Bai T. Moore

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Bai T. Moore
Born October 12, 1916
Dimeh, Liberia
Died January 10, 1988
Monrovia, Liberia
Occupation Civil servant (Tourism and Cultural Affairs)
Nationality Liberian
Period Active from 1947 to his death in 1988
Genre Liberian folklore, crime, literary fiction

Bai Tamia Johnson Moore (12 October 1916 – 10 January 1988), commonly known by his pen-name, Bai T. Moore, was a Liberian poet, novelist, folklorist and essayist. He also held various cultural, educational and tourism posts both for the Liberian government and for UNESCO, and was the founder of Liberia's National Cultural Center. He is best known for his novella Murder in the Cassava Patch (1968), the tale of a crime passionel in a traditional Liberian setting.


Moore was born in Dimeh, a traditional Gola village on the Monrovia-Tubmanburg highway. He trained overseas as an agriculturist at Virginia Union University before returning to Liberia in 1941 to take up a post in the civil service.

After co-editing, alongside Roland T. Dempster and T. H. Carey, the Liberian poetry collection, Echoes from the Valley: Being Odes and Other Poems (1947), he was seconded to work for UNESCO on its Liberia desk. In 1957, he headed the government's Fundamental Education project designed to bring education and information to rural Liberia.,[1] when President William Tubman appointed him Under-Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs.

In 1962, Moore was one of a team of Vai scholars who took part in a conference at the University of Liberia to standardise the Vai script for modern usage.[2]

The publication of Murder in the Cassava Patch secured Moore's reputation as Liberia's best-known writer, and its popularity ensured that he was able to maintain his public position through some of the most turbulent years of Liberia's history. Under the government of President Samuel Doe, Moore was appointed Minister for Cultural Affairs and Tourism, a position that he held at the time of his sudden death at the age of seventy-one.

After a state funeral at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, attended by cultural troupes from the Dey, Gola, Vai, Kpelle, Gbandi, and Gio tribes, Bai T. Moore was finally laid to rest in his native Dimeh. Wilton Sankawulo wrote: " The best tribute we can pay to the memory of Bai Tee is making our culture part of our daily life, for culturally we are dressed in borrowed robes. Unless we replace these alien garments with ones of our own making, we will continue failing in all our attempts to build a society that can meet our needs and aspirations." [3]


Moore's earliest published poems appeared as part of the anthology Echoes from the Valley (1947). Ebony Dust (1962, reprinted 2001), a collection of Moore's poetry, was followed in 1968 by Murder in the Cassava Patch (1968), which has been called "a Liberian literary classic".[4] This short novel - which deals with the murder of a young Liberian girl by her jealous lover - has been part of Liberian school curricula every year since its publication. It deals unromantically with traditional Liberian life - there are references to human sacrifice and to indigenous slavery - and the meretricious attractions of the modern world, where freedom for young people seems to involve a more conspicuous consumption of palm wine and cane juice, and a yearning for material possessions over loyalty and love.

It was followed by The Money Doubler (1976), about a trickster who convinces people to part with their cash on the promise that he will be able to use "African science" to double it. Like its predecessor, The Money Doubler presents a picture of Liberian life that is realistic, but by no means idealised; and it makes a more sustained effort to represent an accurate version of Liberian English in all the dialogue throughout the novel.[5]

Moore contributed one of the Four Stories by Liberian Writers, edited by Sankawulo in 1980, and together with Jangaba Johnson he compiled a collection of Liberian folk tales entitled Chips from the African Story Tree.


  1. ^ Article by Tarty Teh on information and misinformation in Liberia
  2. ^ Proposal to add the Vai Script to the BMP of the UCS: Michael Everson, Charles Riley and José Rivera. See (BMP and UCS)
  3. ^ Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings
  4. ^ Book Reviews
  5. ^ Essay (translated into French) on The Liberian government and creative fiction by John Victor Singler, originally from Research in African literatures 2 (4), 1980.

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