Liberia became Africa’s first independent state on July 26, 1847. In the mid-nineteenth century the American Colonization Society was established to encourage American blacks who were freed from slavery to return to Africa. They established cities along the coastal areas of Liberia. These African Americans became known as Americo-Liberians. Hence, the country was named Liberia, which stands for “liberty”.
The capital city, Monrovia was named after U.S. President James Monroe. The Americo-Liberians whose culture and religion was distinct from that of the indigenous people of Liberia led the country until 1980 when Samuel Doe, an indigenous Liberian became president after a military coup. This was followed by a period of unrest.
In 1989 a civil war was initiated, which lasted for fourteen years. Two hundred fifty thousand Liberians were killed, and cities and villages were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands left the country and became refugees in the neighboring nations.
In 2006, Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female elected Head of State in Africa. The past 6 years have been a period of rebuilding and renewed hope.