Liberia is located on the West coast of African. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east. The country is home to a lush rainforests containing a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Liberia is the only black state in Africa never subjected to colonial rule and is the oldest republic on the continent.
The region was known as Costa de Pimenta (Pepper Coast), due to the amount of melegueta pepper, and was inhabited by Mende-speaking peoples as far back as the 12th century. Liberia is one of the very few countries on the continent not colonized by a European country, and subsequently established a unique relationship with the Unites States. The country was in fact founded and colonized by freed American slaves with the help of a private organization called the American Colonization Society in 1821-1822, which founded a colony at Cape Mesurado in 1821. In 1824 the territory was named Liberia. That concept was based on the premise that former American slaves would have greater freedom and equality in Africa. In that regard, slaves freed from other slave ships also were sent there instead of being repatriated to their countries of origin.
Those black colonists formed an elite group in Liberian society, and, in 1847, they founded the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modeled on that of the Unites States.
They named country’s capital city Monrovia, after James Monroe, the fifth president of the Unites States.
From 1944 to 1971, the first President elect, William Tubman put great effort into bridging the political, economic, and social gaps between descendants of original settlers and inhabitants of the interior, as well as in promoting of foreign investments. In 1980, a military coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe ousting and publicly executing President William Tolbert and 13 of his aides and ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. Internal unrest overcame the country as repression grew, and by December 1989, Charles Taylor launched a rebellion against Doe’s regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which countless thousands were killed, including Doe himself.
A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for elections that brought Taylor to power, but major fighting resumed in 2000. In August 2003, a peace agreement ended the war and prompted the resignation of Taylor, who was exiled to Nigeria. He is now on trial in The Hague. The country’s first post-conflict elections, held in 2005, were noteworthy for the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the presidency, as she was the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the continent’s first female president in 2005, after the end of a brutal 14-year conflict. She was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2011 for her efforts to secure peace, promote economic and social development and strengthen the position of women. Former football start George Weah secured a stunning run-off victory in December 2017 in the country’s first democratic transfer of power.
Liberia has a wealth of natural resources.
Prior to the civil war, it was among the leading producers of iron ore on the continent. Other minerals include diamonds, gold, lead, manganese, graphite, cyanite (a silicate of aluminum, with thin bladelike crystals), and barite. “During the civil war, iron production ground to a halt, and diamond exports were banned by the UN in 2001, in an effort to halt the traffic of “blood” or “conflict” diamonds,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Although, diamond trade was resumed with the removal of sanctions in 2007. Rubber accounts for the overwhelming majority of Liberian export earnings, followed by gold, diamonds, coffee, and cocoa. Agriculture is the leading sector of the economy. About half the land area is suitable for cultivation. Cultivation of cash crops such as coffee, cacao (grown for its seeds, cocoa beans); oil palm, sugarcane, and swamp rice has drastically increased.
The people of Liberia are classified into three major groups: the indigenous people, who are in the majority and who migrated from the western Sudan in the late Middle Ages; black immigrants from the United States (known historically as Americo-Liberians) and the West Indies; and other black immigrants from neighboring western African states who came during the anti-slave-trade campaign and European colonial rule. Liberia’s indigenous ethnic groups may be classified into three linguistic groups, all belonging to the Niger-Congo language family: the Mande, Kwa, and Mel. Prominent among the Mande are the Vai, who invented their own alphabet and who, in addition, use Arabic and English; the Kpelle, the largest Mande group, who are also found in Guinea; Loma (also found in Guinea); Ngbandi; Dan (Gio); Mano; Mende; and Malinke. Kwa-speaking peoples include the Bassa, the largest group in this category and the largest ethnic group in Monrovia; the Kru and Grebo. The Mel group includes the Gola and Kisi, who are also found in Sierra Leone and are known to be the oldest inhabitants of Liberia.
Cuisine in Liberia and its culture are adapted from African American culture, especially foods from the American South (Southern food), interwoven with traditional West African foods. Popular dishes include: Torborgee (spicy stew made from Torborgee beans with fish or meat); Fufu (a doughy food that accompanies most meals) can be made from rice, plantain, cassava, corn, or yam); Kanya (ground peanuts mixed with toasted rice flour and sugar); Palava; Jollof Rice; Sweet Potato Pone; Lemon Grass Tea.
A variety of musical genres exist within the many cultures of West Africa. People play many different musical instruments — drums, cowbells, shakers, string or wind instruments. This recording focuses on four basic musical genres found in Liberia — traditional music, Liberian songs, Christian songs, and popular Highlife music. There is a growing popularity of Hip Co, a musical movement. Hip Co evolved in the 1980s and became a megaphone for voicing social and political concerns. “Highlife,” one of the much popular music in West Africa, emerged in the late 1950’s. It combines Western and African instruments, Latin American dance rhythms, and traditional West African melodies and lyrics to create a unique new sound. Although there is some dispute as to its exact origins, most people agree that Highlife music originated from the use of traditional songs of West African coastal peoples of Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia (particularly the Kru). Like many aspects of its very rich tapestry, Liberia today is blessed with many gifted and talented musicians.