The very early history of the country now known as Liberia is built around stories and legends passed down through generations and these refer to a people called the Jinna, a small sized race who lived in caves and in the carved out hollows of large trees. They were later joined in pre-history by the Golas, a tribe that had migrated to the area from central Africa. Then around 6000 BCE tribes from western Sudan arrived defeating the Golas and establishing an empire under King Kumba. The Kumbas developed agriculture in the area but were also noted for their skills at making weapons as well as crafts such as pottery and weaving. There are some records of the Carthaginians visiting and trading in the area around 520 CBE, however very little is then known about the history of Liberia before the 12th century when the Dei, Bassa, Kru, and Kissi people moved into the area. They were joined by others during the decline of the Mali Empire in the 14th century however firm records began following the arrival of Portuguese explorers in 1461 who named it Costa da Pimenta (Pepper Coast ~ the land between Cape Mesurado and Cape Palmas, below), the coastal strip of Liberia towards which those living in the territory had migrated towards in response to the increasing desertification of the north.
Two hundred years later, the British started building trading posts on the Pepper Coast only for the Dutch to destroy them shortly afterwards. By this time Portuguese influence was waning after its conflict with Spain and Portugal was stripped of its assets there firstly by the Dutch, then, in the 17th century by the French, then the British in the 18th and 19th centuries by which time area was commonly referred to as the Grain Coast, a coast that had been the centre of the rapidly rising slave trade; a trade which had practically replaced all other by the end of the 16th century. The Golas, Kru, Kpelles and Kissi were all involved in this trade, working with the Europeans to ensnare the indigenous people into a life of captivity in the Americas. This trade continued until the abolition of slavery in the 19th century which started a debate in the USA as to what to do wth the freed slaves.
Some in America observed what had been started in Freetown, Sierra Leone, by the British and concluded that the freed slaves in America could likewise be returned to Africa to start a new life. The American Colonization Society was born, not as some believed as a well motivated desire to right the wrongs of slavery, but rather, as its first meeting concluded because "Of all the classes of our population, the most vicious is that of the free colored. It is the inevitable result of their moral, political and evil degradation. Contaminated themselves, they extend their vices all around them, to the slaves, to the whites." In other words, the freed men former slaves presented a danger to American society as they had shown during their rising in Haiti and should be shipped "back home". According to the 'Niles Weekly Register' of 6th March 1824 "Resolutions were passed [at the seventh annual meeting of the American Colonization Society] "that the territory and settlement of the society near cape Mesurado, on the south-west cost (sic) of Africa, should be called Liberia, and the town laid out there should be named Monrovia, 'as an acknowledgement of the important benefits conferred on the settlement by the present illustrious chief magistrate of the United States'" ~ President Monroe.
The first crossing was made in 1820 however those that were then living in the Pepper Coast were none too impressed with the coming of freed slaves seeing them as Americans who were buying up their land, however the process continued and by 1847, with the American Colonization Society running out of money to continue with the project, the purchased and inhabited lands were announced as the independent nation of Liberia. Over 13,000 former slaves had been returned, even though many had never come from Liberia in the first place. Many were as disorientated at being in Africa as their forefathers had been when they first landed in America. Additionally, Liberia grew massively in size, very quickly bringing about its own difficulties. The American Colonization Society was dissolved in 1912. Ironically, these returned free slaves then went on to treat the indigenous population as second class citizens leading, some 150 years later, to the Liberia civil war. The video (below) provides further details of Liberia's history and its civil war is also explored in the article also linked to below.
Liberia History: Volunteer in Liberia
Liberia History: Liberia Civil War
Liberia History: Sponsor Children in Liberia
Liberia History: Liberia Country Profile
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