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Remembering Edward James Roye, The First Igbo Lawyer Who Became Liberia’s 5th President In 1870



Edward James Roye was Liberia’s fifth president from 1870 until his overthrow in 1871.


Roye was an Igbo descendant born into a prosperous African American family in Newark, Ohio. His father, John Roye, was in charge of a ferry crossing the Wabash River in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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Edward later purchased a large amount of land in Terre Haute as well as Vandalia in neighboring Illinois. After his father died, he moved to Terre Haute and opened the community’s largest barbershop, which also had the tallest barber pole in western Indiana.

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On January 3, 1870, Roye was inaugurated as President of Liberia. When Roye took office, the country was in the grip of political insecurity, exacerbated by a fiscal crisis. In 1871, Roye tasked William Spencer Anderson, Speaker of the House of Representatives, with negotiating a new loan from British financiers.


Anderson obtained $500,000 from the British consul-general, David Chinery, on strict terms; however, he was heavily criticized and eventually arrested.


Anderson was allegedly tried for his role in securing the loan the following year. He was found not guilty, but was shot and killed as he left the courthouse. Roye began a reconstruction program with the goal of constructing new roads and schools.


On October 26, 1871, President Roye was deposed.


According to some accounts, Roye escaped from prison but drowned while attempting to board a British ship. According to reports, the canoe in which Roye attempted to flee capsized. No one knows exactly what happened, and not even the day he died is known with certainty. The succession of Roye is also shrouded in mystery.



Written by How Africa News

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