March 14, 2007 New Book About First U.S. Diplomat in French West Africa To Be Discussed on March 22
eBay Purchase of 1889 Envelope Leads to First Biography of Peter Strickland
Press Contact: Erin Allen (202)707-7302
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Capt. Peter Strickland owes much to author Stephen H. Grant. His diplomatic career as the first United States consul in Senegal might still be unknown if it weren’t for a chance successful bid on eBay. The item, an envelope bearing a blue three-cent stamp of President James Garfield and addressed to “Capt. Peter Strickland, U.S. Consul, Gorée, West Africa,” marked the genesis of Grant’s biography on the Foreign Service officer.
Grant will discuss and sign his new book, “Peter Strickland: New London Shipmaster, Boston Merchant, First Consul to Senegal” at noon on Thursday, March 22, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington D.C.
The program, part of the Books & Beyond author series sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is co-sponsored by the African Section in the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division. Presented in cooperation with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST), it is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.
The biography recounts how Connecticut native Peter Strickland (1837-1921) strove to survive and prosper from 1864 to 1905 in the midst of a strong French colonial presence in Senegal, first as a captain of merchant ships in the trans-Atlantic trade and then as U.S. consul in Senegal, the first in French West Africa. In dispatches to the State Department, Strickland did his best to educate the American diplomatic and business communities about the potential for trade with Africa. He carried out his official duties without a salary but was allowed to maintain a private export-import business and keep the consular fees charged to the captains of American ships calling at Senegalese ports. His major task was to monitor and facilitate American shipping abroad and, in accordance with new legislation of the period, to look out for the welfare of American seamen.
Grant published three books during the 25 years he served as a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in El Salvador, Indonesia, Egypt, Guinea and Ivory Coast. They are “Postales Salvadorenas del Ayer/Early Salvadoran Postcards,” “Former Points of View: Postcards and Literary Passages from Pre-Independence Indonesia” and “Images de Guinee.” He is a senior fellow at the ADST in Arlington, Va., where he assists retired diplomats in preparing their manuscripts for publication.
Grant’s biography of Strickland, published in 2007 by New Academia Publishing, is part of the Diplomats and Diplomacy book series published by ADST jointly with Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired, Inc.