Kru people

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Kru Woman 2.jpg
Kru woman, 1906
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf February 2015.jpg
Mary Broh in Monrovia (2009).jpg
Regions with significant populations
 Sierra Leone
 Ivory Coast
 Liberia 251,000
 Ivory Coast 14,000
 Sierra Leone 6,000
Kru, Liberian English, Sierra Leone English, Kriol, French, Ivorian French, Nouchi
Christianity, African traditional religions
Related ethnic groups
Bassa, Jabo, Krahn, Grebo

The name “Kru”, also spelled “Kroo,” refers to the West African ethnic group who originated in eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but also the Ivorian and Nigerian coasts.[1] The Kru were famous for their skills in navigating and sailing the Atlantic. Their maritime expertise evolved along the west coast of Africa as they made livings as fisherman and traders. Having more knowledge of the in-shore waters of the western coast of Africa and high level of nautical experience, they were employed as sailors, navigators and interpreters aboard slave ships and on American and British warships that were used to combat the illegal slave trade.[1]

Kru people were more valuable as traders and sailors on slave ships than as slave labor. To ensure their status as “freemen,” they initiated the practice of tattooing their foreheads and the bridge of their nose with indigo dye to distinguish them from slave labor.[1]

Their history is one marked by a strong sense of ethnicity and resistance to occupation. In 1856 when part of Liberia was still known as the independent Republic of Maryland, the Kru along with the Grebo resisted Maryland settlers' efforts to control their trade. They were also infamous amongst early European slave raiders as being especially averse to capture.

The Kru are one of the many ethnic groups in Liberia, comprising 7% of the population. It is also one of the main languages spoken. The Kru are one of the three main indigenous group players in Liberia's socio-political activities along with the Krahn and Mano people.

Notable ethnic Krus include former soccer star George Weah is of mixed Kru, Gbee, Mano, and Bassa, and Christian Evangelist Samuel Morris who was originally known as Kaboo.[2] Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is of mixed Kru, Gola, and German ancestry.[3][4] Mary Broh, the current mayor of Monrovia, is of mixed Kru and Bassa ancestry.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Juang, Richard M.; Morrissette, Noelle, eds. (2008). Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History: a multidisciplinary encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc. p. 674. ISBN 978-1-85109-446-2. 
  2. ^ "BBC News, Profile: George Weah". BBC News. 2005-11-11. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  3. ^ Kramer, Reed (2008-05-14). "Reed Kramer, "Liberia: Showered With Enthusiasm, Liberia's President-Elect Receives High-Level Reception in Washington",, 11 December 2005". Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  4. ^ "Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf". Retrieved 2012-12-23. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Baldwin, Lindley, Samuel Morris: Men of Faith Series, Bethany House Publishers, 1942;
  • Behrens, Christine Les Kroumen de la Côte Occidentale d'Afrique, Bordeaux: Centre d'Etudes de Géographie Tropicale, 1974;
  • Brooks, George, The Kru Mariner in the Nineteenth Century: A Historical Compendium, Newark,Del., 1972 (Liberian Studies Monograph Series no.1);
  • Davis, Ronald, Ethnohistorical Studies on the Kru Coast, Newark, Del., 1976 (Liberian Studies Monograph Series no.5);
  • Fraenkel, Merran, Tribe and Class in Monrovia, New York-London: OUP, 1964;
  • Mekeel, Scudder, "Social Administration of the Kru: A Preliminary Survey", Africa 10 (1937) 75-96; 11 (460-68);
  • Massing, Andreas W., The Economic Anthropology of the Kru, Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1980 (Studien zur Kulturkunde 55);
  • Massing, Andreas W., Kru, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History, vol.2, 306-309, New York, 2007;
  • Schwartz, Alfred, Peuplement Autochthone et Immigration dans le Sud-Ouest Ivoirien, Abidjan: ORSTOM, 1973;
  • Tauxier, Louis, Les Kroomen de la Forêt de Côte d'Ivoire, Paris: Larose, 1935;
  • Zetterström, Kjell, Ethnographic Survey of Southeastern Liberia: Preliminary Report on the Kru, Robertsport: Centre of African Culture, 1969