Shellum '76 Positive Book Review in the NYT

Nov 30, 2018

Shellum '76 Positive Book Review in the NYTBrian G. Shellum received a positive review by Tom Ricks in the New York Times of his book African American Officers in Liberia: A Pestiferous Rotation, 1910-1942.

"I’ve been a student of the American military for nearly three decades, but until I picked up African American Officers in Liberia: A Pestiferous Rotation, 1910-1942, I didn’t know that for several decades in the early 20th century, the United States Army had a training, advising and leading mission in Liberia. What’s more, most of the officers who carried out the mission were black Americans. Brian G. Shellum, a retired Army tank and intelligence officer, does a workmanlike job of relating this neglected tale."

"The American effort in Liberia had a dual purpose: to fend off encroaching colonial powers, but also to help the 15,000 former American slaves who colonized Liberia to subjugate the approximately 730,000 indigenous people who resented the newcomers. One of the most effective American advisers was Col. Charles Young, who was born a slave in Kentucky in 1864, fought for the Army in the Philippines, was briefly acting superintendent of Sequoia National Park, was active in the N.A.A.C.P. and wound up serving repeated tours in Africa."

"The book is instructive in the multiple hazards and difficulties of foreign training missions. Liberian government officials wanted to have a military force, but feared having one that was too effective. In a terrible irony, at one point they shunted aside the American advisers and used their own troops to round up indigenous people, who then were shipped to forced labor camps elsewhere in West Africa."

African American Officers in Liberia tells the story of seventeen African American officers who trained, reorganized, and commanded the Liberian Frontier Force from 1910 to 1942. In this West African country founded by freed black American slaves, African American officers performed their duties as instruments of imperialism for a country that was, at best, ambivalent about having them serve under arms at home and abroad.


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