In the mid-1800’s, West Africa’s Kru tribe was known among slave traders and colonialists for their resistance to capture and enslavement. They were also invaluable to merchants who visited the region because of their knowledge of the rough coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Kru settled in the region now known as Liberia and the Ivory Coast and in some portions of Sierra Leone, most notably Freetown. Evidence of Kru tribesmen on the west coast of Nigeria and in Cameroon has also been reported. In the 1700’s, the Kru were vital cogs in the trade between Europe and other nations as they skillfully navigated small ships in the choppy coastal waters.
The Kru were infamous for fighting for their freedom, reducing their value to slave traders who found them too difficult to tame for slavery. If captured, the Kru would simply kill themselves, rather than become property. In battle, they were fierce even if their weapons were inferior to those of the invaders and often vanquished foes on sheer grit alone.
In 1856, the Kru clashed with The Republic of Maryland, Liberia’s former name. The Grebo people, a subgroup within the Kru ethnic group, assisted in the resistance and their victory over the Maryland settlers became the stuff of legend.
Today, the Kru largely exist in the same areas as they did then, employing tribal hierarchy systems independent of one another. One of the most well-known Kru descendants is Ivorian soccer star Didier Drogba, the all-time top scorer for the Ivory Coast national team and a feared striker for his former team, Chelsea. Drogba helped his nation’s team qualify for its debut appearance in the 2006 World Cup event.
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