising to it. 
It has not satisfied the people who carried in themselves 
the seeds of a stronger civilization." -^ 

As applied to man generally this seems to express 
the trend and the weight of opinion among those com- 
petent to judge. In this opinion Mr. Xoble agrees, and 
after, as he says, turning " from the polemics of par- 
tisans such as missionaries. thei.ilog"ians. and travelers." 
and in the light of historA- examining the ^^ orks of sitch 
students and scholars as August Mueller, Thev^dor X'oel- 
deke, Wilhelm Spitta. Dean Stanley, and W'ellhausen, he 
proceeds to judge the worth and the work of Islam in 
Africa. And after portrapng the merits and defects of 
Islam as an African Missionari-. he states among liis 
conclusions the following opinions: 

■■ Islam has been slow in operation, superficial and un- 

satisf}-ing in actual achievements. Its African conquests, 

though larger in area than Eurojie, cost nearly thirteen 

**" Redemption of Africa." quoted by F. F. Noble, ^■ol. I, p. 66. 



I04 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

hundred years of effort, are more nominal than real, and 
relatively number but few adherents. As an ethical, 
spiritual, and state-building force it has proved a failure. 
In Egypt, North Africa, and Northern Sahara it sup- 
planted a superior -civilization; in Sudan the Mushm 
brought a culture little if any superior to that of the 
Negro. In the lands of the Negro the Muslim success 
consists of Arab immigration; the conversion of five or 
six influential tribes; and their conquests of others." 

It is said that Islam requires no change of heart or 
life, that its acceptance is made easy by the simplicity 
and poverty of its creed, and that its social force is 
greater than its spiritual potency. They say that when 
charged with political authority the spirit of Islam is 
military, and the missionary spirit was just born in the 
19th century ;^^ that the Koran teems with commands 
to fight, that the distinctive feature of Islam is the Holy 
War, and that this faith regards the sword as the best 
missionary. With the force of truth it is observed that 
Islam makes concessions to Negro beliefs, substitutes 
the Muslim minister for the pagan medicine-man, and 
replaces the native fetiches with Koranic verses as 
amulets. Yet, after all, Mr. Morel, who as editor of the 
West African Mail must keep in touch with conditions 
and life in West Africa, makes the following significant 
statement : 

" Individually and collectively the Negro has pro- 
gressed since Islam crossed the desert, and just as to the 

25 Page 219, " Affairs of West Africa." This is contradicted by 
Mr. Morel, who is one of the ablest living authorities on West 
Africa. His chapters on " Islam in West Africa " are exceedingly 
strong and interesting. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 105 

Negro fetich of the forest and the swamp religious con- 
ceptions permeate every act, preside over every under- 
taking, and insinuate themselves into every incident of 
his daily existence, so Islam, while it has laid permanent 
hold upon the Negro, claims from him an allegiance en- 
tire and complete." ^* 

He cites the authority of a clergyman of the Church 
Missionary Society who describes 

" a ceaseless stream of Hausa pilgrims continually passing 
through Tripoli on the way to Mecca after a wearisome 
tramp across the desert," 

and reminds us of that larger but still " ceaseless 
stream "of Negroes from all parts of Western Africa 
which pours across the drifting and scorching sands of the 
Sahara for the precious sight of Mecca. It matters but 
little if the Fulah, Mandingo, Yolof, Egypto-Sudanese 
followers, and Zanzibari Muhammudans have records as 
warriors; or that Islam is discredited from Kartum to 
Wadelai by Felkin and Wilson, with the Hausas by Barth, 
the Futa highlander and Mandinges by Lenz, and the 
Bambara and Yolof by Brun-Renand ; the evidences and 
authorities are increasing that among the Negroes of 
Western Africa Islam, with all its faults, and it has 
many, is an important factor where it has taken root. It 
does not do what Christianity would do if it were em- 
braced and established to the same extent, but the Mu- 
hammudan Negro is a great improvement on the pure 
pagan. I have been able to observe the Basis, Goras, 
Kpwesi, and other pagan tribes in Liberia, and in indus- 
trial skill, self-respect, energy, and intellectual attain- 
ts "Affairs of West Africa," by E. D. Morel, p. 212. 



io6 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

ments they are inferior to the Vais and Mandingo Mus- 
Hms. 

I may be unduly influenced by the fact that I found a 
Negro Mussulman within easy reach of Monrovia with 
nearly 150 volumes in Arabic, covering a wide range 
of subjects.^'' Fifty of these volumes were by Negro 
authors, who wrote concerning law, theology, music, 
science, grammar, rhetoric, and medicine. I venture to 
give the list as I obtained it. 

I. SCIENCE 

Ah da ma boo noo 00 roo soo 00 le. Treatise on Ani- 
mal Life. 

2. GRAMMAR 

Gya roo ma and Ma e da ne you. 

3. RHETORIC 

Ba na too soo an doo,^* Na fe an too too labe,^^ Ah la sa 
me sa me, La ta ah le ka na na, Alema ka ma too,^" by 
Aboale Kassime or Booade-En-Gade. 

4. MEDICINE 

Sa noo soo ahle ma roo fe,^^ Tale ya koo,*" Sa ma 
wate,** and Ba too ta ne.** 

27 Momoru Ducky, the Negro Muslim of Brahma. 

28 Named after wife who had run away. 
2* To help school boy. 

3" Rough rice ; one must go to school before he can know it, so 
rice must be beaten before eaten. 
21 Well-known day. 
32 Path for Medicine. 

23 The Top of all Medicine Books, or the best. 
3* Shelter for God-man. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 107 



5. LAW 

Lame yata ahle moo ta ra ne mena, School Song Book ; 
Ah fa ge ah leme se koo, School Law ; La an le moo ah 
le moo ta an le moo, School Law ; La ke la le you, Ba 
ha ge, Koo roo te be you and Noo boola soo. 

6. MUSIC 

Wa te le yate, Boo noo boo 00 la de, Ah boo se le, 
Gi noo al le anbe de na, Gya ge na an ba, Ba da ma se, 
Na soo ka de, Sa ra too laha be, Ba ah boo la, Ya la 
besa, Da le ya. Sake fa alle ho dah,^^ by Qua ge ba fama, 
Boo le da ta ke me so, by Mu ham mu di Mai i kaise you, 
Boo le ba ha mo gya 00, same author. 

7. THEOLOGY 

La se le tan,^^ Too lane gu loo la ma,^^ Na se ha too,^^ 
Wa ka la se you, Se too wa se too na,*® Ha se boo ah le 
ha sa na te, Na se ha too ah le fa ta ha,*° Fa ma an na. 
Ma ah koo too moo ahn,*^ Ya moo an ta wa ha de,*^ Soo 
ke la, Koo boo ra, Ya ra ro dene,** Soo la me, Sa ya 
la ta ah le gya kene, Ja wa ha la,** and Ya koo loo sa 
ekoo na. 

'5 Divided into ten parts. 

2" Means difficult to learn ; compared to bullock with short neck, 
difficult to catch. 
"'' Means that the book will make glad those who read it. 
'^ Sixty-six parts. 
89 Young Boy Glad. 
*" Twenty parts. 

*i Means all theology included in this book. 
*2 Means the book is the best on theology. 
*' The diamond of all theological works, that is the best. 
^■'The sayings of the minister of the Gospel. 



io8 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

It is very improbable that Negroes would master 
Arabic,*^ a foreign language, with such proficiency as to 
enable them to write books in this alien tongue, — and 
books on such varied subjects, — without being them- 
selves impressed not only by the language but by the 
literature thereof. Glance over this list of books and it 
will disclose just what would naturally be of interest to 
the Negroes to whom Arabian culture had been brought 
through the missionary and military efforts of Islam. 
There are seven books on law, five on science and medi- 
cine, seven on grammar and rhetoric, fourteen on music, 
and seventeen on theology. The Negro is well known 
to be highly musical, and his authorship in this line, as 
far as this Muslim library discloses it, shows that he 
made this Arabian language pay tribute to his nature and 
respond to his pleasure. But great as seems to be the 
tendency of the Negro to write about music, — a subject 
that is naturally interesting to him, — he appears to be 
even more given to writing about theology. The Koran 
inspired the learning of Arabic and the questions con- 
sidered therein would of course for some time attract a 
great number of the proselyted people. 

Mr. Draper, speaking of Europe's obligation to the 
Muhammudans,*^ says : 

" I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the 
literature of Europe has contrived to put out of sight our 
scientific obligations to the Muhammudans." And he 
adds, " Surely they cannot be much longer hidden." 

<5 Please note that the foregoing African names in Arabic are 
written for the first time by the writer, and not having seen them 
written before he cannot vouch for the correctness of the spelling. 

*o " Intellectual Development of Europe," by J. W. Draper, Vol. 
I, p. 42. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 109 

As true as this assertion is in regard to the Muslim, 
Hterature has treated the Negro even worse. Both 
Europe and America have concealed to a great extent 
the Negro's part in the civilizations of Africa and the 
world. But " surely they cannot be much longer hidden." 
And, in spite of certain literary critics, we must conclude 
that Islam exercises a powerful grip on the Negro mind. 
Originally the propagators of the Meccan faith were Ber- 
ber and Arabic Mussulmen. And although now the same 
faith is chiefly spread by Negroes in West Africa, I have 
seen among the Vais Arabic Muslims with their Negro 
wives. 

The Vais entertain the deepest veneration for the 
Koran. Those who profess the faith of the Meccan 
prophet evince a superiority over their pagan tribesmen 
and possess a zeal, dignity, and devotion which at least 
are impressive. The Vai Negro's attachment to the 
Islamic faith is not without cause, for they are taught 
that the Negro has an honorable part in the military his- 
tory and noted achievements of the religion. By the 
best informed Muhammudans the Africans are made to 
feel a pride in the fact that their race is recognized in 
the Koran, which contains a chapter inscribed to a 
Negro,*'' and that Muhammud was in part descended 
from an African and had a Negro as a confidant in 
Arabia. It is pointed out that Negroes figured promi- 
nently in the progress of Islam, and on one occasion slew 
a rival of Muhammud. It is said that the prophet greatly 
admired a Negro poet of anti-Islamic times, and regretted 
that he had never seen him. 

The Vai Negroes thus feel a close relationship to the 

*'' Logman, Chapter 31, Koran, Steingrass's translation of " The 
Assemblies of Harire," Vol. II, p. 24S, by Dr. E. W. Blyden. 



no NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

Koranic faith. As we have seen they name their chil- 
dren after Muhammud and the prophets as if they were 
their kinsmen. They dehght to think of and commune 
with the great masters of their faith as equals. Their 
boys may be seen writing in the sand these names and 
the words of the Koran. With all the pride of distin- 
guished ancestors, with the names and memory of great 
Negroes, renowned in the military history and progress 
of Islam, and with all the inspiration which a knowledge 
of the Koran and its language gives, their scholars and 
priests go forth daily to teach and to widen the influence 
of Islam among their pagan fellows, without money and 
without price. The followers and adherents of Muham- 
mud can easily be distinguished from the pagan Vais. 
Among this people the Arabian faith is a vital, living, 
active force. It stirs the spiritual nature of the Vai- 
speaking Negro to its very depths.** 

CHRISTIANITY AMONG THE VAIS 

The seeds of Christianity are being sown among the 
Vais. The indications are that they are taking root. 
For perhaps more than two centuries the Vais have been 
in communication with European traders, and now and 
then they came in contact with Christian influence.*® 

*s "Careful scientific study has enforced on me, as it has on other 
students, the recognition that the African mind naturally ap- 
proaches all things from a spiritual point of view. Low down in 
culture or high up, his mind works along the line that things hap- 
pen because of the action of spirit upon spirit; it is an effort for 
him to think in terms of matter." From "West African Studies," 
by M. H. Kingsley, p. 386. 

*9 " West Africa has been in contact with Christianity for three 
hundred years, and not one single tribe, as a tribe, has yet become 
Christian." Dr. E. W. Blyden, in "Christianity, Islam, and the 
Negro Race," p. 25. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA iii 

Before the present century the Christian influences must 
have been very slight. The large Peso Lake at Cape 
Mount, penetrating far into the interior, gave that place 
an advantage over many others as a point from which to 
engage in the traffic of human beings. An important 
slave-trading center was established there, and for some 
time the slave-trade flourished with all its horrors. Near 
the interior limits of this lake I saw at Datia pieces O'f 
guns and the remnants of old cannon, which it was said 
were furnished the Vais by the Spanish to aid the former 
in securing captives from the neighboring tribes. But 
after the death of the slave-trade and the birth of the 
Liberian colony the Vais began to recognize the import- 
ance of peace, and to value the friendship of their neigh- 
bors. More and more they began to turn to the arts 
of legitimate industry. The effect of the destruction of 
the trade in slaves was to force the Vais to seek the ex- 
tension of their commercial relations with their former 
foes. 

So that about i860 the Rev. Daniel Ware, an Americo- 
Liberian, felt safe in settling at Cape Mount, and took 
into his family some Vai boys and girls. To them he 
gave instruction in written and spoken English. But 
unfortunately for the children the Reverend Ware was 
not long at Cape Mount before he was called to a charge 
on the St. Paul River near the capital of Liberia. In 
1877, under Bishop C. C. Penick, the first organized ef- 
fort was made to Christianize the Vais, and the St. John 
Mission was established at Cape Mount by the authority 
and under the supervision of the Protestant Episcopal 
Church in the United States. Momolu Masaquoi,^" a 
Vai prince formerly at Ghendima, Gallinas, and now at 
*" See I, " Nature and Form of Government," Chapter V. 



112 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

Monravia, Liberia, speaking of the condition of the Vais 
at the founding of the St. John Mission, said : 

" In 1877 there were not five men in the Vai territory 
who spoke decent Enghsh : to-day hundreds of young men 
and women express themselves well in that language. In 
that year there was not a single man who could read the 
Roman characters : to-day nearly all business letters, peti- 
tions, and other diplomatic documents from Vai kings 
and merchants are written by Vai boys and girls in civi- 
lized language. In 1877 there was not a single Christian 
among us : to-day we have hundreds in the fold of 
Christ." 51 

Besides, the St. John Mission has sent out many Vai 
boys and girls who are now in the civilized settlements 
of Liberia. I saw a goodly number in various towns 
in the Vai country. Many Vai boys from this Mission 
are now filling clerkships and other positions along the 
West Coast. And others yet have made and are now 
making splendid records in the institutions for higher 
learning in the United States and Europe. I have had 
the pleasure of visiting this Mission under the supervision 
of the Right Reverend Bishop S. D. Ferguson, and I 
know that it has rendered efficient and valuable services to 
the Vai people and the Republic of Liberia. These serv- 
ices have been so marked and so valuable that they 
elicited words of commendation from President Arthur 
Barclay in his first inaugural address.^^ 

The enrolment of the St. John Mission for 1904, as 
reported by the Right Reverend Bishop, was ninety native 

P^ The April Century Magazine, 1905. 

1^^ Inaugural Address of President Barclay, January, 1904. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 113 

Vai children and ten Liberians. Therefore the chief 
work of the school is among the natives where it is most 
needed. The continued progress of this Mission and 
the establishment of Christian schools in the heart and 
interior of the Vai country will be interesting to persons 
who feel a lively concern in the question raised by those 
who have so powerfully pleaded the cause of Islam for 
the Negro. 

It is deeply regretted that the present consideration of 
this very interesting question would carry us outside the 
scope of our thesis. Nevertheless, we cannot resist the 
temptation to say that for centuries the Vais have been 
sitting at the feet of Mandingan and Arabic scholars 
who are laden with Koranic wisdom and who possess 
some of the principles and classic lore of Oriental civi- 
lization. The language of the Koran has opened to the 
Vais another world of life and letters superior to their 
own. In many towns for generations Vai scholars have 
drilled into Vai children the knowledge and culture of the 
Koran. Social sympathy, personal and racial pride, have 
all been invoked to attach the Vais to the prophet of 
Mecca. Throughout the tribe the standard of Islam has 
been unfurled. While the sway of the Koran has done 
something for the Vais, still they are a prey to the evils of 
the polygamic marriage and the African labor system. 
Among them, except where modified by Liberian influ- 
ence, the baneful institution of domestic slavery still stalks 
unchallenged, with all its withering and blighting fea- 
tures. And while the fetiches have changed their form, 
the Vai Muhammudan still wears them and still believes 
in their protecting grace. 

Judging from the results of the St. John Mission at 
Cape Mount, which has only been operating a little over 



114 MHCiKO CULTURE IM WEbl AEKILA 

a quarter of a century, the indications are that the Vais 
are capable in every way of grasping the principles of 
Christianity and of absorbing the facts and the culture 
of Modern Civilization. It seems only a question of 
time when the Church shall have prepared the Vais with 
teachers and preachers of their own tribe. The people 
are eager to learn and to send their children to school. 
And if ever they are enabled to educate them in their own 
towns according to modern methods and along modern 
lines, the high order of Vai capacity ought to achieve for 
the Vai-speaking peoples a creditable place in Christian 
Civilization. Any one of the great modem languages 
will open to this people a wealth of life and learning, the 
dominant note of which is individual and social develop- 
ment. Science, literature, art, philosophy, and Chris- 
tianity will do for the Vais what they have done for the 
nations, — ■ that is, enable them to utilize their natural 
resources and to actualize their highest social and spiritual 
destiny. An industrial school was established at Ghen- 
dima in 1900. Some of the forces of Civilization have 
entered the field. The contest is submitted to the future. 
The great difficulty will be to provide Christianity and 
Modern Civilization with Vai roots in the Vai country. 
But once this is done the Crescent must wane before the 
Cross. 




< 
< 



> 



< 
2 



CHAPTER VII 
STANDARD OF MORALS AMONG THE VAIS 

BEFORE AND AFTER MARRIAGE 

IT is a common opinion that among the young of the 
Africans the standard of morals is very high. This 
is especially true where the African is under his own 
institutions and is uninfluenced from without. We can 
somewhat understand why this is true. According to 
the institutions of the African, the greatest caution is 
taken for the protection of the morals of the young, 
and particularly the morals of the females. The little 
girls are taken at or about the ages of eight and ten years 
and placed in the institution of the " Greegree Bush," 
and there they remain until they are ready to be mar- 
ried.^ 

Among the Vais the institution in which the girls are 
placed is called sande. No male is permitted to visit or 
go within the limits of this institution. The common 
belief is that if any man violates this law he will suffer 
death. The native men are positively afraid to approach 
the limits of tlae " Greegree Bush," or sande. The na- 
tive man is impressed that he will die, but just how he 
does not know. Certain medicine is placed up where it 
can be seen on the path leading to the institution, and 

^They may be taken out by parents, but afterward the strictest 
watch is kept over the girls all the time. 

"5 



ii6 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

when it is seen by a male he will flee from the place as 
quickly as possible. He believes that if he does not do 
so the medicine will " witch " him and bring death upon 
him. I am informed that when a male violates this law 
the beri-mo of the " Devil Bush " simply has the violator 
poisoned by a member of his family. Among the na- 
tives native authority and institutions must be respected, 
and the death of some civilized persons is attributed to 
the violation of native laws and defiance to native insti- 
tutions or authority, relative to the beri or sande so- 
cieties. 

The Vais being on the coast and coming in contact 
with foreign influences, those nearest the line have had 
their morals weakened so that some of the young girls 
are never placed in the sande. The ease with which 
violators can escape when near civilized settlements is 
another influence which tends to weaken the institutions 
for the moral protection of the young. Foreign civi- 
lization very often presents its weakest and evil side, and 
strong temptations and inducements are held out to the 
Vais for their young maidens, many of whom are very 
attractive, and it is a matter to be regretted that some 
of the Vais are unable to resist them. So that I think it 
can be said with truth that the regulations for the pro- 
tection of the morals of the young are not as strong 
and stringent nor as effective along the coast and near 
civilized centers as they are farther into the interior 
where the institutions and the sentiments which support 
them are unimpaired. 

Though the morals of the Vais as a people are weakened 
so far as the protection of the young maidens is con- 
cerned, they are more so regarding their protection after 
marriage, owing to the nature of native institutions. It 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 117 

is a customary law among the Vais that if a woman leaves 
her husband and goes to another man, the husband may 
recover from the man double the amount paid for the 
wife and the price of all the articles supplied her since 
marriage. In the interior, where it is very difficult for 
a native man always to get the amount paid for a wife, 
the native provision for the protection of the family seems 
adequate, but on the coast the man can more easily pay 
what is required, and the protection of the native family 
is proportionately reduced. Moreover, the native women 
in the interior have few wants and are exposed to few 
temptations. When they come in contact with outside 
influences, — too often evil, — which excite new and 
varied wants, they become too frequently the prey of 
that dissatisfaction which impairs the marriage bond 
and in many instances leads to gross immorality. These 
are the influences to which the Vai females near the coast 
towns are subjected. If they are taken into Liberian 
families when they are young, they are protected in a 
way from such influences by a course of training for so- 
cial duties, which training often serves them in married 
life. But where they are left in the native towns to come 
in contact with foreign evil influences, without an op- 
portunity to learn the best of civilized life, the baleful 
effect is plainly seen in the lowering of the standard of 
morals. 

Just as there is a tendency to lower the morals of the 
Vai females found in the coast towns, there is also seen 
the same tendency to lower the morals of the males. A 
Vai boy in the interior at an early age is placed in the 
beri; the restraints imposed upon him there are such as 
will generally restrain him in after years, but as soon 
as the native families come in contact with the influences 



ii8 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

from the coast towns, they soon begin to think that it 
is not necessary to place their boys in the beri. One of 
the results is that the boy takes on the new vices without 
the new virtues. The ease with which he can secure 
malt liquors tempts him to drink, and he grows to man- 
hood with this blighting habit. Along with drinking 
grows the equally bad habit of gambling. The native idea 
of property is communistic. He does not possess the 
high conception of individual ownership that' exists 
among civilized peoples. In the interior the native is 
restrained by the medicine-man and his institutions; in 
the coast towns the only restraint is the possibility of be- 
ing caught. Seeing so many things that he desires, 
he is tempted to take something not his own, and thus 
many add the habit of stealing to their other acquired 
vices. 

On the other hand, many natives are able to increase 
their earnings, and their increased pecuniary strength 
often leads some of the men to secure the wives of others. 
And so the men join the women in loosening the marriage 
relation and in lowering the standard of morals; and 
just as the natives are led to take up new vices and new 
crimes, these additions necessarily increase the frequency 
and diffusion of some of those they already have. So that 
drinking, gambling, stealing, lying, and immorality in- 
crease among the Vais as they approach the coast. The 
great majority of the people remain loyal to their institu- 
tions, but the removal of native institutions in some cases 
without adequate substitutes has given rise to the evils to 
which I have called attention. Similar tendencies are no- 
ticed in the coast towns among other tribes along the 
coast. The question has arisen and is frequently dis- 
cussed by many persons interested in West African affairs 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 119 

as to whether or not European Civilization is injurious to 
the African. 

Because of the tendencies that I have noted among the 
Vais, it is contended with great force and rare ability that 
European CiviHzation is not good for the African. In 
support of the contention it is pointed out that Africans 
who have had contact with Europeans are inferior to 
those who have not had such contact. The physical and 
moral superiority of the African in the interior is held 
up as being in striking contrast to the African of the 
coast towns, who is not so fine a creature either in strength 
or in morals. It ought not to be denied that the Africans 
of the interior are superior to the Africans of the coast 
in morals ; nor should it be denied that this inferiority is 
directly or indirectly due to European contact. It could 
hardly be otherwise. In all periods of transition the indi- 
vidual suffers but society gains. To me it seems that the 
great evil of European contact is not so much in the con- 
tact as in the failure of the Europeans to provide institu- 
tions as effective in governing the African as are the insti- 
tutions destroyed by this contact. No race, governed as 
the African, could adopt European Civilization without a 
transitional period in which it would practically be without 
effective government, and during which period that race 
would suffer. The slowness with which Europeans must 
influence Africans makes this transitional period long in 
Africa.2 

As a whole, European contact is not bad per se; and in 
cases where it is bad, far from being an argument against 
European Civilization it is simply an argument against 
methods or individuals. Civilization as we understand it, 

2 And this is not counting for mistakes in policy and bad methods 
in administration. 



I20 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

and as it is defined by the eminent French historian F. P. 
G. Guizot, is good for the African if he can only get it. 

" Two facts, then," says M. Guizot, in speaking of 
civilization, " are comprehended in this great fact ; it sub- 
sists on two conditions : the development of social activity, 
and that of individual activity; the progress of society 
and the progress of humanity." ^ 

History affords no illustration where such a civilization 
injured any people. If it injures the African he will be 
the first. There is no reason why the African in Africa 
should not be developed individually and socially as any 
other race in the world. The trouble is the African has 
not had enough contact with European Civilization. No 
doubt he has had too much contact with the evils of civil- 
ized nations, and too little contact with their virtues. 
Civilization, like learning, shows that " a little is a dan- 
gerous thing." Africans, like other peoples, must drink 
deep. How easy it is to copy vices! It is difficult to 
develop a civilization anywhere that really develops the 
individual as well as society at large. It will be more 
difficult in Africa, but the difficulty does not lessen the 
moral obligation of civilized powers toward Africa any 
more than it destroys the power of European Civilization 
to actualize for the African his highest social destiny. 

THE MEDICINE-MAN >' \ ,M0RAL AGENT 

The medicine-man is a prime tactor in the equation of 

Vai morals. For the moral good or ill he is consulted in 

all important matters. When a child is born and the 

parents desire to know its fate or fortune they consult the 

s " History of Civilization in Europe," Guizot, p. 13. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 121 

medicine-man, who claims to be able to tell them every- 
thing they wish to know. He demands his fee in ad- 
vance, and sometimes he makes a lucky guess. More 
often he tells what proves to be untrue or puts in a con^ 
dition which makes his prediction worthless. The med- 
icine-man knows that he does not know and cannot fore- 
tell the future of an individual; he knows that he is 
encouraging superstition and taxing ignorance, and for 
his fee he continues to perpetrate what he knows to be a 
fraud. In all these cases his moral influence is not for 
good. If one individual desires to injure another he 
goes to the medicine-man to have him " witched." The 
medicine-man takes his fee with the understanding that 
he is to do certain work. Very often he does nothing, but 
in some cases he secures death by directly or indirectly 
administering poison. In these instances his moral influ- 
ence is bad, because he encourages malice and revenge; 
but he reaches his lowest depths when he becomes a secret 
instrument for the commission of the foulest crimes. 
The medicine-man unquestionably often has an immoral 
influence, and he is always careful to secure his fee in 
advance. 

But as bad as the medicine-man may seem and fre- 
quently is, yet he exerts some good and wholesome in- 
fluences. For instance, in the case of theft, the belief 
which he has engendered that through his medicine he 
can detect the thief is a most effective deterrent from 
the commission of thi'- ^me. And because of this be- 
lief, and not because of any medicine, he is often able to 
pick out the thief through the aid of circumstances, and 
to render the greatest service to society and the state. 
As a result of his influence in these cases, his medicine 
hung up on a bush in a common rag causes many a thief 



122 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

to pass by what he might otherwise take without de- 
tection. In cases of the infidehty of a wife the loyalty 
of many a woman is maintained merely because of the 
belief that the medicine-man would be able to detect her 
infidelity by means of his medicine. He, therefore, is 
a strong influence not only against the infidelity of a 
wife but against all those evils and crimes that so often 
follow in its trail. 

His medicine allays the fears of the warrior and nerves 
the arm of him that is sent out in the service of his 
sovereign and his state. His medicine soothes the sav- 
age breast and saves it from the pains and pangs of fright 
and fear. In many ways the medicine-man calms the 
troubled soul and gives peace to him who is besieged on 
every hand by wicked, invisible, and malignant spirits. 
He is a product of African conditions, he was created 
as the great support of native institutions; and, with all 
his faults, under present conditions he is indispensable 
to African life. 

MORAL INFLUENCE OF THEIR RELIGION 

We have been considering the medicine-man as a moral 
agent; we now come to the moral influence of Vai re- 
ligion. We have seen that among the Vais there are two 
long established religions, — the pagan and the Islamic,* 
emanating from which there are two separate and dis- 
tinct moral influences. As the pagan religion no doubt 
existed prior to the introduction of the Muhammudan 
faith and is a product of African conditions, its moral 

* It is meant that two religious systems have native roots through- 
out the tribe. Christianity, in comparison with the others, just 
started yesterday. It has hardly had time to enter the heart of the 
tribe and manifest itself in all the varied phases of Vai life. Be- 
sides, many who accept Christianity go to Christian centers to live. 




VAI CLOTH HAMMOCK AND BASKET 
Facing Page 122 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 123 

aspect is of special interest to the Negro race. The Vais 
are surrounded, like all West Africans, with a striking 
and abnormal physical environment. It has been so 
severe upon the pagans of to-day that they have been 
unable to throw ofif the religion which this abnormal en- 
vironment imposed. One of the moral results of Vai 
paganism is that it encourages ignorance and supersti- 
tion. Its tendency is to lessen the possibility of reform- 
ing itself or of being reformed. 

The Vai paganism, with its beliefs in a multiplicity of 
invisible spirits malignant to men and capable of as- 
suming varied forms, requires for its existence a com- 
paratively low order of intellect. The intelligence is so 
low that the moral sense hardly rises above a form of 
egoism. Among the lowest of this class of Vais duty 
has little place in their moral conduct. They are so 
busy trying to protect themselves against imaginary and 
evil spirits that they have neither inclination nor time to 
consider the improvement of their moral code. It is 
cold, rigid, and selfish. The great motive which seems 
dominant is to secure some immediate physical good or 
to escape some immediate physical pain. The order of 
intellect of these pagans is not high enough to give much 
consideration, if any, to abstract ideas of right and 
wrong. The moral influence of the pagan religion, 
within its scope, is very great; that is to say, what their 
religious faith requires they sincerely do. The great 
misfortune is that the requirement is too small, material, 
and selfish. 

I have called attention to what seem the bad influences 
of paganism among the Vais, but these bad influences 
themselves appear to have developed something for the 
good of the Negro. The greater portion of pagan life 



124 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

among the Vais is taken up with matters appealing to 
the religious side of their nature. The pagan Vai lives 
in a constant state of fear. His religion consists chiefly 
in making offerings and sacrifices to propitiate the anger 
of beings bent upon his ruin. In fact he is sacrificing so 
much that his life is a series of sacrifices, and he is 
sacrificing not to beings who command his love and de- 
votion but to what seem to him wicked and sinister 
spirits, with designs upon his life and fortune. Long 
practice in making sacrifices under such circumstances 
is calculated to develop the capacity to endure great in- 
jury and hardship at the hand of another without enter- 
taining the spirit of revenge. So that slowly the way 
is being paved for altruism in the very nature and char- 
acter of the individual. The natural effect of pagan 
religion among the Vais is to give spiritual training in 
many of the following essentials of morals: 

" To do good to others ; to sacrifice for their benefit 
your own wishes; to love your neighbor as yourself; to 
forgive your enemies ; to restrain your passions ; to honor 
your parents; to respect those who are set over you; 
these, and a few others are the sole essentials of morals." ^ 

The spiritual nature of the Negro has often excited 
comment. The meekness with which the American Ne- 
gro endured the cruelties of slavery and his loyalty to 
the southern people during the rebellion have both been 
the subjects of comment. The latter has been cited to his 
credit and it may be that the former can be. The New 
Zealanders, the American Indians, the natives of the 

5 Introduction to " Civilization in England," by H. T. Buckle, p. 
103, Robertson Edition. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 125 

Fiji and of the Sandwich Islands, before the civilization 
of the white man have passed or are passing from the 
stage of action. The American Negro alone seems to 
increase and develop. It may be that the Negro's life 
and training in West Africa have been of service to him 
in the United States of America. 

The physical conditions among the Vais are no worse 
than they are elsewhere throughout West Africa. The 
fetich and amulet occupy a large place in native reli- 
gious life in Africa as well as among Muhammudan 
tribes.* 

The moral influences of Islam among the Vais is not so 
difficult to determine. The moral code of the Islamic 
Prophet is fashioned after the Sinaitic laws in two 
series, of five precepts each. These precepts are well 
known among the Vai Mussulmen. They might be 
named as follows : 

" First, to acknowledge no other gods but God ; 
second, to show respect to parents; third, not to 
kill children on account of dread of starvation; fourth, 
to preserve chastity; fifth, to protect the life of others 
except where justice demands the contrary; sixth, 
to keep inviolate the property of orphans; seventh, to 
employ just weights and measures; eighth, not to over- 
burden slaves; ninth, judges to be impartial; tenth, to 
keep oaths sacred and the covenants with God." '' 

Such are the precepts which are taught by the priests of 
Islam among the Vais. Their moral influence has given 

' Muhammudans make fetiches, amulets, and so on, consisting of 
pieces of paper containing words and lines from the Koran, which 
are worn by the Africans and which may be purchased for a fee. 

'"The Races of Man," by Oscar Peschel, p. 303. 



126 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

a higher tone to the life of the Muhammudan Vais than 
is to be found among the pagan Vais. But the fact that 
Islamic teachings do not disturb the institutions of 
polygamy and slavery prevents them from developing the 
kind of moral excellence that exists among Christian 
nations. However, the knowledge of the Koranic faith 
and moral code gives to the Muslim Vais a high order of 
individual intelligence and moral consciousness. It is 
seen in the dignity and importance which characterize 
the individual conduct of the Muhammudan adherents. 
It is noticed in all the institutions of the tribe. And in 
nothing is it so striking as in the abstinence from strong 
drink, gambling, and the common vices of the other Vai 
people. The scarcity of the means for disseminating the 
knowledge of the Koran prevents a wider diffusion of 
the moral principles that it teaches. So that while the 
moral standard is much higher among the Muslims than 
among the pagan Vais the degree of its excellence varies 
according to individual worth and the knowledge of 
Koranic morals. 

THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF THEIR SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS 

The moral life of the Vais is the product of their so- 
cial institutions and their severe physical environments. 
These institutions grow out of the necessities of govern- 
ment for the tribe under circumstances which suggest 
and enforce their superstitions and beliefs. The beri 
and sande institutions prepare the young for the duties 
of native life, of the family, and of the state. They 
prepare them morally as well as intellectually. The 
young are trained to respect their parents and elders, to 
be loyal to the king, and to obey the laws, — all the essen- 
tials for family harmony are emphasized, — and they are 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 127 

not only instructed in the duties of the living to one 
another, according to native ideas, but they are taught 
to respect the dead. 

But in the discharge of these duties to the family, the 
individual, the state, and the dead, as well as to the gods, 
temptations present themselves and bad habits and vices 
steal upon them before they are aware of the fact. For 
example, the various gatherings of the people for social 
pleasure and enjoyment afford opportunities for the be- 
ginning of many evils which lead to immorality and 
crime. At these meetings the native women dress ac- 
cording to their custom for participation in the dances 
and the promenades. Many of them are very attractive. 
These are also the times when the men display their 
wealth, attraction, and power. Young girls, given by 
their parents in marriage to men whom they do not love, 
often fall in love with other men. Sometimes they are 
attracted by the charms or wealth of men other than 
their husbands, and this means contentions and the break- 
ing up of homes. 

It is on such occasions that young men who gamble 
meet with those who do not, and often lead them by de- 
grees to take up the gambling habit, with its temptations 
to steal, to lie, to fight, and to kill. It is at the social 
functions and dances that those who drink gin and rum 
carry it to excess and fasten upon others this liquor 
habit ; thus they unbridle passion, deaden intellect, weaken 
and undermine character, and multiply all their misery 
and shame. So that while the aim and the effect of na- 
tive institutions are to govern the individual in the home, 
in the state, and in society at large, and to develop in 
him a moral sense and the courage to live the native life 
according to native law, yet in some of these institutions 



128 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

there are influences introduced that lessen and sometimes 
even destroy the happiness of native life. 

In many a Vai town I have availed myself of the op- 
portunity to see both sides. I recall no instance more 
striking than my experience at Boma. The king had just 
died. Boma was crowded for a week with people from 
the neighboring towns and half-towns. The feast was 
spread. Everybody ate. The drinkers drank, the 
singers sang, and there was music and the revelry of the 
dance. But amid all the merriment and debauchery of 
the town the Muhammudans went regularly five times 
a day to their mosques to render homage and devotion 
to their God. To lessen the evils of such an occasion 
Islam has done a great deal for the Vais and no doubt 
in the future will do more. As it was, many refused to 
participate in the revelry and many turned away in dis- 
gust. 

Mr. F. P. Noble, speaking of the morals of the Negro, 
makes this startling statement, " The Negro is unmoral." ^ 
Mr. Noble is the author of a most comprehensive survey 
of African missions. His splendid effort is embodied 
in two volumes, liberal in spirit and classic in literary 
form. His disposition to do full justice to the Negro 
renders important his reiteration of this old erroneous 
indictment of the morals of the Negro race. It is strange 
that so fair a writer should make so serious and sweeping 
a statement against any member of the human family 
without accompanying it with a proof of its truth. Yet 
it is not so strange when we remember that until quite 
recently competent travelers, scholars, scientists, and 
ethnologists were unable to penetrate beyond the mere 
surface of Negro life in Africa, on account of climatic 
8 " The Redemption of Africa," by F. P. Noble, Vol. I, p. 167. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 129 

difficulties, the variety of Negro languages and dialect, 
and the veil and mystery with v^rhich the Africans en- 
shroud the inner elements of their lives and institutions. 
And notwithstanding the fact that the world for cen- 
turies placed a commercial premium on the proved actual, 
and potential inferiority of the Negro, no one has ever 
been able to do more than indulge in the statement of 
half truth and in the publication of wilful and wicked 
falsehoods against the race. 

The time was when the charge that the Negro is an 
inferior creature would go unchallenged. The world 
then considered it in harmony with its economic interest. 
Its ignorance of the Negro was its bliss.® But the situa- 
tion has materially changed.^" Africa is practically di- 
vided among the nations of Europe. It is now to the 
best interest of the African colonizing powers to know 
the Negro as he really is, in order that they may govern 
him without friction and develop his country to the best 
advantage. The times demand knowledge and facts of 
the Negro in Africa. The great Powers are being im- 
pressed more and more with the necessity of knowing 
the truth. The great trend of the world's economic 
thought is to enforce this view.^^ It seems now that we 
will get the facts. The inner life of the Negro is being 

* " I need say nothing more regarding Appendix I ; it is a mine of 
knowledge concerning a highly developed set of natives of the 
true Negro stem, particularly valuable because, during recent years, 
we have been singularly badly off for information on the true 
Negro." From " West African Studies," by M. H. Kingsley, Pref- 
ace, p. viii. This is especially true since Europe charged itself 
with the government of African peoples and races. 

10 "As to Leopard Spots," an open letter to Thomas Dixon, Jr., 
by Kelly Miller, pamphlet, 1905. This is one of the ablest defenses 
ever made to the attacks upon the Negro race, and should be read 
by every American citizen, white and black. 

11 Benjamin Kid, in the Independent, September 8, 1904. 



I30 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

studied and presented by competent minds, by men con- 
versant With the dialects and languages of the localities 
that are being studied. Conclusions now regarding the 
Negro should be based on facts gleaned from observa- 
tion made during a residence among the people by those 
who have mingled with Negroes in their own homes. 
People that think will hardly accept the theory now that 
" the Negro is unmoral," unless that theory be supported 
by the competent personal observation of the person ex- 
pressing it or by facts pointed out by such high authori- 
ties as Miss M. H. Kingsley, Dr. Freeman, Dr. Nassau, 
Mr. T. J. Alldridge, Capt. C. B. Wallis, Mr. John Har- 
ford, Mr. Caseley Hayford, Mr. John Sarbah, Mr. E. D. 
Morel, M. le Comte de Cardi, and Sir A. B. Ellis. I 
have searched the works of these able authors in vain 
to find the facts that prove that " the Negro is unmoral." 
On the other hand, the works of Dr. E. W. Blyden 
prove the morality of the race. The author of " Chris- 
tianity, Islam, and the Negro Race," " From West Africa 
to Palestine," " The African Problem," " The African 
Society and Miss Mary H. Kingsley," and numerous 
articles concerning the African and his continent has 
presented facts enough to convince any mind not sealed 
against the truth that the Negro is not " unmoral." The 
fact is just as he says : 

" There is no doubt that in spite of the countless books 
which have been published on Africa, there still exists in 
Europe ^^ deplorable ignorance of the true character and 
condition of the natives, and not only among ' the men 
in the Street,' but often among those who have become 
responsible for the government of large portions of this 
12 And in America also. 



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NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 131 

continent, since the so-called partition of Africa has 
taken place." '* 

To say that " the Negro is unmoral " is tantamount to 
saying that he has no moral perception, — that his life 
involves no idea whatever of tiiorality.^ * 

In spite of the works of the previously named eminent 
authorities on the Negro and those of the i8th century 
and before, the inner life, past and present, of the great 
black race occupying a broad belt of territory across the 
African Continent from Senegal to the Red Sea for the 
most part is still unknown. But as far as it has been 
studied, the results disclosed will not warrant the con- 
clusion that " the Negro is unmoral." But even if they 
did, the greater mass of the millions of African blacks, 
when studied and known, might reverse the conclusion. 
Basing her opinion on what was known at that time, Miss 
Kingsley said : 

" If the Europeans only knew the African as he really 
is, they might say the African is very different from the 
European, yet would say he is a very fine fellow, and we 
can be friends." "'■ 

How many individuals of Occidental Civilization are 
there who have not confused difiference with inferiority, 
and who are not still deceived by the thought that to be 
different from them and their civilization is to be in- 
ferior?*' Few have suffered more from this error 

" " The African Society and Miss Mary H. Kingsley," by Dr. E. 
W. Blyden, p. 7. 

1* See definition of unmoral, Webster's Unabridged. 

1° " The African Journal and Miss Mary H. Kingsley,'' by Dr. E. 
W Blyden, p. 7. 

i» " No one can have failed to observe how common it is for men 



132 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

than has the Negro, but this delusion is being swept away 
by knowledge. This brings us to Miss Mary H. Kings- 
ley. 

This remarkable woman traveled extensively in West 
Africa. She wrote two splendid books : " The Travels 
in West Africa" and "The West African Studies." 
She possessed a phenomenal talent for studying the Afri- 
can. With subtle mental grasp she penetrated beneath the 
thin covering of deceitful appearance and empty forms, 
and touching the heart of Negro life, she felt the power 
arid charm of his better and nobler self. She caught a 
glimpse of the Negro as he is, and returning from her 
vision alone she effectively pleaded his cause before a 
world ignorant of his ways. While on her last trip to 
Africa, and in her last letter to the press, she wrote : 

" The white race seems to me to blame in saying that 
all the reason for its interference in Africa is the improve- 
ment of the native African, and then to start on altering 
institutions without in the least understanding them, and 
the African to blame for not placing clearly before the 
Anglo-Saxon what African institutions really are, and 
so combating the false and exaggerated view given of 
them by stray travelers, missionaries, and officials (who 
for their own aggrandisement exaggerate the difficulties 
and dangers with which they have to deal). It is mere 
human nature for them to do this thing, but the effect 
produced on the minds of our statesmen has terrible con- 
sequences." 

to make their own tastes and excellencies the measure of all good- 
ness, pronouncing all that is broadly different from them to be im- 
perfect or low, or of a secondary value." " History of European 
Morals," by W. E. H. Lecky, Vol. I, p. 156. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 133 

Again and again she urges that there should be some 
organized method of studying the native laws and cus- 
toms and pubHshing accounts of them, so that 

" you who know European culture, and who also know 
African culture, will take your place as true ambassadors 
and peacemakers between the two races, and place before 
the English statesman the true African — destroy the 
fancy African made by exaggeration that he has now in 
his mind." " 

Following the death of Miss Kingsley, and under the 
name of the African Society, a noble band of men and 
women have undertaken the consummation of the work 
which has been so ably begun. As Dr. Blyden says : 

" Their concern is not with the physical or material, 
but with the psychological aspect of the question. They 
have organized themselves to set free the soul of their 
protege from influences incompatible with his race indi- 
viduality and race life; to show the world — Africans 
helping in the work — that the African has a culture of 
his own — to explain that culture, and assist him to de- 
velop it." 18 

Associated with this movement, either actively or in 
their writings, are some of the most eminent persons be- 
fore the English public. I can mention only a few, — 
Lord Cromer, Sir George T. Goldie, the Count de Cardi, 
the Rt. Hon. John Morley, Sir Alfred Lyall, the Rt. Hon. 

" " The African Journal and Miss Mary H. Kingsley," by Dr. E. 
W. Blyden, p. 7. 

" " The African Journal and Miss Mary H. Kingsley," by Dr. E. 
W. Blyden, p. 7. 



134 NEGRO CULTURE IN \\EST AFRICA 

H. H. Asquith, Dr. J- Scott Keltie, Sir ALatthew Nathan, 
H. D'Eg-\ille, ^Ir. George Macmillan. Sir Alfred Jones, 
Sir H. H. Johnston, and the Rt. Hon. Lord Avebury. 
Besides these persons and others prominent in England 
are some able \^'est African Negro authors, such as the 
well known Dr. Blyden. ^tr. Caseley Hayford,^* and 
Mr. John Sarbah.-'^' the author of " Fanti Customary 
Laws."' 

Before Miss Kingley published her " \\'est African 
Studies" Sir A. B.^ EHis, ^l. le Comte de Cardi, Mr. 
John Harford, Mr. John Sarbah, and a few others had 
already made \aluable contributions to the study of the 
Negro in Africa. And since her death other important 
and instructive volumes have been added to the list : one 
by Dr. Nassau,^^ who has spent over half a century on 
the ^^'est Coast, living among the Bantu tribes and 
who was considered by Miss Kingsley as perhaps the 
ablest authority on the West Coast of Africa ; and one 
by Mr. E. D. Morel, who. under the title of " .Af- 
fairs of ^^'est Africa," gives to the public a rich fund 
of information about the Negro. A second edition of 
Mr. Sarbah's book has appeared, of which Mr. Morel 
wrote : 

" ' Fanti Customary Laws ' has been universally re- 
garded since the appearance of the first edition in 1897 
as the only real standard work on the aboriginal juris- 
prudence of the Gold Coast people, and as one of tlie 
most valuable ethnological contributions extant of that 
people." ^* 

^° Author of " Institutions of the Gold Coast." 
2" Mr. John Sarbah is not a member of the African Society in 
London. 
21 " Fetichism in West .\frica," by Dr. Robert Hamill Nassau, 
s' The West African Mail, August 12, 1904, p. 458. 



NEGRO CULTURE IX \\'EST AFRICA 135 

This is high tribute, from high authority, to a native 
Negro of ^\'^est Africa. Another very valuable volume 
has appeared, — the one by Mr. T. J. Alldridge on " Sher- 
bro and its Hinterland." The writer of this book has 
passed thirty years in Africa and traveled over 6000 
miles among its people. Still another volume has ap- 
peared tmder the title, " Advance of our \\'^est African 
Empire," by Capt. C. B. \\'^allis, now British Consul at 
Monrovia. Captain ^\'allis has had a rich and varied 
experience among the tribes on the West Coast, and his 
work is a valuable contribution to \\'est African litera- 
ture. 

So if there ever was any justification for the statement 
that " the Negro is unmoral," it has now passed away in 
the light of a broader knowledge of the facts. The quo- 
tations from the authorities now extant on the Negro and 
his life showing that he has not only moral conceptions 
but moral standards would make a volume. I will ven- 
ture to give one from Sir A. B. Ellis, whose works con- 
cerning the tribes of AVest Africa are regarded as models. 
In discussing one phase of morality among the Yoruba 
peoples, he says : 

" At present, the feeling of annoyance which a Yoruba 
bridegroom experiences when he finds that his bride has 
been unchaste, is not due to jealousy or sentiment, but to 
a sense of injiuy, because his rights acquired by betrothal 
have been trespassed upon; but no doubt, in course of 
time, the sentimental grievance would be produced. 
Whether this feeling ever extends to the lowest classes 
is uncertain, but at all events it has scarcely done so in 
Europe." ^^ 
23 " Yoruba-Speaking Peoples," by Sir A. B. Ellis, p. 184. 



136 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

In quoting the above passage, I must say that I fully 
recognize that many things that are said by Sir Ellis in 
the chapter "Marriage Laws and Customs," at first 
glance may be thought to support the statement of Mr. 
Noble, but when they are thoroughly understood and 
carefully considered they will be found to prove that the 
Yoruba-Speaking Peoples are unquestionably possessed 
of moral conceptions and standards. And the whole 
chapter, so far as these peoples are concerned, contains 
a most splendid refutation of the absurd idea that " the 
Negro is unmoral." Sir Ellis says that marriage is pro- 
hibited by the Yorubas between all relations closer than 
second cousins ; that for the first reported neglect of de- 
linquent husbands a palaver is held by the wife's family; 
and for subsequent offences the wife may leave, and in 
some cases her family may flog the offending husband. 
Adultery is punishable by divorce or death, but may be 
settled by damages. It is hardly necessary to cite other 
facts from this author showing the morals of the Negro 
in the light of the following statement from a high au- 
thority on ethical subjects: 

"If then incest is prohibited, and community of wives 
replaced by ordinary polygamy, a moral improvement 
will have been effected, and a standard of virtue formed. 
But this standard soon becomes the starting point of new 
progress." ^* 

Sir James Macintosh, speaking on the universal char- 
acter of moral foundations, remarks : 

" The facts which lead to the formation of moral rules 

2* "History of European Morals," Vol. I, p. 103, by W. E. H. 
Lecky. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 137 

are as accessible, and must be as obvious, to the simplest 
barbarian as to the most enlightened philosopher." ^^ 

The Negro might rest his case with the weight of rea- 
son as well as of scholarship in favor of the universal 
existence of the innate moral faculty in the human race. 
But tried by the ultimate ethical sanctions now generally 
recognized by both the utilitarian and intuitive schools,^® 
the Negro has all the essentials of morals, and where un- 
modified by the baneful effects of outside evil influences; 
the great mass in Africa, according to their own standard 
established by their own institutions, live a moral life. 
They have their physical, political, social, natural,^ ^ and 
religious sanctions, operating among them under the 
severity of African conditions, and supplying all the mo- 
tives for their moral lives. The Negro tribe that has 
no moral conceptions is yet to be discovered and de- 
scribed. Of the dozen or more in Liberia none are so 
low but what they have "Greegree Bushes" or institutions 
for the special instruction and protection of their girls; 
laws regulating marriage and defining crime, and numer- 
ous customs the purpose of which is to secure respect 
for the aged, obedience to parents, reverence for the fetich 
gods, and to save the captured in war from the pangs 
of death. As far as disclosed by competent students, 
similar conditions exist among all the pagan tribes. You 
may judge of the morals of the millions of the finer Ne- 

'^ " Life of Mackintosh," Vol. I, pp. 119-122, by his son, 1835. 

26 " Principles of Morals and Legislation," Chap. II, p. 28, Ben- 
tham; "History of European Morals," Vol. I, p. 22, by W. E. H. 
Lecky. 

27 Called natural because arising from the nature of humanity to 
sympathize. See Mill's "Dissertations," Vol. I, p. 137. 



138 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

groes of the Sudan, of whom, in speaking of Timbuctu, 
Lady Lugard wrote: 

" Here the learned of Spain and Morocco and Arabia 
were proud to come and share the wisdom of the natives 
of the Sudan, and long biographical lists have been 
preserved of the distinguished professors, black and 
white, who taught in the schools of this and other towns, 
or enriched different departments of science, art, and 
literature with their labors." ^* 
2« " Journal of the Royal Colonial Institute," by Lady Lugard. 



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143 



VAI PROVERBS 



CHAPTER VIII 
VAI PROVERBS 

(0 
*'T^TO matter how poor an elephant is he cannot cross 
J^^ the bridge." When some one comes to the king 
to beg of him when times are a little hard with him he 
very often says that he is poor himself, but he gives the 
man something, adding, " No matter how poor an ele- 
phant is he cannot cross the bridge," — meaning that no 
matter how poor the king may be he cannot allow the 
man to go without having given him something. 

(2) 

" The monkey wants to get honey, but he has no ax 
to cut the tree." When a poor king is ambitious to build 
up his town and often remarks what he would do if he 
only had the money, he is reminded by somebody that 
" The monkey wants to get honey, but he has no ax to 
cut the tree." 

(3) 
" Black skillet is no good for making soup," or " Mak- 
ing soup in a black skillet is trouble." When they see a 
man doing something that it is thought will lead to trou- 
ble they ask the man, " Are you making soup in a black 
skillet ? " It is the general opinion that soup cannot be 
made in a black skillet without trouble in that it all gets 
black, or else the person is so poor that he cannot afford 
to buy a pot. 

147 



148 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

(4) 
" A baboon does not like cola for anything." A 
baboon was very hungry, and although he was accus- 
tomed to eat cola he slept under a cola tree all night, 
yet he complained of being hungry with cola nuts all 
about. Sometimes a person asks for something which 
he thinks he has lost but which is close at hand, perhaps 
in his pocket ; when he finds it he says to himself, " A 
baboon does not like cola for anything." 

(5) 
" The pig drinks liquor, but the goat gets drunk." A 
slave boy raised in a rich family imagines that he can 
do just as he pleases, — in fact, he ventures to do things 
that his master would not do. Sometimes when he is 
doing some of these things he is sure to be told, " The 
pig drinks liquor, but the goat gets drunk." 

(6) 

" We catch a catfish because he does not like straw." 
The catfish when he sees straw in the water begins to 
fight it, and thus is often baited by it, or, the catfish does 
not like straw, and that is what makes him come to land. 
If a man is an enemy to another man and is always work- 
ing up stories against him, one day instead of the stories 
injuring the enemy it falls upon the vdtness, and the 
people repeat to him the proverb, " The catfish does not 
like straw, that is why he comes to land." 

(7) 
" A frightened man will say ' How d'ye do ' to a 
leopard." When two men who have been enemies are 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 149 

forced into a contest in which they are both on the same 
side they are often twitted by those who knew of the 
former enmity by the proverb, " A frightened man will 
say ' How d'ye do ' to a leopard." The leopard is con- 
sidered a very unfriendly creature in Africa. 

(8) 

" If a man raises a snake he must tie it." When 
a man has a bad boy or daughter who is always getting 
into trouble and he is called on to pay until a time comes 
when he declines to pay, somebody is sure to urge him to 
do so by quoting the words, " If a man raises a snake 
he must tie it." 

(9) 
" The cow follows the man that has salt." When a 
man is obliged to seek the favor of a rich man and often 
does things for nothing in order to get pay for a small 
job, the question is asked why is he always at the rich 
man's house. The answer is, " The cow follows the 
man who has salt." 

(10) 

"If one man eats beans he makes much straw." 
When two men have something and it is divided in each 
other's presence they are both contented. But if one of 
them is absent the likelihood of his being dissatisfied 
with the division is very great. In case the division 
made in the absence of one man happens to be fair and 
the man who was absent complains when he returns, 
his complaint is answered with, "If one man eats beans 
he makes much straw." In the case of beans, the ab- 
sent man would refer on returning to the great quantity 



ISO NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

of hulls as evidence of the fact that much beans had 
been eaten. 

(II) 
" A little rain every day will make the rivers swell." 
People are encouraged to save money by repeating to 
them this old saying, which is used with respect to all 
matters that may be accomplished little by little or grad- 
ually. 

(12) 

The frog says, " I have nothing, but I have my hop." 
When a man is poor yet has something that no one else 
has in the country he is very proud of it, — for example, 
medicine. And when persons come to buy often may 
be heard repeating to himself, " I have nothing, but I 
have my hop." 

(13) 
" A man who waits on a monkey in a tree has shot it." 
A man goes to another man's house who has gone away 
and has not indicated when he will return. The stranger 
decides to wait until the man's return, and stays at his 
house. After a few hours or a day or so some of the 
family asks the man for what he is waiting. He replies 
that he is waiting for the return of the man of the housfc 
He is asked if he was told when he would return and 
he says, " No." Then you may expect to hear, " A man 
who waitS'On a monkey in a tree has shot it." 

(14) 
"If the stomach is full, it is palaver; and if, hungry, 
it is palaver." A poor man visits one man and is well 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 151 

entertained, and returns home without having made any 
" dash " for his entertainment. The host of the poor 
man visits his town, and the poor man is unable to en- 
tertain him as he was entertained, but he desires to do 
something, so he catches a chicken and takes it to the 
good and kind visitor and presenting it conveys to the 
visitor an idea of his situation when he repeats : " If the 
stomach is full, it is palaver; and if hungry, it is pala- 
ver." So that hungry or otherwise, it is palaver for 
the poor man. 

(15) 
" If I do not go in I must go by." When a native 
vendor is carrying about his wares sometimes some per- 
son will see something he wants and takes it, but he 
wishes to pay at another time. The vendor is almost 
sure to refuse credit, and for this purpose it is very con- 
venient to have a proverb: " If I do not go in, I must 
go by." 

(16) 

" If I do not go to the Greegree Bush, you must send 
my cloth." Every person that goes to the greegree bush 
has her cloth taken from her. If she is finally rejected 
from the bush, when she leaves she is entitled to have 
her cloth back. It is the custom in having a big dinner 
and dance for a number of people to put in their contribu- 
tions in advance. Those who have so contributed are 
entitled to the privileges of the dance. Sometimes a per- 
son who has so contributed is denied participation at the 
dinner by mistake, — a mistake that arises from varying 
causes in management, as, for instance, when the person 
who admits the people is unacquainted with all who are 



152 NEGRO CULTURE IX WEST AFRICA 

entitled to enter. When some one is thus rejected who 
is entitled to enio\- the privileges of the dinner he is sure 
to shout out, •■ if I do not go to the Greegree Bush, you 
must send my doth." 

(17) 
■' Hens never promise to give the diickens milk," A 
rich man ven*- often will promise a poor man to help 
him, and when he hdps the poor man in a way that is 
proper according to his judgment the poor man will 
still remain dissatisfied, and ask the rich man for some- 
thing that he does not wish to give. \Mien the poor 
man tlius insists he is ^•e^}• likely to hear that " Hens 
never promise to give the chickens milk." 

(18) 

" If you cannot mend the gourd, how can you fix the 
bowl? " This saying is often applied to cobblers. For 
example, a goldsmith representing himsdf to be able 
to do all kinds of work, induces a man to give him an im- 
portamt job, but before he enters upon it his customer 
gives him a small artide that he wishes mended. The 
smith, unable to repair the article, botches the work, yet 
he wants to undertake the much more important job. 
The deceived patron answers, "If you cannot mend the 
gourd how can you fix the bowl ? " 

(19) 
"Why should a naked man fight for soap?" Soap 
is in great demand among the natives wlio wear dothes, 
and sometimes many of them contend over a single piece, 
but the naked man is seldom if ever seen to trouble him- 
self about it. In natiA-e war a strange man in a town 



XEGRO CULTURE IX WEST AFRICA 153 

attacked ;> no; expected to light. It the to\v;i sliould 
be capf..rt\i i.c would be set at libeny upon niakiiii; 
kr.own the lac: that he was a sirani^x^r. But it ;t jiranger 
slv^r.ld violate ti.e ov.stoni and join the town peojJe in 
resistance and should g\n killed, people who express 
tbioir sorrow- for him are likely to hear soiiieKxly ask. 
■■ WTiy sho-.i'.d a naked man ligli: tor soap? " 

■ The dog i:^x"> to the blacksmith shop for its bell, but 
what d^vs th.e cat co for?" The onicers a;ul persons 
who are known to have business with the king nnay call 
upon him and remain for hours, and n.o cv«iiments upon 
their doin.g so will be n,-,ade. But if persons w hose busi- 
ness .-.re no: known, — or w':.onn some people en\-\- be- 
ca ■.:><? of :heir favor with the king. — are seen to visit 
the king tOv> often or to rer.-.ain w h.a: is considered too 
".ong. Sv^:r.eN.x1y will con.Tn:en: upon it by Ss.^>-ing. " The 
dog goes to :he b;acksmith shop for its bell, bnt what 
dc^s the ca: go for? " 

■■ Man "ikes a full spoon bnt not an empty phte" A 
man who has been rich bnt wh.o has scnandered his 
n-.oney and becom.e an object of pity excites the cont- 
inent of those who knew him in his better days : and as he 
passes along the thoron.ghfare they often mnrter to them.- 
selves, ■■ Mar. l:kes a fni' stvx^n bnt not an empty 
plate " 

The m.an '.eft the other tnan in one ne"d." or, " The 
la-v man is alwavs !e:t behind." A man has a son at- 



154 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

tending school. Every now and then the son finds some 
excuse to stav out of scliool, until the father, alarmed, 
begins to scold, when he is almost sure to say, " The 
man left the other man in one field," which is to say 
that two men set out to go to a town, but one of the men 
trifling along the way was left in one old field. 

" My spear has gone through the banana tree." The 
banana tree is regarded by the African as a very val- 
uable tree, and it contributes a great deal to his support. 
No one would knowingly do anything to injure or kill 
the banana tree. Information reaches the king that a 
terrible crime has been committed, and very strict orders 
are issued for the capture of the malefactors. WHien 
they are caught and brought before the king he is sur- 
prised to find that they are his own kinsmen. He con- 
veys to all the full depth of his sorrow when to himself 
he sadly repeats, " My spear has gone through the 
banana tree." 

" If crazy rnen are in the country, it is not difficult to 
find slaves." The finer tribes of West Africa believe 
that one way to get rich is to get a plenty of slaves. 
They also belie\-e that any person who would consent to 
be a slave is not possessed of full mental power. A Vai 
trader had a clerk who was constantly making mistakes, 
sometimes by giving too much change, and sometimes 
by selling too cheaply, and in speaking of this clerk a 
\'ai man used this expression, " If crazy men are in the 
country, it is not difficult to find slaves." 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 155 

(25) 
" The poor man raises children for the rich." Among 
the Africans the poor man does not himself consume any 
very fine commodity that he may raise, but sells it to 
some rich man. Their children, however, are their most 
precious jewels. When a poor man, carrying his fine 
rooster, goat, or cow to a rich man, is asked why he does 
not keep it and eat it himself, his only answer is the 
proverb, " The poor man raises children for the rich," 
and therefore such small things as fowls, goats, and 
cows must necessarily belong to the rich, too. 

(26) 

" The chicken without feathers says, ' The chicken with 
feathers gets cold ; why do you ask me why I am cold ? ' " 
When there is a scarcity of food articles and men of 
means are unable to buy what they want the friends of 
a poor man sometimes joke him about the scarcity of his 
food, and he finds some relief in the old saying: " The 
chicken without feathers says, ' The chicken with feath- 
ers gets cold ; why do you ask me why I am cold ? ' " 

(27) 
" The country devil when he has good dress plays in 
the daytime." The country devil plays at night when 
she has not good dress so that she may not be detected 
and recognized. Her continued influence depends upon 
the concealment of her identity, and although she is 
dressed as a man she is nevertheless a woman. The 
Vai man goes off and makes money and comes home 
and gives a big dinner in display. He has never given 
a dinner before. Among the many persons invited to 



156 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

dine will be some to ask, " \ATiy did this man give this 
big dinner?" and there will be some to answer, "The 
country devil when he has good dress plays in the day- 
time." 

(28) 

" The person who has not dropped anything will look 
for it with his foot." A Vai man, with two or three 
brothers, gets into trouble and must pay a large sum of 
money. The brothers of the man in trouble go about 
the town telling the people that they have trouble be- 
cause their brother has to pay a big sum of money. 
Later these brothers are seen spreeing away their means, 
and some one will ask them, " How can you spend your 
money so when your brother is in trouble? " The 
brother who is really in trouble remarks, " The person 
who has not dropped anything will look for it with his 
foot." 

(29) 
" The chicken that wastes the palm-oil his leg will be 
red." In a family where there are several brothers one 
of them is thought to have committed a theft The ac- 
cusers in their zeal to catch the guilty are willing to pun- 
ish all the brothers when some old head will object on 
the ground that " The chicken that wastes the palm-oil 
his leg will be red," and will insist on ferreting out the 
guilty from the innocent. 

(30) 

" The man who did not attend the funeral says the 
dead man had plenty of witch." It is customary among 
the Vais to examine the dead for a witch by what we 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 157 

would consider a post-mortem examination. Sometimes 
they find evidences of no witch, at other times of a small 
witch, and again of a big witch. When evidence of a 
small witch is found persons who were not present will 
circulate reports of the finding of a big witch, illustrating 
the nature of man to exaggerate. So that when any Vai 
man begins to tell anything that seems unreasonable, 
so much so as to be tantamount to a falsehood, the un- 
believing quote the proverb, " The man who did not 
attend the funeral says the dead man had plenty of 
witch." 

(31) 
" The paddle you find in the canoe is the pad- 
dle that will carry you across." It is a custom among 
the Vais to send up the country to the King's for slaves ; 
nearly all the time the King has some person or persons 
imprisoned in sticks to be sold as slaves. Upon appli- 
cation for slaves the King usually sells only those who 
are in sticks. If the slave-buyers insist on getting more 
it is pointed out that " The paddle you find in the canoe 
is the paddle that will carry you across." 

(32) 

" In the absence of the leopard the bush cat is King 
of the bush." Sometimes the King visits a neighboring 
town for a short time. During his absence some peo- 
ple are almost sure to take advantage of the situation 
and do some wrong. Sometimes in a general spree some 
persons will get drunk and rage in row and riot, or 
some ambitious man whom the King has authorized to 
keep a lookout until his return abuses his authority and 
by his acts of injustice arouses just indignation, some 



158 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

of the old reliable people of the town may be seen talk- 
ing to themselves or to others, during the course of 
which they will often repeat, " In the absence of the 
leopard the bush cat is King of the bush." 

(33) 
" One bad goat will spoil the herd." There is one 
man who is buying palm-oil in a town. One dishonest 
man mixes water with his palm-oil and sells it. The 
man who bought the palm-oil and water gets vexed and 
refuses to buy any more palm-oil because of this fraud 
having been practiced upon him. Those who have been 
honest in making and selling pakn-oil and must suffer 
for another's wrong are reminded that " One bad goat 
will spoil the herd." 

(34) 
" The wise man is father of the fool." A rich or in- 
telligent man in Africa is considered a big man, and 
very often such a man has a bad son or daughter who 
seems to have none of the attributes of the family and 
whose conduct repeatedly reflects upon the family name. 
Sometimes the son will get into trouble as fast as his 
father gets him out, or the daughter will take up a life 
of shame and her acts will furnish themes for social gos- 
sip. It is under these sad circumstances that we hear, 
"The wise man is father of the fool." 

(35) 
" A boil comes on the leg of the small bird." It is 
a belief that a boil comes on the leg of a small bird be- 
cause of the difficulty of treating his small and frail 
limb and that on a large bird they can easily be pre- 




VAI DRESS, FARM AND WAR HATS 

Facing Page 158 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 159 

vented. When a poor man gets into trouble and is 
unable to pay and must remain in a native prison he is 
compared to the little bird with a boil on his limb. If 
he had the money he could pay and thus, like a big 
bird's being saved from having a boil, he could avoid 
imprisonment. So when a man is seen in sticks some 
passer-by will remark, " A boil comes on the leg of a 
small bird." 

(36) 

" The lame man complains of the head of his car- 
rier." A person is in poor circumstances, and in a time 
of distress a sympathizer and friend takes him in and 
gives him shelter and food. After a little while the 
person taken in begins to complain of his food or some 
inconvenience he has to suffer. When the complaints 
reach the ears of his friend the Vai man says, " The 
lame man complains of the head of his carrier." 

(37) 
" Mushroom in a bugabug hill does not know that 
the other mushroom has run." Mushrooms are usually 
found in the Vai country one on one side of the buga- 
bug hill and one on the other side. When one comes 
out on one side frequently the one on the other side 
has disappeared. One man gets into trouble and is 
placed in sticks, and he sends a messenger to his brother 
or friend to inform him of his trouble. When the mes- 
senger arrives he finds in prison the brother or friend, 
who says to the messenger, " Mushroom in a bugabug 
hill does not know that the other mushroom has run." 

(38) 
" Small palm-nuts are not slaves for the large one." 



i6o NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

A free-born boy while playing gets into a fight with the 
King's son. The neighbors gather, and some of them 
tell the little free-bom boy that he should not be fight- 
ing with the King's son. In the meantime the father 
of the little boy appears and overhears the admonition 
given to his son, and he resents it by saying, " Small 
palm-nuts are not slaves for the large ones." 

(39) 
" It is better for a hungry man to go to the owner 
in the house than to the cook in the kitchen." When 
the people want to borrow or to buy something on credit 
sometimes a clerk will pretend that he owns the goods 
or has power to dispose of them on his own terms to 
enhance his own personal importance, but he continues to 
put the people ofif without disclosing the real owner or 
his limited authority. Then some of the disappointed 
will begin to talk about their disappointment, and some 
one will remind them that " It is better for a hungry 
man to go to the owner in the house than to the cook 
in the kitchen." 

(40) 

"If the man who tends the farm is rich, what must 
the owner be? " Very often a man who works for an- 
other through thrift and economy accumulates consid- 
erable property. A stranger in passing by with a per- 
son who belongs in the community admires the wealth 
of the workman and is told that he is only a servant 
or clerk for another man, when the stranger exclaims, 
"If the man who tends the farm is rich, what must 
the owner be? " 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA i6i 

(41) 
" You do not tell the rice-cutter that he has some rice 
before him." Sometimes a man will give to another 
a job of work to do and before the workman has com- 
pleted it the employer, afraid that it will not be done 
well, points out in advance, before the workman has 
turned the work over, certain parts which have not been 
done, and a favorite retort of the workman is, " You 
do not tell the rice-cutter that he has some rice before 
him." 

(42) 

" A snake can run but he cannot outrun his head." 
Sometimes a strong young man takes a pride in fight- 
ing, and after a few combats is acknowledged as the 
champion of his neighborhood or his town. One day 
this young man begins a fight, and a big man in the com- 
munity, hearing of it, starts out to stop him and to put 
the young fighter in his proper place. On the way the 
big man meets one who has been cowed by the strength 
and valor of the young fighter, and he advises the big 
man that it is no use for him to go, as he will not be 
able to conquer the young man. But if the big man is 
not deterred by these warnings and predictions, it is 
only necessary for him to say, " A snake can run, but 
he cannot outrun his head." 

(43) 
" The man who swims thinks that no one sees his 
feet." A thief steals something. When the people be- 
gin to investigate they find the evidences pointing to 
one man. They approach him and begin to question 



i62 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

him on the subject and to refer to some of the things 
that point to him, in the thought, perhaps, that he might 
confess; but the thief stoutly maintains his innocence, 
and that so strongly that the people leave him, but they 
leave with the thief this wise saying, " The man who 
swims thinks that no one sees his feet." 

(44) 
" Your food is close to your stomach, but you must 
put it in your mouth first." Sometimes among the Vais 
a son or a nephew will take or desire to take the prop- 
erty of his father or uncle without waiting for the ordi- 
nary process of ^"ai custom. The son or nephew as 
soon as his father or uncle dies proceeds to take what 
he wants, since it all belongs to him, and he does not 
quite see the necessity of complying with the custom of 
carrying everything to the King first. His attention will 
be called to the irregularity, and perhaps in the con- 
versation some one will re-enforce his remarks by the 
proverb, " Your food is close to your stomach, but you 
must put it in your mouth first." 

(45) 
" No matter how bright the moon shines it is dark 
in some places." The Vais educate their children, teach- 
ing them the Vai script as well as the Arabic, together 
with the principles of knowledge from an African's 
standpoint as well as the culture of the Koran and the 
Arabs. Sometimes the people in a community exert them- 
selves to put every child under the influence of education, 
but in spite of all their efforts and success in educating 
him some boy is sure to turn out badly. Then the old 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 163 

people shake their heads and say, " No matter how 
bright the moon shines it is dark in some places." 

(46) 

" When you meet two old ladies together, one is al- 
ways older than the other." It is common among Afri- 
cans to comment on one's wealth. A number of young 
men get together and during the course of the conversa- 
tion one of them refers to a rich man he knows ; another 
mentions one whom he claims has greater wealth; 
finally they reach two of whom they are unable to de- 
cide which has the greater wealth, and so they agree 
to take the matter to an old man, who will remind them 
of the wisdom of the fathers, " When you meet two old 
ladies together, one is always older than the other." 

(47) 
" No matter how long a dry leaf remains on the tree 
sometime it will fall down." The Vais in their large 
towns have their markets. Sometimes a man is able to 
secure credit from one of the traders but because he 
cannot pay he will stop coming to the market. He re- 
mains away so long that the trader begins to complain 
of his not coming, and before he complains long he will 
find some one who knows the old saying, " No matter 
how long a dry leaf remains on the tree sometime it will 
fall down." 

(48) 

"If you put a stick in a hole it will fool you, but not 
so with the hand." The Vais are a very intelligent peo- 
ple, and they like to have slaves wait upon them. When 
a bad slave is sent to do something and fails to do it, 



1 64 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

it is certain to furnish a subject for comment afterward 
among the neighbors. The master puts the blame on 
the slave,, but somebody will transfer it to him saying, 
" If you put a stick in a hole it will fool you, but not so 
with the hand," implying that the master should have 
attended to the matter in person. 

(49) 
" No matter how much sense, the little boy will get 
the young cola from the tree." When a Vai man has 
a very bright boy he trusts him to do little things. He 
often sends him to market. No matter how satisfac- 
torily the little boy performs this service the day he 
makes a mistake the father will reprove him, saying, 
" No matter how much sense, the little boy will get the 
young cola from the tree." The little boys are sent up 
the cola trees for colas, and the young colas are not 
good to eat. 

(SO) 
" When a little boy slips off and goes into the tree 
and cannot get down he calls for his parents." War 
breaks out between two tribes, a third tribe declares 
neutrality, then the King warns all his subjects against 
taking any part in the war. One of his subjects joins 
the war in spite of warning, and is captured by the other 
side. He sends word to his King who declines to have 
anything to do with him; but the erring man's friends 
and relatives beg and entreat the King to take up the 
matter, and they clinch their appeal with the well-known 
saying: " When a little boy slips off and goes into the 
tree and cannot get down he calls for his parents," — a 
strong plea to the parent feeling. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 165 

(SI) 
" When a small bird says ' I am fat ' you make a hole 
in a little pot and reply, ' If your fat will fill this pot 
then you are fat.' " In some of the Vai towns there is 
a man who is always getting into trouble, but he seems 
to get out every time. One day he gets into trouble from 
which no one believes he will be able to escape. As it 
is impossible to fill a pot with a hole in it, they say, 
" When a small bird says ' I am fat ' you make a hole in 
a little pot and reply, ' If your fat will fill this pot then 
you are fat,' " which is expressive of their belief in the 
impossibility of the man's being able to secure his re- 
lease, and as much as to say, " If you get out of this 
trouble, you are smart indeed." 

(52) 

" If you have not carried the war, you must not play 
fight." When a man has a case and the native lawyer 
who has promised to appear on the day set for trial for 
him does not appear the man is sure to complain of this 
action of the lawyer, which is condemned by the words, 
"If you have not carried the war, you must not play 
fight." 

(53) 
" If you have no one to carry the goat, do not let 
it go into the mud." If the goat goes into the mud and 
the owner has no one to carry it and he is obliged to 
carry it across some place he is sure to get his clothes 
dirty. A man's son gets into trouble, and the injured 
party appeals early to the father in the matter, so that 
the difficulty may be settled without much cost to the 



i66 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

father. But the father declines to have anything to do 
with it. Fearing that he will be obliged to take it up 
later when the trouble will be greater, the old saying is 
brought into service, " If you have no one to carry the 
goat, do not let it go into the mud." 

(54) 
" You always say a leopard's hide in speaking of its 
skin." When a man is King with much wealth some- 
times through some misfortune or difficulty he suddenly 
becomes poor. The African looks down upon a poor 
man. Some of the people are likely in fun or in earnest 
to remind the King of his former wealth and his pres- 
ent poverty. His reply is likely to be, " You always 
say a leopard's hide in speaking of its skin." 

(55) 
" A shame man carmot eat crawfish." The people 
like crawfish, but if they eat it they make noise in cracks 
ing the encasing and the neighbors will call for some, 
hence they say, " A shame man cannot eat crawfish." 
Sometimes a man has another man arrested for some 
offense, but the arrested man, by his own talk or the 
influence and talk of his friends, frightens the person 
who had him arrested so that the prosecution halts and 
wavers. The prosecutor is advised to drop the matter, 
and although he does not carry forward his case he de- 
clines to dismiss it and recites the story of the crime 
or offense. After a time some one, observing that the 
man is afraid to do anything, expresses his disgust in 
this way, " A shame man cannot eat crawfish." 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 167 

(56) 

" Bugabug-hill says, * If you do not want people to 
mash you, do not let the mushroom come.' " Some peo- 
ple like many friends and have many visitors, and some 
of them are sure to give trouble. So a friend or a mem- 
ber of your family will advise you against having so 
many friends, and they will give as their authority, 
" Bugabug hill says, ' If you do not want people to mash 
you, do not let the mushroom come.' " 

(57) 
" If a frizzled chicken lives in a town, the town can- 
not burn." Among the Vais to eat a frizzled chicken 
is good luck. Among the Vais there are some men who 
devote their time to peacemaking. When two men quar- 
rel they go to them and stop it. If war is about to 
break out, they take up the causes with both sides in 
the interest of peace. In every difficulty their good in- 
fluences and offices are felt for good. They are re- 
garded as a blessing to any community. And so they 
live in those wise sayings that are handed down from 
generation to generation, " If a frizzled chicken lives 
in a town, the town cannot burn." 

(58) 
" No man leaves the doctor's work for nothing." The 
Zo is the head of the Greegree Bush, an institution for 
the training of young Vai girls. The Zo is at the head 
of a great many things, and one of the departments un- 
der her is medicine. It is a position of great authority 
and influence. Besides being a good singer, one must 
belong to a family of money or power, for at the death 



1 68 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

of the Zo two slave money (about six pounds sterling) 
is to be paid by the family of the deceased to the King, 
or the Zo cannot be buried. On the one hand people 
are attracted by the prominence and importance of the 
position, and on the other they are repelled by its grave 
responsibilities. When it is refused it is for good and 
fundamental reasons. When a man hires one man to 
do a piece of work and he goes off without finishing 
it sometime this workman meets his former employer and 
is asked why he did not do the work ; being ashamed to 
give the reason he says that there was none. The em- 
ployer insists to the contrary, for " No man leaves the 
doctor's work for nothing." 

(59) 
" An old hen cannot turn the town for nothing." A 
hen that will not attend to her chickens or hatch her 
eggs is likely to be sold from one person to another until 
she is sold around the town. So that when you see a 
hen that has gone the round something is wrong with 
her. A man brings you a good-looking boy and you 
buy him. Later you ascertain that the boy steals. The 
Vai man in commenting on the boy is sure to bring up 
that " An old hen cannot turn the town for nothing." 

(60) 

" If a billy goat has his jewelry twenty years with the 
silver smith, how many more years has he to dress ? " 
The billy goat has whiskers and some people put little 
bags around his neck. The billy goat could hardly live 
anything like twenty years. His day for dressing is 
short, ^^''hen you take your goods to the Vai tailor to 
be made and every time you call he has not commenced 




c 
< 



< 



ir. 
in 



< 
> 



NEGRO CULTURE IN ^^'EST AFRICA 169 

the work but promises and puts you off you are sure 
to get tired after many postponements, and >'0U indig- 
nantly ask, " If a billy goat has his jewelry twenty \ears 
with the silver smith, how man\- more years has he to 
dress?" 

(61) 

"If you do not know two, look at the goat's head." 
The goat has two horns, as everybody knows. \\'hen- 
ever a \'ai man wants to insinuate that j'ou do not pos- 
sess ordinary sense, — as when he is trying to explain 
to you something very plain to himself, something that 
you cannot see nor understand,— he dismisses the mat- 
ter in contempt, by saying, " If you do not know two, 
look at the goat's head." 

(62) 

" The grippa feeds itself upon its own little fish." 
Some poor \'ai men have a number of boys in the fam- 
ily, such as nephews, cousins, etc. Every now and then 
he sells one to some rich man. Some of his own rela- 
tives do not like this selling of the family, and finally 
a protest is made. The explanation is that the boys 
are to be redeemed, and when pressed too much comes 
the vexed retort, " The grippa feeds itself upon its own 
little fish." 

(63) 
" When you cook dogmeat eat it hot, for when it is 
cold it smells badly." A \'ai king announces that he 
will earn,- war on tlie Golas, a neighboring tribe, but 
he does not do so at once. He allows much time to pass, 
and the Golas get prepared for the attack. In support 



I70 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

of abandoning the attack an adviser quotes among his 
reasons, " When you cook dogmeat eat it hot, for when 
it is cold it smells badly." 

(64) 
" A small string brings down a big bunch of grass." 
Mandingan grass is kept in the lofts of Vai houses. 
In taking down the grass by the blade, a single blade 
will almost invariably bring down a large bunch. A rich 
man injures several members of a family and escapes 
any punishment. By-and-by he does some little thing 
to another member of the family, and very heavy dam- 
ages are insisted upon for this damage that is trivial 
in comparison with what he has done to other members 
of the same family and escaped without punishment. 
The man is now brought to pay for all the wrongs 
against this family through the occasion of this one 
little wrong, and astounded at the injustice of the claim 
he minimizes the wrong he has done; but somebody re- 
calls to him that " A small string brings down a big 
bunch of grass." 

(65) 
" When you are troubled in mind and your slave runs 
away you put your hand in your pocket." A Vai man 
gets into serious trouble, and in his confusion of mind 
he goes for help to another man who is not his friend, 
and the man refuses to aid him. He relates the inci- 
dent to a friend who reproves him for going to this man 
for help, and there we have an occasion for the saying: 
" When you are troubled in mind and your slave runs 
away you put your hand in your pocket," yet your slave 
is not in your pocket. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 171 

(66) 

" You wash your mouth with cassava and it is good 
for the stomach." There is a custom among the Vais 
of eating raw cassava, and it is called washing the mouth. 
Among the Bussi people this is the chief way they clean 
their teeth. So that aside from being food for the stom- 
ach, cassava is really good for cleaning the teeth. A 
man is sick; the family has medicine to give him, but 
it must be prepared with fresh meat. The man has no 
appetite and does not wish to eat, but aside from the 
food he is told that medicine is prepared with it, yet 
he hesitates. But he is all right when he hears some 
one say, " You wash your mouth with cassava and it 
is good for the stomach." 

(67) 
" When an old lady goes to market the second time 
the first time she had good luck." A Vai man made a 
rice farm last year and he had bad luck, so this year he 
is making none. A friend who did not know of his bad 
luck but knew of the making of the rice farm is passing 
one day and inquires why a rice farm is not being made 
this year, and he is told, " When an old lady goes to mar- 
ket the second time the first time she had good luck." 

(68) 

" When one man has his stomach full it cannot satisfy 
every man." A rich man has a poor friend who works 
for his livelihood, and all the time the rich man either 
sends for him or he calls to have a stroll with him. But 
the poor man can ill afford to spend so much time in idle- 
ness, and so he begins to decline the invitations of his 



172 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

rich friend. The rich man, noticing the change, inquires, 
" ^^'hat is the trouble? " Thereupon, the poor man an- 
swers, " You are rich, but I am a poor man. When one 
man has his stomach full it cannot satisfy every man. I 
must work for my living." 

(69) 
" Soon in the morning one man cannot go to two 
places." War breaks out between two tribes and one of 
the tribes has set a specific day for an attack upon a 
town. It turns out that this day is market-day. One 
of the men who is expected to accompany the attack re- 
members that it is market-day and informs those who 
are going to war that he intends to get his market and 
then join them for the campaign. The war people are 
not inclined to favor going to market before starting for 
the attack, and they object because it might delay the 
march and cause them defeat. The wisdom of the situa- 
tion is found in the old words, " Soon in the morning one 
man cannot go to two places." 

(70) 

" The cow is larger than the horse, but the horse is 
more useful." The Vai singers are serenading the town. 

They visit a man who was bom a slave but who is 
now rich, and he gives them ten dollars. Next they play 
and sing for a }'oung man who gives twenty-five dollars. 
The singers are surprised to receive from this young man 
more than from the rich man, and comments are ex- 
changed among the strangers. The young man is a free- 
born Vai, a member of an old family of freemen, and 
takes great pride in his family history. The strangers 
will no longer be surprised when they hear him say, " The 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 173 

cow is larger than the horse, but the horse is more use- 
ful." 

(70 
"If you run you crack your foot; they do not go to- 
gether." The Vai man begins to plant his rice farm and 
he is hurrying so that he can cut palm-nuts; and he ex- 
pects to hurry with the palm-nuts so that he can go to 
trade. Some of his friends pass and wonder why this 
man is rushing so, and finally they inquire. As he re- 
lates his plans of getting rich in a short time somebody 
is sure to punctuate the story with this, " If you run you 
crack your foot ; they do not go together." 

(72) 
" A man who has not seen the new moon before calls 
the stars the moon." A man is very poor and he has had 
to work hard for his living. But he has a stroke of sud- 
den fortune, and is able to secure a little money, about 
fifty dollars, more than he ever had before in his life. 
He is so elated that he goes about boasting of his wealth 
and trying to put on airs. The rich people of the com- 
munity who have been rich for generations feel a sense 
of disgust at the words and actions of this new lord of 
wealth, and they repeat among themselves the wisdom of 
the fathers, " A man who has never seen the new moon 
calls the stars the moon." 

(73) 

" A man can leave his house, but he cannot leave his 

way." A bad man has had so much trouble in one town 

that he has decided to move to another town far away 

where he is not known. When he arrives at the town he 



174 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

finds that his reputation for trouble has preceded him, 
and he hears with much surprise and regret what the peo- 
ple say; so he really decides to act well and to show that 
he has been maligned and misrepresented. He does very 
well for a time, but finally falls into his old habits, and 
the people begin to say, " A man can leave his house, but 
he cannot leave his way." 

(74) 
" The house looks pretty from the outside, but the in- 
side is bad." The Vais like to dress, and some of the 
worst characters of the community appear in the finest 
and most costly dress. On ceremonial occasions some 
of these bad people appear so well that they excite the 
comment, " The house looks pretty from the outside, but 
the inside is bad." 

(75) 
" Old cloth has a new pocket." That is, a poor man 
suddenly gets a little money or is raised to position. 

(76) 
" The people are sorry for the man who plays the organ 
at night." That is, a man poor, with no wife nor other 
persons in his house, usually plays some kind of music at 
night when other people have gone to bed. 

{77) 
" A sassy woman puts chicken on the grave of her 
husband's friend." That is an expression that is used 
when some woman neglects her husband's grave. 

(78) 

" Noise of the horn is not news like the fire of the 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 175 

gun." When a stranger, asked for news and knowing 
none, begins to say that the people are making a farm, 
this answer is often given to him, " Noise of the horn is 
not news Hke the fire of the gun." 

(79) 
" The piles always catch the thin, weak man." When 
people want to pass through certain tribes at war and they 
are warned not to pass that way, they reply, " The piles 
always catch the thin, weak man." 

(80) 

" Man does not leave his well in rain time." New peo- 
ple come, and when one is about to leave old friends for 
the strangers the warning is, " Man does not leave his 
well in rain time," — that is, when he has plenty of water. 

(81) 

" The rice bird finds a place to sit down first before 
he begins to eat rice." That is to say, before a person 
undertakes to do anything he should first get some power 
or make preparations. 

(82) 

" The little billy-goat never cries for horns." That 
is to say, a rich man's son never hurries like a poor boy 
to get money. 

(83) 
" You must hold the bamboo stick until you reach 
the country where you can get a reed." That is, some- 
times you may have a bad boy, woman, or man, but you 
must hold him until you get a good one. 



176 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

(84) 
"Don't do me like the pestle that beats the flour." 
That is, a person claims something that belongs to a 
big man, but he never gets it. The pestle is white, but 
it has beaten no flour. So the big man says, " Don't do 
me like the pestle that beats the flour." 

(85) 
" The chicken cries for teeth, but he has not any." 
That is, when a man is promised_ to be made king he 
makes promises as to what he will do. In case he is dis- 
appointed and complains, the answer is made to him, 
" The chicken cries for teeth, but he has not any." 

(86) 

" Man walks through the bush by the word of a big 
monkey." That is, when a stranger asks in a town for 
some one to carry him to some king or place and they 
do not wish to do so or have no one to send they often 
say, " Man walks through the bush by the word of a big 
monkey." 

(87) 
" The elephant never gets tired of carrying his tusks." 
That is, no matter how poor people become they try to 
support their people, and if they complain the above 
words are echoed in their ears. If they complain when 
they are doing any other thing they ought to do they hear 
the words, " The elephant never gets tired of carrying 
his tusks." 

(88) 
" There is no sore as big as the head cut off." When 




VAr GRASS HAMMOCKS 



Facing Page 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 



'// 



one man has done a great crime and some one complains 
of some smaller offense they are reminded that " There is 
no sore as big as the head cut off." 

" The person who says catch a cat by the neck has been 
bitten before." \\'hen a person is about to stand some- 
body's bond and some one warns him not to do so and he 
wants to know why not. the answer is, " The person who 
says catch a cat by the neck has been bitten before." 

(90) 
"If the rain does not come the orange will still have 
water." \Mien a person has become rich and refuses a 
favor and is told that certain trade will be withdrawn he 
replies, '' If the rain does not come the orange will still 
have water." 

(91) 
"When you reach the head of the water the fish has 
finislied." \\"hen a man owes many debts and all his 
property has been taken from him, and when some one 
says he wnll sue him again he is told, " When you reach 
the head of the water the fish has finished.*" 

" If you put flour in two hands it will be dirty." \\'hen 
a person sends something to another person and gi^es it 
to a man to carry and he gi\es it to another, and he to 
another, and so on, when it reaches the person to whom 
it was sent some of it is sure to be lost. Therefore if any 
person proposes to transmit in this \\ay he is told. " If 
you put flour in two hands it will be dirty." 



ijS NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

(93) 

" The fish likes water pass everybody." That is. when 
the king does some wrong and one of his own men or 
kinsmen admits it tlie opposers of tlie king say it is true 
because '' Everybod}' likes water, but the fish pass all." 
The one man is likened unto a fish in water, and his tes- 
timony is more convincing, as tlie fish likes water beyond 
other people. 

(94) 
" The goat is not big in cowtown." \Mien a man 
leaves his home and is unknown in a place, and especially 
when he is a big man at home and is not given the atten- 
tion abroad that he feels he ought to have, he often 
says by way of consolation, " The goat is not big in cow- 
town." 

(95) 
"If tlie people say they will to-morrow kill the liar 
he cannot sleep." ^^'he^ a crime is committed and 
a day is set for finding out who did it and some persons 
flee before the time, the people use their parable, " If the 
people say they will kill to-morrow the liar he cannot 
sleep." 

(96) 
" A\'ater does not clean a person's skin." \^'hen a man 
loses a case because he has not money to defend his rights 
and when people refer to him as being in the wrong as 
the reason why he lost the case, he answers, " ^^'ate^ does 
not clean a person's skin." 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 179 

(97) 
" The meat for every day is goat." When a person 
who begs often considers too small what has been given 
him the doner reminds him, " The meat for every day is 
goat." That is, they cannot have beef and fine meat 
every day any more than one can make large gifts often. 

(98) 

" The leopard cannot catch a person with a chicken 
on his shoulder." That is to say, when a man has money 
it is difficult to do anything to him. If some one com- 
plains that a rich man's son has committed a crime and 
gone clear, he is reminded that, " The leopard cannot 
catch a person with a chicken on his shoulder." 

(99) 
" One man who has eaten enough food is not sufficient 
for other people in the town." One boy gets to brag- 
ging about the rich men in his town and the poor boy 
from a poor town answers, " One man who has eaten 
enough food is not sufficient for other people of the 
town." 

(100) 

" The little bird begins to cry before the other birds 
come." That is, there is a bird with eyes far back in 
his head and he begins to cry so as to shed tears at the 
same time that the other birds do. This parable is used 
when one man is chided for having been so long in build- 
ing his house. He replies, " The little bird begins to 



i8o NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

cry long before the other birds come," in order that he 
might have his house at the required time. 

(lOl) 

" People who kill an elephant do not forget the head." 
Two persons are friends, and one of them has some- 
thing, and he gives it out to all but this friend. He 
comes and asks for his part, and the friend replies that 
he forgot him. The retort is, " People who kill an 
elephant do not forget the head." The head is valuable 
because it contains the ivories. 

(102) 

" The doctor-woman cannot take the baby for her 
pay." One person gives some things to be repaired to 
another who demands pay before he delivers them. He 
is told, " The doctor-woman cannot take the baby for 
her pay." 

(103) 

" You cannot lick your dry hand." You continue get- 
ting a man to do things for you and you fail to pay. 
Sometime you will ask him again to do something and 
he will remind you that " You cannot lick your dry 
hand." 

(104) 

" A snake has bad luck at the well." A man with a 
bad reputation is generally attended with trouble wher- 
ever he is known, whether he does anything or not; 
things that other people do are put upon him. When he 
is under some false accusation he often explains the in- 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA i8i 

justice he bears by saying, " A snake has bad luck at 
the well." 

(105) 
" If you sit on the bottom of the sea, you cannot be 
a fish." One man comes to a strange place and talks as- 
sumingly concerning the affairs of the people. After he 
has resided there sometime, no matter how long, one 
day in discussion some one will tell him, "If you sit on 
the bottom of the sea, you cannot be a fish." 

(106) 

" It is not difficult to make a bag of a leopard hide." 
On important ceremonial days people dress their chil- 
dren. Good-looking children do not require so much 
dress. When the people are praising the good-looking 
girls some one who has spent a great deal of money in 
order to have an ugly girl appear well says, " It is not 
difficult to make a bag of a leopard hide." 

(107) 

"A minnow is not small to his deep." Often strange 
people will wonder how a small boy can be king or pos- 
sess so much property, and the people answer, " A min- 
now is not small to his deep." 

(108) 

" A dried rat has blood." When a poor man gets 
rich or suddenly increases his fortune envy inspires many 
to say, " A dried rat has blood." 

(109) 
" You cannot tell a rock to strike where you desire." 



1 82 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

A man has a bad son and everything he tells the son to 
do the son disobeys ; then the people say, " You cannot 
tell a rock to strike where you desire." 

(no) 

" A man has a water-pot on his head, but he cannot 
drink." Often a man has slaves and they all go off to 
work. The master wants something done immediately; 
he calls some one to come and do it ; they refuse. Then 
you can hear him muttering to himself, " A man has a 
water-pot on his head, but he cannot drink." 

(Ill) 

" When a man says, ' I savey sing he has his head.' " 
Sometimes when they have prisoners of war and the 
time arrives for execution some of the prisoners will 
claim that they will be very useful as slaves on the farm, 
and they will plead for their lives by telling the work 
they can do. Some of the captors, convinced by the 
pleas, repeat this parable in behalf of the pleading slaves, 
" When a man says, ' I savey sing he has his head.' " 

(112) 

" To eat raw is good for cassava." When a man 
brings stolen money or goods to the house of his friend 
they generally divide it. But if the money or goods be 
not stolen and the friend calls for a division, he is pretty 
apt to hear, " To eat raw is good for cassava." 

(113) 
" When you do not want to go in front or behind you 
have a messenger to carry you." When a man has a 
lazy wife who does not wish to do anything and desires 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 183 

the husband to hire a servant, when the time arrives to 
do some work she says she cannot do it. Sometime 
when she is saying that she cannot cook or cannot get 
water the husband reminds her of the fact that she has 
no servants by saying to her, " \\'^hen 30U do not want 
to go in front or behind you have a messenger to carry 
you. " 

(114) 
" To walk with nothing is better than to have a light 
load on the head or shoulder." Of a group of slaves 
two or three will combine to steal something. When 
the time for punishment arrives some will ask for light 
punishment because they only watched or knew about 
the stealing. It is then that the judge reminds them 
of their guilt and points out the superiority of the in- 
nocent man by the adage, " To walk with nothing is bet- 
ter than to have a light load on the head or shoulder." 



VAI FOLKLORE STORIES 



CHAPTER IX 

VAI FOLKLORE STORIES 

(I) 

THE RIVAL SLEEPERS 

TWO men met and engaged in a conversation, dur- 
ing the course of which one of them declared that 
he could outsleep the other. The second man denied 
that the speaker could outsleep him, and they made a 
bet after appointing judges that each could outsleep the 
other. The first man went home and built a big fire 
and laid down beside it to sleep. 

While he was sleeping his foot caught afire and 
burned his leg to his knee, but he did not wake until 
some people, seeing him burning and fearing he would 
burn up, ran to him and awoke him, entreating the man 
to wake up, that he was on fire. He awoke and insisted 
that he was simply sleeping and that they should have 
allowed him to continue his slumber. 

The first man had slept in spite of the fire that had 
burned his foot and leg to his knee, and on the next day 
it was the turn of the second man to sleep. He went 
home and laid down in the street beside his house and 
went to sleep. Before a great while it began to rain, 
and it rained so heavily that the streets were flooded and 
the man was washed into the sea asleep. No sooner 
had he reached the sea than a large fish swallowed him. 
This big fish swam up the river and was caught by the 
fisherman. As the fish was taken from the water and 
placed on the bank the people were astonished at the 

i86 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 187 

largeness of its abdomen. They hurriedly cut it open, 
and behold they found a man. They examined the man, 
found him alive, and woke him up. As he woke up he 
said, " I was simply taking a little nap ; why did you 
wake me?" The judges were unable to settle the mat- 
ter, so they submitted it to the people, who are still un- 
decided as to which of them won the bet. 

(2) 

THE MAN AND THE GOAT 

A man went into the forest and set a rope trap, and 
the trap caught a bush goat. The man was so eager to 
kill the goat that in his zeal he made a mistake, and with 
his knife he struck the rope and cut it instead of the goat, 
and the goat ran away. The man followed the goat for 
many hours ; by and by both the goat and the man be- 
came tired ; the man called to the goat to wait, and when 
the goat stopped the man said to it : " Twins cannot 
eat goat meat. My wife is a twin, my children are 
twins, and I am a twin. I do not wish to eat you. I 
was only joking." The goat said in reply, "If you, your 
wife, and your children are all twins and you did not 
wish to eat me, why have you followed me all these 
hours?" 

(3) 

THE THREE BROTHERS AND THE TOWN 

Three brothers living in a town lost their father and 
their mother. They were so grieved over the death of 
their parents that they moved into the forest and built 
a camp. The oldest brother said, " I am going to make 



1 88 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

a rice farm." The next one said, " I will make a trap," 
and the third one said, " I want to die." The oldest 
brother made the rice farm. When the rice became full 
the bush animals began to visit the farm and eat the rice. 
The brother who made the farm told the brother who 
made the trap about the animals, and the trap was set 
on the farm. The trap caught one country pot. The 
next morning when the two older brothers went to the 
farm they saw the pot and the pot said to them, "If you 
come near or touch me you die." So they were afraid 
and went back to the house and told the little brother 
that since he wanted to die to go to the farm as death 
had come there. The little brother took his sword and 
went to the farm. The country pot told him what it 
had told the elder brothers, "If you come near or touch 
me, you will die." The youngest brother said, " All 
right; that is what I am looking for," and he at once 
broke the pot. As soon as the pot was broken a big 
town appeared. All the brothers claimed this town. 
The oldest brother said it belonged to him because he 
had made the farm, for if he had made no farm the 
animals would not have come and there would have been 
no town. The next one said : " Yes, you made the farm 
and the animals came, but you were not able to catch 
them. I made the trap that caught the town, and it 
therefore belongs to me." The small brother said: 
" No; the town belongs to me. You sent me to die and 
I went, and you two were afraid, so that by my going 
to die I met the luck of finding the town, and the town 
therefore is mine." They called the judge to settle the 
matter, and the judge said he could not decide and turned 
it over to the people who have not settled it yet. 



NEGRO CULTURE IX W^EST AFRICA 189 
(4) 

MAX HUNTING 

A man went hunting tor game, and while he was out 
in the forest a heavy rain came up. and he \\'ent and sat 
down in an old camp. A deer came along, and the man 
attempted to shoot it. but tlie shot would not go. and 
the man took a little switch and began to flog it; then 
the shot went and killed the deer. 

(5) 

THE R.\CE FOR A WIFE 

A man had a daughter who liked all the creatures of 
the forest. Each of them was tn^ing to secure tlie 
daughter for his wife. They all went to the father for 
his consent. The father told tliem to wait, that he would 
place his daughter in tlie old field, and that the one who 
reached there first should have his daughter. They all 
agreed to enter the race. \Mien they all assembled the 
Fox said, "' ^^ e must catch the deer and tie him, or he 
will win the race, as he can run much faster than any of 
us." So tliey all combined and tied the Deer and started 
on the race. 

After they had gotten on the way Mr. Spider came 
along and saw Mr. Deer all tied. Mr. Spider asked, 
■' What are you doing tied ? "' The Deer told him how 
all the animals had combined to tie him in order to keep 
him from winning the race and securing the daughter 
of the old man. The Spider then said. "" If I let you 
loose what wiU you pay me? " The Deer said that if 
he won the race he would give to him for his wife their 
first daughter. The Spider then untied him and jumped 



190 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

on the Deer's horn. The Deer ran and ran and finally- 
passed all the other animals. When he got in the old 
field near the old man's house the Spider jumped down 
and ran to the girl. The Deer claimed that the girl be- 
longed to him and the Spider claimed her, so they sub- 
mitted the matter to the judge, who decided that the 
Spider won the race and therefore was entitled to the 
old man's daughter. 

(6) 

THE TWO BLIND MEN 

Two brown men were blind, and they both took a 
walk. The one in front found a little horn and he blew 
it, and as soon as he blew it his eyes were opened and he 
could see. He said to the other blind man, " I found 
a little horn and blew it, and now I can see." He gave 
it to the blind man to blow, and he blew it and he could 
see also. But as soon as the second man obtained his 
sight he threw away the horn. The man who found it 
said, "Where is my horn?" The other replied, "I 
threw it away." " Give me my horn," replied the first 
man. The second man went and found the horn. 
" Here is your horn," said the second man as he handed 
it to the first man. 

The first man was jealous because the second man 
could see, and he thought by blowing again he could be 
made to see much better than the other man. So he 
blew his horn again and became blind. As soon as he 
saw that he was blind, he handed the horn to the second 
man, saying, " I have fixed my eyes good past you ; you 
fix yours now." The second man replied : " I do not 
wish to blow again; I am satisfied with my sight. Be- 
fore, I could not see at all and I am thankful for the 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 191 

sight I have obtained; you keep the horn." The first 
man became enraged and demanded that the second man 
must blow or fight. " I cannot blow, and we must fight 
then," said the second man, whereupon he ran away and 
left the jealous man helpless and blind. 

(7) 

WHY THE ELEPHANT RUNS FROM THE GOAT 

The Elephant told the Goat, " I am going to eat plenty 
of things past you." " No; I shall eat plenty past you," 
said the Goat. " Let us bet," replied the Elephant, " and 
to-morrow morning we will eat." The Goat agreed, 
and the next day they both went to a big rock. The 
Goat began to eat something, and the Elephant asked 
him what was he eating. The Goat replied, " I am eat- 
ing the rock, and when I finish eating this rock I am 
going to eat you also." The Elephant ran, and from 
that day to this the Elephant runs from the Goat. 

(8) 

RIVAL BROTHERS 

One woman had triplets. All three of them were 
good doctors. They started to go up the river. One 
of them said, " When I finish my patient I will not take 
a canoe to cross the river, but will cross so." The 
other two said, " If you do not take a canoe, we will 
not; whatever way you cross, we will cross also." They 
traveled until they came to a big river. The two 
brothers waited to see what and how the other brother 
would cross. The brother lighted his pipe and the smoke 
went straight across the river. And then the brother 
walked over on the smoke. One of the other brothers 



192 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

got a spool of thread, and making his thread bridge 
crossed over on it. The other got a bow and arrow 
and he shot one across into the bank; he shot another 
into this arrow and continued until the arrows made a 
bridge across the river, and then he walked over on it. 
So that all three passed over the river, but who knows 
the doctor work pass the other. 

(9) 

THE FLY, THE CRAB, AND THE MINNOW 

The Fly, the Crab, and the Minnow took a walk one 
day. The Fly saw a palm-tree with ripe palm-nuts and 
said to the Minnow and the Crab, " Who is going to cut 
them?" The Crab said, "I will cut them." As she 
was climljing the tree the Crab had one of her little 
Crabs on her back, and it fell to the ground. The Fly 
saw the little Crab fall, and seeing that it was dead 
began to eat it. The Minnow laughed and his jaw 
broke. The Fly said, " I will go back to town and tell 
the people what we saw." When he got to town he 
called the people together and told them what had hap- 
pened. As he came to town very quickly he was 
perspiring very freely. He went to wipe oflf the per- 
spiration from his forehead and he cut himself on the 
head. So that whoever does a wrong thing must suf- 
fer in the end. 

(10) 
THE MAN AND THE CRABS 

One old lady had a daughter. The old la(fy said, 
" No one can marry my daughter until he builds my 
house on top of the rock." So everybody tried to build 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 193 

the house on the rock, but they all failed, as they could 
not stick the poles into the rock. So one man heard of 
the matter, and he said, " When I go there I will marry 
her." When he came he asked the old lady about what 
he had heard, and she said it was true. The man said, 
" I can build your house," and he brought his poles to 
the rock from the forest. He made a basket and the 
next morning he had plenty of crabs. He carried the 
crabs to the old lady and said, " You cook my crabs." 
She agreed and cooked them. When she gave them to 
him he tasted one and said they were not cooked done, 
he had brought his crabs for her to cook and she 
had not cooked them done. She said they were done. 
And the man said, " No; let us go to the judge." The 
lady said, " Judge, did you ever see crab cooked so that 
when you put it in your mouth you cannot hear it 
crack?" "No," said the Judge. Then the man said, 
" Judge, did you ever see a man before build a house on 
a rock?" The Judge said: "No. Why ask me 
these questions? " The man said: " The old lady said 
if I built her house on the rock, I could marry her daugh- 
ter. I agree, but I cannot do it. So I take my crabs 
for the woman to cook and tell her that if they be done 
I will build her house. She agreed." So the Judge 
decided that the man had won the case and was entitled 
to marry the daughter. 

(11) 

THE RIVAL DOCTORS 

There were three doctors, — two men and one woman. 
Each one claimed to be the best doctor. So the two 
men took one gun and went hunting in the forest. One 



194 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

of the men said to the other one, " I see an elephant 
behind that large rock." " How can you see an ele- 
phant behind so large a rock ? " asked the other. 
"Never mind," the first man replied; "I see him." 
" Well," said the other, " you shoot him." So he shot 
through the rock, and killed the elephant. And then he 
said : " I have done my part now, and you must go 
and get him. You promised if I shot him you would 
go and get him." The other man said, " All right," and 
then he went to the elephant through the hole in the rock 
made by the bullet to the elephant, and brought the ele- 
phant back through the same hole. The woman doctor 
living in the town smelt the elephant, and without know- 
ing where the other two doctors were secured the liver 
and cooked it. When the other two doctors reached 
town the woman doctor said to them, " Here is some 
breakfast I prepared for you." When they sat down to 
eat they found the liver of the elephant, and asked the 
woman, "Where did you get this liver?" She said, 
" You went hunting to-day and killed an elephant; that 
is his liver." Then all three of the doctors called the 
people and asked them to judge which of them excelled 
the other. 

(12) 
THE MAN AND HIS CHICKEN 

One young man had one chicken and started to go 
where he heard there was one blind rascal man. 
" When I find him I will fix him." So he started out 
through an old field, and met the same blind man com- 
ing. The young man stood in the path and the Wind 
man walked up against him and the young man's chicken 
began to holloa. Pretending that he was blind also the 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 195 

young man asked, " ^^'ho wants to take my chicken from 
me? "' The blind man said, " That's all right; just give 
me the chicken." The young man, griunbling to him- 
self, gave the chicken to the blind man. Then the young 
man went and found four rocks and returned. He took 
one in his hand and said, " Oh, Lord, if you be the true 
God, this rock must go and strike on the head of the one 
who took my chicken." Then he threw the rock and 
struck the blind man on the head. The blind man said 
nothing, but quietly moved to hide another place. He 
took another rock and said : " Oh, Lord, you are my 
father because I am blind. I can do nothing; but the 
person ^^■ho took my chicken, I want this rock to strike 
him in the back." Then he threw and struck this blind 
man in the back. The blind man' said nothing, but 
moved to another place. The yotmg man took a third 
rock and said: " Oh, Lord, you make me and the per- 
son who took my chicken. You say you will look after 
the poor blind man. If this be true, then this rock 
must go and strike in the ribs the man who took my 
chicken." Then he struck the blind man in the ribs and 
knocked him down, and the chicken holloaed. The blind 
man said nothing, but finally got up and hid himself in 
another place. The young man took the last rock and 
said: "Oh, my Lord, I hear my chicken holloa this 
way, bvit I have not obtained it. You promised to come 
when called, and I have thrown three rocks, and if you 
are coming truly then this last rock must strike in the 
forehead the person who took my chicken." He then 
struck the blind man in the forehead. The blind man 
cried out : " Here is your chicken, come and get it. 
You are not blind. You have God in your pocket. You 



196 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

tell the rock to strike me in a certain place and it does 
it. Here, take your chicken." 

(13) 

THREE MEN WANT FIRST SMOKE 

Three men took a walk. One had a pipe, one to- 
bacco, and the third, matches. The man with tobacco 
said he wanted to smoke, but he had left his pipe and 
matches in town. The man with the pipe said he wanted 
to smoke, but had left his tobacco and matches at home. 
The third wanted to smoke, but he had matches with no 
pipe nor tobacco. The man with tobacco borrowed the 
pipe from one man and some matches from the other 
and prepared to smoke, when the man with the pipe 
claimed he ought to have the first smoke because he 
owned the pipe. The next man claimed the first smoke 
because he owned the tobacco, and the third man claimed 
he should smoke first because he had the matches and 
without them neither of them could smoke. They 
could not agree and they could not smoke and they be- 
gan to fight, ^^'hen they returned to the town all bloody 
they were taken to the judge to settle the matter. The 
judge heard the case and being unable to decide turned 
it over to the people. Which really of the three men 
was entitled to the first smoke? 

(14) 

TWO BOYS AND THE SNAKE 

Two boys went to cut some wood. They had cut the 
wood and tied it up when a big snake came and bit one 
of the little bovs, and he died at once. The other little 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 197 

boy cried and cried; finally he called the snake and told 
it that when he went back to town the people would 
think that it was he who had killed the other little boy. 
They would hold him responsible. He asked the snake 
to get some medicine and restore the boy, and then when 
his parents came he might bite them. The snake agreed 
and went and obtained the medicine and the little boy 
was again alive. The two boys got their wood and car- 
ried it to their respective homes. The snake followed 
this same little boy home, and bit him again, and he died 
shortly afterward. The people wept and wept; finally 
one man said they must stop and send for the other 
little boy and find out what his playmate had done in 
the bush to make the snake follow and bite him. They 
called the little boy, and he came and told what had 
happened in the bush, and how he had begged the snake 
to get some medicine to restore the boy so that he him- 
self would not be held responsible. The people then 
called the snake to get medicine to revive the boy. They 
said : " You restored the boy in the bush because this 
little boy begged you to do so. Now all the people 
weep and beg you to restore him again. If you granted 
the request of this one little boy, you surely will not re- 
fuse the request of all the people." The little boy was 
restored. 

(15) 

THE RABBIT, BIG SNAKE, AND THE GROUND SQUIRREL 

The Rabbit and the Big Snake made for themselves 
a big town in the ground. The Ground Squirrel came 
and said, " I want to stay with you all." The Snake 
replied, "All right; I agree." But the Rabbit said, 



198 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

"No." The Snake asked the Rabbit, "Why do you 
not want the Squirrel to stay with us ? " " Because," 
said the Rabbit, " this Ground Squirrel is a rascal ; he 
does not sit down in one place; by and by he will bring 
trouble on us." "Never mind," replied the Snake; 
"the Ground Squirrel shall come and stay with us; I 
will mind you and I will mind your little brother. What 
is the matter? Are you jealous of your httle brother? " 
The Rabbit remarked, " You have the power. All 
right; let him stay." So the Rabbit went and made a 
little hole by himself. Thus they lived for three months 
when the people came and made a farm near the town. 
Everything the people planted the Squirrel would get 
up soon in the morning and dig up ; he took up the corn, 
the potatoes, the cassava, and the ground nuts. Every 
time the people got after the Squirrel he would run to 
the same place. So the people decided to follow him 
and catch him. All the people went after the Squirrel, 
and after digging a great deal in the ground they found 
him and killed him. They said: "This Squirrel is 
not alone. Plenty tilings live in this hole." So they 
dug on. The Rabbit whispered over to the Snake : " I 
told you so, but this trouble is your trouble and that of 
your son Squirrel, so I am going to my own little hiding- 
place." By and by the people found the Big Snake and 
killed him. But just before he died he said : " The 
Rabbit told me not to allow the Squirrel to stay with us 
as he was sure to make us trouble. If you fail to take 
good advice, you will pay dear for it in the end." The 
people, happy over having caught the stealing Squirrel 
and the Big Snake, did not dig farther, and the Rabbit 
was safe in his little home. Motto: "Bad company 
is sure to lead to trouble." 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 199 
(16) 

THE DEER AND THE SNAIL 

The Deer said to the Snail, " I can run faster than 
you." " You cannot," repHed the Snail. " I will bet 
you that I can," rejoined the Deer. " What will you 
bet?" asked the Snail. "Let us run," said the Deer, 
" and the one who loses, he and all his people shall be 
slaves to the other and his people." " I agree," replied 
the Snail. The Snail went and told all his people about 
the race, and stationed one at a certain distance apart 
along the way they were to run, and had one Snail stop 
in the town to which the race was to be made. The 
Snail knew he could not run and so he sought the help 
of all his people. But the Deer felt so confident of 
winning the race against the Snail that he did not tell 
any of his people. Having gotten all his people ar- 
ranged, the Snail told the Deer that he was ready for 
the race. Off they went. About a mile away the Deer 
came to a river, and when he got there the Snail's 
brother cried out, " I am here too, and you must carry 
me across." " All right," said the Deer, " but I have 
not started to run yet." The Deer ran to the next river 
and a Snail cried out again, " I am here and you must 
carry me across." The Deer carried him across, and 
said, " I see I must run to beat you." So the Deer be- 
gan to do his best in running. When he got to the next 
river the Snail cried out, " I "have been here a long time, 
Mr. Deer. What have you been doing so long? You 
must carry me across too." The Deer carried him 
across, and started on his last run to the town. The 
Deer ran and he ran ; at length all exhausted he reached 
the town, and as soon as he entered he saw the Snail. 



200 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

The Deer holloaed and ran away without waiting for 
the judge to decide the race. And ever since that day 
when the Deer sees the Snail he is afraid and he runs. 

(17) 

THK TIDE AND THE MINNOW 

The Tide came up and asked the Minnow, " What 
time does the Moon change?" The Minnow replied, 
"Oh, leave me; I am thirsty; I want a drink." The 
Tide said : " Minnow, what kind of foolishness is this 
you talk? You live in the water, yet you say you want 
to drink." The Minnow answered: "You came up 
and asked me what time the Moon changes ; the Moon is 
up and you are up; you are related to the Moon, and if 
you call my word foolish, what do you think now of 
your question? " 

(18) 

THREE RIVAL BROTHERS 

Three brothers took a walk. They stopped at a town 
and fell in love with the King's daughter, and each 
wanted to marry her. The King told them that he 
would give her to the one who brought him one slave. 
So they started out in search of the slave. They trav- 
eled many days into the country. One of the brothers 
had a glass into which he could look and find out each 
day everything that had happened in the town he had 
passed. One of the others had a hammock into which 
one might sit, and the hammock would carry him any- 
where he wished to go. The third brother had some 
medicine with which he could raise the dead if they had 
not been dead more than three days. After they had 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 201 

walked two weeks in search of a slave one morning the 
brother with the glass looked into it and ascertained 
that the King's daughter was dead, and that she had 
died on the third day before. He told the other brothers 
the sad news. The brother with the medicine said that 
he could restore her to life if he could reach the town on 
that very day, before the third day had closed, but that 
they were more than two weeks' walk to the town. 
The other brother said : " That is all right. Come, 
get into my hammock." They all sat down and in a 
few moments they were in the town. They went to 
the King and asked what was the news. " Nothing," 
said the King, " except that my daughter you all like is 
dead, having died three days ago to-day." The brother 
with the medicine asked the King what he would give 
him, if he restored his daughter to life? The King 
promised him the daughter and all his wealth. The 
daughter was immediately raised from the dead with 
the medicine, and the brother who had the medicine 
claimed the daughter. 

The brother who had the glass claimed her because, 
as he said, " But for my finding out that she was dead 
we would not have known that she was dead in time 
to restore her." " She belongs to me," said the brother 
with the hammock, " for although you knew she was 
dead we were two weeks' walk away, and but for my 
hammock we could never have reached here with your 
medicine before the third day closed." Unable to agree 
the brothers began to fight. The people came to part 
them and the whole matter was referred to the judge, 
who, unable to decide the case turned it over to the peo- 
ple. To which of the brothers did the daughter belong? 



202 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

(19) 

RI\'AL STORY-TELLERS 

Two men lived in a neighborhood and each of them 
heard that the other was a big story-teller. One day 
they met at a big dinner. When they had finished eat- 
ing one of the men began talking; and among other 
things he said : " Things are small now, but when God 
created the world everything was big. I myself saw a 
big bird passing and the bird was so big that it took 
seven days before just its neck had passed." The other 
man braced up, saying: " I think you are right, be- 
cause I saw one tree, and it ^\•as so large that God gave 
all the angels an ax and told them to go down and cut 
it, and they cut on it six months and did not cut it 
down." "Oh! it is not so," said the first man; "one 
angel is able to take this whole world, and what kind 
of a tree could it be that all the angels could cut six 
months on it and could not cut it down ? " The second 
man answered : " Well, if God did not make this tree, 
where would your bird have to sit down? This is the 
very tree God made for your bird." 

(20) 

TWO POOR MEN 

One poor man had some rice and he took it to one 
old lady to cook. She told him all right, but that she 
did not ha^e any meat or fish with \\hich to cook the 
rice. The man told her to cook the dry rice and he 
would eat it. The man went away. Another man 
c^me to the old lady with a bird that he had shot for h^r 




w 

> 



< 

Q 
< 



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NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 203 

to cook ; she said : " All right. But I have no rice 
with which to cook your bird." " Never mind," said 
the man, " just cook it so, and I will eat it." This 
man went out. The old lady cooked the dry rice and 
put it in a bowl for the first man, and the bird she cooked 
and put it in another bowl for the second man, and then 
she placed the two bowls together under a cover and 
went out. She met the first man, who asked about his 
rice. The old lady told him to go to the house and look 
under the cover and he would find his rice. The man 
went to the house, lifted up the cover, and saw his rice 
in one bowl and the bird in another. So he began to 
eat his rice and some of the bird. The second man met 
the old lady and asked about his bird, and she told him 
he would find it at the house under the cover. When 
the second man arrived at the house he found the first 
man eating his bird. "How you eat my bird?" said 
the second man to the first man. " No ; the old lady 
gave it to me," said the first man. " She did not give 
it to you," said the second man, and they began to quar- 
rel over the bird ; then the old lady stepped in. The 
matter was referred to her, and she denied giving to 
the first man the bird. The first man contended that 
she did, and if not, why did she place the bird under the 
cover with his rice? Unable to agree, the case was re- 
ferred to the judge upon a charge of theft. The first 
man contended that she gave him the bird, and the sec- 
ond man and the old lady that she did not. The judge 
decided that the first man was guilty, but popular sen- 
timent was strongly in favor of this man. What is a 
proper decision in the case? 



204 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

(21) 
TWO MEN FRIGHTENED 

An old man and his daughter were Hving in a town. 
The people began to take sick, and they all died one 
after another until the old man and his daughter were 
left alone. One afternoon the daughter took sick, and 
although the old man did his best for her by six o'clock 
she was dead. The old man was broken-hearted, and 
it was too late for him to go to the next town that night. 
So in his grief and despondency he left his daughter in 
the bed just as she died. The old man, bowed in sor- 
row, went to his room to rest until morning, but he 
could not sleep; for him there was no rest. As was his 
custom, the lover of the old man's daughter came to see 
her. She was absent from her usual place, and not a 
sound nor noise could be heard. As he approached the 
door he called the old man's daughter, but she answered 
not. Receiving no answer, the young man thought the 
old man and his daughter had gone out, perhaps to a 
neighboring town, but to be sure as he was leaving he 
thought to look into the daughter's room, and seeing 
her uncovered face he thought she was just asleep. 
Again and again he called her, but she did not speak. 
He entreated her to wake up, that he had something to 
tell her, but she did not wake. He asked her what he 
had done that she treated him so, but she slept on. 

Finally the young man, talking to himself, became so 
loud that the old man heard him, and became frightened 
almost to death. He thought he heard the spirits of 
the dead of all the town gathered at his house. And 
talking to himself, he said : " Oh, Lord, since my 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 205 

daughter was born I have given her ever)rthing for 
which she asked. We alone in this old town have been 
left. All the other people die. But this afternoon she 
took sick and died." 

As soon as the old man said the word " died," the 
young man himself became frightened because he had 
been talking to the dead, and he ran away. When the 
old man heard him running he attempted to make his 
own escape, thinking that his daughter's spirit wanted 
to catch him. They both ran to the next town, and 
told their experiences. The old man said, " My daugh- 
ter died and her spirit wanted to catch me." Then the 
people said, " You sit down, and in the morning we will 
find out." The young man said: "I have been going 
to see the daughter of the old man in the next town. I 
went there to-night and began talking to her. When I 
heard the father say she was dead I became so fright- 
ened that I hastened away." 

The people who heard the young man went and told 
the King, and the people who heard the old man did 
the same. The next morning the King called the old 
man and said to him : " What you reported last night 
is not true. One young man, a friend of your daugh- 
ter, went there to see her as he has been doing before, 
and it was he that you heard talking. You take these 
people and go bury your daughter." 

(22) 

THE OLD LADY AND THE LITTLE BOY 

The people of a town were having hard times and 
many of the people's crops had failed, so the King made 
a law that if anybody stole he was to pay a fine of fifty 
dollars; and that if any one is sleeping in the day time 



2o6 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

and some one wakes him up he must pay also a fine 
of fifty dollars. 

The sun was hot, and one old lady took her cutlass 
and went to walk. She saw on the way one full plan- 
tain and she cut it. When she was cutting it and when 
it fell the owner heard the noise that she made. The 
man sent one little boy to see who cut the plantain. 
When the little boy got to where the plantain was cut 
he saw the old lady lying down asleep. The little boy 
shook the old lady and said : " Old Lady, Old Lady, 
wake up, wake up." The old lady awoke, and the little 
boy asked, " Who cut this plantain ? " The old lady 
said, "Never mind the plantain; who woke me up?" 
The little boy replied, " I want to know who cut this 
plantain ? " and the old lady insisted, " I want to know 
who woke me up? " 

So the people came and took both the boy and the 
old lady to the court. The facts in the case were pre- 
sented to the judge by the people, who asked, " Who 
was to pay the fifty dollars, the boy or the old lady?" 

(23) 

THE BLIND AND LEGLESS MEN 

Two poor men lived in a town. One of them was 
blind and the other was without legs. The gifts that 
were made to the poor were hardly enough for two, so 
the man with no limbs wanted to get rid of the blind 
man so that he could get all. Whenever they went any- 
where the blind man carried the other one, who pointed 
out the way. One day the man with no limbs said to 
the blind man, " Friend, we see a plenty of trouble. 
Come, let us go to the big river and drown ourselves." 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 207 

The blind man said, "All right; I agree." The man 
with no legs got upon the shoulders of the blind man 
and they went to the river. When they reached the 
river the blind man asked, " Who is to die first? " The 
other man said, " I will die first." " All right, you go 
first," said the blind man. The man with no limbs 
instead of jumping into the river threw in a big rock. 
So the blind man asked, " Is it true that my friend 
actually has gone? All right, my time is finished, and 
I must go now. But before I die I must take my walk- 
ing-stick and feel all around me." Then he took the 
stick and began to feel around, striking the bushes 
rather hard. When the stick approached the other man, 
the man supposed to be dead in the river cried out, 
" Oh, man, do not strike me with that stick." Then 
the blind man said : " What ! You are not dead yet. 
You want me to die and yourself to live. All right; 
God helped me, and I did not die. Come; I will take 
you back to town." 

(24) 

THE SPIDER AND HIS MEDICINE 

A Spider went to a Bird and said : " I want some 
medicine so that when I walk about I can do so quickly, 
so that when the people have big plays I can eat at all 
the towns the same day." " All right," said the Bird, 
giving the Spider the medicine with these directions: 
" When you want to go anywhere call my name first, 
— ' Troo.' " 

Very soon Christmas came and the people in all the 
towns were having big plays and killing fowls and bul- 
locks for the dancers and the feast. The Spider woke 



2o8 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

early and wanted to go to Cape Mount, so he decided to 
try his medicine. He said : " Troo, I want to go to 
Cape Mount," and he was transported there almost im- 
mediately. When he arrived at Cape Mount the people 
were cooking the rice, fowls, and bullocks. The Spider 
said : " Well, I will not wait. I think the people in 
the next town have breakfast ready, so I will go on. 
Troo, I want to go to Mando." When he got to Mando 
the people were carrying the food to the King so that 
he might divide it. " What," said the Spider, " you 
have not divided the food yet. Why, I will go to the 
next town. Troo, Bomie." When the Spider got to 
Bomie the people had finished eating. " I am sorry," 
he said; " I will go back to Mando." The Spider had 
become very hungry. The Bird told him when he 
wanted to go extra fast to say, " Troo, Troo." So the 
Spider said, " Troo, Troo, — Mando." And at once he 
passed Mando and went on to Cape Mount, and when 
he arrived at Cape Mount the people had finished eat- 
ing there. Finding that he had made a mistake by say- 
ing, " Troo, Troo," which had carried him too far, he 
simply said, " Troo, Mando." When he reached Mando 
the people had finished. Now why did not the Spider 
get something to eat with all the power of his great 
medicine of traveling with dispatch from place to place? 

(25) 
THE FOX AND THE GOAT 

The Fox and the Goat went to a big meeting, and they 
put the two together in one house. So the Fox and the 
Goat got into a quarrel, and the Goat told the Fox that 
he intended to put him in a trouble out of which he 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 209 

would never be able to get himself. The Fox said, 
" All right ; you put trouble on me, and I will return the 
same to you." The Goat went for a walk, and he saw 
a Leopard, and being frightened, he asked, " Auntie, 
what are you doing here?" "My little one is sick," 
said the old Leopard. The Goat then said, " The Fox 
has medicine that will make your little one well." The 
Leopard said, " All right, you go and call him." So 
the Goat went to the Fox and said, " They call you." 
" Who calls me? " repHed the Fox. " I do not know," 
said the Goat ; " I think it is your friend. You take this 
path and you will meet him." The Fox went down the 
path, and at length came upon the Leopard. The Fox 
became frightened and inquired : " Did you call me ? " 
" Yes, my son ; your brother sick. The Goat came just 
a while ago and told me you had medicine that would 
make my little one well." " Yes," said the Fox, " I 
have medicine that will cure your little one, but I must 
have a little Goat horn to put it in. If you get me a 
Goat horn I will let you have the medicine." " Which 
way did the Goat go ? " asked the Leopard. " I left 
him up there," replied the Fox. " You wait here with 
my little one, and I will bring you the horn," said the 
Leopard. " All right," said the Fox, and away went 
the Leopard. In a little while the Leopard killed the 
Goat and returned with his horns to the Fox. You are 
liable to fall in the trap you set for some one else. 

(26) 

THE OLD LADY AND THE BIRD 

All the people had died in a large town but one Old 
Lady. One day a big Bird came and inquired : " Who 



2IO NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

lives in this town? " The Old Lady answered, "I am 
here." " ^^'hat do you do here? " said the Bird. The 
Old Lady replied, "Plenty of people lived here; I was 
rich; but they all have died now and I have no one to 
help me, so I am helpless and poor." The Bird listened 
and then asked, "If I help you, will you kill me?" 
" Xo," replied the Old Lady. " Then just shut your 
eyes," answered the Bird. The Old Lady shut her eyes, 
and while they were shut all the people of the town who 
had died waked up with their cattle, goats, fowls, and 
riches. The grandchildren of the Old Lady were re- 
stored to her. ^^'hen she opened her eyes she was hap- 
pily astonished at the life and wealth of the once dead 
town, and when tlie Bird said to her " This is all yours," 
her joy and gratitude knew no bounds. 

The Bird says, "All right; I am going now, I leave 
two eggs in this big tree, ^^'atch and keep them for 
me. If you do, you will never be poor again." The 
bo}s of the town were playing, and one day they said 
to the grandchildren of the Old Lady: "There are 
two big, fine eggs in that tree," and they pointed toward 
them. The little grandchildren went and told their 
grandmother, and asked to have the eggs. The Old 
Lady said : " No, you cannot have the eggs. The 
Bird told me if I did not keep and watch those eggs I 
would be poor and helpless again." So the boys began 
to cry, and they cried and cried for three days, until 
finally the Old Lady said : "Go and get one." 

The boys went and got one of those large fine eggs, 
cooked it, and ate it. In a few days they asked for 
the other one. The Old Lady said : " How ! You 
want to kill me? You got one egg, why not leave the 
other to the Bird?" The boys began to cry again 



XEGRO CULTURE IX WEST AFRICA 211 

and continued until the Old Lady said, " Go and get 
it" 

Xo sooner had the boys gotten the last egg. had it 
cooked, and eaten it, when the Big Bird returned. The 
Bird, finding no eggs in the nest, hastened to the Old 
Lady. "You try to kill some one who helps you?" 
asked the Bird. " All right: you shut your eyes." The 
Old Lady did not wish to shut her eyes. She faltered 
in the fear of the fate that waited her, but she had to 
close them. And with the closing of her eyes went the 
life, the people, and the wealth with which the Bird had 
blessed her. \\'hen she opened them she found herself 
again poor and helpless and looked out upon the silent 
streets of a to\\Ti dead and lifeless. 

Do not forget the means by which we rise. 

(-7) 

THREE ROYAL LOVERS 

One King had a very beautiful daughter. Three 
other Kings heard the news, and each of tliem decided 
to send his son to wed this charming maiden. The King 
in the East said to his son, " I want you to marry the 
pretty daughter of a neighboring King. Prepare your- 
self and go." So he gave his son many soldiers and 
attendants to accompany him. and the yoimg man set 
out with his party for the ro}al maid. 

The King in the South prepared his son for marriage, 
and sent him with his soldiers, fine dress, and attend- 
ants to wed the lovely daughter of this same neighbor- 
ing King. 

A King on the West prepared his son, decorated him 
with jewels, arrayed him in fine dress, and started him 



212 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

out with soldiers and attendants to marry this same 
royal and beautiful daughter. 

They all arrived there on the same day. The King 
received them kindly. He called them all together and 
said : " You come from the East, you from the South, 
and you from the West. What is the object of your 
visits? " The young men gave the same answer, — they 
had all come to marry his daughter. So the King called 
his daughter and told her about the young men and the 
object of their presence. The girl said, " All right," 
and went back to her house. 

For the young man from the East she had water pre- 
pared for his bath; she gave him clothes to make a 
change; and at night she supplied his bed with cover. 

For the young man from the South she had prepared 
a big dinner and gave him and his attendants a royal 
feast. 

To the young man from the West she gave nothing, 
but with him at sunset she went walking among the 
flowers and the trees. 

A few days later these three young men met in the 
public square and their conversation drifted until they 
were talking of their favor with this royal maid. One 
of them said he thought he was going to win because 
the girl gave him water to bathe, clothes to change, and 
warm cover under which to sleep. The next one said 
he thought the girl liked him best as she had given him 
and all his attendants, a big, royal feast. But the other 
young man said, " No ; I think she likes me best, for 
just at sun down in the woods by the lake we strolled 
together." 

The young men were unable to agree, and they finally 
submitted the case to the judge, who said he was unable 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 213 

to decide the matter, and the royal maid is still unmar- 
ried. 

(28) 

TWO BAD YOUNG MEN 

Two bad young men took a walk and went to see the 
King. One of the young men said to the King: 
" King, this young man says something that I do not 
believe. He says ' God has to give man everything,' so 
I named him ' God has to give man everything.' " 

' The other young man said : " Yes, I say that. King ; 
and this young man says something that I do not be- 
lieve. He says, ' Man has to give man everything,' so 
I named him ' Man has to give man everything.' " 
" We want you to judge this matter," said one of them. 

The judge said : " All right. You must wait here 
ten days, and I will give you my decision. And when 
you come to hear the judgment I want each of you to 
bring me ten pounds." The young men agreed. 

The King agreed with and was in favor of the young 
man who said, " Man has to give man everything," so 
every morning he put one pound in the rice and sent the 
bowl to this young man that he might get the ten pounds 
and verify what he had said at the end of ten days. 

This young man when he received the rice would eat 
his portion and pass the bowl over to the young man 
who believed that God giveth everything. The one 
pound was at the bottom of the rice, and the young man 
who ate last got the pound every day, although the King 
was sending it to the other young man who received the 
rice and ate his portion and who believed that man giveth 
everything. 



214 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

When the ten days were up the King called up the 
young men and told them he was ready to decide the 
matter. He asked each of them for ten pounds. The 
young man who believed in God handed him ten pounds, 
and the other young man who believed in man had noth- 
ing. 

So the King ordered the young man who believed in 
man to be put in sticks. He said to the young man who 
believed in God : " What you say is correct. I have 
never believed it before, but I believe it now, because I 
sent that ten pounds for this other young man and you 
obtained it." To the other young man in sticks he said: 
" What you say is false, and you are confined that you 
may not preach your bad teaching." 

God is the giver of Everything. 

(29) 

THE TWO FAITHFUL FRIENDS 

Two friends, each named Kamo, had never seen each 
other; one lived in the East and one in the West. The 
young man who lived in the West went to the man who 
told fortunes by cutting sand and said, " I want to go 
over and see my friend whom I have never seen, and I 
want you to cut sand, so that I will know whether I will 
meet good or bad luck." The man cut the sand and told 
him that if he went to see his friend he would not find him 
home, but that he would meet him on the path, that when 
he reached the country of his friend he must not go out 
at night, no matter who called, and that if he did so 
he would surely die and never be able to return home. 

This young man from the West was not satisfied with 
what the Fortune-Teller had told him, so he decided to 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 215 

go to another one, who cut sand for him and told him 
the same thing that the first Fortune-Teller had told him. 
So that when this young man heard the same words 
from two different Fortune-Tellers he believed it, and 
he said, " I will now go to see my friend, but I will 
mind what I have been told." He walked three days 
and met his friend, but he did not know him, and he 
asked him which way he was going. The young man 
from the East answered : " My name is Kamo. I am 
going to see my friend in the West, who is also named 
Kamo." The young man from the West replied, " I 
am he, and I am going to see you at your place." So 
Kamo from the East said : " You have walked three 
days and I have only walked one. Come; return to 
my place." Whereupon both Kamos went East, and 
when they reached there the same night a big snake 
swallowed Kamo of the East, so that Kamo cried and 
cried until Kamo of the West heard him and woke up. 
He wanted to go to the aid of his friend, but he remem- 
bered that the Fortune-Tellers had told him that he 
must not go out at night, so he sat down. However, he 
said, " I know I am going to meet trouble if I go out, 
yet I am going, because my friend is in distress." He 
went out and found that a big snake had swallowed his 
friend all but his head, so he took his knife and killed 
the snake by ripping his mouth open and in doing so 
some of the blood from the snake flew into the eyes of 
Kamo from the West and he at once became blind, while 
his friend was released from the grasp of the Snake. 

Now Kamo from the East was free, but his friend 
who had freed him became blind in so doing, and he 
was sorry for his friend who had done so much for him. 
So Kamo from the East went to find a Fortune-Teller, 



2i6 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

a man to cut sand. The Fortune-Teller told him, " You 
have one son; go and cut his throat and take his blood 
for your friend to wash his face and then his sight will 
be restored." Kamo from the East went home, killed 
his son, and took his blood for his friend to wash his 
face that his blindness might be washed away. Kamo 
of the West washed his face in the blood of his friend's 
son, and immediately his sight was restored and his trou- 
ble was at an end. 

Who was the greater friend, Kamo of the East or 
Kamo of the West? 

(30) 

THE ONE EYED MONARCH 

One old King blind in one eye had ten rocks. He 
passed a law that everybody who passed his town must 
count those rocks, that if any one counted them cor- 
rectly the people must catch him and kill him, and that 
those who failed to count them correctly he intended 
to kill. The first man to pass was called to count the 
rocks. He began and when he said, "One," the old 
King said: "Stop! I called you to count the rocks 
and you come to curse me. You say I only have one 
eye, — one. True, I have only one eye, but that is the 
trouble that God has given me." So he called his men, 
and had this man carried off and killed. Everybody 
who passed was treated in the same manner. By and 
by one young man said he had heard of the law of this 
old King and of the many people who had been killed 
under it and that he would go and break it down. One 
day this young man went to the King and the King 
brought out these rocks for him to count. The young 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 217 

man began. He picked up the first rock and said: 
"This, — no one can call its name in this country; if 
you do, they will kill you. So I cannot call its name," 
and putting it down, he continued to count two, three, 
four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. 

^^'hen the young man finished the people of the town 
rejoiced, and seizing the old King under his own law 
they killed him as he had killed many others before. 

(31) 

POOR MAN AND KING's DAUGHTER 

One poor young man lived in a town with his mother, 
who was a very old lady. The old lady was almost 
helpless and her son had to feed her. One day the 
King's daughter saw this young man, and she fell in 
love with him, and finally they married. After the mar- 
riage the young man ceased to feed his mother, and left 
this for his wife to do. So every day the young man's 
wife would feed and wait on the old lady. 

One time when the old lady was being fed she caught 
the young lady's hand in her mouth and would not let 
her hand go. All the people of the town came and tried 
to get the old lady to let the young lady's hand go, but 
she would not. So they sent to call the young lady's 
husband. The young man came and he found out that 
it was necessary either to cut oflF the hand of his wife 
or to break the jaw of his mother. The young man was 
puzzled by the situation, and could not come to a de- 
cision in the matter. Some people advised him to cut 
off the wife's hand, and some advised him to break the 
jaw of his mother. But the young man could not make 
up his mind to do either. Finally the matter was car- 



2i8 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

ried to the judge for his decision. The judge asked the 
young people what under the circumstances would they 
do, and they said, " Break the old lady's jaw." He 
asked the old people and they said, " Cut off the young 
woman's hand." So the judge said that he was unable 
to decide the case. What would you do under such 
circumstances ? 

(32) 

THE BLIND MORI MAN 

A blind Mori man was living in a town, and he had a 
very beautiful wife. Every day the blind man's little 
boy would carry him to the mosque or church and leave 
him, and the little boy would return home. Somebody 
at the mosque would usually take the blind man home. 
When the blind man returned home after having been 
to the mosque he would eat his dinner, and the man who 
brought him home would eat also. One bad man found 
out that by taking this blind man home every day he 
could get his dinner for nothing. So this bad man 
would wait around every day until the people were ready 
to go home, and then he would go up to the blind man 
for the blind man to put his hand on his shoulder as he 
had seen him so often do when being taken home by 
some one at the service. By so doing the bad man got 
his meals free. One day this bad man saw the blind 
man's wife and he was charmed by her beauty and love- 
liness. 

So he went to the King and told him that the blind 
man had a pretty wife, that although he was King he 
did not have a wife that could compare with the beauti- 
ful wife of this blind man, and that it was best for the 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 219 

King to take this woman from the blind man. The 
King wanted to see this beautiful woman, so he asked 
the bad man how he might arrange to see her. The bad 
man replied : " When the church is out and the people 
are leaving the mosque, you go up to the blind man and 
he will put his hand on your shoulder, then you go home 
with him." "If the blind man finds out that I am King, 
would not that be bad?" asked the King. "No," said 
the bad man ; " all this time I have been carrying him 
home and he has never asked me nor found out who I 
am. The blind man will not know you are King." 

That day the King went up to the mosque and went 
home with the blind man. When the blind man reached 
home they both entered, and the blind man's wife 
brought in the dinner. When the King saw the blind 
man's wife he fell in love with her. So he decided in 
his heart that he would do what the bad man had told 
him to do. When they had finished eating the blind 
man took the water in the glass and drank and he no- 
ticed that the water was bitter. 

The, blind man then turned to his wife and said : 
" This country is going to ruin, because some new thing 
has entered the heart of the King, and if he does it, 
then this country is finished." " How do you know? " 
asked the wife. " Because the water I just drank is bit- 
ter. Never before did water taste like this; so I know." 

The King got up at once and went away. When he 
reached home he sent for this bad man who had told him 
of this blind man's wife. When the bad man had come 
the King said : " Why did you tell me to go and take 
the blind man's wife? Did you not know that he was a 
prophet? While I was there he told me everything that 
was in my heart. He told me that if I did what was in 



220 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

my heart the country would be ruined. So I cannot al- 
low the country to be ruined, and this day you must die. 
If you are not killed to-day you will do something else 
that may ruin the country." So the bad man was im- 
mediately killed. 

That sayne day the blind i\Iori man went to the King 
and wanted to know why the King had killed this man 
without a trial, since there was no war. So the King 
told him what the bad man had told him to do, — to get 
the Mori man's wife, — that the bad thing that he had 
had in his heart to do this bad man had told him to do, 
and that because of this action on the part of the bad 
man he had had him put to death in order that the coun- 
try might be saved. The King also told him that the 
Mori man had spoken truly in his presence and that he 
was right. The Mori man was sorry that the bad man 
was killed, but it was too late. 

When you plan to do some one else wrong you will 
not be free from injury and often will be the worst hurt 
in the end. 

(33) 

THE LITTLE BOY AND THE SNAKE 

The people made a fire in a big old field and burned up 
everything. There were many animals that were caught 
and burned also. So every person went to get his part 
of meat. One Big Snake in trying to save himself went 
into a large hole in a bugabug hill. One Little Boy 
while looking for his meat came upon this Snake. The 
Snake told the Little Boy that he wanted the Little Boy 
to help him, and if he did, he would help the Little Boy 
in return. " There are plenty of people and many dogs 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 221 

here, and if I leave this hole," said the Snake, " they will 
kill me. So you must let me get into your bag and carry 
me into the bush." The Little Boy agreed, the Snake 
got into the bag, and the Boy carried him into the bush. 
After the Snake got into the bush he said, " Little Boy, 
I am hungry, and I think I will eat you just now." 
"What!" said the Little Boy, "you told me that if I 
would help you to get into the bush that you would help 
me by and by, and now yovi say you are going to eat 
me." " Yes ; I know I told you that," said the Snake, 
" but when you leave you will change and grow so that 
I cannot know you to help you in the future, so I still 
think that I will eat you now." The Little Boy began 
to cry and continued talking to the Snake, when all at 
once came up Mr. Fox. The Fox asked, " What is the 
trouble? " The Boy told him, but the Fox said : " You 
tell a story, I do not believe you. How could this Big 
Snake get into your little bag? If you say so, Mr. 
Snake, come, get into the bag, and let me see." So the 
Snake came and got into the Little Boy's bag, and the 
Fox said to the Boy: " Did you say the bag was tied? 
All right, tie it and let me see." The Boy tied the bag 
and the Fox said, " I have finished my part of the work," 
when the Little Boy began to call the people from the old 
field. They came and killed the Snake. 

Do not try to return evil for good, and always remem- 
ber with gratitude those who lend you assistance or ren- 
der you some deed of kindness. 

(34) 

THE TWO THIEVES 

Two young men were living in a town. One of them 
said to the other one : " We are friends ; let us go to 



222 NEGRO CULTURE IX WEST AFRICA 



stealing." The other young man said, " All right; but 
we must learn to be rascals first." The first young man 
said, " No. we must go and begin stealing now." 
" Come on. let us go then," said the other one. So the 
two started out to steal. As they came near a big town 
they saw a plenty of sheep. So the young man who 
first suggested the stealing caught one sheep. Some 
people saw them, gave the alami, and a large crowd came 
out and caught them both. They were carried to the 
Judge for trial for stealing. The witnesses pointed out 
to the Judge the }oung man who had caught the sheep, 
who was the same yoimg man who had first thought of 
stealing, and who had persuaded his friend to join him. 
So the Court beg"an to question this young man about 
this stealing of the sheep. But the young man could 
say nothing. He was unable to make even an effort in 
his defense, and was at once confirmed and adjudged a 
thief in the minds of the people. So the Judge turned 
to the second young man to tell what he knew of this 
stealing of the sheep. Tiie young man said: "This is 
my friend, Judge, and the matter is this way. I have 
been telling my friend as we were coming along that 
a sheep had lower teeth but no upper ones, and he did 
not believe me. So when we saw the sheep I told him 
to catch one, and he would see the truth of what I said. 
And that is why he caught the sheep.'" Those who 
steal will tell falsehoods, but the thief is sure to get 
caught. 

(35) 

THE F.\THER .-\ND THREE SOXS 

One old man has three sons. He went to another 
to\\'n and saw one girl that he wished for the wife of one 



NEGRO CULTURE IX WEST AFRICA jj^ 

of his sons, so when he returned home he told the young- 
est son about this girl and instructed him to go and see 
her. 

So the young man Avent to sec the girl. He arrived 
there at a time when times were \ery hard with the peo- 
ple for something to eat. They giwe the young man a 
house in whieli to stay, water for his batli, and cover for 
his bed. but nothing to eat. The young man was very 
hungry. He saw some yomig cassava as he was coming 
along, and he became so hungry that he went back to 
steal some. AMien he came back with the cassava he 
forgot his house and went to the wrong place, — to the 
house of the girl's mother. He put his cassa\'a in the 
fire, and while it was cooking he began to talk to him- 
self. He said: " This grirl's people must be poor peo- 
ple. They gi^•e me nothing to eat, and I must go and 
steal other people's cassava." So when he finished eat- 
ing he wanted to lie do^\^^, and the old lady told him that 
he was in the wrong hotise. and when he foimd out that 
the old lady was the girl's mother and had heard what he 
said he ran back home. He told his father that the girl 
said she did not like him. He did not sa\- an^-thing 
.iKnit his trouble. His father said: "All right. I 
think slie will like your next brother." 

In a few days the father sent the next brother. WTien 
he reached the town he was given the same house in 
which his brother stayed. The people gave him the 
same things that his brother had had. and they treated 
him with consideration, but they g^ve him. also, nothing 
to eat. AMren the young man went to bathe he saw 
some ripe bananas on a banana tree, and he was so hun- 
gry that he thought he would just steal a few. The 
people had set a trap there for the bush cat, but the 



224 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

young man did not know it and in getting the bananas 
he got both of his hands caught. The people sent a 
Httle boy to the banana grove to get the bucket, and he 
saw the young man caught in the trap. The boy went 
back and told the people, and they came down and let 
him out of the trap. The young man ran home and 
told his father that the girl did not like him. " That is 
all right," said the father. " I think she will like your 
big brother." 

So the father sent the big brother to see the girl. 
Like the other brothers, he was given the same house 
and treated with consideration, and as the hard times 
were still on they gave him nothing to eat. The moon 
was shining at night. He became so hungry that he 
went out too to see if he could not steal something. 
He saNN' some cassa^•a in a large hole, but he did not know 
that the hole was so deep as it was almost full of water. 
He went in to get the cassava and could not get out. 
The people heard him swimming and wanted to know 
what he was doing there. He said he was just prac- 
ticing swimming as he liked to swim so much. They 
threw down a rope and helped him out, and he ran to his 
father and said the girl told him she did not like him. 
The father said: "What! I will go myself and see 
what the trouble is." 

When he arrived he was given the same house and 
treated like the sons. Food was still very scarce, and 
the people gave nothing to eat, and he also became very 
hungry. The next morning when he went out to bathe 
he saw one mortar where the people had been beating 
ground peas and had left some. The old man was so 
hungry that he put his head down to lick the mortar and 
his head was so fastened that he could not get it out. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 225 

The people called the girl to see what the old man had 
done. She was so ashamed of his act that she took off 
her ring and put it in the mortar, and when the old 
man's head was taken out she held up the ring and said 
that was what the old man was trying to get, as she had 
been telling him that he could not get her ring out of the 
mortar with his mouth. 

When the old man got his head out he ran home and 
called all his sons together and told them that the girl 
did not disHke any one of them but that she said she 
disliked the family in general. 

(36) 

THE KING AND HIS BANGLE 

A big King liked much to play a game called boh, but 
he did not understand how to play the game well. 
Every man who came to him he would ask him to play. 
One man beat him very badly, and the King gave him 
his bangle in pawn. The bangle was a large brass one, 
and was a fetich to the King, who regarded it as his life. 
The King told the man as he gave him the bangle that 
if he allowed any one to take this bangle or if he lost 
it that the King would be obliged to have him put 
to death. Near the town was a small lake which the 
King called his own and which was associated with 
his fetich. At night this bangle would come and go 
into the lake for the King, who would get it the next 
day. 

The next day the King sent for this man who had his 
bangle and told him that he wanted to redeem it. The 
man replied that he had lost it. So the King, as he had 
told him he would do, had him put to death. So the 



226 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

King did every man who beat him and took in pawn 
his bangle, and he thus killed many men. 

One day one good young man came to see the King. 
The King's daughter fell in love with the young man, 
and each day she advised him for his safety. One day 
she was going to the farm and she called the young man 
and told him she was going to the farm for a while and 
that in her absence if the King called him to play boh 
that he must not play. "If you play," said the daugh- 
ter, " Father will kill you." She told him how he had 
done many others, and why. The young man did not 
take the advice of the daughter and he played boh with 
the King, and as usual beat him and took in pawn the 
bangle of the King. As the King gave the pawn he told 
the young man that if he lost it he would lose his life. 
That night the young man lost the bangle. Early the 
next morning the King sent to the young man to re- 
deem the bangle. The young man sent word that he 
had lost the bangle. The King then sent him word that 
he gave him three days to find the bangle. On the third 
day the daughter said to the young man, " Let us run 
away." He agreed, and they ran away. As they were 
running away they got very hungry and they happened 
to meet a girl carrying food for the people who were 
working on the farm. The daughter asked the girl to 
sell them the food, as they were very hungry. The girl 
said she was taking food for the farm hands, but if the 
daughter would agree for her to become also the wife of 
her husband that she would let her have the food. The 
daughter agreed and they ate the food. 

The girl now joined them in the flight, and they con- 
tinued their journey to escape. They walked until they 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 227 

became almost exhausted from thirst, when in the burn- 
ing sun near an old field they met another girl carrying 
water to some people planting rice. The two wives of- 
fered the girl ten pounds for the water for their husband. 
The girl replied, " I cannot take the ten pounds, but I 
like this man, and if you consent for me to become also 
his wife, I will let you have the water." They con- 
sented and the girl gave them the water and joined them 
in their journey of escape. 

They travelled and travelled until they finally came 
to a big river. They were unable to cross. They 
looked back and saw coming for them a large army of 
the King. Near by was a girl with a canoe. The three 
wives made up fifteen pounds and oiifered them to her 
to cross them. The girl said, " No ; but if you consent 
for me to become one of your husband's wives, I will 
cross you." They agreed at once and were crossed. 
When the soldiers arrived at the river they were unable 
to cross, and the young man was free from the vengeance 
of the King. 

By and by each of these four wives had a son. The 
father died. Each of the sons claimed his property. 
The son of the first wife claimed it all because his mother 
led his father in his escape. The son of the second wife 
claimed it because his mother gave his father food when 
he was almost dead from hunger. The son of the third 
wife claimed it because his mother gave water to his 
father when he was about to famish from thirst. The 
son of the fourth wife claimed it because his mother 
crossed his father over the river when the King's sol- 
diers, pursuing him, had almost captured him when he 
was helpless on the banks of the river. 

To which of the sons does the property belong? 



228 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

(37) 

THE MORI MAN AND THE SECRET 

A Mori man was boarding with an old lady. One 
day the old lady ran out of food for the Mori man. So 
she told him she was out of food but that she had some 
dog meat ; but the Mori man did not eat dog meat. She 
told him that he might eat dog meat just one day, and 
that if he would consent to do so she would not tell any 
one. So the Mori man agreed. But he said, " Just set 
my food aside for a while. Now you have some friends. 
You call your best friend, — the one to whom you tell 
everything, — -before I eat." The old lady sent and 
called one woman who came. When the woman came 
the Mori man said : " Yes, I called you. But you call 
your best friend, as I have something to tell." So she 
called her best friend and the man came. The Mori man 
asked him to call his best friend and continued to do 
this until one hundred people had assembled. When 
they had all arrived the Mori man explained the situa- 
tion to them. He said : " This old lady boards me all 
the time, but to-day she ran out of food for me, and 
wanted me to eat some dog meat upon the promise that 
she would not tell anybody. I consented, but I told her 
to send for her best friend to whom she tells everything 
before I eat; and she did so. When the friend came I 
asked her to call her best friend and he came, and so on 
until you see I have one hundred friends assembled. If 
I eat the dog meat this old lady will tell her best friend,, 
and the best friend will tell her best friend, and so on 
until many people will know it. Therefore I cannot eat 
this dog meat." If you wish anything kept secret keep 
it to yourself. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 229 



(38) 

THE JEALOUS HUSBAND 

One man was jealous of his wife who had two gentle- 
man friends. The husband thought to kill the one of 
his wife's friends that he could catch at his house. So 
he told his wife one day that he was going away to a 
neighboring town, but instead he went to a house close 
by to watch. He had warned his wife about these 
friends, and she was afraid for them to call at her house, 
but she had had no opportunity to tell them what her 
husband had decided to do. 

As it happened, on the day the husband said he was 
going away these two friends both sent word to the 
wife that they would stop by to see her, as they would 
be passing her home in the evening. So about six 
o'clock one of the friends made a friendly call at the 
house, and the wife, informing him of what her hus- 
band had decided to do in case he caught him there, told 
him not to call in the future. No sooner had she told 
him than her husband was seen coming home. Fearful 
of the friend's life, she tied him up in an old kinja she 
had in the house and stood him up in the corner. 

When the husband came he asked, " What is that 
standing in the corner? " " It is a kinja," said the wife, 
" that one man left here this afternoon and said he was 
coming back for it, but as yet he has not returned. I 
do not know what is the trouble." 

Very shortly afterward the other friend stopped by, 
and, knowing the jealousy and intention of her hus- 
band, the wife met him at the door and said: " What 
has been the matter that you have just come back. 



239 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

Here, take your kinja." The man, seeing the husband 
and noticing the temper of the wife, could see that some- 
thing very serious was the matter, and without any ques- 
tion he took up the kinja and went away. 

After they had got some distance from the house the 
man in the kinja said, " Oh ! man, put me down." The 
other man was startled and put him down. When tlie 
man got out of the kinja he said to the other man : 
" You came near being killed. If it had not been for 
me in the kinja, you would have been killed this night," 
and then he told the other man what the wife had told 
him the husband had said. The other man replied, 
" Yes, and if it had not been for my carrying you away, 
you would have been killed yourself." Each man had 
helped the other and each had had a narrow escape. 

Be careful how you call on other men's wives. 

' (39) 

THE MAN, THE DEER, T]IE 'pOSSUM, AND THE SNAKE 

A man cut his farm and planted plenty of cassava, 
and the Deer always came to the farm to eat this cas- 
sava. He made a trap and set it for the Deer. The 
Deer was caught one day. The man went and found 
the Deer in the trap. He started to kill the Deer, and 
the Deer told him he must not kill him. "If you let 
me go," said the Deer, " I will make you rich." The 
man took the Deer out of the trap. The Deer told the 
man to lay on his back. The man did so, and the Deer 
carried him far away into the big bush near a large 
town and left him there. 

The man had a piece of cassava in his hand when 
he was carried into the bush, and while he was eating 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 231 

it that night a 'Possum came to him and told the man if 
he would give him a piece of the cassava he w^ould make 
the man rich. The man gave him a piece and the 'Pos- 
sum went to the town and went into the King's house. 
The King had plenty of cola there in a jar. The 'Pos- 
sum broke the jar and took the cassava and strewed it 
all the way to the man in the big bush. The people 
woke up and saw this cola scattered along, and they 
followed the line of the cola to the man. The people 
caught this man, and carried him to the King, and the 
King put him in sticks. 

While the man was in sticks he made another trap 
and caught two rats. A Snake came to the man and 
told him, "If you give me these two rats, I will make 
you rich." The man gave the Snake the rats and the 
Snake went and bit the King's son. The King was 
worried and called all the people and told them if any- 
body gave him medicine to cure his son he would give 
that person one half of his town. The man in the sticks 
told the Snake, and the Snake gave him medicine to cure 
the King's son. The man went and cured the King's 
son, and tlie King divided his town in half and gave one 
half to the man who cured his son. The man was now 
rich. The Deer came and said he had made the man 
rich. The 'Possum came, and he claimed that he had 
made the man rich, and finally the Snake came and con- 
tended that he had made the man rich. 

Which of the three, the Deer, the 'Possum, or the 
Snake, did make the man rich? 

(40) 

THE LION, THE FOX, AND THE MONKEY 

One day three men caught a Lion and dug a deep hole 



232 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

and put the Lion in it. They left the Lion, and the Fox 
came by. The Lion told the Fox, "If you take me out 
of this hole, I will make you rich." The Fox replied 
that his family had sworn not to go into any hole, and 
then he went on. The Monkey came along, and the 
Lion told him that if he would take him out of the hole, 
he would make him rich. The Monkey said, " All right. 
I will try.'' The Monkey went up and caught a large 
limb and bent it down into the hole, and the Lion came 
out on it. When the Lion was up out of the hole the 
Monkey said to him, " Now make me rich." The Lion 
replied : " I am hungry. I have been in the hole three 
days. If you will give me something to eat, then I will 
make you rich." The Monkey answered : " What have 
I got here to give you? I have nothing you can 
eat." 

" Yes, you have," said the Lion. " You have a long 
tail, you can give me a piece of that." " How can I give 
you a piece of my tail without killing myself?" asked 
the Monkey. The Lion became angry, and catching the 
Monkey, killed him. 

While the Lion was killing the Monkey, the Monkey 
told him that he would not be able to catch any monkey 
besides himself, and all the other monkeys went up the 
tree. And since that day no lion has been able to catch 
any monkey. 

(41) 

TWO GREAT SWIMMERS 

One man had three cows and three boys, and he said, 
"If anybody can beat me swimming in this country, I 
will give him all." And everybody who could swim 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 233 

tried to beat this man swimming, but they could not. 
And then this man was known as the best swimmer in his 
country. The news went far and wide. 

So one day another man in another country heard 
about this man's swimming, and as he could swim too 
he thought he would try to outswim him. So the two 
men met and agreed to swim on a certain day; three 
cows and three boys were to go to the winner. The 
second man went back to his country and told his people 
about the swimming match. His people asked him if 
he thought he could beat this first man swimming, — the 
one whose reputation for swimming had travelled so far 
and wide. The second man replied that he thought he 
could. " But how can you do that? " asked his people. 
" Never mind ; I will do it," said the man. Then he 
told his people that he wanted ten kin j as of rice, ten 
kinjas of cassava, three bunches of plantain, and four 
pots, and when he got them he set out with his people 
for the country of the first man. 

When he arrived he said to the great swimmer, " I. 
am ready now to swim against you." The first great 
swimmer said, "All right; we will swim to-morrow." 
The two men went to the waterside where all the people 
of both countries had gathered. The second man car- 
ried all his kinjas of rice, his kinjas of cassava, his 
bunches of plantain, and all his pots to the waterside. 
He then tied all these in one bunch and put them on his 
back, when the other man said, " What are you going 
to do with all those things on your back in the water? " 
" What do you think ? " said the second man. " This 
is the way we swim in our country. We carry our food 



234 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

and when we get hungry we eat." " We do not know 
how to swim Hke that in this country," said the first 
man, " and if that is the way you swim, you can beat 
me, so the cows and boys are yours." 
Intellect is greater than muscle. 

(42) 

THE TWO FIGHTERS 

One man liked to fight, and he whipped everybody 
he met. He took three cows and went about his coun- 
try, offering these three cows to anybody who could 
whip him. 

One lazy man heard about this man's fighting, and 
came to him and told him that he could whip him. " Be- 
fore we fight," said the lazy man, " we must bet. I will 
bring my three cows and the one who whips will take 
the six." The champion fighter said, "All right; we 
will fight to-morrow." The lazy man before he started 
to the fight told his boy that if the fighter struck him 
four good licks he intended to run. " All right," said 
the boy; " let us go." The two men met to fight. And 
they began to fight ; the champion fighter struck the lazy 
man four strong blows when the lazy man cried out to 
his boy, " The time has come." The boy said, " Wait 
until he strikes you one more time." Then the great 
fighter said to himself, " This man wants to wait until 
I strike him again before he does what he intends to do, 
he surely means to kill me," and he at once stopped fight- 
ing and ran. And the lazy man won the six cows and 
the fight. 

The fight is not always to the strong but to him who 
holds out to the end. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 235 
(43) 

THE TWO BROTHERS 

There were once two brothers. The large one said 
to the Httle one, " Let us go into the bush and stay, be- 
cause we have no one to help us and we must go to find 
some one." The brothers then went into the bush. The 
large one knew how to make a trap, and he caught a 
plenty of meat to eat. The little one knew how to make 
cloth, and he made cloth all the time. When the large 
one told him, " Let us go see about our trap," he said, 
" No; I am making my cloth." 

When the large brother would go to his trap he would 
always find one woman that had come from the bush 
standing there. The woman would always bring rice 
and set it down by the trap and the large brother would 
eat it when he came. One day he said to his little 
brother, " Every time I go to the trap I meet one woman 
there who always brings rice to me." The little one 
asked, " Has the woman cloth? " " No," said the larger 
brother. " When you go next time you must tell me," 
said the little brother. The next morning the two went 
to the trap. They saw this same woman standing there. 
The large brother asked the woman to come to them. 
" I cannot," said the woman, " as I have no cloth." " I 
can give you some cloth," replied the little brother. The 
woman came and the little brother gave her some cloth, 
and she tied it upon her waist, and the three together 
went where the brothers stayed. " But for me we could 
not have obtained this woman," said the little brother. 

" No," said the larger one. " I saw her first, and she 
belongs to me. Because if I had not made my trap, we 
could not have secured this woman." " Were you not 



236 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

going to your trap all the time? And you saw her, and 
could not get her," said the little brother. So the two 
brothers had a big fuss about the woman, and finally 
they went and told the King. 

The large brother said, " This woman belongs to me." 
" How did you get her? " asked the King. " I made a 
trap and put it in the bush, and every morning I found 
this woman standing near by," said the larger brother. 
" Yes, you made your trap and found this woman, but 
when you called her she would not come, and had I not 
, given her my cloth she would not have come," answered 
the little brother. The King said to the little brother, 
" You let the large brother have this woman, and let 
him make another trap, and the next woman he finds 
belongs to you." " All right," said the little brother, 
and they left. 

When the two brothers arrived home they met an- 
other woman sitting down, and the little brother gave 
her one of his cloths, and the large brother consented 
that the little brother might have this woman, as the 
King said he should have the next one that was found. 
Now both had wives and everything went well with 
them. 

Man can afford to be generous with his brother. 

(44) 

TWO UNFORTUNATE MEN 

There were two men: one was blind and the other 
one had no limbs and could not walk. The man who 
could not walk knew how to shoot, so he told the blind 
man if he would carry him into the bush that he would 
shoot some meat. The blind man put the lame man on 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 237 

his back and carried him into the forests. The lame 
man saw one big deer and killed it. The blind man 
asked, " Did you kill him? " " Yes," said the lame man. 
Then the blind man carried the lame man to the deer. 
Fie put the deer in a kinja and carried both the deer and 
tlic lame man to the house. 

When they reached home the lame man took all the 
meat for himself. The blind man asked that a small 
piece of the deer meat be cooked for him, but tlie lame 
man, knowing that the other man was blind and could 
not see the meat in the house, said that he iiad sold all 
the meat, when in fact he had it all there in the room. 
Fie took a piece of the deer skin, cooked it for the blind 
man, and gave it to him. " Ah." said the blind man, 
" all this large deer you killed and I must eat so-so skin." 
Thinking only the skin was left, the blind man tried to 
eat it, and as he was eating it the skin jumped out of his 
hand and mouth and struck him in the eyes, and his 
eyes were opened and he could see. 

He looked around and saw all the deer meat. Then 
he said to the lame man, " Did _\'ou not tell me that you 
sold all the deer meat when here it is all here? " Then 
he went out and cut a switch and came back and began 
to whip the lame man. .All at once the lame man re- 
gained his legs and was able to walk. 

The lame man said he was the cause of the blind 
man's being restored to his sight, and the blind man saitl 
that he was the cause of the lame man's being able to 
walk. So they carried the matter to the King, who said 
that they should let the matter drop, as each had saved 
the other. 

You cannot hide dishonesty. 



238 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

(45) 

THE LION, THE LEOPARD, AND THE DOG 

The Lion, the Leopard, and the Dog were living to- 
gether. They heard the news that the Goat had built a 
big town. The Lion said to the Leopard : " We had 
better carry war on that town, as we have nothing to 
eat." So the two joined and carried war on goat-town. 
They fought a whole day and were unable to take the 
town and were driven back. They went back and told 
the Dog of their misfortune and that he must join them 
in another attempt to take goat-town. The next morn- 
ing the three went and after fighting all day they took 
the town. 

When they went into the town they found only one 
Goat and one Cat. The Lion caught the Goat and the 
Cat and said they were going to carry them. The Cat 
did not wish to be tied, and asked to be left untied so 
that he could dance. The Lion said, " All right." 
Then the Goat said, " You should leave me untied as I 
am a doctor." So they left both untied. " Let me see 
you dance now," said the Lion. The Cat began to 
dance and he danced well. Then he said, " I can jump." 
" Jump then," said the Lion. The Cat jumped over the 
barricade and ran into the bush. 

The Lion turned to the Goat and said, " You say you 
are a doctor. Well, the Cat has run away. I want you 
to try your medicine, so that we can catch him." Then 
the Lion, the Leopard, and the Dog all closed up around 
the Goat to prevent his getting away like the Cat. The 
Goat told the Lion to bring him one large pot. The 
pot was brought. The Goat put his hand in his bag, and 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 239 

he took out one bottle filled with honey. He placed the 
honey in the pot. " You must put a cloth over me and 
the pot," said the Goat. The Lion did not know that 
the Goat had honey; he thought it was water in the 
pot. The Goat took a spoon and gave the Lion some 
of the honey in the pot, saying, " This is some of the 
water my medicine gave me." 

When the Lion tasted the honey he said, " Oh, you 
are a doctor for true." The Lion said, " I know you are 
a doctor now, so make me some medicine to wear around 
my neck." The Goat told the Lion that the medicine 
they wear around the neck is put up in leopard skin, and 
that he must kill the Leopard so he could get some of 
the skin. " All right," said the Lion. The Lion started 
after the Leopard, and the Leopard ran, and the Lion 
after him, and the Dog followed. So the Goat made 
his escape back the other way. 

So the Lion dislikes the Leopard, the Leopard dislikes 
the Goat, and the Goat dislikes the Dog. 

(46) 

THREE STORY-TELLERS 

Three story-tellers met one day and began to tell 
stories. Each of them thought that he could excel the 
others. The first man said, " I will tell you the story 
of what I saw. 

" One day I went into the field and saw two birds 
fighting. One bird swallowed the other, and then in 
turn was swallowed by the other bird, so that the two 
birds swallowed each other." 

The next one said, " One day I was going out to the 



240 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

field and I saw a man on the road who had cut off his 
own head and had it in his mouth eating it." 

The third man said, " I was going to a big town and 
I saw a woman coming from the town with a house, a 
farm, and all her things on her head. I asked the 
woman where she was going, and she told me she had 
heard news that she had never heard before. I asked 
her what it was. The woman said she had heard the 
news that one man cut off his head and had it in his 
mouth eating it, so I was afraid and left the town. The 
woman passed and I went on." 

Who told the biggest story? 

(47) 

THE LEOPARD AND THE GOAT 

One day the Goat was walking about in the field, and 
he met the Leopard. The Leopard told the Goat, " You 
must tell me three truths so I can save you." The Goat 
replied : " The first truth is that your stomach is full. 
Were it not for that you would kill me just now." 
" That is one of the truths," said the Leopard. " The 
next one is if I had known that you were here I would 
not have come this way," said the Goat. " That is two," 
said the Leopard. " If I go and tell any of my brothers 
that the Leopard and I met to-day, they would not be- 
lieve me." " That is true," said the Leopard. " Well," 
continued the Leopard, " since it is true that if you tell 
any one that you and I met to-day and it will not be 
believed, I think I had better kill you." " All right," 
replied the Goat ; " but let me go and call the Dog, so 
that he can be our witness." " Very well ; go call the 
Dog," added the Leopard. The Goat went and told the 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 241 

Dog that the Leopard had said, " We must go and make 
medicine for him." " No, I am not going anywhere," 
replied the Dog; "the Leopard does not know me." 
Then the Goat left the Dog and ran into the town, and 
ever since then he has been stopping in town. The 
Leopard had the Cat with him and he told the Cat to go 
and look for the Goat, and the Cat came to town and 
has not returned. So the Leopard likes neither the Goat 
nor the Cat. 

(48) 

TWO OLD WOMEN 

There were two old women living together. They 
were very greedy and loved to eat, but they did not like 
to work. One of them said to the other one, " Let me 
go into the bush and find something to eat for us." " Go 
on," said the other woman, and she went. The woman 
went into the bush and she saw hanging in the tree many 
bowls of rice. She did not know how to get this rice, 
it was so high up in the tree. So she went back and 
told the other woman about her having seen the rice in 
the tree. The woman replied, " You may go on and get 
your rice, but I am going to stay here and wait on God." 
" Well," answered the other woman, " you cannot tell 
me where I can get medicine to get some of the rice." 
" I hear," continued the woman waiting on God, " that 
the Fox has medicine." The woman then went to see 
the Fox. The Fox told the woman, " To-morrow morn- 
ing we two will go to the tree." The next morning 
the Fox and the woman went to the tree. When they 
reached the tree the Fox got his medicine, and he 
brought down one of the small bowls of rice. On each 



242 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

bowl of rice was a bunch of switches, small ones on the 
small bowl of rice and large ones on the large bowl of 
rice. And before eating the rice the switches had to 
whip you. The Fox said to the woman, " You asked 
me for medicine. I have given you the medicine and 
brought down the rice, can you stand the whipping that 
is necessary?" "I did not know you had to stand a 
whipping first," answered the woman. " I do not think 
that I can stand the required whipping." 

So the Fox left and went into the town. When he 
arrived there he found the woman waiting on God sit- 
ting down eating rice. " Where did you get this rice ? " 
asked the Fox. " God gave it to me," she said. Then 
the other woman came up, and seeing that this woman 
had obtained rice while she was sitting down in 
town, she said, " I think I had better wait on God 
too," and she sat down. " I see now," she continued, 
" that you cannot get anything unless God gives it to 
you." 

(49) 

TWO ORPHAN BROTHERS 

Once a man had two sons and he died. Before he 
died he called his sons to him and to the large one he 
said, "If your brother tells you to do anything you must 
do it, no matter what it is," and then the old man passed 
away. 

The little brother told the large one that they must go 
in the bush and live there as they had no one in the 
town. " All right ; let us go," said the large brother, 
and they went. When they got in the bush some distance 
they saw the lion lying down sleeping. The little brother 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 243 

said to the other, " Let us kill this lion." " But what 
have we to kill him with?" asked the large brother. 
" We have no gun nor anything else." " I have a bow 
and arrow," replied the little brother. " But," said the 
other, " can bow and arrow kill a lion? " " That is all 
right," continued the little brother. " When father was 
dying did he not tell you to do everything I told you? " 
" Well, shoot the lion with your arrow," said the large 
brother. The little brother shot the lion with his arrow ; 
then the lion jumped up and ran after the two brothers. 
The brothers climbed up into a large tree, and the lion 
left them there. 

After the lion left they did not know how to come 
down, and while they were there the Eagle came by. 
The large brother asked the Eagle to carry them out of 
the tree. The Eagle said, " You two get on my back," 
and they did so. The Eagle flew away with them and 
carried them into a field where there were plenty of 
rocks. The little brother said he was going to shoot the 
Eagle so they could fall down and die. " You must 
not do that," said the large one; " if you do, we will fall 
down on those rocks and we will die." " Did not my 
father tell you to do whatever I said?" asked the little 
brother. The large brother said, " Well, shoot him." 
The little brother shot the Eagle. They fell down on 
the rocks and both of them died. 

A Snail came along and found them dead. The Snail 
went into the bush, got some medicine for the large 
brother, and he got up. The Snail then asked if he must 
make some medicine for the other brother. " No," an- 
swered the large brother ; " because my brother is a bad 
fellow. He has gotten me into a plenty of trouble. 
Come, let us go." " You are as bad as your brother," 



244 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

replied the Snail, " because you say I must not cure him." 
" Well, cure him and you will see," concluded the large 
brother. The Snail gave the little brother some medi- 
cine, and he at once arose, and as soon as he got up he 
said he was going to kill the Snail. " You see; did I 
not tell you ? " remarked the large brother. The little 
brotlier took the Snail in his bag and said to his brother, 
" Let us go on." 

They went into a large town. After they arrived at 
the town they heard that the King was dead. The little 
brother said, " You must tell these people that we killed 
the King." " \\'e have been dead once, and you want 
us to die again?" said the large brother. "Did not 
father say that anything I say you must do it ? " asked 
the little brother. " Well," added the large brother, 
" you go tell the people that you killed the King." The 
little brother \\ent and told the people, " I and my brother 
killed the King." The people caught the two brothers 
and put them in sticks. The little brother said to the 
people, " You must carry us into the house where the 
King is." The people did so. Then the little brother 
continued : " We killed the King. But what will you 
give us if we cure him?" The people answered, "If 
you cure the King, we will give you half of this 
town." 

The little brother took the Snail that cured them from 
his bag and told the Snail that he must use his medicine 
to cure the King. The Snail cured the King. He then 
called all the people and told them, " I have cured the 
King." The people divided the town in half and gave 
the little brother half. Then the little brother told the 
large one that he must stay there wliile he had to walk 
about, as he had given the larger brother plenty of 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 245 

trouble. The little brother left the town and killed the 
Snail. 
All is well that ends well. 

(50) 

CONTROVERSY BETWEEN TWO MEN ON THE RELATIVE 
VALUE OF EDUCATION AND MONEY 

By Momoru Duclay 

Affirmative. Money is fine. It pass book sense. 

Negative. Book sense is fine. It pass money. 

Affirmative. Money is fine and I live to go and find 
my money. 

Negative. Book sense is fine and pass the money; 
that is why I go and find book sense. Because book 
sense is property for the prophets. Money be property 
for Pharaoh in this world. 

Affirmative. Money is fine. Money be property for 
the prophets in this world. Prophet Abraham built one 
great house for God with gold and silver and painted it 
red, and placed on the inside a sweet smelling substance. 
Now Abraham did not take the Bible and build the 
house? ' 1 ^^! 



Both men now go to find a judge by the name of 
N'fah Boikai Selekee. 

Negative. Judge N'fah Boikai, book sense is fine, 
pass money. Because if you don't know the God book 
what thing can you know in this world, for when you die 
what thing you know again? If your mind know book 
what thing you lost that you cannot see? 

Affirmative. Judge N'fah Boikai Selekee, money is 
fine pass book sense, because money can carry you for 
Allekamba ; book sense not fit to carry you to Allekamba. 



246 NEGRO CULTURE L\ WEST AFRICA 

Judge Selekee. You both tell truth. You all go for 
one Judge Ahmala, he will cut this palaver for you all 
two, because this judge has plenty of sense. 

They go for Judge Ahmala. 

Negative. Tells the judge! We come to you, book 
sense is fine pass money, because if a person die you can 
call book man to come and preach for die man. You 
can't say call money man to preach for this die man. 

Affirmative. Money is fine pass book sense because 
if a person die he can say where is the cloth with which 
to bury the die man? You can't say where is the book 
sense for to put on the dead man, you say bring the 
cloth. 

Ahmala. You all two tell the truth, but you go to 
one Judge N'fah Asumana, because he has got plenty 
sense too much, he be professor for book. All two go 
again. They are going for this judge. 

Negative. Book sense is fine pass money, because if 
you know book, book sense will help you in this world ; 
will give you sense to pray to God in this world. Be- 
cause money can make you forget God. 

Affirmative. Money is fine, it pass book sense, be- 
cause if you no got cloth, you can't go to church ; if you 
no got money, you can't eat nothing ; if you no eat noth- 
ings how you fit to walk and go to church; and if you 
no got good gown, how can you go to church? 

N'fah Asumana. You all two done tell the truth, but 
go for one man Alihu, because this man be man for book 
pass all we. 

All two go for Alihu. 

Negative. N'fah Alihu, book sense is fine pass 
money, because on Sunday you can say go call the man 
who. know the book to preach. You can't say go call 




< 



s. 



< 
> 



XEGRO CULTURE IX WEST AFRICA 247 

the money man to preach to-da}- for we. You can't 
say go call the king but the man who know book. 

Affirmative. Money is fine pass book sense. If it's 
Sunday, the people get ready for to go church, go catch 
my big bullock for to kill him to-day for dinner, catch 
my sheep and kill him, and my goat. You can't sa}" go 
bring book sense and kill him because it is God's daj-. 

Judge X'fah Alihu. You all two tell the truth, but 
you all go for this man Momoru Lamene. because he be 
king for all judges. 

X'egative. Book sense is fine pass the money because 
that time you get ready for marr}" you can say go call 
the Mori man, and the man who know the book so he 
can come and see the play they live marn.-. They can't 
say go call the money man. 

Affirmative. Money is fine, it pass book sense, if you 
no got money how can 30U marn.? If you no got 
house, how can j-ou marry? If you no got money, you 
can't marry. If 30U no got all these things, how can 
you many? The king say: 

Lamene. If a man no got book sense, and the same 
man no got money, the person die soon is better pass 
him Uve. .\11 you aU go find book sense any time be- 
cause book sense is the thing that can cure person in 
this world. It can cure you in this world and when you 
die it can cure you again. You all find book sense and 
money. 

So Momoru Lamene judged this matter for this two 
men. All people saj-: God give me book sense, you 
make we heart fine. Fix we heart how you like. The 
king fix we God. If 3"Ou give to we book sense, you 
give to we money hke you do the prophet Abraham. 



THE RASCAL MAN 






248 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 249 
TRANSLATION OF STORY NO. FIFTY-ONE 

THE RASCAL MAN 

One man live to take a walk to go for some place. 
He go and catch one big town. All the people join for 
play. They kill one cow. The man said, you all give 
to me cow head I buy him. Then all give it to him. 
He catch him and carry him far away. He go and catch 
big swamp. Some people live pass. He tell the people 
my cow swamp done catch him, he can't come out. You 
all come help me, so we can pull my cow out of the 
swamp. The people say all right. Then they catch the 
cow head and he done come out one time. Then he said 
you all done kill my cow. That's the thing you pay 
sixty dollars for him. The people give to him the sixty 
dollars. 



THE SIX RIVAL HEIRS 



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251 



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254 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 255 
TRANSLATION OF STORY NO. FIFTY-TWO 

THE SIX RIVAL HEIRS 

One king born one daughter. Some person come for 
his daughter. No person can't marry this daughter. 
The person if he want to marry this girl, if I die, people 
must catch him and kill him for my burial. One fine 
young man come. He be some king's son. He come 
and say " Father, you all give to me your daughter." 
The man say, " If I die people can kill you for my burial." 
He said " all right." Then all give to him the girl. 
The boy carry the girl. He took her for his home. 
Soon he catch home, the king die. The people send 
messenger to him to call him. He went. The people 
say, " The king die. To-morrow we can kill you." He 
say, " All right." His wife in the night time took all 
her father's money and two horses. 

At four A. M. in the morning she run away with her 
husband. Then day broke, the people go to the king's 
house. They no see all two. They send people to find 
him. They see them way yonder in an old field. The 
young wife is very thirsty. They two see one woman 
in an old field and say to her, " Give us some w^ter. ^^'e 
give to you all the money we got and the two horses." 
The woman say, " No, if you all say I must give to you 
some water, if you are willing for me to become the wife 
of your husband, I can be willing." The young wife 
say, " All right." The old woman give all two some 
water. The people when they see the two in old field 
sat down. He sat down long time, then he got up and 
go and they say, " We want water." They see one 



256 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

woman in old field. She live go to give chop to her work- 
ing people. The people said, " Give to all we the chop 
you live carry. We give to you the money we got." 
The woman say, " No." She said, " I can't give to you 
this chop. If you woman can agree for me to be wife 
to your man, I can agree." The woman said, " Yes. 
We can agree." She gave to them water. The work- 
ing people die of hunger and for chop. They all go and 
meet big river. 

They go see one woman again, and this woman, her 
people run away for war. This woman got canoe for 
river. They tell the woman, " You cross we, we give 
to you this money." The woman say, " I leave my 
mother, then war catch him, for the money? If you 
women agree that I have your man, then I can cross 
we." The women say, " I agree." She crosses all the 
people. When they all get in canoe and get out in the 
river, the canoe stop, sit down. One woman live in 
canoe got a baby. No person can cross this river for 
nothing, before all can take good free born and put them 
in the water, they die there. They tell the woman, 
" Give to we your baby, so we can put he in the water, 
give to you money." " For the money palaver I am 
going to put my son in the water? " " If you don't do 
that," the people say, " all we can die." The woman 
say, " I agree." They put him baby in the water. 

Then the canoe move. They cross the people. The 
people all make six persons, five woman and one man. 
This man carry all the -money and all the women. One 
woman say, " This money belong to all we, we must 
divide it now." They divided it. They go to one king, 
" We come to sit down to you." The king say, " All 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 257 

right, but my things are here. My things, if any per- 
son call him name I can kill him." The people are 
scared. For true if you call him name the king kill 
you. The king said he had one girl his daughter. The 
daughter see this man and like him plenty. 

The girl said, " I can't let you know this thing, him 
name." Night time the man go to bed, lay down. The 
king him daughter go lay down there. She tell him 
" To-morrow if my father bring anything, don't call him 
name." Soon in the morning the king bring all his 
things and say to the young man, " Call this thing his 
name." The young man say, " That is a picture for 
drinking and your whip." Soon as he called he name, 
the king died. This young man be king now. He got 
six wife now. Then all the women got born six boy. 
Then the man die. All the women die. The boys live. 
One boy say, " All the money belong to me." The other 
five boy say, " How all belong to you one? " The boy 
say, " Mother be first wife." The next little boy say, 
" All the money belong to me because if it had not been 
for my mother giving water to your mother she no 
born you." Now the next little boy say, " Money all 
belong to me because had my mother not given chop to 
the mothers of both of you you no be born." The next 
little boy say, " Had not my mother crossed the mothers 
of all you none of you be born for them war catch all 
you mothers." The next little boy say, " The money 
all belong to me. When the canoe sit down in the river 
my mother sacrificed her child so- all you mother could 
cross. But for my mother all you mothers live to die 
in the river." The next little boy say, " No, the money 
all belong to me because when you all mothers come to 



2s8 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

my mother's house but for the advice of my mother all 
you mothers die before you all born." Question, to 
whom does the money really belong? 



CHAPTER X 
VAI LANGUAGE, CULTURE, AND CONCLUSION 

VAI LANGUAGE IN GENERAL 

IN the name of science, white savants long proclaimed 
that the Negro was not a member of the human fam- 
ily. But in the eagerness of anthropologists to show 
the Negro's descent from the gorilla, the chimpanzee, 
and the orang-outang, they not only proved that he was 
a man, but demonstrated that his brain capacity, a little 
less than that of the white man,^ is four and five-tenths 
inches greater than that of the Australian, and more than 
twenty inches above the capacity of the anthropoid apes. 
Until the complete triumph of Evolution scholars con- 
tended that the language of the Negro, like the chatter 
of the monkeys, sustained no relation to the languages 
of the races. Along with the hypothesis of the common 
origin of man from an antecedent form came the theory 
of the common origin of languages. Through the great 
labors of Prof. Max Miiller and others the confusion 
concerning the origin of languages was straightened out, 
and the science of languages was securely established 
among the sciences. Recent philological studies in Africa 
reveal the common relationship which the languages of 
the Negro bear to the languages of the world. 

As pointed out in the introduction, the Vai language 
belongs to the Mande family,^ which is the most impor- 

1 About five and nine-tenths inches. 

2 Introduction, p. i. 

259 



.^6o XEGRO CULTURE IX WEST .\FRICA 

tanl language of the six or eight languages of the pure 
Xegrro stock. Like some languages of the Bantu and 
Sudanese tongaies. \'ai is very ricli and musical when 
spoken properly. Its Hquid flow is little disturbed by 
the logical element An accented syllable is usually fol- 
lowed by one or more unaccented ones. By tlie ejection 
of \ owels, and tlie ejection and insertion of consonants, 
by tlie uniform proportion of vowel and consonantal ele- 
ments, and by tlie agreeable modulation in the variety 
and succession of vowels, in euphony, cadence, and 
melody \'ai is made to surpass Arabic, Frendi, or Italian. 
A careful examination of this language discloses tlie 
fact that the \'zi Grammar contains 

" tlie same rational principles, the same general laws, the 
same regularit}' and organism of structure, as the gram- 
mar of other languages." * 

A number of \"ai roots are identical with those found 
in the Semitic and Indo-European tongues. The in- 
terjections are the same as found not onh- in these 
languages, but in most other languages. Four of the 
\'ai demonstrative roots may be recognized as the same, 
both in the Indo-European and Semitic languages. A 
comparison betrays that the pronouns are similar, and 
that t\\ o of the numerals admit of comparison. 

A further comparison would show a general affinity 
with European, Asiatic, and other African languages, 
and the comparison might be extended to include the 
American tongues.* The Vais have adopted some English 

' Grammar of the Vai Language, pp. s and 6, bv the Rev. S. ^^'. 
Koelle. 
* Grammatik der Gronlandischen Sprache, by S. Kleinschmidt 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 261 

and Portuguese words, a few French, German, and Span- 
ish, together with some Arabic ones that are employed 
mostly by the Islamic Vais. The Rev. Koelle used thirty- 
four sounds, made by letters of the alphabet and their com- 
bination, to represent the orthography of the Vai lan- 
guage. Like most languages, Vai forms its plural by 
suffixes, but it has no inflection, no signs for cases. 
Etymologically, the personal and possessive pronouns are 
identical in Vai, while the adjectives are derivative and 
are formed from other parts of speech by the addition 
of suffixes. 

The system of Vai numbers evidently grew out of 
the long custom of using the fingers and toes in count- 
ing. It is made up of quints, two for a decade and four 
for a score. Except the first five, the tenth, and the 
twentieth, all the cardinals are the result of combination. 
Of the ordinals only the first are in use. Verbs are 
generally followed by short adverbs of time, are usually 
formed by a suffix, and have no distinguishing sign for 
voice, mood, or tense. A vowel or combination of 
vowels make up the interjections. Substantives, adjec- 
tives, and verbs are interchangeable, just as pronouns, ad- 
verbs, and conjunctions are with one another. 

In composition and decomposition substantives define 
or qualify adjectives, verbs, and substantives, but a verb 
can only qualify a substantive. Some words in com- 
pound undergo a change while others do not. The Vai 
language is highly figurative. Apposition, ellipsis, and 
pleonasm are common, comparisons are few, but fables, 
proverbs, and metaphors are abundant. The order of the 
chief elements of simple propositions is subject, then 
copula, then predicate. And in complex sentences, com- 
plements of subjects may be possessive pronouns, nu- 



262 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

merals, adjectives, and substantives in apposition. Pro- 
nouns, verbs, and substantives take many suffixes to give 
either the verbal or adverbial character. Vai has no 
case terminations, but the deficiency is made up by post- 
positions, interjections, and possessive pronouns. It con- 
sists generally of monosyllabic and dissyllabic words, and 
because of its national orthography is of peculiar interest 
to the linguistic world.® 

THE HISTORY OF WRITTEN LANGUAGE 

About ninety-six years ago in a quiet Vai town a 
Negro boy was born. He was afterwards given the 
name of Momoru Doalu Bukere, — Muhammud Bookman 
Gunwar. When quite a small boy for three months he 
was taught to read by a missionary in his country. This 
instruction, though brief, was sufficient to awaken in 
him a desire for learning, and he memorized some verses 
from the English Bible. By traders and slave-stealers 
he was afterwards employed as a servant. Often he 
carried notes to neighboring towns and brought back an- 
swers which contained information of some misdeeds 
he had done. This means of communication deeply im- 
pressed Doalu, and strengthened his aspiration to read 
and write. Indeed, the necessity for a mode of writing 
of their own had been generally felt by the proud Vai 
men, to make them equal as they thought to the Man- 
dingoes and the Poros, — Europeans. 

The ambition to read and write was so uppermost in 
the mind of Doalu that when he was about twenty-five 
years old he had a dream. In his vision he saw " a tall, 
venerable-looking white man, in a long coat," who said : 

" I have made frequent use of the Rev. Koelle's Grammar in 
studying the Vai language. In many instances I have verified and 
found my conclusions in harmony with his valuable treatise. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 263 

" I am sent to bring this book to you by other white 
men. I am sent to bring this book to you, in order that 
you should take it to the rest of the people. But 
I must tell you that neither you nor anyone who will 
become acquainted with the book are allowed to eat the 
flesh of dogs and monkeys, nor of anything found dead 
whose throat was not cut ; nor to touch the book on tliose 
days on which you have touched the fruit of the To- 
tree." « 

The bearer of the book showed Doalu how to write 
any word in the Vai language, after the manner of the 
Vai writing, and promised to tell him the contents of the 
book. But Doalu awoke before he received the informa- 
tion. So powerfully was he iniluenced by the dream 
that the next morning he called his brother, Dshara Bara- 
kora, and his cousins, — Dshara Kali, Kalia Bara, Fa 
Gbasi, and So Tabaku, — and related to them his ex- 
perience. They believed the dream was a divine revela- 
tion, and they were so much impressed that Kali Bara 
said he afterwards dreamed that the book was from God. 
By the next morning Doalu had forgotten some of the 
characters, and he and his five relatives were obliged to 
put their heads together and supply them. The result 
of their labors constitutes the first system of writing 
\\hich is now known to have been invented by a Negro. 

This system is a wonderful invention, original and 
independent. \\^ith upwards of 200 characters, it is un- 
like any of the written languages of the world. It is a 
syllabic mode of writing, and therefore different from 
Latin and Arabic and other alphabetical systems. It 

' To-tree, a kind of very sharp pepper. " Narrative of an Expe- 
dition into the Vai Country of West Africa and the Discovery of 
a System of Syllabic Writing," by the Rev. S. W. Koelle. 



264 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

corresponds in this respect with the syllabic nature of 
the spoken \'ai. It is written from left to right, the 
reverse of Arabic, with the letters disjoined as in Hebrew. 
It has but a few symbolic characters, yet it is phonetic. 
W^hile each character represents a syllable in monosylla- 
bic words, it stands for the same sound in combinations. 
This system therefore is of Vai origin, and must be 
credited to the Negro brain. 

This system of \''ai writing was first discovered in 
January, 1849, by Lieutenant Forbes, who stopped at 
Fourah Bay to ascertain if the missionaries of Sierre 
Leone had ever heard whether or not there was a mode 
of writing among the native Africans. "W^hile at Cape 
Mount the Lieutenant had observed some indistinct char- 
acters wTitten with charcoal on the walls of an old house. 
He examined these queer signs and announced the dis- 
covery of the Vai system of writing in a pamphlet en- 
titled, 

" Despatch communicating the discovery of a native- 
written character, etc., by Lieutenant F. E. Forbes, R. N." 

In this pamphlet were some grammatical remarks 
by E. Norris, Esq., who has the honor of having 
been the first to study the Vai writing critically. He was 
followed by the Rev. S. W. Koelle, who came to Cape 
Mount in 1850, and who, after a residence of five months 
there, published his ^-aluable " Grammar of the Vai Lan- 
guage." 

The Rev. Koelle had the great privilege of meeting 
Momoru Doalu Biikere personally, and I have relied al- 
most entirely upon the valuable information which he 
gives concerning Doalu and his invention. This great 
Negro inventor was distinguished by his modesty and 



NEGRO CULTURE IN ^A^EST AFRICA 265 

nobility of spirit. In addition to being open, kind, and 
honest, he was a great thinker; and the product of his 
brain entitles him to a place among the great inventors 
of the world. I cannot resist the temptation to attach to 
this thesis as important parts of it, specimens of ^'ai 
writing and a Phonetic Chart of the \"ai characters, by 
Momolu Massaquoi, Prince of Gallinas. 

ELEMENTS OF VAI CULTURE 

A few years ago the statement that the Negro had a 
culture in Africa would have been greeted with wonder 
and amazement by the great majority of the civilized 
peoples of the world. It seemed almost impossible for 
them to think of the Negro other than as a little above 
tlie savage beasts, roaming unrestrained amid the dark 
and tangled jungles. But these delusions are being 
rapidly dispelled. We have already partly seen how for 
centuries from Egypt, Nubia, Abyssinia, and the Bar- 
bary States the streams of Arabian culture emptied into 
the NegToland ; pilgrimages were made in order to obtain 
the learning of IMecca and Medina, and tlie persons that 
made these pilgrimages secured from Cairo much of the 
Civilization of the East. When the Saracens were finally 
driven from Spain the Moorish scholars and poets car- 
ried to the Blacks the wealth and harvests of Grenada 
and Cardova. 

Among the Negroes were established centers of learn- 
ing, in which rhetoric, logic, eloquence, diction, and the 
principles of the Koran were gi^'en to the theologians. 
Law according to Malakite and artistic writing were 
taught to the jurists. There were regular courses of in- 
struction in hygiene, medicine, grammar, prosody, phi- 
losophy, ethnography, music, and astronomy. A number 



266 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

of Negro authors became distinguished for their writings 
on traditions, biographies, annals, law, music, history, and 
theology. Negro scholars rivaled their Arabian masters. 
Their apartments, near the mosque of Sankore, were said 
to be to Timbuctu, the " Queen of the Sudan," what 
the " Quartier Latin " is to Paris. Among the distin- 
guished marabuts and eminent Negro writers M. Dubois 
mentions Mohaman Kati and Ahmed Baba; the former 
was the author of Fatassi, a history of the kingdoms of 
Ganata, Songhai, and the City of Timbuctu, and the 
latter wrote more than twenty books. In Baba's library 
there were fewer books than there were in the libraries 
of any of his friends, yet he had 1600 volumes. The 
learning and scholarship of the Sudanese Negroes was 
so thorough that, 

" During their sojourns in the foreign universities of 
Fez, Tunis, and Cairo they astounded the most learned 
men of Islam by their erudition. That these Negroes 
were on a level with the Arabian savants is proved by the 
fact that they were installed as professors in Morocco 
and Egypt." '' 

It is therefore from the Arabs and the learned Negroes 
of the Sudan that the Vais received the Arabian culture. 
Belonging to the same family as the Mandingoes, the 
Vais easily accepted this culture. I do not mean to say 
that every Vai Muslim is deeply cultured any more than 
every Frenchman or German is highly cultured in the 
principles of Christian Civilization. The great masses 
of the greatest nations, with all the advantages of im- 
proved presses, good literature, and cheap books, have 
' " Timbuctu the Mysterious," by M. Dubois, p. 285. 






V . ^ ' i,' 



r 




NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 267 

not as yet risen above the mere struggle for bread. 
Among the Vais the majority of the books are written 
by hand. The lack of modern facilities for printing and 
making books not only makes them dear but scarce as 
well. Yet under all these difficulties, many of the Vais 
read and write Arabic; but with them as with other 
peoples culture and scholarship are reserved for the few 
who are willing to pay the price of their acquisition. 

From what I have been able to learn I should judge 
that about 60% of the Vais are Muslims. For this they 
are chiefly indebted to the missionary labors of the Man- 
dingoes, from whose ranks come, perhaps, the most 
eminent marabuts, schoolmasters, and scholars in Western 
Africa. The Alandingoes are widely and favorably 
known. Their industry, dignity, culture, and the breadth 
of their scholarship have made them so impressive that 
they are universally regarded by their neighbors as the 
" Gentlemen of West Africa." Culture is the result of 
knowledge. As it exists among the Vai scholars it has 
two fundamental phases : knowledge which the Vais ac- 
quired from experience and life under African conditions, 
and knowledge which has come to them from Arabia, 
through the Mandingoes, Mendis, and Arabs. From 
Arabian sources Vai Mallams, — like Murvey, Vahney, 
Seriff, Mambroru, Vahney Sonie, Boma Dadu, and 
Momoru Ducley,* — possess a varied fund of informa- 
tion that is as admirable as it is astonishing. They are 
familiar with geography and they talk of the countries 
and cities of the East as we speak of Europe. They 
are likewise acquainted with the general geography of 
the West. The better facilities for communication with 

^ See Library of Momoru Duclay, " Islamic Faith Among the 
Vais," pp. 128 and 129. 



268 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

Europe and the founding of Liberia by Americans ma- 
terially increased the geographic interest that was 
awakened by the slave traffic so many years ago among 
the Vais. 

One is surprised at their knowledge of hygiene, physi- 
ology and the principles of medicine. Some of the 
cures which are effected by some of these Vai doctors 
simply stagger belief. Instances are cited where their 
surgeons have extracted bullets and set bones, removing 
fractured and shattered parts, that would have been a 
surgical triumph in any country. This seems incredible ; 
but when you see a native doctor wash a man's hand in 
a medical solution, then see that hand thrust into boihng 
palm oil and withdrawn without pain or injury, some- 
thing suggests to the strongest incredulity that perhaps 
these peoples have learned something yet unknown to 
modern science. 

The Vai scholar and priest not only reads and writes 
Arabic fluently, but he knows the Koran by heart and can 
recall its varied parts without apparent difficulty. With 
numerous commentators, black and white, he discusses 
the tenets of this book in the light of the critical inter- 
pretation of the profoundest Islamic scholars. Many of 
these priests have copies of the New Testament in Arabic, 
and they know of the life of Jesus and the principles of 
the Christian faith. As Dr. Blyden pointed out, they 
object to Christianity on account of its disintegrating in- 
fluences upon the family and the state,- on account of caste 
distinctions based on race, and on account of the liquor 
traffic carried on by individuals living among Christian 
nations.® 

8 " Journal of the African Society," January, 1905, and " The 
Koran in Africa," by Dr. Blyden. 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 269 

However, these objections should not be charged to 
Christianity. For while Christianity may tend to dis- 
integrate the Negro family, founded upon polygamy, in 
the truest and best sense it is a great integrating and 
socializing factor among peoples who are prepared to 
understand and practice Christian principles, and who 
have not the weaknesses and the prejudices of unde- 
veloped minds. Unquestionably the polygamic family is - 
inconsistent with the highest social and spiritual de- 
velopment of mankind. So that the objection to Chris- 
tianity on this ground might better be replaced by 
requiring that the destruction of polygamy in Africa be 
accompanied by the modern agents for progress and de- 
velopment that are suitable to the peculiarities of African 
environment. 

So far as concerns the objection to Christianity on ac- 
count of caste distinctions based on race, it cannot be 
argued that Christianity favors any such distinctions. In 
dealing with the Negro the white race has shown itself 
amazingly incompetent to think without prejudice or to act 
justly along progressive lines.^" The white man has nat- 
urally confused difference with inferiority, to the great 
detriment of the Negro race. Christian Civilization has 
done a great deal to correct this error, but as yet it has not 
been able wholly to eradicate the evil. Some of the 
greatest friends the race has had have come from the 
ranks of the Christian Church, and some of the strongest 
influences working for the advancement of the race to- 
day are maintained and supported by the followers of 
the Cross. Unreasonable caste distinctions founded on 
race must vanish before the steady march of genuine 

1" The attitude of the white race in South Africa and the South- 
ern States in America. 



270 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

Christianity. So far as Christians and the Christian 
Church discriminate against the Negro it only discloses 
that the discriminators have not been able as yet, with all 
the advantages of modern life, to measure up to the high 
standard set by the peerless Prince of Peace. And waiv- 
ing all other arguments, instead of objecting to the prin- 
ciples of Christianity on account of the practices of some 
Christians, would it not be wise for the Negro in Africa 
to accept those principles and furnish the world the ex- 
ample of what the true Christian ought to be ? 

As to the objection to Christianity because some per- 
sons in Christian countries engage in the liquor traffic, it 
is altogether unreasonable, for there are few things so 
generally opposed by Christians as the liquor habit. The 
opposition of the Christian Church to this habit is well 
known, but every person living among Christian nations 
is not a Christian. The demand for strong drink is so 
great that in every Christian nation there are individuals 
who are willing to brave the public scorn and suffer 
penalties in order to secure the profits of the liquor trade. 
Its prohibition may be possible, but that at least is some- 
thing exceedingly difficult to accomplish. The liquor traf- 
fic is a curse to Africa, but it cannot properly be charged 
to Christianity. It is an evil of society just as slavery 
was in America. When Christianity and Civilization 
have wrought sufficient progress among the nations the 
liquor traffic will be stopped. For the African to reject 
Christianity for this reason shows that he does not know 
where to place the responsibility for the liquor trade. 

I heard two very able Islamic scholars, Sareef and 
Mulahe, deny that Jesus was the Son of God miraculously 
conceived. They were willing to admit that he was a 
good man, but they denied His divinity. They proceeded 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST, AFRICA 271 

to condemn Christianity on account of what they called 
the wonderful difference between the theory and the prac- 
tice of Christians; and they dogmatically asserted the 
consistency between the Koranic principles and MusHm 
practices. The above objections and many others which 
might be given, while untenable, nevertheless indicate the 
character of the work to be done by the Christian Church 
in bringing Islamic Negroes under the sway of the Cross. 
The ablest Christian teachers are needed to secure the 
best results. 

From Arabian sources Vai scholars also secure valuable 
information about statecraft and the art of war. The 
influence of Arabian models may be seen in the cut of 
their dress, and in the designs that they use in fashion- 
ing useful and decorative arts. Works on music written 
by Negro and Arabic scholars are common; and much 
of the inspiration for the higher class of Negro music 
may be traced easily to the East. Some of the Vai 
scholars have a wealth of literature by Sudanese and 
Arabic authors on a wide range of subjects, among which 
might be named poetry, philosophy, theology, and 
ethics. 

But, after all, the native element in Vai culture is the 
most interesting and important, for it is by the develop- 
ment of this element that the Vais have been able to em- 
brace Islam and their scholars to absorb foreign culture. 
The Vais have much knowledge and skill in the industrial 
arts. From wood, iron, grass, gold, and silver they have 
long known how to fashion products for useful and deco- 
rative purposes. They manufacture and dye cloth in 
varied figures and designs. They possess considerable 
knowledge regarding the utility of vines and the medicinal 
qualities of roots and herbs. They have men familiar 



272 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

with great systems of law founded on equity, and with 
the aim and philosophy of government. They under- 
stand the influence of institutions and their importance 
and value to society as methods to develop ethical culture. 
They have a written language, originated by a Vai man, 
with more than 200 characters. In their traditions, 
myths, legends, songs, and tales of romance they have 
an African literature. 

Of the numerous Vai writings some may be seen by 
persons traveling through the Vai country in manuscript 
form and others on wooden tablets. Perhaps the oldest 
and most interesting of these Vai writings is the auto- 
biography of Ndole Wono. So far as is known it is the 
masterpiece of Vai literature. It contains an account of 
Wono's wanderings in the interior, his romantic adven- 
ture with a princess, and concludes with a tragic descrip- 
tion of his mother's death. Indeed, it is a thrilling story, 
and it justified the publication which was given to it more 
than fifty years ago, through the interest and labors of the 
Rev. S. W. Koelle, a distinguished linguist of London. 

Vai scholars keep in touch with the great Mandingan 
and other scholars. They are familiar with the litera- 
ture of the Blacks and the Arabs in Sudan. Young Vai 
scholars are sent to Musardu, Timbuctu, and other centers 
in search of the broadest and deepest African culture. 
If we consider that the Vais invented their own written 
language; that their scholars have mastered their native 
literature; that they have committed the Koran to 
memory ; that they are familiar with the Holy Bible and 
with the phases of its higher criticism; that they have 
probed Arabian civilization to its core ; that they are the 
authors of songs and stories of charm and interest; that 
they speak several native tongues, and that they possess 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 273 

a fuhd of information on a variety of subjects, we can 
hardly condemn the critic who describes this people as 
" The Romans of West Africa." Under the reign of 
peace this is a tribe of promise and power. 

CONCLUSION AND NEGRO CIVILIZATION 

From the preceding chapters on the Vai people I think 
we may safely draw the following conclusions : 

First. The Vais, belonging to the Mande branch of 
the Negro race, have been affected by the same forces 
that influenced the great Negroland from without, and 
according to the best known evidences they originated 
from the Mandingoes in the Hinterland of Liberia. 

Second. In personal features the great majority of the 
Vais afford a iflat contradiction to the generally accepted 
Negro type, although they live under climatic conditions 
characterized by the most severe and deteriorating influ- 
ences. 

Third. The economic life of the Vais, far from being 
dependent upon natural products, includes the cultivation 
of food materials, the sale of imported articles as well as 
of the products of their own industrial skill. 

Fourth. The Vais live in social groups necessitated by 
physical conditions, and they maintain their various secret 
societies as means by which individuals are governed and 
prepared for native life. Witchcraft and the social dance 
are important factors in Vai life. 

Fifth. The Government of the Vais is monarchial in 
spirit and form, divided into petty kingdoms, the authority 
of which to some extent is limited to the chief men of 
each kingdom and the traditional rights of free Vai men. 
With legislative, judicial, and executive functions, the 
Government has all the machinery for the detection and 



274 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

punishment of crime, the making and execution of laws, 
and the protection of life and property. 

Sixth. The Vais have a conception of the true God, 
but their religious practice and worship are associated 
with fetiches, believed to be the abodes of indwelling 
spirits. A majority of the tribe believe in Islam, which 
has made concessions to Negro beliefs. Christianity has 
entered the field, and the Crescent may be succeeded by 
the Cross. 

Seventh. The Vais have a high moral standard when 
they are under the sway of their own institutions, but they 
deteriorate under foreign influences, which destroy native 
restraints without supplying the elements of Modern Civil- 
ization. The medicine-man has both good influences and 
bad. The social institutions expose the people to grave 
moral dangers when they live near civilized centers and 
near the coast towns. But the Negro is not unmoral. 

Eighth. In fundamentals the Vai language discloses 
its relationship to the great languages of the world, and 
it is rich and musical in the concord of its sounds. The 
written Vai language is a great invention of the Negro 
brain, original in conception and independent in char- 
acter. The Vais have a culture of their own, divided nat- 
urally into two elements, — the native and the Islamic. 
Like other varieties of the Negro family, they have an 
African civilization which they have worked out for them- 
selves, under the most degenerating and unfavorable cir- 
cumstances. And when we shall have obtained a thor- 
ough knowledge of the conditions under which the Negro 
lives and are fully acquainted with his character, intellect, 
and life, we shall wonder, not that he has done so little, 
but that he has achieved so much. 

By nature the Negro is an orator and diplomat. With 



NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 275 

all his superstitions, his soul is rich in spiritual wealth. 
To his credit, he has an extinct civilization in Fezzan, 
which is older than the Carthaginians.^^ And long 
before the Arabs or Egyptians sent their culture 
across the desert Negro intellect had asserted itself in 
Sudan. 

" From remotest antiquity Africans," says Reclus, 
" even beyond Egypt, took part in man's triumphs over 
nature. . . . The civilized world is indebted to the native 
for several domestic animals. . . . Even in industries 
Africa has contributed to the inheritance of mankind. 
The monuments of Egypt cannot all have been the work 
of the Rotu (Egyptians) alone. Among the products of 
Egyptian industry are frequently recognized forms re- 
curring in Nubia and Sudan. Smelting and working iron 
have been attributed to the Negroes." 

The Negroes of the Gold Coast manufactured gold 
wire chains so fine that they can scarcely be imitated 
abroad.-'^ The steel chains of the Monbuttoo Negroes 
compare with similar productions of Europeans.^ ^ And 
Peschel says the Negroes in Bambara, Bambook, and 
Bornu not only make gunpowder but secure the saltpetre 
in their own country.^* The Negroes build bridges that 
are greater than were those of the Germans in the time 
of Tacitus. And unaffected by foreign influences many 
Negro tribes have risen in Africa above the level of the 
Britons whom Caesar saw. Some of them manufacture 
soap, and in portions of Sokoto they have courts paved 

" " Redemption of Africa," by F. P. Noble, Vol. I, p. i68. 

12 " Guinese Goud Taud-en Slavekust," Vol. I, p. 123, by Bosman. 

13 " In the Heart of Africa," by Schweinfurth. 

1* " The Races of Man," by Oscar Peschel, p. 479. 



2/6 NEGRO CULTURE IN WEST AFRICA 

with mosaic. Many products of the Mandingan art have 
occasioned the most favorable comment. 

The Zambesi and Congo peoples originated empires and 
republics, which had complex governmental machinery. 
Unaided, Uyoro Negroes developed a government the ad- 
ministration of which included taxes and sub-governors, 
and their industry found expression in art, architecture, 
agriculture, and good clothes. In the great states of Da- 
homey and Ashantee Negro civilization attained consid- 
erable heights. It is said the high quality of Dahoman 
culture drew words of commendation from so able an 
authority as Herbert Spencer. And when the Moors 
sought to penetrate Nigretia there rose up a Negro, by the 
name of Soni Heli Ischia, who beat them back and estab- 
lished across Africa an empire three thousand miles in 
length, — extending on one side from Timbuctu to Abys- 
sinia, and on the other to the sea.^^ 

In this great Negroland powerful states and dynasties 
rose and fell. Their universities sent out Negro pro- 
fessors whose scholarship astonished the most learned 
men in the intellectual centers of Morocco, Tunis, and 
Egypt. So that as little as we know of Africa and the 
Africans, in comparison to the great deal tliat is unknown, 
it is quite evident that in material progress, self-govern- 
ment, and statecraft the Negro has made advancement in 
a region where — as yet, to any appreciable extent, — 
the white man has not been able to remain and live. 

i"* " Qiristianity, Islam, and the Negro Race," Dr. Blyden, p. 141. 



INDEX 



INDEX 



A 

Abraham, 97. 

Abyssinia, 2j, 26, 100, 265, 276. 

Adultery, divorce for, 59; punish- 
ment for, 136. 

Administrators. European, ig. 

Africa, ethnology of, 11; republic in, 
14; future of, 14; and America, 
14; West Coast of, people on, 11; 
permission of nation on, 13; 
Negro in, view of, 1 7 ; Negro in, 
misrepresented, 19, 109; partition 
of, 19, 130; interesting tribes in, 
21; North, Phoenicians in, 23; 
Northern, pressure on desert, 23 ; 
Darkness of, 25. See Beselow, T. 
E-; 25, 35 ; robbing^ of, 32; study 
of, 33» 102 ; trees in, 41; dances 
of, 72; tropical, 83; Koran in, 95, 
loi; Islam on Negro in, 97, 102, 
103; Muhammudanism in, loo, 
Toi ; NcRTo manuscripts of, 102; 
West and Central, 101, 105; North, 
Islam in, 1 04 ; slowness in, 119; 
difficulty of, 120; religious life in, 
125; life in, 128, 129, 132; lan- 
guage in, 258, ^ 260; polygamy in, 
269 ; contributions to mankind, 
27s; Negro progress in, 275, 276; 
Negro empire of, 276. 

African, typified in Vais, 11; Negro 
language, Vai first to invent, 12; 
state, production of, 13; social 
situation, 1 3 ; mentality, institu- 
tions, society of, 19; continent of, 
22; white, pressure of, 24, 32, 33 
34» 3S. 41. 46, 48, 52, 55, 58, 76 
85, 102, 137, 154; products of. 
69; explorers of, 98; travellers, gS 
missionary, 103;^ pride of, 109 
literature 99 ; hign morality of, 
138; labor system, 113; Muham- 
mud's descent of, 109 ; European 
civilization on, 119; need of, 120 
conditions of, 122; articles on, 130 
colonizing powers, 1 29 ; missions, 
survey of, 128 ; continent of, 
131; Kingsley on. 131, 132; cu 
ture, 133, 272; true and fancy 
133; Society, work of, 133; 
Negro's objections to Christianity 
268, 271; literature of, 272; civil 
ization, Vai, original, 274; tri- 



umphs over nature, 275 ; progress 
of, 276. 

Africanus, Leo, 95. 

Agriculture, importance of, 40; 
products of, 40, 41; farms of, 40; 
implements of, 41 ; methods of, 
41 ; consumption of natural prod- 
ucts. 41. 

Alldridge, T. J., facts of, 130; Afri- 
can writing, 135. 

Allebigah, lodge, S3- 

Alligator societies, 63 ; initiation in, 
64 ; relation of alligator to, 65, 
89; sacrifices to, 88, 90. 

Alphabet, Egypt, Arabia, Morocco, 
23; Vai, 141, 143, 263, 265; 
Koelle*s Vai, 261. 

Amber, 23. 

America, Negro writers in, 20; light 
of, 25 ; languages of, 260; immi- 
gration of, 104. 

American, Negro slavery of, 124; 
Indian's disappearance of, 124; 
Negro, increase of, 125. 

Amulet, 85, 86, 104, 125. 

Anglo, Liberian Boundary, 17; 
Saxon, 132. 

Annals, Negro writers of, 266. 

Anthropology, Negro misrepresented 
in, 19: See Prof. Starr, 2; dem- 
onstrations of, 259. 

Arab, writer, statement of, 23. 

Arabs, influence of, 22; conquest of, 
23, 100, 267, 275. 

Arabia, alphabet, 23, 96, 97i 109; 
faith of, no; learned of, 138, 
266. 

Arabians, witchcraft of, 60 ; culture 
of, 265, 266, 271, 272; words in, 
262. 

Arabic, 18; forces of. 23, 24, 96, 
id8, 109, 263, 264; scholars, 113: 
language of, 260. 

Arma, King, 74. 

Armies, 23. 

Arts, 18; Vai industrial, 43, 44. 45 
271; products of, 44: musical in 
struments, 44^ 45". wealth of, 114, 
Negro contributions to,_ 138; Ara 
bian, influences on Negro, 271 ; 
Vai products of, 271; Mandingo 
praise of, 276. 

Ashantee, 36, 99; civilization in 
276. 



279 



28o 



INDEX 



Asia, trade with Negroland, 23. 
Asiatic, languages, 360. 
Asquith, Rt. Hon. H. H., 134- 
Astronomy. Negro instruction in, 

365. 
Atlantic. II, 32. 95. 
Australian. J5S. 

Audaghost, white Berber state, 34- 
.\.vebury, Rt. Hon. Lord, 134- 



B 

Baba, Ahmed. Negro author, 266. 

Bacon, Francis, 61. 

Ba^. =2. 

Bairam, 97. 

Balanta, 22. 

Bamblu, Vahnee, 89, 90. 

Bambara, iS, 22, 26. 105; gunpow- 
der and saltpetre of. 275- 

Bambook, gunpowder and saltpetre 
of, 275. 

Bana, 70. 

Bandi, 39. S3- 

Bantu, peoples, location of, 11, 1 34 ; 
language of, 260. 

Bara, Kalia, co-inventor, 263. 

Barakora, Dshara, co-inventor, 263. 

Barbarism, in Europe, 24. 

Barbary States, 365. 

Barclay, Arthur, iir. 

Barth. Dr.. visit to Burrum. 33; Is- 
lam in Africa, 95. 

Basa, 17. 21, 29, 94, 99, 105. 

Bele, 79- 

Belt, African Black, ethnic divisions 
of, iS; See Negroland; race of, 
131- 

Bendoo, 74. 

Berber, 24; See Audaghost; Mussul- 
men, 109. 

Bere, 29. 53. 

Beri institution. 67, 72, 92, 93, 126; 
See Devil Bush, Morals, Social 
Fimctions; respect for, 116; weak- 
ness of, on^ coast, 118. 

Beri-mo, medicine-man, 62. 63, 93 ; 
duty of, 116. 

Beri-moenu, 69. 

Beselow, Thomas E., writer of 
" From Darkness of Africa to 
Light of America," 25, 26. 

Bessy. 73- 

Big Play. 55. 69. 

Biography, Negro writers of, 266. 

Blerzey, 102. 

Blvden, Edward Wilmot, literary 
fame and works of, 14; example 
of, 19; author, 34, 134; authority 
of, 95, 98, 99; on Islam, 100, loi; 
estimate of, 101, 102; books of 
130: guoted, 130, 1^3; on African 
objections to Christianity, 26S, 
271. 

Boma, Ellis experience at, 1 38. 



Bomu, Kingdom, 33, 36. 95. 100, 

loi ; gunpowder and saltpetre of, 

375. 
Boundaries, Anglo and Franco-Liber- 

ian, 1 7 . 
Bowersock, Justin D., thanks to, 20. 
Buckle, H. Thomas, 61. 
Bukere, Momom Doalu, inventor of 

Vai script, 13, 67; biography of. 

362; importance of his invention, 

363, 265. 
Bulom, 33. 
Burrum, traditiofi of, 23,: relation to 

pharaohs, 33. 
British Colony of Sierra Leone, 73. 
Britons, 27s. 
Brun, Renand, 105. 
Buni, 53. 



Cadmus, Doalu Bukere, as, 13. 

Ciesar, time of, 3$, 275. 

Cairo, civilization of, 265, 266. 

Cao, 9S. 

Cape Mount. Vais in neighborhood 

of, 11; Little, 25, 47; alligators 

at. 65; Grand, 23. 27, 47. 73, 93, 

96, III. 
Cape Palmas, 21. 
Capitals, 34; See Ne^o. 
Cardi, Count de, services to science 

and the Negro, 19, 133; facts of, 
30; contribution of, 134- 



C«:do 



dova^ 365. 

Carthaginians, 275. 

Cassu, 27. 

Castles, fortifications and decorations 
of, 34. 

Caucasian, writers, services to sci- 
ence and Negro, 19; Negro, serv- 
ices to. 20. 

Central Tennessee College, 74- 

Ceremonies, 86, 92; See Religious. 

Charge d'Affaires ad interim, 18. 

Chiefs, 27, 39, 71; authority of, 76; 
as judges, 82, 83* 

Chinamen, dress of, 38. 

Christ. 113. 

Christian, 67; Kru as, ia;_ mission- 
ary, estimate of. 96; influence, 
no. Ill, 112. 113; need of schools 
of, 113; moral excellence of, 1 26 ; 
civilization. 266. 269 ; ^aith of. 
268; church work of, 371. 

Christianity, Islam and the Negro, 
14. 99; power of, los, 114; seed 
of, 110; progress of, 112; efforts 
among^ Vais, 11 1. 113; as disin- 
tegrating force, 268, 269; on race 
discriminations, 268, 269; tolera- 
tion of liquor traffic by, 268. 269. 
370; Islam on practice and theory. 

Church. 102; Missionary Society, 

105. 



INDEX 



281 



Civilization, concealment of Negro 
part in . 109; Oriental. Vai cul- 
tnrc in. 113; modern. Vai Rrasp 
of, 114; Christian. Vai place in, 
11^: European, effect on African. 
n8; Guiiot on. jao; Occidental, 
nustak^ difference for inferiorit>'. 
1,1 1 ; Arabic, Vai. probiivs of, 272; 
Christian, culture in, a66 ; Chris- 
tian, power of. 369; modern, ele- 
ments of, 3^4: native Necro. 374'. 
XesTo in Fexxan. 375; Ne>;TO in 
Dahomev and Ashantee. 276. 
Oay, as dress and medicine, 36. :^7. 
Climate. See West Africa ; reputa- 
tion of. 54; improvement in, 34; 
impartiality of. 34; influence^ of, 
34: influence on mind, 35* influ- 
ence on will. 3;;; difficulties of. 
x-S. 
Clothes, as dress, 50. 
Cong<s basin, populations north of, 

tt: tribe of. 09: river, 05. 
Congressional Delesration. Kansas, 
ao ; See Ellis, George W. and 
Kansas. 
Consul, French. 13. 
Cotton, 25; Vai manufacture of, 

27I' 
Country. Vai. travels in, iS; loca- 
tion of, 35. ;6. 37. 47. s6. 73. 
74, 90; clothes of. 39; medicine 
of. 30- 
Country Devil, 49. 54. 55. 71. 
Courtship, love in, 56 ; dashes or 

gifts during, 56. 57, 70. 
Crescent. IT4. 

Crime, detection of, So; use of or- 
deals in. So. Si: criminal, 82. Sj;: 
kinds of. Sj;: punishment of. S3. 
374; coast temptations of, iiS; 
influence of medicine-man on. ijt; 
definition^ of. 137: detection of, 
374- 
Cromer. Lord. 133. 
Crc^$, 114. 371; triumph of. 374- 
Cros5!ard. John R. A., appointment 

of. 17. 
Cultvre. XegTO. in West Africa, 
merits of. 11; n.iture, j;. iS. 10. 
133; Arabian, loS, 365, 366: moci- 
em, 11;: ot ^^'^i s^nv:ints, 367; na- 
tive acto'-s. -oS: Vai. native ele- 
ments of. 3-1. 3-3: Vai, litera- 
ture of. 3-::; African. 3t: in Da- 
homey, 3-6: See \ .11 and Xe^o. 
Curtis, Ch-irles. thanks to, 30. 



Dadu, Bcma, ^67. 

Dadoo. 54- 

Dafur. 101. 

Dahomey, XecTO civfliaation in. 376. 

Dance, '6S. 60. •'o. 71. '^. So; kind 

of dances, 7-: revelr>- of. 33S: 

factor of. 373. 



Dati.i. 37. 39; slave remnants at. 

111. 
Decoration, 36; articles of, 37; na- 
tive, 30. 
T>*. 53. 

D'Eg^•lne, H.,,i34- 
Delafosse, criticism of, on Liberians, 

13- 
Deutsch. 98. 
Devil Bush. bo>*s of. 36, 67 ; dress 

of, 3S; importance of. 49; head 

of, 49; aim and pi'inciples of^ 49. 

53; education of. 50; mihtarv 

training of, 50. 53. 71; huntiuj^ of. 

52 ; other things of. 53 ; ben-mo 

of, iici; washing of, 69- 
Dewoi. Uingiiage of. a6. 
Diction. Negro learning in, 365. 
District of Columbia, iS. 
Dr.iper. lohn W,, 61: Europe's debt 

to Mulmmmud.inisni. loS. 
Dress, 36. 3S. 
DuBois. M. Felis, ser\-ice of science 

and Negro, 19, 130: authority of. 

05. loa; <moted, 366. 
Dul^ois, W. E, B.^ example in litcra- 

tiire and education, ao. 
Doclay. Mormoru, Ellis, thanks to, 

zo. 
Dunbar. Paul Laurence, e^sample in 

literature, 30. 
Dvnasties. 24 ; See Nei^ro and 

"Negroland. 



Economic, world center of. 34: life, 
agriculture of. 40, 41; life, traffic 
of. 4a. 43 ; life, consumption of, 
41: life, natural facts of, 40, 41, 
43: arts, products of, 43- 44. 45. 
h.i]t-to\vns, 4S; life, d\Ti."miic fac- 
tors of. 37.;. 

Economics, 1 S. 

Education. 36; of Devil Bush. 5vx 

Eg>-pt, influence of. 33. 33, 26^, 
3-5; art of. 33 ; by whom con- 
quered. 33: Journey to. 101: TsLim 
in. 104; proi^essors of. 366; Ne^^TO 
T^rotessors in, 376. 

Ei;>T'tian. forces of. 3,:. ^4 ; culture 
of. .--5 : industry. j:75. 

Fcv.no -^udanese. 105. 

I'ls. Georse W.. introducinir repre- 
sentative Negro, ii: nature of 
treating \'ais. 1 1 : tells of Doalu 
Eiikere and h-s language. 13; sci\ 
ices and ez^ample as wTiter and 
Secretar>' American Lection. 
Monroria. 14. 1 S ; as contributor 
on Ubexian region. 14: work of, 
and that of Blyden and Crummel. 
14: mission of Africa, 17, special 
and official srijdies of, 14, 1 - ; 
taught by Vai scholars. iS: 
st-'Jdies cr.d disclosures of, 10 
justification of work, 30 ; thanks 



282 



INDEX 



to Kansas Congressional Delega- 
tion and Prof. Starr, 20; assist- 
ance of West African Negro schol- 
ars and Mormoru Duclay, 20; trip 
of, to Vai country, 27. 

Ellis, Sir A. B., services to science 
and the Negro, 19, 33 ; facts of, 
130; contribution of, 134; quoted 
on Negro morality, 135, 136; Gold 
Coast people, 134. 

Elociuence, Negro learning* in, 265- 

Emigration, 27, See Vai. 

Encyclopedias, Negro misrepresented 
in, 19; Negro type in, 33; climate 

in. 34- 

England, development of, 24; hag 
of, 61; English, in; prominent 
people in, 134. 

English, Church, 61; words in, 261; 
Bible, 262. 

Englishmen, 98, 1 33.; Vai learning 
English, 112; oublic, 133. 

Es Sardi, Amir, nistory, 23, 95. 

Ethiopia, 22. 

Ethnic, 17, 33- 

Ethnography, 26; Negro instructions 
in, 265. 

Ethnology, uncertainty of, in Africa, 
11; Negro misrepresented in, ig; 
Negro type in, 33. 

Ethnologically, 21; See Vai. 

Ethnologist, 32, 128 ; influence of 
slavery on, 33. 

Europe, Negro artists in, 15; trade 
with Negroland, 23, 42; witchcraft 
in modern nations of, 60; in 
Africa, 129; Muhammudan contri- 
bution to, 108. 

European, types and powers, 13; par- 
titioning of Africa, jg; eyes of, 
30 ; tf ade with, 46 ; traders, 1 10 ; 
lost watch of, 81, 82; civilization, 
effect on African, 119; contact, 
injury of, iig; ignorance of na- 
tives, 130, 131; interference in 
Africa, 132; culture, 133; lan- 
guages of, 260, 262 ; elfins of, 
^75- 

Evolution, triumphs of, 258. 



Fabule, 27. 

Family, definition of, 58; polygamy 
of, 58; monogamy of, 58; number 
of wives, 59; head wife, 59; in- 
heritance of, 60 ; friends of, 69 ; 
royal rivals of, 73; duties of, 126, 
127; disintegration of, ^268, 269; 
palaver in, 136; Negro, variety, 
374. 

Fara Sunda, 70. 

Fatassi, history of Negro kingdoms, 
266. 

Features, See Vai and Negro; deco- 
rations of, 36. 

Fdkin, 105. 



Ferguson, Rt. Rev. Samuel D., 112. 
Ferris, William H., example in 

literature, 20. 
Fetich, 86, 104, 105, 125, 137; form 

of, 113, 274. 
Fez, 266. 
Figi, Disappearance of, before white 

man, 124. 
Folk, description of Vais, 11. 
Folklore, stories of, 18, 184; Rival 

Sleepers, 185, 186; Man and Goat, 

189; Brothers and Town, 187, 188; 

Man Hunting, 189 ; Race for 

Wife, 189, iQo; Blind Man, 190; 

Elephant and Goat, 191; Rival 



Brothers, 19:, 192; Fly, Crab, 
Minnow, 192; Man and Crab, 102 
193; Rival Doctors, 193, 194; Mar 



and Children, 194, 196; Rival 
Smokers, 196 ; Boys and Snake, 
196, 197; Rabbit, Snake and 
Squirrel, 197, 198^ Deer and 
Snail, 199, 200; Tide and Min- 
now, 200; Contesting Brothers, 
200, 201; Rival Story Tellers, 202; 
Poor Man, 202, 203 ; Frightened 
Men, 204, 205; Lady and Boy, 

205, 206; Blind and Legless Men, 

206, 207; Spider and Medicine, 

207, 208; Fox and Goat, 208, 209; 
Lady and Bird, 309, 211; Royal 
Lovers, 211, 213; Bad Young Men, 
213, 214; Faithful Friends, 214, 
216; One Eyed Monarch, 216, 
217; Man and King's Daughter, 
217, 218; Blind Mori Man, 218, 
220; Boy and Snake, 220, 221; 
Two Thieves, 221, 222; Father and 
Sons, 222, 225; King and Bangle, 
225, 227; Mori Man and Secret, 
228; Jealous Husband, 229, 230; 
Man, Deer, Possum and SnaJce, 
230, 231; Lion, Fox and Mon- 
key, 231, 232 ; Great Swimmers, 
232, 234; Two Brothers, 235, 236; 
Unfortunate Men, 236, 237 ; Lion, 
Leopard, Dog, 238, 239; Story 
Tellers, 239, 240; Leopard and 
Goat, 240, 341; Old Women, 241, 
242; Orphan Brothers, 242, 245; 
Two Men Controversy, 245, 2^7 ; 
Rascal Man, 248, 249; Rival Heirs, 
250, 257. 

Forbes, Lieut. F. E., first Euro- 
pean discoverer of Vai script, 264. 

Franco-Liberian Boundary, 17. 

Freeman, Dr., 1 02 ; facts of, 1 30. 

French, language of, 260 ; words in, 
262; man, 266. 

Fulah, 105. 

Futa, 105. 

Futah, 101. 

Fulup, 22. 

G 

Gallinas, country of, 25, 73, 74, m. 



INDEX 



283 



Ganata, 266. 

Garwoola, 73. 

Gbandi, 17, 18. 

Gbasi, Fa, co-inventor, 263. 

Genewah, 22. 

Geographers, ancient. 22, 24. 

Geographic Universelle, by Reclus, 

Geographies, 19; Negro type in, 33. 

German, words in, 262 ; culture of, 
266; bridzes of, 275. 

Germany, development of, 24 ; Dr. 
Barth of. gs- 

Ghana, 23 ; kingdoms under, 24; 
town of, 24. 

Ghendima, Gallinas, 1 1 1 ; founding 
of schools at, 114. 

Gizima, 53. 

God, pagan idea of, 85, 86, 92, 97, 
127. 137; Muhammudan, 128; son 
of, 270; conception of, 274. 

Gold, 23, 81. 

Goldie, Sir George T., 133. 

Gonda, 73. 
•^Gora, or Gola, 17, 2(>, 29, 53, 94, 
105. 

Grammar, Negro works on, 106, 108. 
265; See language and Negro. 

Grebo, 1 7. 

Great Britain, 99. 

Greegree Bush, 29, 67, 90, 137, 151, 
152, 167; girls of. 36, S3, 54, 55, 
56, 57. 138; virginity of, 37, 54, 
58; secrecy of, 53; decoration and 
dress of, 37; marriage of, 37, 54; 
education of, 55 ; origin of, 53 ; 
penalty for violation of, 53; mar- 
riage m, 57; decline of, 56; Devil 
of, 57 ; washing in, 57, 69 ; See 
Women. 

Greeks, as conquerors, 23; witch- 
craft of, 60. 

Grenada, 265. 

Groups, white and black, interracial 
understanding, 17. 

Guinea, 22. 

Gums, 23. 

Guizot, F. P. G., definition of civil- 
ization, 120. 

H 

Harford, John, facts of, 130. 

Hayford, Caseley, example of, 19, 
33; facts of, 130, 134; contribu- 
tion of, 134. 

Hausa States, decorative art of, 23; 
kingdom of, 23, 26; people of, 
loi, 105. 

Hebrews, witchcraft of, 60, 264. 

Helvetians, 25. 

Hegira, reign of, 2- 

Hindoo, 90. 

Hinterlands, Liberian and Sierra 
Leone, 20, 273; See Prof. Starr, 

Historians, 24. 



History, Negro writers of, 266. 

Holy Bible, higher criticism of, 272. 

Holy War, 104. 

Houghton, Lord, 97. 

Hume, 95. 

Hunting, 52 ; methods of, 52, 53. 

Hygiene, 265, 268. 

I 

Indian, 1 1 , 99 ; American, 1 24. 

Indo-European, languages of, 260. 

Infants, hair of, 30. 

Influences, outside on Africa, 12, 23. 

Interior, 26, 27. 

Islam, Christianity and the Negro, 
14; introduction into West Africa, 
95; history of, 94; factor of, 95; 
potency of, 99; bad effects of, 97, 
102, 103, 104, 105; Smith's esti- 
mate 01, 99 ; Christian travellers 
on, 99; Blyden's estimate of, 100, 
loi ; benefits of, qt-, 98, 99, 100, 
loi, 102; Renan s estimate of, 
103; DuBois estimate of, 102; 
Noble's estimate of, 1 03, 1 04 ; as 
African missionary, 103; Morel on, 
104; concessions of, 104, 274; Why 
Negro embraces, log; discredit of, 
105; cause of, 113; Negro as mis- 
sionary of, no; influence of, on 
morals, 122 ; precepts of, influence 
on morals, 125, 126; erudition of, 
266 ; condemns Christian prac- 
tice, 271. 

Ischia, Soni Heli, Negro emperor of 
Sudan, 276. 

Ishmael, 97. 

Italian, language of, 260. 

Italy, 36. 

J 

Taryalor, 73. 

Jeanne d'Arc of Vais, 74; See Tara- 
doba. 

Jesus, Vai and Islamic knowledge of, 
268. 

Johnson, Dr., 61. 

Johnston, Sir 'Harry H., services to 
science and Negro, 19, 33, 134. 

Jones, Sir Alfred, 1 34. 

Juliets, 56. 

Justice, administration of, 82 ; civil, 
82; court practice, 83, 84; crim- 
inal, 82 ; taking of oaths, 84. 



Kaaba, 97. 

Kali, Dshara, co-inventor, 263. 

Kansas, Congressional Delegation, 

thanks to, 20. 
Karmba, God, 86. 
Kanem, Negro kingdom, 95- 
Kari, ij. 



284 



INDEX 



Kartum, 105. 

Kati, Mohaman, Negro author, 266. 

Keltic, Dr. J. Scott, services to sci- 
ence and Negro, 19, 134. 

Kiatamba, z'j> 

Kid, Benjamin, 34. 

King Salee, 89, go. 

Kings, capitals and castles, 24 ; 
Mandingo, 27; white, 32; dress of, 
38, 39, 70; execution of, 52; duty 
to, 56 ;_ touch of, 61; owl as, 66; 
coronation of, 70, 71; laws of, 73; 
powers of, 74, 76 ; conference of, 
Tj\ documents of, 112. 

Kingdoms, 23; See Negro, 24, 95. 

Kingsley, Mary H., services to sci- 
ence and the Negro, 19; studies 
of, 33; facts of, 130; quoted, 131. 
132, 133; life and studies, 132, 134. 

Kinm, language of, 26. 

Koelle, Rev., visit to Vai country, 
25J grammar of, 26, 264; See Vai; 
opinion of, 27, 28, 67, 96; publi- 
cation of Wono story, 272. 

Konae, 73. 

Kondo, 17-18. 

Kora-mandsa, 73. 

Koran, 95, 96, 97, 98, loi, 104, 108, 
109, no; chapter to Negro in, 109; 
wisdom of, 113; faith and teach- 
ing of, 126; Negro learning in, 
265 ; principles and practice of, 
271. 

Kordof an, 1 1 . 

Kpwesi, 17, 22, 29, S'^, 79, 94, 105. 

Kuku , relation to Pharaohs, 23 . 

Kru, tribes _ and religion of, 12-17, 
29 ; tattooing of, 36; use of clay, 
36 ; reputation of, 42. 



Lake, 22. 

Lane, 98. 

Land of the Blacks, 22; See Negro- 
land. 

Landogho, 18. 

Language, as basis of division, 11; 
written, Vai first Negroes to in- 
vent, 12, 18, 21, 26, 27, 67, 274; 
mastery of alien, 108; modern, 
wealth of, 114; dialects of, 128, 
129; Negro, relation lo other lan- 
guages, 258; studies of, in Africa, 
258; common origin of, ^ 258; 
Negro, number of, 260 ; Vai, cad- 
ence and melody ef, 260, 274; Vai, 
grammar of, 260; written, history 
of, 262, 272; Vai, construction of, 
261-262 ; other, Vai relation to, 

Latin, 263. 

I^aw, Negro writers in, 107, 108, 

265, 266. 
Leather, shoes in, 30. 
Lecky. W. E. H., 61. 



Legation, American, at Monrovia, i4- 
17; Secretary of or Charge d' Af- 
faires of, 18. 

Leopard, skins as dress, 39. 

Lenz, 105. 

Liberia, writers demand of, 13; El- 
lis service to, 14; Republic of, 17, 
25. 73. 77* 94. 112, 137; tribes in, 
36, 38, 40, 49, 66, los, III, 112; 
interior of, 273. 

Liberian, 12, 13, 14, 17, 20, 41, 43, 
S3, 56; colony, in; influence on 
slavery, 113; families, influence of, 
117. 

Liberians, Americo, value of Vais to, 
1 2 ; assimilating natives, task of, 
13; copying of, 13; as distributing 
agents, 43, 45, 65, in. 

Liquors, 71. 

Literature, West African, 17; gen- 
eral, 114, 266; Negro contributions 
to, 138; Vai, nature of, 272. 

Logic, Negro learning in, z^t^. 

Long, Chester L, thanks to, 20. 

Lowland, location of, 21; Mindes in, 
21; languages and tribes, 21. 

Lugard, Lady, services to science and 
the Negro, 19. 

Luther, Martin, witchcraft of, 61. 

Lyall, Sir Alfred, ^ 133. 

Lyon, Ernest, administration of, and 
native affairs, 17. 

M 

Macbeth, witches in, 60. 

Mackintosh, Sir James, quoted on 
moral foundations, 1 36, 1 37. 

Macmillan, George, 1 34. 

McCritty, J. B., Mayor and part 
Vai, 12. 

Mafa, River, 47. 

Mala Kite, 265. 

Malaria, 34. 

Mallams, 267. 

Mambroru, 267. 

Mandinges, 105, 262. 

Mandingo, 17, 18, 21, 26, 27, 38, 3I1 
38, 43. 53. 94. 99. 105. 266, 267. 
273; scholars of, 113; art of, 276. 

Mande, family, ethnic divisions of, 
18, 273; branch, 21; See Vai; 
country of, 21, 27; expedition of, 
27; languages of, 258. 

Manjaraa, ^i. 

Manna Sahjah, 90. 

Mano River, 47. 

Manoba, 27. 

Marriage, n, 54. 56, S7; independ- 
ence of wife during, 57, 58; dis- 
solution of, 59; influence of coast 
on, 59; effect of adultery on, S9i 
desire of, 70; effect of witchcraft 
on, 59; permission of, 69; polyga- 
mic, 113; morality after, 116, 117; 
girls given in, 127; regulations of, 
137; restrictions on, 13S. 



INDEX 



285 



Massina, loi. 

Massachusetts. ^5; witchcraft in, 61. 

Massaqaoi, Momolu, preparing Vai 
text books, 13; as king, 74; as 
prince, hi; on St John Mission, 
lis; Chart of, 263, 

Manuscript, Vai data in. 18- 

Mecca, 95, Q-. ICO, 105, 265; faith 
of, 109; prophet of, 113. 

Medicine, 3-. 39» 63. 66. V/. 78, 79, 
80, 81, 86. 88, 91, lai, 122; pro- 
tection of. Q3 , 94 ; ntiKtf of, 94; 
Negro writers in. 106, loS, 138, 
265 ; N egro knowledge of, 268 ; 
Vai,_ knowledge of, 271. 

Medicine-man. evolution of, 62; sup- 
posed powers of, 63; fee of, 81, 
93; alligator, in ceremony, 64; de- 
vif^s of, 80, S^: cCHitroIling spirits, 
94; dasses of. gr; oractice of, 94, 
104, iro; restraint of, 118; im- 
moral influences of, 120, 121, 274: 
good influence of, 121, 274; nec- 
essary in African society, 122. 

Medina, learning of, 265. " 

Mediterranean, strip of, 22, gs,. 

Melle, 23. 

Mende, 17. 18. 

Mendis. 267. 

Mentality, African, 19. 

Miller, Kelly, example of literature, 
20. 

Milton. John. 61. 

Mi^on, of Ellis' work, 15. 

Missionaries, 103. 108. 

Mohammedaus, religion of \'ais, 1 1 ; 
Vai and Mandingo as, 13; faith of, 
56; Europe's debt to, icfe. 

Monbuttoo, steel chains of, 275. 

Mongolian, eye of, 30. 

Monogamy, 58; See family. 

Monrov^ American Legation at, 14. 
17, 25. 27, 30, 36, 47. 77, 78, Si. 
106, III, 135. 

Moorish, scholars aind poets of, 265: 
invaaon of Ni^etia, 276. 

Morals, of the Negro, 98 ; of the 
African, 1 38 ; f orei^ civilizatifMi 
on, 116; after irarriage, 116, 117; 
weakness of on coast, 117-118; 
strength of, in interior, 1x7; of 
males, 117: bad paganic influence 
on, 122, 123; influence of medi- 
cine-man on, i2c; Islamic precepts 
on, 125, 1 26 ; good paganic infla- 
ences on, 1 23, 1 24 ; influence of 
social institutions on, 126, 127: 
Vai culture in. 272; Noble on 
Negro, 128; Ellis quoted in faTor 
of Negro, 135; See institutions. 
Devil and Gre^ree Bushes. 

Morrf, E. D., services of science and 
the Negro, ig, 33. 9 >; on Islam, 98: 
West African Mail of, 104: con- 
tribution of, 134; facts of, 130. 

Morley, Rt. Hon. JcAxn, 133. 



Morocco, alphabet, 23; mflnence of. 

33; learned of, 138, 266; Negro 

professors in, 276. 
Mueller, August, 103. 
MuUer, Prof, Max, work of, 359. 
Muhammud, descent from African, 

109, no. 
Muhammudan Education, of Sierra 

Leone, 10 1. 
Mahammu danism, 67, S5, 95^ 96, 97, 

99, 100. 105, 108, 122; fetiches of, 

113; tribes of, 12;, 126; practices 

of. i^S. 
M-jrvey. 26--. 
Mulake. scholar, 270. 
Masic, 20. 69, 71, 12S. 265. 266^ in- 
struments of, 45 : Xegro writers 

in, 107, id8. 
Mnsarduj 28 ; Vai students to. 272. 
Muslims, 96, 99. 104, 109, 266 ; 

XegTo, 102 ; library, loS ; moral 

standard of, 126. 
Mussulmen, 97. loS, 109. 

X 

Xalu. 22. 

Xassau, Dr. Robert H.. services to 
science and the Xegro, 19 ; facts 
of. 130: as author, 134. 

Xathan. Sir Matthew, 134. 

Xation, Negro, 13. 

Xatives. Liberian, absorption of, 13; 
affairs of, 17, 70, 71. 72, 81, 91, pj-t 
diseases of. 35. 42, 65, 77 : medi- 
one of, S6: of the Figi, 125; re- 
ligion of. 85: laws of, &c~, 116; in- 
stitutions of, 117; life of, 126, 127. 
128 ; temptations of, 127 ; igno- 
rance in Europe of, 130 : wisdom 
of, 138; mans indebtedneK to, 

XeisTO. African, 17; truth of, 19; 
See Xegro. 

Xegro Culture in West Africa, merits 
of. II, 18. 

Xegro. language, written. 12; race, 
14. 21; in Africa different, 19 ; 
services to . 19; duty to ejcplain 
ovrn culture ig: future services 
of, 2?: belt, outside influences on. 
22 : Sudan, pressure on. 23 ; See 
also Si:dan; kingdoms, tribes of. 
23: armies of. 23; kinsrdoras num- 
ber of. 24; kin^oms, kings of, 24: 
kingdeiiis. civilization of, 24 : 
kingdoms, resort for learned of 
other coyntries, 24: finer tribes, 
of. 2s: description of. 32; improve- 
ment of. 33 ; desire for truth of, 
jt.^ : kincdosi of Kanem. 95; bad 
enect of Islam on, 97, loz, 105 : 
Smith and small n. 99; Muslims. 
102. 104; interpretation of, 103; 
Mussulmen, 106; beliefs of, 104: 
authors of, 106; writings of, 106, 



286 



INDEX 



107; nature of, 108; European and 
American literature on, 109; at- 
tachment of, to Ishim, 109; Kood 
in, 123; sacrifice "f, 1^4; iBlam 
for, 113; Noble's unmoral charge 
against, 1 28 ; dialects, variety of, 
129; increase of, 125; ignorance 
of, 1 29 ; economic demand for 
inferiority of, 129; present de- 
mand for facts of, 1 29 ; im- 
portant writers on, 130; im- 
morality of, unsupported by facts, 
130 ; suffering ot, 132 ; Kingsley 
on, 1 32 ; authors in West Africa, 
134, 135; morality proved by Ellis 
and others, 13s; essentials of 
morals of, 137 ; social sanctions 
of, 137; inhumanity of, 258; finer, 
Lugard on, 138; morality of, 
proved by Blyden, 1 30 ; notable 
writings of, 266; inventor of 
written language, 362, 263. 264; 
false and true Christianity toward, 
zO(}, 270; in Africa, culture of, 
265, 273 ; Vai, relation to, 273 : 
rcfigious beliefs of, 274; natural 
orator, diplomat, 274; not unmoral, 
274; spiritual wealth of, 275; fam- 
ily, 274; intellect, native assertion 
01, 275 ; civilization in I'ezzan, 
275; above Britons, 275; world in- 
debtedness to, 275; civilization in 
iJahomey, Ashantee, 276. 

Ncgroland, population of, 22; differ- 
ent names of. 22; description of, 
22; influences upon, 22; alphabet 
in , 23 ; pressure on, 24 : Thomp- 
son's visit to, 98 ; outside culture 
in, 265, 273; rise and fall of great 
states and empires, 276; universi- 
ti's and professors of, 276. 

Negro type, accepted, rarity of, 31, 
32; features of, 32; sanctioned by 
science, 32 ; falsity of, 33 ; neces- 
sity for change of, 33 ; truth in, 
33; Vai contradiction of, 273. 

Negroes, location, division, type, cul- 
ture of, 11; tribcK fif, 21, 22, 24, 
33, 100, loi, [02, r jo; influence 
upon, 24; interior, 25; variance 
from accepterl type, 31, 33, 100, 
101; acceptance of Munammud, 
95; Niger Bend, 95; of Wadai, 
(inrnu, Abyssinia, 100; of Western 
A f rica, T 05 ; proficiency in Arabic, 
108; learning among, 265; as niis- 
Hionaries, log; Monbuttoo chains, 
275; fjunpowder, saltpetre of, 
275; bridges of, 275; soap of, 275; 
Mosaic paved courts uf, 275, 

Negroid, 31, 102, 

New Testament, 268. 

New Zealanders, disappearance of, 
before white man, 124. 

Niger, 95. 



Nigeria, forces met in, 23; embalm- 
ing dead in, 23; Noi'thern, g8. 

Nicrelia, -;2, 1 00. 

Nile, 22; valley of, 22. 

Noble, I'". P., oH, 102, 103; un- 
moral charge of, 128, 136. 

Noeldeke, Tlicorlor, 103. 

Norris, K., first critical student of 
Vai Hcript, 264. 

Nubia, 265, 275- 



(J:iihs, forms of, 76, 79. 84;_ cassava, 
76. 77; war, 76, 77; medicine, 76, 
77; manner of taking, 78. 

Ocean, Atlantic, Indian. 11. 

Officers, consular and diplomatic, op- 
nortunilies of, 14; example of 
French, ncrmaii, Russian, British 
and AtiH-riean, 14. 

Ordeals, effect of, 59; use of sasia- 
wood, 59, 81; native, 62; use of 
hot iron, 80, 81 ; kinds of, 79: 
use of mortar pestle, 80; use of 
hot palm oil, 81; the stone, 81, 82. 

Orthography, national, Vai, 21. 



Pagan, people, location of, 12; Kru 
as, 12; tribes, influence on, 24; 
clement, 85, 96, no; meaning of, 
85; sacrifice of, 94; influence of, 
on morals, 123; morality of, 137! 
paganism, 123. 

Pageantries, of Negro kings, 24. 

Paintings, 20, 24; See Negro. 

People, introduced by Mr. Ellis, 11; 
representative character of, 11; 
Vai, typical of what African can 
do, II, 12; Vai, visits to, 18, 26, 
27, 38, 47, 60, 62, 66, 68, 79, 80, 
89, 90, 93- 

Peoples, Bantu, location of, 11; color 
of, u; knowledge of. Uberian re- 
gion, 14; of Mande family, 18, 21, 
22; African, 33; backward, 36, 42; 
Yoruba, 60, 136. 

I'enick, Bishop C. C, li i. 

Cei siang, ;i8 conquerors, 23. 

I'cHchel, ()Hc:ir, 32; quoted, 275. 

I'eso, Lake of, 27, 63, 88, 92, iii, 

I'haraohs, habitation of, 23. 

I'll i JMsophy, 1 8 ; wealth of, 114; 
Nc^ro insl rue lion in, 365. 

FMincnicians, (ominrst of, 23. 

Phyniology, Vai Unuwledgc of, 268. 

Poetry, 20. 

Pol it ieal, 14 ; action, basis of, 1 5- 

Poli/iical institiUiony, kingdoms of, 
73; factions of, 73; ordeals of, 79- 
82; limitationa of regal authority, 
74; Taradoba as queen, 74; oaths, 
76, 79; sources of revenue, 75; 



INDEX 



287 



division of power, 95; crime and 
justice in, 82, 84; Vai forms of, 
273. 

Polygamy, 58, 269; See family; tol- 
erance of Islam, 126. 

Pomopora, 78 ; oath of, 79. 

Population, the Vais, location and 
study of, 11; Liberian, Vais as, 12. 

Populations, great desert and Congo 
basin, 11; native, 13. 

Poros, European, 262; See European. 

Portuguese, words in, 262. 

Priests, dress of, 38, 94; See Vais; 
Islamic, no, 268. 

Prince of Peace, 270. 

Problems, native tribes as, 13; con- 
tribution to, 15. 

Prosody, Negro instruction in, 265. 

Protestant Episcopal Church, in. 

Proverbs, 18; Elephant and Bridge, 
Monkey and Honey, Skillet and 
Soup, 147; Baboon and Cola, Pig 
and Liquor, Catfish and Straw, 
Man and Leopard, 148; Man and 
Snake, Cow and Salt, Man and 
IBeans, 149; Little Rain, Frog and 
his Hop, Man and Monkey, Stom- 
ach and Palaver, 150; Go in or by, 
Greegree Bush and Cloth, 151; 
Hens and Milk, Gourd and Bowl, 
Naked Man and Soap, 1 52 ; Dog 
and Blacksmith Shop, Man and 
Empty Plate, Lazy Man behind, 
153; Spear and Banana Tree, 
Crazy Man and Slaves, 154; Poor 
Children for Rich, Featherless 
Chicken, Country Devil, 155: Per- 
son looking with his Foot, Chicken 
with red L«g, Absent Man and Fu- 
neral, 1 56 ; Paddle and Canoe, 
Leopard and Cat, 157; Bad Goat, 
Wise Man and Fool, Small Bird 
and Boil, 158; Lame Man and Car- 
rier, Mushroom and Bugabug Hill, 
Small and large Palm Nuts, 159; 
Owner and Cook, Rich Hired Man 
and Owner, 160; Rice-cutter and 
Rice, Running Snake and its 
Head, Swimming Man Feet, 161; 
Food in Mouth First, Moon and 
Dark Places, Two old Ladies, Dry 
Leaf on Tree, Hand in a Hole, 
163: Boy and Cola Tree, Boy up 
a Tree, 164; Bird and Hole in 
Pot, War and Play, Goat and the 
Mud, 1 65 ; Leopard and Skin, 
Shame Man ana Crawfish, 1 66 ; 
Bugabug Hill and Mushroom, Friz- 
zle Chicken and Town Doctor's 
Work, 167; Old Hen and Town, 
Billy Goat and Jewelry, 168; 
Knowledge and the Goat's Head, 
Crippa and Fish, Dogmeat Cold, 
169; String and Grass, Trouble 
and Your Pocket, 1 70 ; Cassava 



and Stomach, Old Lady and Mar- 
ket, Satisfied Stomach, 171; One 
Man and Two Places, Cow and 
Horse, 172; Running and Cracked 
Foot, Man and New Moon, Man 
and his Way, 1731 The Pretty 
House, Old Cloth, Playing Organ 
at Night, Sassy Woman, Horn and 
Gun, 174; The Piles, Man and His 
Well, Rice Bird and Little Billy 
C^nat, Bamboo Stick and Reed, 
1^5; The Pestle and Flour, 
Chicken and Teeth, Man and Mon- 
key, Elephant and Tusks, Man 
and Head Cut off, 176; Catching 
Cat by Neck, Rain and the Or- 
ange, Water and the Fish, Flour 
in Two Hands, 177 ; Fish and 
Water, Goat in Cowtown, Liar 
and Sleep, Water and Skin, 178; 
Meat and Goat, Leopard and 
Chicken, The Man with Enough 
Food, Little Birds Crying, 179 ; 
Elephant and Head, Doctor and 
Baby, Licking Hand, Snake at the 
Well, 180; At Bottom of Sea, Bag 
and Leopard Hide, The Minnow 
and his Deep, Dried Rat, To Strike 
with Rock, 181 ; Water Pot and 
Drinking, Man and Singing, Eat- 
ing Raw Cassava, Carried by Mes- 
senger, 182; Walking with Noth- 
ing, 183. 

Psychology, 18. 

Pushkin, Alexander, poet, 19. 

Q 

eueen Anne, touched by, 61. 
uartier, Latin, 266. 

R 

Race, matters of, 14, 21; human 
race, 33; immorality of, 128; See 
Negro. 

Races, truth to be given to, 19; co- 
operation of, 20 ; love in, 56 ; in- 
feriority of black, 102. 

Ramadhan, 97. 

Reclus, Elisee, 98, 99 ; estimate of, 
100; quoted on Negro, 275. 

Reade, Winwood, 31, 32; of West 
Africa, 275. 

Red Sea, mouth of, 22, 95, loi. 

Reformation, 61. 

Religion, 85, 122, 123. 

Religious, writers, 14, 85, 86, 96, 
1 25 ; ceremonies, 87, 88 ; gifts of, 
87; the palm tree in, 88; sacrifices, 
86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 94; func- 
tion of medicine-man, 92; alliga- 
tors in, 88; natural phenomena in, 
91; violation of laws, 93; faith 
and practice, 95, 123; conceptions, 
105; Vai practice and forms, 274. 



288 



INDEX 



Renan, 102, 103. 

Republic, tribes in, 12; Liberian, na- 
tives as problems of, 13; absorp- 
tion of Vais by, 13. 

Rhetoric, Negro writers in, 106, 108; 
Negro learning in, 265. 

River, Mano and Kavalla, 17, 22. 

Romans, as conquerors, 23: witch- 
craft of, 60; characters 01, 112. 

Romeos, 56- 



Sacrifices, 86, 90; See Religious. 

Sahara, desert of,_ 22, 95, 105, 275; 
white people driven in, 23 ; trade 
across, 23; Northern, 104. 

Sande institution, 67, 72, 126; See 
Greegree Bush and Social Func- 
tions; respect for, 116; penalty 
for violation of, 138, 139. 

Sandfish, 73. 

Salijah, King, 78, iii- 

Sankore, mosque, learning of, 266. 

Saracens, driven from Spain, 265. 

Sarbah, John M., example of, i9i 
33; facts of, 130; author, 134. 

Sareef, scholar, 270. 

Science, modern dependency of, 19; 
service to, 19; error of, 32; nat- 
ural, 99; wealth of, 114; men of, 
128; service of Reclus to, 100; 
Negro works of, 106, 108, 138; 
proclamations of, 258. 

Scientific, 114, 99. 

Scholars, Vai, instructors, 18; See 
Starr, F. ; Negro, as teachers, 24, 
265, 268 ; Islamic, no, 268, 270 ; 
competent, 128; contentions of, 
258. 

Scott, Charles F., thanks to, 20. 

Scotland, demons of, 61. 

Script, Doalu Bukere's, 12; See Mo- 
molu Massaquoi, Doalu Bukere. 

Sculpture, 24 ; See Negro. 

Secretary, American Legation, 14, 
18; See Ellis, George W. 

Senaar, loi. 

Senegal, 22; white kings in, 23, 

Senegambia, 21. 

Semitic, 260. 

SeriflE, 267. 

Shakespeare, witches of, 60. 

Slave Coast, 60. 

Slave Traders, Spanish, influence on 
Vais, 25, III. 

Slavery, 25. 

Sierra Leone, 73. 

Situation, African Social, 18. 

Social, life, 13, 14; problems, 15; 
progress, 20 ; towns, 48. 

Social Functions, enjoyment of, 66; 
sacrifice in, 66; beri-rite, 68; plays 
of, 69; at death, 69; sande-rite, 68; 
at coronation of king, 70, 71; 



dance at, 69, 70, 72; naming of 
children, 66 ; See Social Institu- 
tions, Greegree and Dpvil Bushes. 

Social Institutions, physicial condi- 
tions of, 47: secret societies of, 49, 
56; See Social Functions, &c. ; 
courtship and marriage, 56, 58 ; 
extent of witchcraft, 60, 66; the 
family, 58, 60; relation to environ- 
ment, 126; social functions, 66, 
73 ; temptations of, 127. 

Society, 19. 

Sociology, 18. 

Sokoto, mosaic courts of, 275, 276. 

Sonie, Vahney, 267. 

Songhay, 23; kingdom, 95; Songhai, 
266. 

Soso, 18, 21. 

South America, loi. 

Soul, life, 19. 

Sowolo, 73. 

Spain, 22, 36, 138, 265. 

Spanish, 25, in; words in, 262 ; 
See slavery, slave traders. 

Spencer, Herbert, 36; praise of 
Negro civilization, 276. 

Spirits, belief in, 61, 85, 87, 88, 89, 
91, 93; invisible, 63, 123; See Re- 
ligious, &c. 

Spitta, Wilhelm, 103. 

Sprenger, 98. 

Stanley, Dean, 103. 

Starr, Frederick, thanks to, 20; 
scholar and anthropologist, 20; 
travels in West Africa, 20; special 
knowledge of Liberian and Sierra 
Leone, 20. 

St. John, Mission, in; influence of, 
112, 113. 

St. Paul, River, 78, in. 

Story;, of Liberia's origin, 13; of 
Vais, 27. 

Stories, folklore, 18 ; Vai, 272. 

Students, resident, services of, 19; 
works of, 103; competent, 137. 

Sua-kai, man, 62. 

Sua-musu, woman, 62. 

Sudan, High, location of, 21 ; See 
Negroland, 22, 23; Negro king- 
doms of, 23, 24, 104; Western, 95; 
finer Negroes of, 138, 275; lan- 
guage of, 260; Queen of, 266; in- 
dustry in, 275. 

Sugary, 88. 

Surisuri, 67. 

Syria, loi. 



Tabaku, So, co-inventor, 263. 
Tacitus, time of, 275. 
Tanner, Henry O., painter, 19. 
Tarik, 95. 

Taradoba, wars of, 74. 
Tashfin, Yusif Iben, 95, 



INDEX 



289 



Tattooing, See Kru; See Vai. 

Tavadadua, 78; oath of, 78, 79. 

Taylor, 98; testimony of, 98. 

Taylor, Samuel Coleridge, musician, 
19, 20. 

Tekrour, 22, 100. 

Tekya, country of, 28. 

Territory, Mande, 21; See Minde; 
See Negroland, 22 ; See Vai and 
country, 25. 

Teywa, 73, 

Theology, Negro writers in, 107 
108, 266. 

Thompson, 98, 102; Noble's estimate 
of, 98. 

Thought, interpretation of, 19. 

Tia, 67. 

Timbucktu, 21; as learned center, 24; 
Negro erudition of, 266; the Myste- 
rious, 102; students to, 272; as 
political center, 2 76. 

Timne, 22. 

Tombei, 73. 

Towns, 27, 48, 54, 57, 63, 68, 71, 
82, 88, 91, 138, 262; houses of, 
49; half-, 41, 48; jurisdiction of 
chief of, 76; feast at, 128; See 
Vai. 

Tradition, 27, 28 ; See Vai ; Negro 
writers of, 266. 

Traffic, articles of, 42, 43; human 
traffic. III. 

Travellers, transient, reports of, i g, 
103; competent, 128. 

Tribal, conditions, 20. 

Tribes, number of, in Liberia, 12, 
105 ; division of, 12; various, 17; 
West African, 18; many Negro, 21; 
See Negro, 24, 26, 32 ; study of, 
33; decoration of, 36; agriculture 
of, 40; land of, 41; lodges of, 53; 
trade with, 43 ; assaults on, 52 ; 
disputes of, y6 ; war of, 77 ; Is- 
lam's conquest of, 1 04 ; Muham- 
mudan, 125 ; work among, 135 ; 
without morals, 137. 
Tripoli, influence of, 23, 105. 
Truth, to be given other races, 19. 
Tuna, 67. 

Tunis, 266; Negro professors in, 276. 
Type, physical, 11; European, 13, 33; 
Se. " 



See Negro. 



U 



United States, 17, loi, iii, 112; 

Negro in, 125. 
University of Oxford, 61. 
Uyoro, government of, 276; art and 

architecture of, 276. 



Vai, representative of Negro, 11; 
location of country, 11, 25; Starr's 
description of, 11; typical of Afri- 



can capacity, 11, 12 ; first to in- 
vent Negro script, 12; character 
of, 12; part in Liberian affairs, 13; 
why selected, 17, 18; language of, 
18, 26, 27; scholars and savants, 
18, 20; distinction of, 21; related 
to Mande branch and Negro race, 
21, 273; tribe, finer influences of, 
24; increase of territory, 25; ori- 
gin of, 25, 26, 27; institutions of, 
26; ethnology of, 26; grammar of, 
26; ethnography of, 26; chiefs of, 
27 ; emigration of, 27 ; tradition 
of, 27, 28 ; country of, part of 
Negroland, 22, 27, 30, 47, 73; 
towns of, 27, 30, 41; physical fea- 
tures of, 29; faces of, 31; nose 
and lips of, 31; women of, 29; 
men of, 31; color of, 29, 30; feet 
of, 30, 31; tattooing o^ 36 ; eyes 
of, 30; hair of, 30, 31; Devil Bush, 
boys of, 36; See Devil Bush, 49; 
dress of, 38; priests of, 38; Gree- 
gree Bush, girls of, 36; See Gree- 
gree Bush; industrial activities of, 
40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46; social 
life of, 47, 73 ; nature of Gree- 
gree Bush, 53^, 56: See Economic 
life ; See Social Institutions ; See 
Witchcraft, Family, Ordeals ; Re- 
ligious life and practice of, 85, 
114; See Social Functions; prin- 
ciples and government of, 73, 85; 
See Political Institutions; Chris- 
tianity of, no, 114; See Chris- 
tianity; restoration of peace of, 
in; morality of, 11 5- 138; litera- 
ture of, 139; alphabet of, 141, 142, 
143, 261, 26SJ proverbs of, 145-184; 
folklore stories of, 184-257 ; lan- 
guage of, 258^262; written Ian-- 
guage, history of, 261-265, 274; 
culture of, 265-272, 274; mastery 
of Arabic, 266; majority as Mus- 
lims, 266 ; See Pagan, Islam, Mu- 
hammudanism; learned men of, 
267-268; as gentleman, 267; knowl- 
edge of Koran, 268; as Romans, 
&c., 273; contradiction of ac- 
cepted Negro type, 273. 

W 

Wadai, 100, loi. 

Wadelai, 105. 

Wallis, Capt. C. B., facts of, 130; 
book of, 135. 

War, soldier and dress of, 39; wea- 
pons of, 39; warriors of, 39, 51, 71, 
77; methods of, 50-52; of King 
Arma, 74; of Taradoba, 74; on 
St. Paul River, 78; to Gorgie, 79; 
art of, 271. 

Ware, Rev. Daniel, in. 

Washington, Booker T., example of, 
in education and literature, 20. 



290 



INDEX 



Washington, D. C, instructions 

from, 17. 
Webster, Daniel, 95. 
Weil, 98. 
Wellhausen, 103. 
West Africa, Negro Culture in, 11; 

true Negroes of, i x ; matters of, 

14; social conditions of, 17, 104; 

literature of, 17, 135; different 

Negro in, 19; example of Negro 

writers in, 19; F. Starr's travels 

in, 20; Negro scholars of, 20; 

Negro type in, 32- writers on, 34; 

diseases in, 35; climate of, 34, 35; 

Europeans in, 35; trade of, 42, 43; 

coast of, 47; Slave Coast of, 60; 

superstition of, 61; affairs of, 95; 

oaths in, 76; Islam in, 94, loi; 

Sropagators of Islam in, 100; 
fegro missionaries of, 109; Vai 
progress in, 112; Negro authors in, 
1 34 ; tribute to Negro of, 135; 
finer tribes of, 154; Vai as gentle- 
men of, 267 ; Romans of, 273. 

Wesleyan Academy, 25. 

West Indies, loi. 

White, nations, game of, 13; king- 
doms in Hegira, 23; pressure upon 
Northern Africa, 23; upon 
Negroes, 23; See Africans, 24; 
cloth, &c., 87, 92, 93. 

Wilbranam, 25. 

Wilson, 105. 

Witchcraft, divorce for, 59; uni- 
versality of, 60; of prominent per- 



sons, 61 ; post mortem examina- 
tion for, 62; belief about, 63, 88, 
89; belief in alligators, 63; fac- 
tor of, 273. 

\\'^onien, beautiful among Vai, 29, 
56; hair of, 31, 55; pregnancy of, 
37 ; restrictions of, 1 54 ; arts of, 
55; economic strength of, 59; 
adultery of, 59 ; regard for chil- 
dren, 59; subjection to orders, 59; 
as witch, 62', shaving heads of, 69; 
grace of, 72; infidelity of, 80, 81; 
temptations of, 137; protection of 
girls, 137; protection of morals, 
138. 

Wono, Ndole, autobiography of, 272. 

Wonye, 67. 

Wuro, 67. 



Yolof, 105. 

Yoruba, 60, 66, 135, 136. 



Zambesi, great governments of, 276. 

Zanzibari, Muhammudans, 105. 

Zo, 53, 54, 167, 168; See Greegree 

Bush. 
Zo-ba, Country Devil, 54, 71. 
Zo-beri, 68. 

Zo-nockba, 54; See Greegree Bush. 
Zo-sande, 68. 



M