Charles D. B. King

Charles D. B. King
14th President of Liberia
In office
5 January 1920  3 December 1930
Vice President Samuel Alfred Ross (1920-1924)
Henry Too Wesley (1924-1928)
Allen Yancy (1928-1930)
Preceded by Daniel E. Howard
Succeeded by Edwin Barclay
Personal details
Born (1875-03-12)12 March 1875
Monrovia, Liberia
Died 4 September 1961(1961-09-04) (aged 86)
Monrovia, Liberia
Political party True Whig

Charles Dunbar Burgess King (12 March 1875 – 4 September 1961) was a politician in Liberia of Americo-Liberian and Freetown Creole descent (his mother was an Americo-Liberian). He was a member of the True Whig Party, which ruled the country from 1878 until 1980. He served as the 14th President of Liberia from 1920 until 1930.

King was Attorney General from 1904 until 1912, and Secretary of State of Liberia from 1912 until he was elected president in 1919. In this capacity he attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and the accompanying First Pan-African Congress. Though a moderate supporter of reform, he continued to support the patronage machine and dominance of the True Whig party. In 1927 he won the presidential election with several times more votes than there were electors. A forced labor scandal forced his resignation in 1930.

Presidency (1920-1930)

Charles D. B. King became Liberia's President in 1920 and served for 10 years. Though a moderate supporter of reform, he continued to support the patronage machine and dominance of the True Whig party. As president he helped establish the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Kakata in 1929.[1]

Negotiation of a loan from the United States

By the early 1920s, Liberia's financial crisis had worsened to the point where President King headed up a commission which traveled to the United States to seek reorganization of its staggering debt burden. They arrived in March 1921, shortly after President Harding had taken office. The United States Congress had suspended all foreign credit and extension of foreign loans, even though the State Department was sympathetic to the request from the Liberian delegation. Negotiations dragged on until October before the State Department finally granted Liberia a loan for five million dollars.

The U.S. government under President Harding proposed anew (after an attempt made during World War I from Liberian President Howard to get a loan from the previous Woodrow Wilson Administration) to Congress a $5 million loan to Liberia. The House gave its approval but the Senate refused, creating great disappointment and a sense of desperation among Liberian officials, who worried that British and French designs on their country might now prove unstoppable. Liberia had become a charter member of the League of Nations in 1919, and Monrovia was determined to safeguard its sovereignty.

Firestone Rubber Company

Firestone Rubber Company began exporting rubber from Liberia in 1934, having obtained a concession to lease land in 1926. The Liberian economy soon came to depend on it. Through subsidiary Finance Corporation of America, Firestone also boosted the Liberian economy with a $5 million loan that permitted the government to consolidate and bond debts and fund public improvements.

Presidential election of 1927

Charles D. B. King, 17th President of Liberia (1920-1930), with his entourage on the steps of the Peace Palace, The Hague (The Netherlands), 1927.

King was stiffly challenged in the presidential election of 1927 by Thomas J.R. Faulkner. According to an official statement, King received 234,000 votes;[2] however, Liberia had 15,000 registered voters at the time. Thus won King the dubious achievement of being listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the most fraudulent election reported in history.[3]

Forced labor scandal

After losing the 1927 presidential election to King, Thomas Faulkner accused many members of the True Whig Party government of recruiting and selling contract labor as slaves. Despite Liberia's firm denials and a refusal to cooperate, the League of Nations established a commission under the leadership of British zoologist Cuthbert Christy to determine the extent of forced labor and slavery still practiced by Liberia. U.S. President Herbert Hoover briefly suspended relations to press Monrovia into compliance.

In 1930 the League of Nations published the committee's report, dubbed the ‘Christy Report’ after the Committee's chairman. The report supported many of Faulkner's allegations, and implicated many government officials, including vice president Allen Yancy. It was found that forced labor was used for construction of certain public works such as roads in the interior. And certain tribes did practice domestic servitude that could be considered as slavery.

The report found:

  1. "In order to suppress the native, prevent him from realizing his powers and limitations and prevent him from asserting himself in any way whatever, for the benefit of the dominant and colonizing race, although originally the same African stock as themselves, a policy of gross intimidation and suppression has for years been systematically fostered and encouraged, and is the key word of the Government native policy;" and
  2. that, "...Vice President Yancy [of Liberia] and other high officials of the Liberian Government, as well as county superintendents and district commissioners, have given their sanction for compulsory recruitment of labor for road construction, for shipment abroad and other work, by the aid and assistance of the Liberian Frontier Force; and have condoned the utilization of this force for purposes of physical compulsion on road construction for the intimidation of villagers, for the humiliation and degradation of chiefs, of captured natives to the coast, there guarding them till the time of shipment [to Fernando Po and Sao Tome.]"[4]

Subsequently King and Vice-President Yancy, along with other implicated leaders, resigned.

See also


  1. Weiner, Tim (September 1, 2003). "Kakata Journal; An Army of Educators Saves a Liberian College". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  2. Blundell, Nigel (1995). The World's Greatest Mistakes. New York: Bounty Books. p. 135. ISBN 0-600-57232-3.
  3. Guinness Book of World Records 1982. 1981. ISBN 0-8069-0225-6.
  4. Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into The Existence of Slavery and Forced Labor in the Republic of Liberia. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1931.
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Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel E. Howard
President of Liberia
Succeeded by
Edwin Barclay
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