Monday, September 10, 2007

Liberia: A Short History Part I

Liberia is in Western Africa and is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire. The history of Liberia (Place of Freedom) is complicated and does not follow the usual pattern of most African nations. Liberia was populated with freed slaves in land purchased from the indigenous tribes by independent societies in the USA. Ethiopia is the only other country not founded by a nation-state. Only later did the United States government become involved and support the independence of Liberia. The area now known as Liberia was populated in the 1800’s and before by numerous indigenous tribes. In 1822 the American Colonization Society negotiated for land and free born and freed ex-slave Blacks from the USA began to be sent to settle the area. The abolitionist and slave owners contributed the moneys for their passage and supplies. The Abolitionist felt a responsibility to restore the Negro to their homeland and the slave owners feared the potential political power of ex-slaves. In 1847 because of pressures from Britain who had colonized neighboring Sierra Leone Liberia was recognized as an independent nation. However, the history of this area now known as Liberia did not begin with the American-Liberians.

Between the 12th and 16th century there were waves of migrations from the north and east of Africa. In the 16th century the Manes came from the Ivory Coast and the Vai later came but were stopped by an alliance of the Manes and a tribe known as the Kru who dominated the Atlantic coast. When the American-Liberians settled they established western type economic, social, political, and cultural structures and even though they represented only a small proportion of the population (5%) they dominated the whole of Liberia. This division between the American-Liberians and the indigenous people and the colonizing of Africa in general are major contributors to the long suffering of the people of Liberia. (For a brief historical overview:

To be continued….

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