Tubman, William Vacanarat Shadrach

Tubman, William Vacanarat Shadrach,

1895–1971, president of Liberia (1944–71). As a young man he was a lawyer, a collector of internal revenue, a teacher, and an officer of the Liberian militia. He was elected to the senate in 1923 but resigned in 1931 after a League of Nations investigation found Liberia (governed by Tubman's party) guilty of selling its people into slavery. He was reelected to the senate in 1934, but he resigned again in 1937 to become an associate justice of the Liberian supreme court. He was elected president in 1943 and took office in 1944. He was reelected several times, with the help of constitutional amendments, serving until his death. Tubman greatly modernized the economy of his country and its educational facilities and gave the vote to women and other ethnic groups. He and high officials of freed-slave descent, however, were often criticized for living in luxury while the vast majority was poor. Other African leaders accused Tubman of being too much under the influence of the United States.


See biography by R. A. Smith (1967); E. R. Townsend, ed., President Tubman of Liberia Speaks (1959); D. E. Dunn, The Foreign Policy of Liberia during the Tubman Era, 1944–1971 (1979).

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Tubman, William Vacanarat Shadrach


Born Nov. 29, 1895, in Harper; died July 23, 1971, in London. Liberian statesman and political figure. Descendant of emancipated American slaves.

Tubman, a lawyer, was president of Liberia and head of the government from 1944 to 1971. He was also the national leader of the True Whig Party, founded in 1869. In 1944 he inaugurated a policy of national unification, which was aimed at integrating the indigenous population of the country with the descendants of immigrants from the USA and at including the tribal peoples in the political and economic life of the country. Tubman advocated an open-door economic policy, encouraging the investment of foreign capital in Liberia.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.