Edward James Roye served as the fifth President of Liberia from 1870 until he was overthrown in 1871.
Born into a prosperous African American family in Newark, Ohio, Roye was a descendant of the Igbo people. His father, John Roye, supervised a ferry across the Wabash River at Terre Haute, Indiana. Edward later acquired a considerable amount of land in Terre Haute, as well as in Vandalia in the neighboring state of Illinois. After the death of his father, he relocated to Terre Haute where he established the community’s largest barber shop, which also had the tallest barber pole in western Indiana.
Roye was inaugurated as President of Liberia on January 3, 1870. As Roye took office, the country was in the middle of political instability which was exacerbated by a fiscal crisis. In 1871, Roye tasked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, William Spencer Anderson, with negotiating a new loan from British financiers. Anderson secured $500,000 under strict terms from the British consul-general, David Chinery; however, he was heavily criticized and eventually arrested.
Anderson was allegedly tried the following year for his part in securing the loan. He was found not guilty, but was shot to death while leaving the courthouse. Roye began a program of reconstruction with the intention to build new roads and schools.
President Roye was deposed on October 26, 1871. According to some sources, Roye escaped from prison but was drowned while trying to escape to a British ship. Reports stated that the canoe in which Roye tried to make his escape capsized. However, no one knows exactly what happened, as not even the day in which he died is known with certainty. Roye’s succession is also surrounded by mysteries.