The African nation of Liberia celebrates its 170th year of independence on this day, and the country has a complicated history. Initially established as a colony by slaveholders and politicians to shuttle free-born Blacks from America’s shores, it has since developed into a nation with a respectable democratic process.
In 1816, the American Colonization Society was formed in order to establish a colony for free Blacks. While the purpose may have seemed noble in some respects, southern slaveholders were hoping to resettle free Blacks to stave off potential slave rebellions. In the north, abolitionists, especially those in the Quaker community, discouraged slavery but also didn’t immediately offer equal opportunity for the free.
The country declared its independence in 1847 and the first nation to recognize this historic moment was the United Kingdom. The ACS continued shuttling Blacks to the coastal nation, and by 1867 around 13,000 free Blacks arrived to Africa. The Americo-Liberians adopted many American traditions and even fashioned its constitution after the nation that enslaved their forefathers. Further, the Americo-Liberians kept a stranglehold on power dynamics, freezing out the indigenous tribes from joining the elite core.
In the 20th Century, Liberia had been plagued by military coups and political corruption. Throughout the ’80’s, the military coup of Samuel Doe inspired a change to the Liberian constitutions in 1985. Doe was challenged by rebel leader Charles Taylor, who gained control of the nation throughout the ’90’s and into the early part of the 21st Century.
During Taylor’s terrible reign, Liberia endured two civil wars before he was ousted from power in 2003 by an armed rebel group and went into exile in Nigeria. In 2005, Liberia’s electoral process was free from the corruption and government tinkering that marred Doe’s rise to power.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the nation’s 24th president and first female African head of state, has ruled since taking office officially in 2006. As it had over the past 170 years, Liberia has maintained ties with America and since the ’40’s, it has been a part of the United Nations.
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