Political map of Sub-Saharan Africa on 17 Apr 1931 (Africa between the World Wars: Africa during the Great Depression), showing the following events: Wall Street Crash; Liberian Slavery Scandal; Madeira Uprising.

Africa during the Great Depression

Africa between the World Wars

Sub-Saharan Africa 1931.0417

Africa during the Great Depression

League of Nations Africa, Second Italo-Ethiopian War (17 April 1931)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

The Great Depression brought an end to the colonial construction boom in Africa, forcing the indefinite postponement of such projects as the Cape to Cairo Railway. The nation of Liberia was especially badly hit when it was revealed that its government was involved in large-scale slavery—albeit in many cases on Western-run plantations—leading to a scandal and debt crisis which briefly threatened the country’s independence.

Main Events

Wall Street Crash

Between opening on 24 October 1929 ("Black Thursday") and close on 29 October ("Black Tuesday"), the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped in value from 305.85 to 230.07 in the most devastating stock market crash in United States history. The crash would bring an abrupt end to the Roaring Twenties and signal the beginning of the Great Depression.

Liberian Slavery Scandal

In March 1930 a joint US-League of Nations commission arrived in Liberia to investigate allegations of poor labor conditions, reporting back in September that slavery was in use in the country, including on Firestone Rubber plantations, and that soldiers were involved in shipping tribal peoples to Fernando Po in Spanish Guinea as forced labor. In response, the US and other countries broke diplomatic ties with Liberia and Liberian President Charles D. B. King resigned in December. Hit by both the scandal and the Great Depression, the Liberian government suspended its debt payments - which now made up 55% of its revenue - to Firestone in 1932. The crisis came to an end in June 1935 when Liberia accepted a US-sponsored financial agreement.

Madeira Uprising

Following the February 1931 Flour Revolt in Madeira, the military seized control of the Portuguese island in early April in what was intended to be the start of a general uprising against the National Dictatorship in Portugal. The rebel government, sometimes styled the "Atlantic Republic" by its followers, quickly gained support in four of the Azores islands and Portuguese Guinea, but failed to make any headway in the rest of the Portuguese empire. The National Dictatorship crushed the Azores rebels in mid-April then invaded Madeira itself, bringing an end to the revolution by early May.

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