Kru People: The Africans Who Vigilantly Refused to Be Captured into Slavery
Kru, also spelled “Kroo,” refers to the West African ethnic group who originated in eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but also the Ivorian and Nigerian coasts.
The Kru were famous for their skills in navigating and sailing the Atlantic. Their maritime expertise evolved along the west coast of Africa as they made livings as fisherman and traders. Having more knowledge of the sea and more experience in navigation than their European counterparts, they were employed as sailors, navigators and interpreters aboard slave ships and on American and British warships that were used to combat the illegal slave trade.
These people are indigenous to Liberia and the Ivory Coast. Kru were most known for seafaring and their strong resistance to capture by European enslavers in the Transatlantic slave trade. They would fight vehemently and even take their own lives before surrendering to enslavement. Because of their tenacity, they were labeled as difficult and less valuable in the slave trade.
Apart from their strength in resistance, the Kru were known for their ability to effortlessly navigate the seas. Their skills in both canoeing and surfing the strong ocean currents brought upon much recognition which later afforded them work onBritish merchant and warships in the 1700s. Currently the Kru account for 7% of the Liberian population
These people were more valuable as traders and sailors on slave ships than as slave labor. To ensure their status as “freemen,” they initiated the practice of tattooing their foreheads and the bridge of their nose with indigo dye to distinguish them from slave labor.
Their history is one marked by a strong sense of ethnicity and resistance to occupation. In 1856 when part of Liberia was still known as the independent Republic of Maryland, the Kru along with the Grebo resisted Maryland settlers’ efforts to control their trade. They were also infamous amongst early European slave raiders as being especially averse to capture.
The Kru are one of the many ethnic groups in Liberia, comprising 7% of the population. It is also one of the main languages spoken. They are one of the three main indigenous group players in Liberia’s socio-political activities along with the Krahn and Mano people.Notable ethnic Krus include former soccer star George Weah is of mixed Kru, Gbee, Mano, and Bassa, and Christian Evangelist Samuel Morris who was originally known as Kaboo. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is of mixed Kru, Gola, and German ancestry. Mary Broh, the current mayor of Monrovia, is of mixed Kru and Bassa ancestry.