Liberia is an African country founded in one of the most bizarre cases of colonialism ever. The country's name derives from the Latin word for "free". The capital of Liberia, Monrovia, was named after the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe. Alongside Ethiopia (until the 1940s) and Darwiish State, they were the only nations in Africa that eluded the Scramble for Africa.
The American Colonization Society, an American group made up of free African-Americans looking to leave a racist society that would never accept them and the white racists who made their acceptance in America impossible collaborated with the U.S. government to found an African colony in which to settle said free blacks. In a culmination of Affirmative Action that would make any modern racist cringe, the constitution even explicitly barred white people from becoming citizens.[note 1]
Nobody asked the country's indigenous population what they thought of this plan. Social, political, and economic relations between Americo-Liberians, who typically saw themselves as more "advanced" and thus having a civilizing mission to carry out in their new home, and local ethnic groups were reminiscent of those between white and black back in America, right down to a Southern plantation ethos and aesthetic, with rubber in the place of King Cotton. This had lasting effects on the development of the country.
While people are quick to point out that Liberia was never colonized by Europe, it would thus be a mistake to think of the country as an oasis of freedom during Africa's years of imperial rule.
While the rule of the Americo-Liberians as they call themselves was bad, only when they were deposed in a coup in 1980 did the shit really hit the fan. Since then there has hardly been a peaceful year or a democratic election in Liberia. After one particularly devastating civil war, which also spilled over into neighboring countries, elections were held in 2005 in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf beat out Gorge Weah, better known as one of the best soccer players ever to come out of Africa. Sirleaf has since been reelected in 2011 and continues to lead the country in a more or less democratic[note 2] fashion.
Liberia is notorious for being one of the countries that provide "flags of convenience": As the regulations applying to a ship and its crew depend on the country it's registered in, Liberia's lax ship registry allows (allowed?) ship owners to get away with things that would be impossible in more developed countries. The tanker that caused the first major tanker-caused oil spill in 1967, Torrey Canyon, was sailing under a Liberian flag.
- The phrasing "none but persons of colour" was changed to the more specific "none but Negroes or persons of Negro descent" in a 1955 revision, earning Liberia the questionable distinction of being the only country whose nationality law explicitly requires membership of a specific race. The law remains in effect in the latter form to this day.
- The runoff of her reelection was boycotted by her opponent, making her win with over 90% of the vote.
- Gordon, Andrew. "Time after Time in the Horn of Africa." Journal of Military History 74.1 (2010).