N.P. N.P., [circa 1922]. 7” x 4¾”. Stapled wrappers. Pp. 31 + author frontis. Very good: front wrapper with strip of moderate wear near spine; title page lightly creased; a few lines printed lightly; owner signature to front wrap.
This is a fascinating memoir written by an enterprising African man, A. Folumbo I. DeWalt, in an attempt to earn funds for his education in the United States as well as to take care of his ailing mother in Liberia. It details his African upbringing, his acceptance into Howard's School of Dentistry and his aim of returning to Liberia to work as a dentist and missionary.
Most of what we learned about the author came from this small book. DeWalt was born in the village of Bensonville near Monrovia, Liberia, the youngest of seven children. The text covered DeWalt's childhood, working his way through mission schools by farming and fishing, and shared a wealth of information about life in Liberia, including native foods and methods of hunting. As he got older, DeWalt became infatuated with the idea of the United States, and ultimately was presented with an opportunity, if not a ticket, as he stowed away on a ship to get there. Upon his arrival, he was awed by automobiles and other excitements of America. With the help of the Liberian consul, he found work at a sanitarium in Connecticut, where “I had my first experience with the American bed bugs, a creature that is unknown to us in Liberia.” He then attended Claflin University in South Carolina, where he found himself to be “the center of attraction”:
“Students on their way to class forgot that they had lessons to recite and rushed across the campus to see the 'new African' who had just arrived. All of them took good pains to see to it that they did not get 'too near' me, but this did not bother me at all. My only desire was that of getting an education.”
DeWalt shared his struggles to make ends meet, the tragic loss of every one of his siblings and his mother's illness. He longed to return home and began writing articles about his life, “published in several of the leading religious organs of the country,” which helped him get financial assistance for a return trip. In 1921 he returned and detailed his emotional reunion with his mother and his destitute community:
“As I viewed these conditions from town to town and village along the way, looked at the young boys and girls in teaming [sic] masses who were so eager to render service but did not have a chance, I thought of the wonderful opportunities in the United States that are being wasted by the young people who do not appreciate it.”
DeWalt decided to return to America and made arrangements to enter into Howard's dental program in the fall of 1922. The book acknowledged that he was working his way through school “and at the same time trying to send a little help to my mother, earnestly hoping that this little pamphlet will meet with ready sale, thereby enabling me to go on with my plans.”
DeWalt went on to earn his degree from Howard's College of Dentistry in June 1926. By October of that year, contemporary newspaper accounts identified him as a “surgeon dentist,” “native African missionary” and guest speaker at African Methodist churches in New York and Pennsylvania: “This man, who was born in Monrovia, Liberia, came to America and just completed a four-year course in dentistry and special work in medicine. He now plans to return to his home and devote his life in service to his people.”
A rare firsthand account of an African man's efforts in the United States to receive an education, serve his family and his nation. While the title page lists four other titles by DeWalt, this is the only one found in OCLC, which shows five holdings. Very good. Item #7208