Timeline of Liberian History
A few takeaways and some thought-provocative ideas before we get to the Timeline.
First, an accurate and comprehensive Liberian history is supposed to be divided into the following segments or periods: The pre-Transatlantic Slave Trade period. The Transatlantic Slave Trade Period. The settlement of the free slave immigrants or the Commonwealth period. The end of the First Republic or what happened after independence. The beginning and end of the 2nd Republic. And the end of the civil war and ushering in of the country’s first female president.
Second, Liberia’s so-called modern history started with the arrival of about 20,000 freed slave immigrants on Dozoa, meaning in Gola dialect, land in the center of water that the new settlers and new generation of Liberians called Perseverance Island and Providence Island, respectively. The American Colonization Society headed, supported, guided, maintained, coordinated, and governed the settlement of these freedmen and recaptured slaves until Liberia declared itself a sovereign nation in 1847. The ACS’s intermittent financial supports influenced and guided Liberia long after independence. Though the settlers only constituted about 5 percent of the population of Liberia, the free stave immigrants did not integrate with the 95 percent of natives. They never refrained from the culture and way of life of their slave masters.
Third, Liberian historians and many scholars have narrated every detailed account about the free slave people, including immigrants and refugees who tangentially or accidentally arrived in Liberia under the auspices of the American Colonization Society and the Republic of Liberia. Unfortunately, we have only a little or no understanding of the aboriginal tribes, their customs, lifeways, communities, kingdoms, kingships, and points of view of the universe. Mainly, what Liberian history books teach us about king Boatswain, King Old Peter, King Long Peter, King Pepel, Kings Bromley, the Dey kings, the Gola Kings, King Willy, King Bristol, King Jimmy, King Allen, King Bob, King George, King Tom among a host of others are sparse, lukewarm, superficial, and derogatory.
Fourth, the aboriginal tribes had built sophisticated social institutions governed by norms and were self-sufficient in food production. They may not have had machine guns or cannons. Still, the natives constructed complex military and fortification walls and were engaged in internal and external trade-exchanging goods and providing services with other kingdoms before the ACS arrived.
Fifth, three sets of groups: the Transatlantic Slave Traders, the American Colonization Society, and the settlers variably apply a common strategy or platform to direct the course of Liberian history. The ultimate design of the three groups was to marginalize or reduce dark-colored people, especially the slaves or native people, to inhuman status. The tactics employed included dehumanizing them, altering their personality through indentured servitude, making the white-colored people superior and the dark-colored subservient. They also used religion to achieve their strategic goals.
Sixth, after four centuries of slavery, subjugating generations of slaves under the most dehumanizing conditions, the personality, mentality, and behaviors of the freed slaves that arrived in Liberia were consciously or unconsciously shaped or mentally and culturally subjugated. However, instead of breaking loose of the shackles of slavery and the mentality of a superiority one race over another, from 1847 to 1971, most Liberian government officials used aspects of slave-master psyche or agency to control and mistreat the native tribes, reduce them to second-class citizens, including (in most cases) dark-colored immigrants that arrived in Liberia. The native people today suffer from the highest poverty rate and lowest life expectancy in the country.
Seventh, we hope the future generation of Liberians continuously deep dive into the past, look for different sources and answers, write differently but comprehensively, and ask new questions.
We outlined the answers to some of these concerns and more in the Timeline of Liberian History. We sorted events and organized them based on the century they occurred.
We outlined the answers to these questions and more in the Timeline of Liberian History. We sorted events and organized them based on the century they occurred.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade
Transatlantic Trade was a booming international business connecting Africa, Europe. And America. In most cases, ships set sail from Western Europe loaded with goods for Africa in exchange for the captured, including men, women, and children, to work on sugarcane and cotton plantations. Brazil started its first sugarcane farm in the 16th Century around 1515.
Today, Brazil is the world’s largest sugarcane producer. Sugarcane produces sugar, blackstrap molasses, and ethanol, whereas cotton produces fiber used as a textile raw material. It’s a significant cash agricultural crop — over 150 countries export or import cotton. The sale of cotton towels alone exceeds $120 billion per annum. Today, most companies or countries use the cotton picker to pick cotton gins.
|1461||Portuguese explorers first arrived at the Grain Coast, Liberia’s Cape Mesurado, and Cape Palmas regions. They found the abundance of melegueta pepper, a precious trade commodity, with culinary and medicinal qualities and values.|
|1514- 1866||Brazilian, British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, North American, and the Netherlander entrepreneurs, business people, investors, institutions, and organizations and yanked away or kidnapped, bought and shipped approximately 12 million Africans, including men, women, and children to do hard, labor-intensive works such as cotton picking, tobacco, and sugarcane farming and other substandard and inhume jobs. The manner of transporting the slaves was ruthless, exploitative, and inhumane. They were chained, dungeon, chained, and kept in cramped, dark chambers of the transport ship.|
|1776||United States Declaration of Independence influences liberation and equality as expressed in the following quote: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.|
|1789||The French Revolution was also a watershed event that influenced the discontinuation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It demonstrates that power is inherent in the will of the people. The depletion of the royal treasury, poor harvests, drought, cattle disease, and skyrocketing bread prices caused the commoners and the poor to create the French Revolution.|
|1791||The uprising of black slaves, such as Toussaint L’Ouverture on the island of Santo Domingo, today’s Haiti, contributed to the idea of repatriating free-born and emancipated American slaves to Africa.|
|1807-1888||United States, Brazil, France, Britain, Spain, and Portugal, among others, banned slavery and stopped importation, including the sale or purchase of slaves.|
|1816||Virginia politician Charles F. Mercer and Presbyterian minister Robert Finley of New Jersey founded the American Colonization Society (ACS) to find a site in Africa on which free blacks can settle. The ACS repatriated 19,000 African Americans free slaves to Liberia, including 4,500 freeborn, 7,000 emancipated slaves, and 5,700 recaptured. The order of business included educating and Christianizing Africans, including the Liberian natives.|
|1818-1914||Spain, Italy, France, British, Germany, Portugal, and Belgium’s invasion, occupation, division, and colonization of African territory took place. Historians call the period the Scramble for Africa or the New Imperialism.|
|1820||The American Colonization Society sent its first group of immigrants to Sherbro Island in Sierra Leone. The Island was inhospitable to the continued habitation of immigrants, including the settlers. Most of them died of swam-borne diseases.|
|1821||Capt. Robert F. Stockton and ACS agent Dr. Eli were sent to the Grain Coast to begin negotiations with local kings to purchase land. Capt. Robert F Stockton coerced the native kings to sell Cape Mesurado and adjacent land. The coercion of the native kings to sell their land to the ACS at gunpoint made it harder for most kings to trust the settlers in future land sales or political engagements.|
|1822||Free American Blacks settled in West Africa. The first colonists landed at Providence Island, Cape Mesurado, and founded Monrovia, named President James Monroe. They named their colony Liberia|
|1842||The Commonwealth’s first black governor, J.J. Roberts, was appointed.|
|1847||The Liberian Declaration of Independence was declared. It partially mirrored the United States Declaration of Independence. It stated, among other things: that we recognize in all men certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the right to acquire, possess, enjoy, and defend property. Representatives drew up a constitution modeled after that of the United States.|
|1862||The United States formally recognized Liberia’s independence. The U.S. established formal diplomatic relations and signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with Liberia.|
|1864||A restrictive 1864 Ports of Entry Law. The law restricted foreign traders from having direct commercial contact with the natives. It directed all trades or traders through Liberia’s five main ports, including Robertsport, Monrovia, Marshall, Grand Bassa, Greenville, Sinoe, and Cape Palmas ports.|
|1864-1871||The Thirteenth Amendment also influenced public opinion regarding the emancipation of slaves. It states as follows: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for the crime of which the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.|
|1884-1885||A dispute between France and Britain over African territorial positions led the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, to call the Berlin Conference to settle their dispute. In follow-up meetings, Great Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, and King Leopold II negotiated their African territories and protected their commercial interests in Africa.|
|1885||Gallinas’ territory located between the Sewa River and the Mano River annexed to Sierra Leone. Through the Havelock Draft Convention, the Mono River began the boundary between Liberia and Sierra Leone, thus ending the vague and puny borderline dispute between the British Colony in Sierra Leone and the Liberian Government.|
|1917||Liberia declared war on Germany, giving the Allies a base in West Africa.|
|1926||Firestone Tire and Rubber Company opened a rubber plantation on land granted by the Liberian government. The agreement grants Firestone the right to lease one million acres of land for 99 years and to exploit any gold, diamonds, and other minerals found on that land.|
|1929–1930||The Fernando Po Labor Crisis occurs. The League of Nations accused Charles DBKing’s administration of recruiting and exporting Liberian laborers to work in the Spanish colony of Fernando Po under conditions that it found very close to the slave trade.|
|1955||Tubman killed opponent S. David Coleman and his son John for allegedly plotting to overthrow Tubman. People are afraid to attend Coleman’s funeral. They don’t want to be considered Coleman sympathizers.|
|1974||The government accepts aid from the Soviet Union for the first time.|
|1976||President Tolbert addresses the joint session of the U.S. Congress during the United States’ bicentennial celebration|
|1978||U.S. president Jimmy Carter conducts the first official U.S. presidential visit to Liberia.|
|1979||The Progressive Alliance of Liberia led protesters and rioters in the streets of Monrovia following a proposed increase in the price of rice.|
|1980||Master Sergeant Samuel Doe carries out a military coup. President Tolbert and 13 of his aide were s publicly executed.|
|1985||Charles Taylor escaped from a Plymouth County jail in Massachusetts while awaiting extradition to Liberia. The love of ornament Liberia accused him of embezzling money.|
|1989||National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor began an uprising against the government.|
|1990||Prince Johnson captured and killed Samuel K. Doe.|
|2005||Ellen John becomes the first woman head of state in Africa.|
|2007||Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial started at The Hague accused of instigating atrocities in Sierra Leone.|
|2008||US President George W Bush ends a five-country tour visiting Liberia, one of America’s staunchest allies on the continent.|
|2012||Ex-president Charles Taylor is found guilty of war crimes for aiding and directing rebels in Sierra Leone. The Court sentenced him to 50 years in jail.|
|2018||George Manneh Oppong Weah becomes the 25th President of Liberia.|