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Americans have little consciousness of Africa. Even African-Americans often have little overall knowledge of their ancestors' homeland. Probably few could find Ivory Coast on a map. If they did, they would find that one of its neighbors is Liberia, and they might hazily recall having read that Liberia was founded in the 19th century by freed slaves from the United States.

In fact, Liberia was, if unofficially, America's first overseas colony, founded in 1822 by the American Colonization Society, which ruled it until it gained independence in 1847 -- peacefully, but on the initiative of the Liberian settlers rather than by grant (Liebenow, 1987, pp. 16-17). Between 1822 and 1904, some 20,000 African-Americans emigrated to Liberia, most in the early decades, but some 4000 in the decades after the Civil War.

Strong ties of identity and culture remained even after immigration trailed off. For over a century up till 1980, Liberia was governed by the True Whig Party, its named derived from the 19th century American political party. The Americo-Liberians, as the settlers' descendants are called, continued to identify strongly with the United States -- only to often discover, to their dismay, that Americans were scarcely aware of them, or of Liberia itself.

The American colonial origin of Liberia also left its mark in the form of a social contradiction that dominated 20th-century Liberia, and still deeply marks Liberian society. The Americo-Liberians were of African ancestry, but they did not think of themselves as Africans. Nor did they regard the indigenous African peoples of Liberia as their fellow-countrymen. They proudly adopted the declaration that "The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here" as Liberia's national motto, they offered no liberty to the indigenous majority of Liberians. Not until 1904 were the indigenous peoples even admitted to citizenship, which remained nominal for decades more.

Only after 1944...

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LIBERIA AND AMERICA. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:45, May 21, 2019, from