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Who Was John Hanson, Liberian Senator ERRONEOUSLY CLAIMED as the First Black President of the United States

Who Was John Hanson Liberian Senator ERRONEOUSLY CLAIMED as the First Black President of the United States
John Hanson


John Hanson was a Liberian senator during the mid-nineteenth century who has been incorrectly identified as the United States’ first Black president. Little is known about Hanson’s childhood. Around 1791, he was born into slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. Some historians believe Hanson bought his freedom, although the manner and year are unknown.


The American Colonization Society (ACS) was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1816 with the goal of transporting former slaves to a colony in West Africa. The ACS established that colony in 1822. That year, two Society members purchased property for the colony in Cape Mesurado on Africa’s west coast. In 1824, the new colony was named Liberia, and the first Black Liberians named the city they created, Monrovia, after then-US President James Monroe.

Hanson immigrated to Liberia in 1827 via the Society and immediately became a part of the freed slaves’ commerce and political elite. The ACS, which ruled the colony until its independence in 1847, established the Commonwealth of Liberia in 1839 and nominated Thomas Buchanan as its first governor. In December 1840, Hanson was elected to the newly formed Colonial Council as a senator from Grand Bassa County.

John Hanson died at the age of 69 in Liberia in 1860. After his death, Stephen Allen Benson, then president of Liberia, praised Hanson as a faithful, loyal, and patriotic servant of the nascent nation, which was just the world’s second Western-style republic (after Haiti) at the time.

False information about Hanson becoming the first Black president of the United States circulated long before the internet. However, modern media spreads knowledge much further and more faster than ever before. Hanson was frequently confused with a white politician of the same name who was erroneously claimed to be America’s first president. Under the Articles of Confederation before the United States, this other individual was named president of Congress in 1781.

The position of President of the United States was established by the Constitution. Some have incorrectly claimed that he, not George Washington, was the first president because of his position as President of the Congress.

To add to the confusion, Hanson was mistaken for the dark-skinned figure on the reverse of the $2 bill. The artwork on the $2 bill depicts painter John Turnbull penning The Declaration of Independence. The portrait attributed to Hanson is really Robert Morris, one of the Declaration’s initial signers. Morris’ image is dark on the bill due to the printing method utilized at the time.


Written by How Africa News

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