During the last few days, as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become more real in the United States, I've read and heard varying opinions about our nation's responsibility to react to the crisis in Africa. Based on what I've learned, it is clear that from a public health perspective we've got to go to the source (West Africa) if we ever hope to stop the spread of this deadly virus. I've made a donation here and encourage you to make one somewhere as well.
The discussion also reminded me of Middle Tennessee's 19th century connection to Liberia through the colonization movement.
Montgomery Bell is probably the most notable Tennessean to have been part of the movement designed to send America's freed slaves to colonies in Africa established by abolitionists and others here.
A 2008 Vanderbilt Magazine article, sketches out some of Montgomery Bell's role in sending his freed slaves to Liberia. Comments to article did not dispute the historical characterization of Montgomery Bell. Interestingly though, supporters of Montgomery Bell Academy took offense in the comments section regarding the author's characterization of the school's current accessibility to the poor. This interesting exchange underscores the complexity of slavery's legacy in Nashville today.
It's too easy to forget our region's and Nation's long often violent relationship with Africa - especially Liberia. Not only is it in our nation's best interest to stop the Ebola outbreak in Liberia but it's also important to remember that, as slaves, the ancestors of many of those facing death in Liberia built the State we enjoy. Don't we have some special obligation to Liberia?
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