Program highlights need to reconnect with African history

OJ Stapleton Editor

December 9, 2013

Bank Street AME Zion Church hosted a special historical program last week about the freed slaves of Major Richard Bibb.

Finding Family: Reconnecting Russellville former enslaved Africans with the decendents in Liberia” was held at the church on Wednesday with a very special guest - Pastor Author Tarr of the Liberia Church in Christ.

Pastor Tarr came to the United States all the way from Liberia to talk about the mission Heart Beat of Africa, but also listened to an informational presentation by local historian Michael Morrow about the slaves sent by Bibb to live in Liberia in 1832 and gave some interesting information of his own.

Morrow has done quite a bit of research into the Bibb slaves that were sent to Liberia from Russellville nearly 200 years ago and shared his findings with those in attendance.

“This is something that has been on my heart for 20 years now,” Morrow said. “What happened to the Bibb slaves? Where did they go and do they have decendants out there?”

Morrow gave details of the 32 slaves sent from Russellville to Liberia in 1832 when Major Bibb gave them their freedom.

The 32 individuals came from six different family groups, but all of them still had family who remained behind in Russellville and were later granted their freedom and continued to live in the United States.

Of the 32 slaves that made the trip to Liberia aboard the brix Ajax in 1832, Morrow believes as many as 16 could have lived to have children in Liberia and could have decendants still living there to this day.

Those Liberians would likely have relatives living here in American today.

“I’d like to bring all those people back one day and have a big celebration at the Bibb House,” Morrow said.

On the same ship as the Bibb slaves there were 118 other former slaves with the majority being from Kentucky. One of those was Alfred Russell of Lexington, who would later serve as president of Liberia.

Pastor Tarr spoke about his church’s mission and the need for money and school supplies for students, but he also said that there are towns and villages in Liberia today that are named after cities in Kentucky - including villages called “Russellville” and “Owensboro” in Sinoe County. The capital of Sinoe County also happens to bear the same name as another nearby town - Greenville.