The Harvard African Expedition meets Chief Suah Koko
Chief Suah Koko controlled a territorial region that served as a critical access point into the interior of Liberia. Without her permission and without her generosity, the Harvard expedition could not have traveled further to Gbanga and beyond.
Upon entering Suah Koko, Dr. Richard Strong writes “This town is presided over by Suah Coco, a woman, and it bears her name, she being the chief of it, as is the case of many of the other interior towns” noting that “she sent me by her grandson a good-siz´d chicken and some native rice” and “promised me porters for tomorrow. She told me frankly she could not get them today, as she has to collect them from surrounding villages, which are far away. She has sent me a squash for our dinner.” (Richard Pearson Strong, Richard Pearson Strong Diary: September 1, 1926 Part II)
While the Harvard African Expedition had repeated problems throughout their journey in Liberia securing the help of porters, Chief Suah Koko was instrumental in securing porters for the party. “Suah Coco kept her word and we had plenty of porters to start off with at seven-thirty A. M.” notes Dr. Richard Strong on September 4th on his way to Gbanga, Liberia. (Richard Pearson Strong, Richard Pearson Strong Diary: September 4, 1926)
The hospitality that Chief Suah Koko bestowed upon the Harvard expedition members and to strangers more generally was one of the disintguishing attributes that made her a noted and powerful woman chief among men.