A Durable Memento

Alfred Francis Russellspacer Alfred Francis Russell (1817-1884)

At the age of fifteen, Alfred Russell was emancipated along with his mother and four siblings and sent to Liberia from Kentucky. By 1837, Russell was engaged in missionary work for the Methodist church, and for the next seventeen years he served in various posts throughout Liberia. His primary residence, however, remained in Montserrado County, where he developed an extensive farm along the St. Paul River. An early advocate for coffee cultivation in Liberia, Russell had upwards of 8,000 coffee trees on his property in 1852, and later became a major sugarcane grower as well. He represented Montserrado County in the Senate throughout the 1850s and served intermittently in that body over the next two decades. He remained active as a clergyman, but changed his affiliation to that of the Protestant Episcopal church.

In the 1881 presidential contest, Anthony W. Gardner won election to a third term as Liberia's President, while Russell secured the vice presidency. When failing health forced Gardner to resign in January 1883, Russell succeeded him. Blamed along with his predecessor for the loss of Liberian territory to Britain, Russell failed to receive his party's nomination for President in the election of 1883. He died only a few months after leaving office.

Russell is posed as though seated at his Senate desk. With his close-trimmed beard and wavy hair, he looks much as he does in the Liberian Senate watercolor.

Attributed toAugustus Washington
Sixth-plate daguerreotype, circa 1857
Image courtesy Prints and Photographs Division
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Click here to view the Liberian Senate watercolor.


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