On Friday, April 30, 2021, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy joined Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism Ledgerhood Rennie, National Traditional Council Chief Zanzan Karwor, and Deputy Minister for Legal Affairs Deweh Gray at Providence Island to announce a U.S.-Liberian collaborative initiative on preservation of the historic venue and development of recommendations for its reuse. Also in attendance were Minister of Justice Frank Musah Dean, Mayor of Monrovia Jefferson Koijee, and Stephen Battle, Program Director of the World Monuments Fund.
In 2020, the U.S. Department of State awarded the World Monuments Fund (WMF) a nearly $100,000 grant from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), overseen by the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, to conduct a study on preservation and reuse of Providence Island. WMF selected University of Virginia professor Allison James to lead the study project and to consult with wide-ranging Liberian stakeholders. Professor James is collaborating closely with Dr. William B. Allen, professor of history at the University of Liberia and scholar of Liberian history.
Providence Island, where indigenous tribes lived for centuries prior to the arrival of formerly enslaved American settlers in 1821, is essential to telling the story of Liberia, its peoples, and nationhood. It is also a symbol of the enduring relationship and people-to-people ties between the United States and Liberia. And today, Providence Island is an important green space in central Monrovia and a potential tourist attraction.
Professor James, with the support of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism (MICAT), first visited Liberia in November 2020. She met with government ministers, the National Traditional Council of Liberia, youth leaders, members of the communities surrounding Providence Island, and other stakeholders. She is currently teaching a class that partners University of Virginia students with University of Liberia students to conduct research projects that will inform the historical information in the final study.
Today, the Government of Liberia, represented by Deputy Minister Gray, and the Government of the United States, represented by Ambassador McCarthy, signed a joint statement to announce their support for the plan to preserve and reuse Providence Island. In addition, MICAT, represented by Minister Rennie and attested to by Minister of Justice Dean, and the World Monuments Fund, represented by Project Lead Stephen Battle, signed a memorandum of understanding, which states their mutual desire to develop and reinforce their cooperation in conserving the cultural landscape of Providence Island.
Speaking to the prestigious group gathered to celebrate this occasion, Ambassador McCarthy expressed his excitement, “Providence Island continues to be a meeting place, a place of exchange, a place of nature, a place of multiculturalism. It is truly historic ground. And it is and will always be powerful symbol of the enduring U.S.-Liberia relationship.”