A Kind of Privileged Character

Amanda Berry Smith and Race in Liberian Missions
  • Patricia A. Schechter
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


In 1887, Amanda Berry Smith had a short dialogue with some recently arrived African American women migrants in Cape Palmas, Liberia. A welcome meeting had been planned for the group by resident Americo-Liberians at a local school. “When I heard of it I said I would go,” recalled Smith in her autobiography. “But I was told, a little while after, that no women were to go; it was only for men. Then I was more anxious than ever; and, womanlike, I became suspicious, as well as curious.” Claiming a kind of parity of citizenship, she reasoned to herself: “Why can’t I go? These emigrants are from my country, and I have a right to go, and I will.” Smith reported that the excluded wives groused about their husbands’ opposition and the lack of proper accommodations for them at the meeting. She then countered that she had no husband to obey and could easily bring along her own chair. Smith further mused: “They all knew I was a kind of privileged character anyhow, and generally carried out what I undertook.” Upon her arrival at the meeting, Smith planted her chair “in the middle of the aisle,” symbolizing her excluded status and her protest of it to the assembled. She went on in her narrative to chide the conveners of the welcome meeting, pointing to their “talk enough to have built a tower, if there had been anything in it” as well as their puffed-up assertions about Liberia being a “country where they could be men.”1


African American Woman Native People White People Nation Building Protestant Church 
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© Patricia A. Schechter 2012

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  • Patricia A. Schechter

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