Liberia Essay

Liberia Essay

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Liberia owes its establishment to the American Colonization Society; founded in 1816 to resettle freed American slaves in Africa. An attempt at colonization in Sierra Leone had failed in 1815. Six years later native rulers granted a tract of land on Cape Mesurado, at the mouth of the Saint Paul River, to U.S. representatives, and the first Americo-Liberians, led by Jehudi Ashmun, began the settlement. In 1824 an American agent for the society, Ralph Randolph Gurley, named the new colony Liberia and the Cape Mesurado settlement Monrovia. Other separate settlements were established along the coast during the next 20 years. Soon, however, conflicts arose between the settlers and the society in the United States. By the time Joseph Jenkins Roberts became the first black governor in 1841, the decision had been made to give the colonists almost full control of the government. A constitution modeled on that of the United States was drawn up, and Liberia became an independent republic in July 1847. Roberts was its first president, serving until 1856. Liberia was recognized by Britain in 1848, by France in 1852 and by the United States in 1862. The Americo-Liberian communities eked out a precarious existence during the 19th century. Claims over i nterior territory were disputed not only by the indigenous Mandinka (also known as Mandingo or Malinke), Kru, and Gola peoples, but also by European states that did not recognize Liberian jurisdiction over the interior. U.S. support led to a series of agreements with Britain and France between 1892 and 1911, which marked the present boundaries. (Liberian control over the interior peoples, however, was not completely assured until the 1940s.) Loans from Britain and the United States partially eased the country's financial difficulties. Liberia declared war on Germany on August 14, 1917, which gave the Allies an additional base in West Africa during World War I (1914-1918). In 1926 the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company opened a rubber plantation on 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land granted by the Liberian government the year before. Rubber production became the mainstay of the nation's economy.

In 1931 the League of Nations confirmed that Americo-Liberians were using native Africans for forced labor, tantamount to slavery. The ensuing scandal implicated the highest government officials; the president and vice presi...


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...otestant. Islam has made progress among the people of the interior, who have largely retained their animist religions. Altogether, about 70 percent of the people follow traditional religions and 20 percent are Muslim. English is Liberia's official language but is spoken by only about one-fifth of the people. The remainder speak various African languages which mainly belong to the Mande, West Atlantic, or Kwa linguistic groups.
Malaria, tuberculosis, yaws, and leprosy is prevalent in Liberia. In 2001 average life expectancy at birth was 53 years for women and 50 years for men; the infant mortality rate was 132 per 1,000 live births. Some hospitals are operated by the central government, but no national social-welfare system exists.
The Compulsory Education Act of 1912 provides for compulsory, free education for children between the ages of 6 and 16. However, government attempts to implement this law are hindered by a scarcity of educational facilities, and only 33 percent of primary school-aged children were receiving education in 1996. Just 71 percent of the population were literate in 2001. The University of Liberia, in Monrovia and several colleges provide higher education.

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