Joseph Jenkins Roberts, first president of Liberia, was born free in Norfolk. After moving to Petersburg, he worked in a barbershop at Wythe and Sycamore Streets and gained an education by reading extensively. In 1829 Roberts and his family sailed for Liberia, a settlement of the American Colonization Society. There he became a prosperous merchant. Elected president when Liberia won independence, he served from 1848 to 1856 and again from 1872 to 1876. He made several diplomatic visits to the U.S. A founder of Liberia College (now the University of Liberia), which opened in 1863, Roberts was its president until 1876.
Original Sponsor: Department of Historic Resources
Geographic Location: Petersburg
Physical Description of Location: Proposed Location: Near the intersection of Wythe and Sycamore Streets
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