Wilton Sankawulo: Liberian Literary Warrior is Dead- Come, and Let Us Lay Out the Mourning Cloth! Come, the Warrior is No More- Bring Out the Town Crier- The Hero is No More


Wilton Gbakolo Sengbe Sankawulo, Liberian novelist, folklorist, Professor, and former Head of State of Liberia’s Interim government in the 1990s was born in Haindi, Bong County, Fuama Chiefdom, Liberia, in 1937, and died on February 21, 2009.


Wilton Gbakolo Sengbe Sankawulo, the author of “Why Nobody Knows When He Will Die and Other Liberian Tales from Liberia” is no more.

Professor Sankawulo, died around 1pm today, Saturday, February 21, 2009. Throughout his life, Wilton loved Liberia and Liberian literature. Many of us who attended the University of Libera were students of Professor Sankawulo. I knew Wilton first, when I was a student at the University between 1977-1980, and later in the 1980s as a colleague in the English Department at the University of Liberia. He was both a teacher, a father figure, a friend, a passionate writer, a politician, and a Liberian hero.


Sundown at Dawn: A Liberian Odyssey (Dusty Spark Pub)
by Wilton Sankawulo


By Wilton Sankawulo

  • Why Nobody Knows When He Will Die, and Other Tales from Liberia
  • by Wilton Sankawulo (   Macmillan)Edition    Hardcover
  • The Marriage of Wisdom, and Other Tales
    by Wilton Sankawulo
    Hardcover, Heinemann Educational,

Professor Sankawulo departed this world today, leaving many memories with so many of us. For those of us who love Literature, he left us several books to read and remember him. Some of us remember his huge frame, walking in the English Department of the University or we recall him signing his book even in Liberia those days. I recall many debates with him as a colleague,debates over what I thought Liberia literature was compared to what he thought.

Up until his departure from the United States a year ago, Professor Sankawulo never stopped calling me “Jebbeh, dragging my name the way the Vai people call the name, Jebbeh. He never took my corrections seriously from the days when I was his student in his Composition class at the University up to the days before he departed the US for Liberia. I would correct him that I was not “Jebbeh” the name for a Vai girl, but “Jabbeh,” the last name of my father’s family. He was a jovial, sometime serious politician. But whether he was a writer, a friend or a politician, Prof. Sankawulo loved his country and its people. He wanted to carve up all of the stories about Liberia that he could come up with. He wanted to live longer, to find time to finish that memoir of his civil war experiences.

What Dirge
By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

So what shall I use to wipe my brow?
To bring back a life
snatched away in its prime?
What shall I say, and what shall I lay hands
so helpless upon to wipe the sorrow
from my brow?

What shall I wear to mourn a life
whose end has dealt us this blow?
Shall I wear black, so when our townswomen,
hearing the drums, come wailing, wailing,
they shall see the sorrow
of my heart on my dark lappa?

Shall I tie a string around my forehead?
Shall I lie prostrate on The Mat?
Shall I cry tears for those you’ve left us to feed
when we ourselves cannot feed ourselves
in a land where the hungry, forever hungry,
keep the faith?

What dirge shall I sing?
Shall I recount the battles fought at Nganlun?
Shall I sing of blood shed at the cracking of a gun
when I myself am so afraid of the gun?
What shall I say when the women,
hearing my song, come wailing
and knocking at my door?

(Copyright: Before the Palm Could Bloom:Poems of   Africa)

Photo and article, takenFROM THE LIBERIAN OBSERVER

Former Chairman of Liberia, Author, Literature Professor

Published:  21 February, 2009
Picture of Prof. Sankawulo on the back of Rain and the Night

Wilton Sankawulo, a renowned Liberian novelist and folktale writer, who served as Chairman of the Council of State of the Liberian National Transitional Government in 1995 during the civil war, died at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center on Saturday afternoon, February 21, 2009, following a protracted illness. He was 71.

His wife of nearly 45 years, Mrs. Amelia Yatta Sankawulo, was at his bedside when he received his eternal summons.

On the night before his death he was visited by Liberia’s Head of State, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Wilton Sankawulo started his literary career at Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University) which he entered in February, 1960. His short stories were first published in the Cuttington Review, the college’s literary magazine, edited then by his classmate, Kenneth Y. Best. The faculty advisor on the Review was Mrs. Judy Gay, Cuttington’s lead English teacher during that period. Wilton frequently won the top prize for short story. Following his graduation in 1963, he was awarded a fellowship to study Sacred Theology at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, United States of America. There he took the Master’s degree in Divinity. He later participated in a writers’ workshop at the University of Iowa, which led him on to take a second Master’s, the MFA degree in English.

Returning home in the late 1960s, Wilton was employed at the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs (now Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism), where he served first in the Press Bureau and was later appointed Director of the Overseas Press Bureau, during the administration of E. Reginald Townsend and later G. Henry Andrews, the country’s first Minister of Information. In 1973 he was appointed Special Assistant to the new Minister, Dr. Edward B. Kesselly. But during this early period, Mr. Sankawulo always maintained a teaching position at the University of Liberia, rising to the post of Associate Professor (1985-1990). He resumed his teaching at UL last year, following his return from exile during the latter part of the Liberian civil war years. He also taught English and Literature at his alma mater, Cuttington.

Professor Sankawulo began earning his fame as a prolific Liberian writer already in the 1970s. In 1974 he published The Marriage of Wisdom, his first collection of Liberian tales. The book was published by Heinemann Educational Books and became, like many others, a standard literature text in Liberian schools. His second collection, Why Nobody Knows When He Will Die, was later published by Macmillan Education Ltd.

The Rain and the Night, a novel, appeared in 1979. Many of Sankawulo’s stories appeared in the Pan African Journal, Negro Digest, African Arts, World Encounter. Sankawulo also produced an anthology of African stories entitled More Modern African African Stories, published by Fontana Books.

On the accession of William R. Tolbert to the Liberian presidency, Sankawulo, while still in the employ of the Ministry of Information, wrote a biography of the new President entitled Tolbert of Liberia.

Sankawulo’s last position at Information was Research Specialist, following which he was transferred to the Executive Mansion, where he spent almost a year as Assistant Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. Between 1983-1985 he served as Director General of the Cabinet and later Special Assistant for Academic Affairs to President Samuel K. Doe. It was in this position, as Doe’s teacher, that Sankawulo helped the Liberian Head of State to complete his academic work, leading to his graduation from the University of Liberia in 1989.

Professor Sankawulo later served as a writer with the Educational Secretariat, Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia.

In 1995 he was named Chairman of the Council of State of the Liberian National Transition Government, a position he held until July 1996.

At a certain point Professor Sankawulo gave up his career in government to devote his life to writing and research dealing with Liberia’s traditional culture. According to him, he made this sacrifice because he felt that very little attention had at that point been given to the preservation of his country’s traditional culture, which he feared “was speedily passing away.” In this vocation, he said he had been inspired by the works of Liberia’s foremost folklorists, Bai T. Moore and Dr. S. Jangaba Johnson.

Though a novelist and short story writer, Sankawulo is himself best known as a folklorist. He described Liberian life in its traditional setting and bore witness to the richness and greatness of the mind and thought of the African people.

Wilton Sengbe Sankawulo was born on July 26, 1937, in Haindii, Lower Bong County, a Kpelle town in the Fauma Chiefdom on the St. Paul River. His parents were Dougba and Nasuaa (pronounced nay-suah) Sankawulo.

Wilton began his education at the Kpolopele Lutheran Mission near Haindii, and continued in other Lutheran Mission schools, first in Sanoyea, where he met his lifelong classmate, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, Liberia’s current Minister of Health and Social Welfare. Wilton and Walter completed the fifth grade in Sanoyea, then in the Central Province (now in Bong County). These two promising Kpelle boys were then sent to Belefanai, also in Bong, for a semester. In 1953 they were transferred to Zorzor for the sixth and seventh grades. From Zorzor they were again transferred to the Lutheran Training Institute in Harrisburg, where they completed the eighth, ninth and tenth grades. In 1958 Wilton and Walter, along with other students became numbered among the first students to enter the Lutheran Training Institute (LTI), which was transferred from Harrisburg to Salayea in the Western Province (now Lofa County). There they completed their secondary education, graduating in 1959.

The following year these lifelong classmates entered Cuttington, parting only in their sophomore year, 1961, after Walter, a brilliant Science student, received a Lutheran fellowship to study Medicine in Puerto Rico.

He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Amelia Yatta Sankawulo; two sisters, Gbesse and Evelyn; two daughters, Mrs. Rose Cooper and Mrs. Minnie Ricks; two sons, Roland and Wilton, Jr. and a host of other relatives.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

This article was taken from the Liberian Observer (Published by a Mr. Kenneth Best, a good friend of mine and a Liberian veteran journalist in Monrovia, Liberia, Feb.21, 2009- the Observer link: http://www.liberianobserver.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/15399/WILTON_SANKAWULO_DIES.html)


41 Replies to “Wilton Sankawulo: Liberian Literary Warrior is Dead- Come, and Let Us Lay Out the Mourning Cloth! Come, the Warrior is No More- Bring Out the Town Crier- The Hero is No More”

  1. is juliet tipoteh is one of the relatives of Mr. Wilton the hero of Liberia??? please i need your response as soon as posible
    thank you

    1. I doubt that. If they are, then it would be by marriage since the Tipoteh name is from another part of Liberia and Sankawulo is from another area. Hope that helps, but I can try to find out more information.


  2. es sandra wilton es uno de los familiares del Sr. Wilton el héroe de Liberia??? please i need your response as soon as posible por favor, necesito su respuesta lo antes posible
    thank you gracias

  3. So, the history mas painful of the world, then the lawyer asks for a money to do his work

  4. To all those out there reading my posting on Wilton Sankawulo, the late Liberian writer: Do not respond to a scam e-mail a woman calling herself Julietta Sankawulo is sending around. It is a fraudulent e-mail intended to steal your money. Someone posted an unclear message about this woman, and when I googled her, I saw that the sender is scamming all sorts of people.

    Thank you

  5. what about this
    Miss.Rose cooper Sankawulo?is anybody like this ? if yes where is she now?did Sankawulo marry two wife?where is his first wife and children(and how many are they)?please i need urgent answers to this questions.

  6. Also looking for Rose Cooper Sankawulo any body got an idea who this is should kindly let me know

    Ms Rose Wilton G. Sengbe Sankawulo
    PHONE : +221-768-325-136
    Age June 12 1986 / 24Yrs
    Occupation Student

    i also get it. i believe it’s a scam

  8. i believ he had no daughter by name sandra wilton.she is on ma neck sayin her father left U.S$6.800.000 and wants me to transact business with her to get that money.ba she does’nt know a know much about Dr Wilton Sankawulo.hahaha.she is a scum.

  9. tenho recebido emai da senhorita nancy sankawulo que se diz filha do professor ,refugiada em dakar . pedindo ajuda par transferencia de uma quantia elevada de dinheiro .
    sei que se trata de um golpe . por isto fica aqui o alerta

  10. he was a true writer of this great land called Liberia may his soul rest in peace.

  11. For me personally, this issue of immigration is a painful subject to discuss because I have been living it for twenty long years. I seen and feel like… many of us ( Liberian ), who are facing the same situation in the United States, do not have a home to belong.
    I hope, the United States Government, for GOD purpose and humanity, consider many of the good people from around the World that are living in this great country,to help us become legal residents; even if, the U.S do not want us become citizenship.

    Because living in continue fear, stress, and a lack of opportunity, as a parent and spouse, is a painful conditioning no moral grounded society want any person endure.

  12. Yo he recibido un mail pidiendo que sea su socio la sta. Lilian wilton dise que es hija del dr. Sankawulo wilton .los correos del banco royal son falsos

  13. esto memandaron ami chekenlo…………………..Gracias por su respuesta a mi correo, ¿cómo estás hoy, espero que todo está bien con usted allí. Estoy enviando este correo creer que usted es una persona honesta y digna de confianza. Creo que no voy a traicionar la confianza que tengo para usted antes de ponerse en contacto con usted. Estoy dispuesto a descansar en ti, para que yo os he contactado a pesar de que no hemos reunirse antes. Mi nombre es Miss Sophie Milton, i am 24yrs individuales, la única hija del difunto Dr. Milton Sankawulo, que era el presidente / presidente / CEO, Cacao Cafa-& Agro-Alimentaire industrie Plc. (SCAFECAO) “Bouaké” y ex- propietario de la Policlínica LA-Madonnas, de la República de Liberia el 19 de septiembre de 2004, un grupo de rebeldes llamados se hizo cargo de los hutus para derrocar el Gobierno del Sr. Charles Taylor, el Presidente de Liberia.

    En la mañana del día siguiente, aproximadamente a 4:18 am algunas fracciones de un mismo grupo de rebeldes entrar en nuestra casa y mataron a nuestro guardia de seguridad y de paso a través de la puerta de entrada al edificio principal y se llevó a mi padre a un lugar conocido con un- mi único hermano, porque mi padre estaba dando ministro de comercio e industria en mi país en ese período, y fue uno de los miembros que se golpean con el pie contra el exceso tirar del presidente. Después de unas cuatro horas más tarde lo encontramos (mi padre) al lado de la carretera, para entonces él había sido totalmente derrotado y se desangraba tirado en el charco de su propia sangre. A partir de ahí, se lo llevaron a un hospital y cerca de hora más tarde mandó llamar a mi madre.

    Así que él le dijo que no se puede hacer a partir del diagnóstico médico, él también le dijo que era porque él (mi padre) no era de parte del hutu del país que ha sido tratado de esta manera y también es un activista político .
    Y otra vez me dijo que se sospecha de algunos de sus socios comerciales por conspiración y este tipo de brutalidad. También le dijo a mi madre que él depositó una gran cantidad de dinero ($ 6,8 millones de dólares de nosotros.) En una casa de Finanzas y también me dijo donde guardaba los documentos completos acerca de este depósito que se realice para fines de inversión en el mundo occidental.
    Después de algunos meses, (mi padre), entregó el espíritu.

    Después de la incidencia que le pasó a mi padre, mi madre empezó a tener temperatura arterial alta, que más tarde afectó su corazón, no es hasta tres meses, mi madre también entregó a la fantasma también, después de ese período de mi tío empezó a amenazar a mi vida, y aquellas personas que mataron a mi padre. Pero me las arreglo para escapar a una capital del país cerca de Dakar Senegal, fueron soy residente como refugiado, y ahora en contacto con usted creer que usted es honesto y digno de confianza para que me ayude a recibir el dinero en su cuenta de inversión, he decidido en compensarle con un 20% de la cantidad total de su gesto amable, si no te gusta para conseguir mi mano en matrimonio.

    Por favor, tómese su tiempo para ir a través de este mail, poner la consideración mientras que la lectura y volver a mí para que me limitaré a presentarles a la entidad financiera donde el fondo se mantienen ahora. Porque tengo informar al banco de mi plan para reclamar mi dinero difunto padre que soy el pariente más cercano, el banco me dijo, para buscar socio extranjero que estará en mi nombre, debido a mi condición de refugiado y el derecho de este país. Tengo documento que mi padre solía depositar el dinero en el banco, lo que voy a enviar a usted más tarde. Yo estoy esperando su respuesta. con su detalle de contacto, como su número de teléfono de su domicilio y cualquier otro detalle de los suyos.
    i adjuntar aquí está mi foto, en caso que usted quiera que me llame por favor llámeme con nuestro número de teléfono Reverendos Padres, ya que no se permite el uso de nuestro propio teléfono aquí en el campamento de refugiados,
    Pastor Rev. Christopher Godswill In (St John Church)
    Su teléfono de la oficina (221 -772-776-977).
    Dirección de correo electrónico: revfatherchristopher@ymail.com

    Por favor, cuando usted llama a decirle que usted quiere hablar con la señorita Sophie Milton, él enviará para mí venir a su oficina para responder a su llamada, estoy mirando adelante a oír de usted lo antes posible.
    Gracias y que Dios los bendiga. Take Care,
    Miss Sophie.

  14. Please give me more details about Nancy Sanka who’s guardian was Pastor Christopher said to be the caretaker in a refugees camp some where at Senegal. I had the sympathy to assist her obtain her father’s savings from Halifax Bank in London however I was not satisfied with the IDs and required of her profiles and I’m still waiting before I send one thousand five hundred – twenty Euro to pay a lawyer to produce legal documents to certify Sankawulo’s death before the bank transfer the money to my account on behalf of her..may be a scum who knows


  15. Hi there, i’ve read this and i was appraoched by : what Seems to be “A SCAM” good thing i got wise a bit to soon.

  16. Its an honour to know thiz great man did exist but its so sad that ‘scamerz’ trash and mad this families name by getting money from innocent people…… may his work live forever!

  17. Just got such email. Beware of it……

    Hello My Dearest Pravin !

    How are you doing presently,I hope this my mail will reach you in good condition of health,I will really like to have a good business relationship with you and I have a special reason why I decided to contact you because of the urgency of my situation here.My name is Miss.Sophia Sanka,I am 23years old single girl from Liberia, the daughter of late Prof.Wilton Gbakolo Sengbe Sankawulo,Sr. who was a politician and a writer.He died after a brief illness,at ( John F. Kennedy Medical Center ) on Saturday afternoon, February 21, 2009,and My lovely Mother and two of my brothers including my only sister died after the burial Ceremony of my father,as a result of food poison.

    I am constrained to contact you because of the maltreatment I am receiving from my step mother. She planned to take away all my late father’s treasury and properties from me since the unexpected death of my beloved Father.Her aim was to kill me.

    Meanwhile,I wanted to escape to the Europe but she hide away my international passport and other valuable traveling documents. Luckily she did not discover where I kept my Father’s File which contains important documents. So I decided to run to the refugee camp where I am presently seeking asylum under the United Nations High Commission for the Refugee here in Dakar, Republic of Senegal. I wish to contact you personally for a long term business relationship and investment assistance in your country.

    My father of blessed memory deposited the sum of $7.5 million dollars in a Finance Firm with my name as the next of kin before his death. However, I shall forward you with the necessary information of the deposit,on confirmation of your acceptance to assist me for the transfer and investment of the fund in your country. As you will help me in an investment, and I will like to complete my studies, as I was in my school before i escaped to this country to safe my life.

    It is my intention to compensate you with 20% of the total money for your services and the balance shall be my investment capital. This is the reason why I decided to contact you. Please all communications should be through this email address only for confidential purposes.

    As soon as I receive your positive response showing your interest I will put things into action immediately. In the light of the above, I shall appreciate an urgent message indicating your ability and willingness to handle this transaction sincerely.

    I am staying at the female hostel. awaiting your urgent and positive response. Please do keep this only to your self,please I plead with you not to disclose it to any body till I come over to your country, once the fund has been transferred. I hope my explanation is very clear but if you need further clarification, then send in your questions.i will try to send you my picture in my next mail. Thanks as i hope to receive from you soonest.

    Regards From
    Miss.Sophia Sanka !

    It is an imposter scam…………

    1. I have received an email with same wording but regards from Miss. Nancy Sanka! on June 18, 2013

    2. I receive the same mail from anita wilton its Scam. Plz dont reply anything If anyaone get the mail

  18. Wilton Sankawula a renouned Liberian novelist and folktale writer & also serve as the leader of Liberia from september 1, Chairman of the council of state. He was born in Haindii in Lower Bong County & die from congestion heart failure on february 21, 2009.

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