The area that is today Liberia is originally inhabited by 16
different people. To the east and northeast there were
spoken men - including the Mandingo's. After the arrival of
the Portuguese, the mandingoos came to play a more important
role. They spread throughout the country as traders and
craftsmen. They were the main source of the spread of Islam
in the country. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how LR can stand for Liberia.
When talking about colonialism in Africa, there are few
who remember that the United States also had its share in
the division of the continent. In 1865, Abraham Lincoln
abolished slavery in the United States - as part of a
weakening of the South that the North states waged war on.
But several decades before this, the freed slaves had posed
a social problem for the slave-owning landlords in the
south. To solve this, they began to "repatriate" the freed
slaves - sending them back to Africa. The landlords had a
notion that an African should feel at home wherever he was
sent to in Africa. They therefore planned to send the freed
slaves to the British colony of Sierra Leone.
In 1821, for this purpose, the American Colonization
Society purchased a strip of land from Leone and founded the
city of Monrovia. It was named after the then North American
President James Monroe.
But most freed slaves chose to stay in the United States,
and only 20,000 former slaves traveled to Africa. The locals
did not take kindly to these colonists of a new type, who
both spoke the languages of Europeans and practiced their
religion. Under the protection of North American warships,
they settled on the coast and acquired the best lands. For a
long time they refused to have contact with the "rain forest
negroes", whom they considered "wild". Even today, only 15%
of the population speak English and are Christians.
In 1841, Washington christened the area of Liberia,
gave it a constitution drawn up at Harvard University, and
appointed the first African governor, Joseph J. Roberts. In
July 1847, a Liberian congress representing only the North
American immigrants decided to declare the country
independent of Roberts as president, as well as a
constitution and flag similar to that of the United States.
"Love and freedom brought us here," proclaims the
Liberian coat of arms, but for the country's indigenous
people, independence did not bring much freedom. For
decades, only the landowners had the right to vote. The
45,000 descendants of the former North American slaves
formed the core of the local ruling class and were closely
linked to international capital. One of the most important
export products - the natural rubber - was controlled by the
North American companies Firestone and Goodrich, which in
1926 obtained a concession on the extraction for the next 99
years. Something similar happened to the oil, iron and
diamonds. The opposition to these economic and social
conditions repeatedly triggered US invasions on the pretext
of "protecting democracy".
The discovery of the vast mineral riches in the country's
underground and the use of the Liberian flag over the world
merchant fleet triggered high economic growth, which in the
early 1960s was called a "miracle". But the "miracle" only
benefited the Americanized population, which in turn
experienced significant prosperity.
Political stability was shaken in 1979 when price
increases on rice triggered riots and demonstrations. A year
later, Lieutenant Samuel Doe, William Tolbert's regime fell.
This was executed with other members of his government. The
political parties were banned and the constitution put into
In 1980, the Governing Council declared that it would
launch a democratic opening, and this paved the way for a
loan agreement to be signed with the IMF.
The fall in exports, the rise in unemployment, the
reduction of public and private wages and the rise in
indebtedness abroad threw the country into a crisis of large
dimensions. The dissatisfaction of the population increased,
and in 1980-89 the Doe regime thwarted nine coup attempts.