Liberia: A Short History
The modern nation-state of Liberia is located along the West African coast. Once known as the "Pepper Coast," the area was first populated in the 1500s by migrations southward from the savanna into the largely unoccupied rain forests. By the late 18th century, these peoples had established organized societies and confederations. From the early to mid-19th century, freed slaves and free-born blacks migrated to the region from North America. West Indians migrated to Liberia in the late 19th century and African-American immigrants continued to arrive from the United States well into the mid-20th century.
The peoples of Liberia currently consist of three major groups. The largest group is the indigenous people, whose ancestors migrated into the area in the 1500s. The second group is the black immigrants from the United States and the West Indies. A third group is made up of the "recaptives" or "Congos," slaves who were freed from captured slave ships by British and American naval forces patrolling the Atlantic after slave trade was abolished in the early 1800s.
In 1822 the first group of black immigrants from the United States, sponsored by the American Colonization Society, established a settlement on Providence Island at the mouth of the Mesurado River, where Monrovia, Liberia´s capital is now located. In 1847 the nation-state of Liberia was founded with the adoption of a constitution that established it as a republic. The black immigrant oligarchy dominated government until a military coup led by Samuel K. Doe in 1980 assassinated President William Tolbert. The coup leaders took over the government and made possible the eventual establishment of a majority government of inclusion. An era of often-violent civil unrest followed, ending with the ouster of Charles Taylor by rebel forces in 2003 and the establishment of a National Transitional Government.
Supported by United Nations peacekeeping troops, this government helped facilitate the democratic election of a new administration in 2005. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President, becoming the first elected woman head of an African state. She was sworn in as the president of Liberia on 16 January 2006. Known in Liberia as the "Iron Lady," President Johnson Sirleaf faces many challenges in rebuilding the country, including the fostering of reconciliation and reintegrating ex-combatants of the recent conflict into the Liberian society.