The other day I heard some “talking head” on a cable news channel say in response to the claim that Liberia was our “step child”:
“No way. . . I mean most Americans don’t even know where Liberia is. . . what possible connection could we have with these people?”
While it is probably true that most American’s don’t know where Liberia is (it is in between the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone) that fact certainly does not absolve us from our long historical relationship (by that logic we could claim no connection to Tennessee which a large number of high school kids are unable to find on a map).
We have a long and deep connection to Liberia—I mean look at their flag for Christ-sake . . . look familiar?!? In all seriousness, Liberia was simultaneously an attempt to redeem Americans for the sins of slavery and a racists attempt get rid of all African-Americans by shipping them “back home.” Its formation as a nation was also a point of hope and opportunity for formerly enslaved African-Americans and a point of oppression for the African peoples who would live under the yoke of a predominately western-oriented “Americo-Liberian” government until the outbreak of the current fighting in the 1990s.
It was way back in 1817 that the American Colonization Society, a private organization seeking to resettle freed slaves, bought its first land in Liberia. This colonization effort grew until in 1847 these “Americo-Liberians” as they were called declared Liberia an independent republic.
You can take a look at speeches given by three early leaders of Liberia if you don’t take my word for how connected to the US they actually are. Read the texts of Hilary Teage, John N. Lewis & Joseph Jenkins Roberts and tell me if you do not see the mid-nineteenth century American everywhere—commitment to enlightenment thought, to capitalism and an obsession with the dialectic between black and white peoples.
Of course, this is not the end of the connection between Liberia and the US. In 1911 Liberia placed under US protection because of bankruptcy and internal disorder. However, the Liberians get back on their feet . . the current cycle of violence is directly related to these historical events.
The current cycle began in April of 1980 when in a postcolonial moment, rule by Americo-Liberians ends when Samuel K. Doe overthrows and kills President William Tolbert and imposes martial law. Although civilian rule is restored in 1985, Doe remains in power until, in 1989, Charles Taylor leads a group of rebel to invade from the Ivory Coast to overthrow Doe. Following that a almost constant state of civil war has taken place with brief respites and several US airlifts.
We’re not involved in the country? It doesn’t mean anything to us? Charles Taylor & other in Liberia are directly connected to the US either by virtue of decent or by having to live under the oppression of those who were.
Man, those news channels need to learn some history.
More history in Liberia. . . . check ot the Library of Congress: