Brian Shellum

African American Officers in Liberia: A Pestiferous Rotation, 1910-1942

This book tells the story of seventeen African American officers who trained, reorganized, and commanded the Liberian Frontier Force from 1910 to 1942. In this West African country founded by freed black American slaves, African American officers performed their duties as instruments of imperialism for a country that was, at best, ambivalent about having them serve under arms at home and abroad. The United States extended its newfound imperial reach and policy of “Dollar Diplomacy” in 1912 to Liberia, a country it considered a U.S. protectorate. The book explores U.S. foreign policy toward Liberia and the African American diaspora, while detailing the African American military experience in the first half of the twentieth century. It brings to life the story of the African American officers who carried out a dangerous mission in Liberia for an American government that did not treat them as equal citizens in their homeland, and provides recognition for the critical role they played in preserving the independence of Liberia.

Brian Shellum

Brian Shellum is an author and historian who writes about African American and military history. He retired in 2015 as a senior intelligence officer with the Department of Defense in the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, holds a graduate degree from Campbell University, and studied at the University of Bonn.  His military decorations include of the Bronze Star Medal and the Order of St. George. In addition to a number of classified and unclassified government publications at DIA, Brian Shellum authored two books published by the University of Nebraska Press. Learn more here.

Other Books by this Author

An unheralded military hero, Charles Young (1864–1922) was the third black graduate of West Point, the first African American national park superintendent, the first black U.S. military attaché, the first African American officer to command a Regular Army regiment, and the highest-ranking black officer in the Regular Army until his death. Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment tells the story of the man who—willingly or not—served as a standard-bearer for his race in the officer corps for nearly thirty years, and who, if not for racial prejudice, would have become the first African American general.

Brian G. Shellum describes how, during his remarkable army career, Young was shuffled among the few assignments deemed suitable for a black officer in a white man’s army—the Buffalo Soldier regiments, an African American college, and diplomatic posts in black republics such as Liberia. Nonetheless, he used his experience to establish himself as an exceptional cavalry officer. He was a colonel on the eve of the United States’ entry into World War I, when serious medical problems and racial intolerance denied him command and ended his career. Shellum’s book seeks to restore a hero to the ranks of military history; at the same time, it informs our understanding of the role of race in the history of the American military.


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