On Tolson’s “Libretto for the Republic of Liberia”

Towards the end of the poem, Tolson starts to write of Le Premier des Noirs of Pan-African Airways. Contrasting with the beginning of the poem, this section begins to illustrate not the history of Africa, but where the people of Africa are heading, and more specifically Liberia . The plane “whirs beyong the copper cordilleran climaxes of glass skyscrapers on pavonine Cape Mesurado.”. He is calling for us to not look at Africa as it has been historically by the European, but for what it is and what it will be. Snead also mentions that Hegel mentions that the African people are “there” and the European people are “headed there”. Africa is already wonderful in its own right without a report card from Europe that grades Africa as uncivilized because the values differ.


The beginning was difficult for me and I really didn’t understand what was being said until I did some research. The first section, “Do”, is where Tolson lays out what is thought of Africa by those in Europe. Tolson mentions the unofficial name that Africa had at the time, the Dark Continent, and then recalls Neitzsche’s Zarathustra by calling Liberia “The rope across the abyss”. I believe this is Tolson’s way of calling out the European thought at the time that Liberia would be the gateway to creating Africa in Europe’s image.

4 Replies to “On Tolson’s “Libretto for the Republic of Liberia””

  1. Tolson’s lines that depicted a more modern Africa reminded me of our class discussion on the first day about the picture of the city street in Wakanda. Tradition was certainly present, but so was innovation, as it seems Tolson is trying to communicate about Africa in the poem.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.