1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Krumen

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KRUMEN (Kroomen, Krooboys, Krus, or Croos), a negro people of the West Coast of Africa. They dwell in villages scattered along the coast of Liberia from below Monrovia nearly to Cape Palmas. The name has been wrongly derived from the English word “crew,” with reference to the fact that Krumen were the first West African people to take service in European vessels. It is probably from Kraoh, the primitive name of one of their tribes. Under Krumen are now grouped many kindred tribes, the Grebo, Basa, Nifu, &c., who collectively number some 40,000. The Krus proper live in the narrow strip of coast between the Sino river and Cape Palmas, where are their five chief villages, Kruber, Little Kru, Settra Kru, Nana Kru and King William’s Town. They are traditionally from the interior, but have long been noted as skilful seamen and daring fishermen. They are a stout, muscular, broad-chested race, probably the most robust of African peoples. They have true negro features—skin of a blue-black hue and woolly and abundant hair. The women are of a lighter shade than negro women generally, and in several respects come much nearer to a European standard. Morally as well as physically the Krumen are one of the most remarkable races in Africa. They are honest, brave, proud, so passionately fond of freedom that they will starve or drown themselves to escape capture, and have never trafficked in slaves. Politically the Krus are divided into small commonwealths, each with an hereditary chief whose duty is simply to represent the people in their dealings with strangers. The real government is vested in the elders, who wear as insignia iron rings on their legs. Their president, the head fetish-man, guards the national symbols, and his house is sanctuary for offenders till their guilt is proved. Personal property is held in common by each family. Land also is communal, but the rights of the actual cultivator cease only when he fails to farm it.

At 14 or 15 the Kru “boys” eagerly contract themselves for voyages of twelve or eighteen months. Generally they prefer work near at home, and are to be found on almost every ship trading on the Guinea coast. As soon as they have saved enough to buy a wife they return home and settle down. Krumen ornament their faces with tribal marks—black or blue lines on the forehead and from ear to ear. They tattoo their arms and mutilate the incisor teeth. As a race they are singularly intelligent, and exhibit their enterprise in numerous settlements along the coast. Sierra Leone, Grand Bassa and Monrovia all have their Kru towns. Dr Bleek classifies the Kru language with the Mandingo family, and in this he is followed by Dr R. G. Latham; Dr Kölle, who published a Kru grammar (1854), considers it as distinct.

See A. de Quatrefages and E. T. Hamy, Crania ethnica, ix. 363 (1878–1879); Schlagintweit-Sakunlunski, in the Sitzungsberichte of the academy at Munich (1875); Nicholas, in Bull. de la Soc. d’Anthrop. (Paris, 1872); J. Büttikofer, Reisebilder aus Liberia (Leiden, 1890); Sir H. H. Johnston, Liberia (London, 1906).