Historic market unveiled honoring city’s connection with Liberia

Last weekend a historic marker commemorating the immigration of African Americans from Salem to Liberia was unveiled at the corner of Liberia and Free Streets in the Happy Hill community.

Historic market unveiled honoring city’s connection with Liberia
September 26
00:40 2019

Dozens of people gathered at the corner of Liberia and Free streets last weekend to witness the unveiling of a historic marker commemorating the immigration of African Americans from Salem (now known as Winston-Salem) to Liberia.

As part of a movement to relocate former enslaved and free African Americans to the continent of Africa, in 1836 23 African Americans were relocated from Salem to Millsberg, Liberia. Seventeen of the slaves who were relocated were previously owned by Friedrich Schumann, who owned the Schumann Plantation in the southern portion of Salem. After the Civil War, a neighborhood for free African Americans was established on the plantation.

The neighborhood, which was originally known as Liberia, would later become known as Happy Hill.

Before the marker unveiling on Saturday, Sept. 21, local elected officials, representatives of the Liberian government, and the Liberian Organization of the Piedmont spoke about the importance of the historic day and the connection between Salem and Liberia. While addressing the crowd on Saturday morning, Mayor Allen Joines said it is important that we recognize the rich history of our city and those who helped make it what it is today.

“We unveil a lot of plaques in our city, but this is the best one I’ve been to,” Joines continued. “It is important that we as a city government continue to work to recognize and memorialize the history. Today, we unveil this marker so we will be able to continually show people who are descendants and others what happened in this area.”

Councilmember Annette Scippio, who represents the East Ward where the marker stands, said the Happy Hill neighborhood was sacred ground that carries the history and heritage of African Americans who were brought to this country on slave ships.

“Four hundred years ago, our ancestors were stolen and brought to this nation. They suffered horrible atrocities but this ground, like other grounds where we live, is sacred and it’s filled with their spirit of freedom,” Scippio said. “It was that freedom spirit that made it possible for us to be here today. If they didn’t have it, we would have never been born because they would’ve given up. And now, in the 21st century, feel the spirit of freedom that is on this space and it is bringing forth hope, possibilities and once again a spirit of freedom.

“The spirit of not to be poor anymore, not to be ignorant anymore, not to be isolated anymore, not to say I can’t do anymore. That’s the spirit that’s still on this ground and we must be reminded of who we came from and how they struggled and endured.”

The Honorable Lawrence Morris, delegate from the Republic of Liberia, said he was excited to be on hand for the marker unveiling. He said, “I’m very pleased to be here today and we want to say thank you for doing this for all the generations to come.

“This is something that we cannot sit back and just let history pass. The fact that we can commemorate this time and remember and pass on to other generations speaks volumes.”

The marker honoring the African Americans who were relocated to Liberia is located at the corner of Liberia and Free Streets. The marker reads, “In October 1836, 18 formerly enslaved and five free African Americans left Salem for Millsberg, Liberia. Seventeen of these emigrants had been owned by Friedrich Schumann, laboring on his plantation here on the high ground south of Salem. In 1872, after the Civil War and Emancipation, the Salem Congregation established a neighborhood for freedmen on Schumann’s former plantation. The neighborhood initially was known as Liberia, recalling those who had emigrated. By 1876, it was popularly known as Happy Hill. Today’s Liberia Street in Happy Hill follows the path of an 18th-century farm road on that plantation.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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