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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

New Americans

Immigrants from other areas of the world

The Liberian people

Cultural Profile of their country of origin- Liberia

Facts about Liberia

Capital city: Monrovia

Government Type: presidential republic

Currency: Liberian Dollar (LRD)

Total Area: 43,000 Square Miles (111,369 Square Kilometers)

Population: 5,073,296

Independence Day: July 26 (1847)

Liberia is the oldest republic on the continent of Africa. It has the distinction of being the only country within Bantustan (Black State of Africa) to have never been under colonial rule, and has been known as the “Lone Star,” (its flag has one star) for being the only independent republic in Africa during the colonial period.

The seal of Liberia has a ship (a reminder of what brought the American settlers to Africa), a palm tree, and a plow. It is inscribed with the motto “The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here.” The land of freedom for the liberated enslaved and freeborn Blacks of the United States of America, it came to be through an agreement reached by the American Colonization Society (ACS), a group of Quakers and slaveholders, and some state legislatures of the time.

These individuals were repatriated to Cape Montserrado (or Mesurado) starting in 1822 following a repatriation program. By 1862, over 19,000 repatriates (sometimes referred to as Americo-Liberians), would be moved from the USA to this settlement.

The freedom that it offered to these Americo-Liberians sometimes came at a price for the indigenous Africans that lived in the area originally, their land sometimes bought, or simply taken, using shady and unlawful means. The relationship between these indigenous Africans and the Americo-Liberians was an uneasy one from the start.

The original Americo-Liberians tried to recreate their version of the land they were coming from in Liberia. From the way they designed their flag, to the buildings they constructed and the Southern Christian way of life they grew up in, while the indigenous Africans there wanted to maintain their ways of life. They reached an uneasy truce, and the newcomers quickly rose to the elite status. This conflict continued for generations, and culminated in a civil war from 1989 to 1997.

Ethnic and cultural diversity in Liberia

The culture of Liberia reflects this nation's diverse ethnicities and long history. There are officially 17 distinct ethnic groups that make up Liberia's indigenous African population, making up around 95% of the total: Kpelle, the largest group; Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mandingo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, Sapo, Belleh (Kuwaa), Mende and Dey.

There are also semi nomadic groups such as the Fula, who engage usually in trade, and the Fanti, who are often fishermen or traders of fish, usually from Ghana, who travel seasonally but some remain permanently in Liberia.

Then there are Americo-Liberians, who are descendants of free-born and formerly enslaved black Americans who arrived in Liberia from 1822 onward, and Congo People (descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean), making up an estimated 5% of the population. They used to dominate political life in Liberia and still have a lot of influence.

There are about 5,000 people of European descent, many of them having settled down as miners, missionaries, business people, and so on. There also is a number of Lebanese, Indians, and other people with Asian roots who make up a significant part of Liberia's business community. Because of the civil war and its accompanying problem of insecurity, the number of non-Africans in Liberia is low and confined largely to Monrovia and its immediate surroundings.

The Liberian Constitution restricts citizenship of Liberia only to people who are either 'Negroes or of Negro descent' wherein the Liberian Constitution / Chapter 4 / Article 27b states: "In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia."

For more information on their demographics, visit this page. To read about their general culture, visit this page.

The following videos were created by Nvasekie Konneh, and posted a few years ago on Youtube. They were inspired, according to the author, by the book The Land of my Father's Birth that he also authored. In his own words, these documentary videos are about the rich ethnic and cultural diversity in Liberia. This is discussed from different perspectives with a diverse group of Liberians that have different social, religious, political and cultural backgrounds. He encourages people to enrich their understanding of who they are as people, and as a nation. Each video is about one hour long.

Stay tuned for more information on the Liberians and their culture, and more places and their people in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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