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At the end. The National Association of educational broadcasters presents America's African heritage recorded in Africa by Skip Westfall program five a Liberian rubber plantation. Here it is skip last fall. This is our second broadcast from the port of Monrovia in Liberia and at least one respect this West African port has been a pleasant surprise. According to the stories of members of our crew this city is overrun with pickpockets. Watch out especially for the children. They warn us have a pocket containing your wallet
can shut when you pull out your wallet to make a purchase. Be careful are these ragamuffins will snatch it right out of your hand. Well after almost three days in port none of the passengers on the ship have seen any indication that this situation exists. In fact we found the children to be friendly and courteous. If you meet a youngster at a street crossing usually he will pause and wait respectfully for you to pass. Now there are no doubt some instances of this honesty among street urchins as is true in any city in the world but certainly in Monrovia the situation has been grossly exaggerated. The only instance we've heard of theft aboard the ship was that someone got into the Captain's Quarters and stole a box of his best cigars. As far as these wild stories are concerned one wonders if some people don't allow a few isolated cases to work their judgement. At any rate we're happy to be able to report
that we have found the youngsters on the streets of Monrovia to be very much like the children in any American city. As far as honesty is concerned there are they they are different from American children in this respect of course. They have little or no money. But what else could you expect of boys and girls whose fathers work for a wage of seven cents an hour. Now that we have disposed of that little rumor we will do a little exploring of the countryside. We have heard that there is a rubber plantation a few miles outside the city limits. Perhaps we'll be able to commandeer a taxi for two or three dollars and get some information about where our rubber comes from. If we are successful we will be speaking to you next from a Liberian rubber plantation. Well we made it a drive of only six or seven miles has taken us to one of the most interesting sights I have ever seen. An African rubber plantation.
What a pleasant contrast this is to the uncomfortable hot docks in Monrovia. It's shady and quite cool out here among the state may rubber trade. What a beautiful sight it is to see them trees extending as far as the eye can see. Row upon row. I understand that there are over 13000 trees on this plantation on each of the trees about two feet from the ground is attached a small cup about the size of a teacup. Every few seconds a small white drop of latex drips from a tiny spout into the cup. The African gentleman in charge of the workers tells us that it takes from five to seven years after a tree is planted before it begins to yield the rubber. Then it goes on giving out the rubber SAP indefinitely. Perhaps for perhaps half an hour we've been watching the man as they walk along the rows of trees removing the little cup and pouring the white fluid into a bucket. We have our tape recorder
set up beside the road in the shade of one of the rubber trees. A group of about a dozen of the men had gathered about eyeing our tape recorder with a great deal of curiosity. They're barefooted and most of them are dressed in shirts and shorts. They're a friendly jovial group and evidently welcome the opportunity to sit in the shade for a few minutes and see what we're going to do with this strange looking contraption known as a tape recorder. Perhaps we can have order to when the foreman here. What is your name and what is your job actually what do you do. You are a checker. What does the checker do you need any penis you need. And how many trees does each man take care of. Three hundred feet. Now I noticed the boys are out here with a bucket picking up the latex from little cups it looks almost like milk doesn't it.
What do the boys do besides gathering the latex when they gather that as he got to the factory. Yes and what else do they have to do in a plantation besides gathering combat and then do it. They cut the leads with the size and then besides gathering the latex they have something else to do too don't think you know don't they scrape the tree only they did it what do they use a knife of some limited type of guy to do it for you treat every day and every day it has to be scraped. And you say each man takes care of 300 trees. Supposing he gets a bit careless they don't never get lazy do they where he would and then you do have a dagger have these things get a little careless and only do half a job then when you know Dave did have money you Carla crossing them and once they once they've taken care of all of their trees they go all the way will be good again. Well you know what what is this. What is this.
Latex is a rubber used for goes to America doesn't have merit. What is it used for. Bill good issues. Room Blue Raincoat. And SS Oh yes well it's a you've got a very important job to do haven't you. Providing raincoat rubbers and automobile tires for all the people in America do you like your job you know you guys would do it. You speak pretty good English what language do you speak the sizing the whole I speak at many Bit three languages involved. How do you say good luck in by. Well bene bene Alright so I will say to you Mr sanitation. Well you know I was about it about how about YOU not me. You may have found our friend a little difficult to understand but I'm sure you heard him
say that each of the men is responsible for three hundred trees. His job is to tap the tree to keep the sap running together the liquid rubber from the small cups and keep the weeds cut between the rows of the trees for which he is responsible. These boys are about ready to get back to their jobs now but before they go they've agreed to do a song for. All right boys we're ready right now than I did when I was I don't know. Yeah yeah you know I don't know if you. Go only going to go by yourself.
Why do you feel I didn't know that tinkling sound you heard was caused by one of the men tapping a porcelain cup with a knife. After that interesting little concert the boys are ready to get back to work in a few moments we'll drive back to the plantation settlement where most of the workers live to observe the methods which are used in the treating of the latex. First however I think it might be interesting to give a little more detail description of how these rubber trees are tapped. When the tree reaches the age of seven years and is ready to yield a liquid rubber to a deep gash or groove is made in the bark about three feet above the
ground. This gruesome lands gently downward. The SAP follows the groove and drips from the spout into the tiny cup. Each morning with a kind of hook knife the worker scrapes the lower part of the groove to keep the sap running. The groove does not get deeper into the tree. It's only a fraction of an inch deep but it slowly grows wider from the scraping of the tapping knife. The groove of the trees we see here is about about a foot in width. The reason for scraping the bark in the morning is that the heat of the day. Congi it was a sap and stops it from running. Then each morning the bark must be scraped again to start the sap flowing. At 4:30 in the morning a huge gong is sounded to Call the laborers to work. By 10:30 in the morning the sap is all gathered and it is dripping so slowly that the trees require no more attention until the following day. So all
of the workday ends about ten thirty in the morning. Although the laborers receive only forty cents a day compared to the fifty six cent a day wage of the dock workers they feel that their pay is sufficient as the work is much easier than the back breaking job of the longshoreman who most toil under the hot sun from morning until night. Now in a few moments we'll continue our story up at the settlement. Now we're standing before a little shack at the edge of the clearing where the workers live. This building could be compared to the old type of milk room when an Iowa farm. Except that the sides are open in the shed is a tank about 10 feet long three feet wide and about two feet deep into which the liquid rubber is poured. If this had been our first stop on this plantation drip we would have thought that the men had just finished milking the cars and that they were pouring milk into the tank.
As we have previously explained the white liquid rubber looks very much like milk. After the latex has been poured into the tank the foreman tells us that the next operation is to mix it with medicine as he calls it. This medicine he explains consists of acid and White Sulphur. After the sap is properly mixed it congeals into a kind of spongy mass. Then it is cut into slabs and is ready for shipment. The latex can be shipped in liquid form if it is mixed with ammonia. The chief engineer on our ship tells us that the African patriot is equipped with four tanks with a capacity of eighteen hundred long tons of latex. These tanks are approximately 60 feet long 30 feet wide and about 20 feet deep. These are the tanks that are used to ship the rubber to the USA in liquid form.
Some of the boys have completed their work for the day and seem to be now in a rather gay mood in the shade of a little veranda in front of one of the thatched huts nearby. We hear two boys drumming on the bottoms of two tin buckets. You would think from the sound of it that they were playing real drums but they're just ordinary buckets. Why wouldn't it be a good idea to conclude our recording here at the rubber plantation by listening to the song These boys are singing at the conclusion of their day's work. This has been program five of America's African heritage. These
programs feature recordings made by world traveler skip Westfall on a recent trip to Africa. The series is made possible by a grant in aid to radio station WOIO Iowa State College by the Educational Television and Radio Center. The production is under the direction of Norman be clarity. This is Reagan speaking for the National Association of educational broadcasters.
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America's African heritage
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Race and Ethnicity
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 4908 (University of Maryland)
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Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “America's African heritage; 5,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “America's African heritage; 5.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: America's African heritage; 5. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from