• The American influence on Liberia`s social and cultural outlook is deeply entrenched.
• Some historical schools of thought have argued that Liberia was birthed by the United States of America.
• The free and former US slaves who emigrated to Liberia brought with them their sewing and quilting skills.
Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence and is Africa’s first and oldest modern republic. Along with Ethiopia, it was one of the two African countries to maintain its sovereignty during the Scramble for Africa. However, in other avenues it might seem Liberia must have been an American colony at some point. The American influence on Liberia`s social and cultural outlook is deeply entrenched to the extent that their flags are almost the same.
Despite being a country with diverse ethnic groups, Liberia has a flag that is strikingly similar to that of the U.S.A. Save for the multitude of stars that are imprinted on the U.S flag against one star on the Liberian flag, everything that follows is just the same. One would not be faulted for confusing the American flag with that of Liberia.
Known today as the Lone Star, the Liberian flag was sewed by seven women, all born in America. The three colours were chosen to symbolize the three original counties: Grand Bassa, Montserrado, and Sinoe. Eleven stripes represent the signers of the Liberian Declaration of Independence. The red stripes symbolize valor and bravery. The white stripes represent purity. The dark blue canton in the upper left corner stands for fidelity and the continent of Africa. A five-pointed star inside the blue background represents Liberia itself, the first independent country on the continent of Africa.
Apart from the flag, Liberia`s constitution, political structure, currency, architecture, car plate numbering, educational curriculum and seal are all fashioned after that of the U.S. It is also understood that its capital, Monrovia was named after former U.S President James Monroe. In fact, the city is named in reverence of President Monroe because he supported the plan of relocating freed American slaves back to Africa. Liberians also celebrate the U.S Thanksgiving Day and most of the Liberian towns have a common name with U.S towns. While it is factual that America did not colonize Liberia at least there is deep historical connection between the two countries.
The historical ties between U.S.A and Liberia
Some historical schools of thought have argued that Liberia was birthed by the United States of America since the two countries share a seamless historical relationship dating back to the 19th century. Liberia began in the early 19th century as a project of the American Colonization Society, which believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. Between 1822 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, more than 15,000 freed and free-born African Americans, along with 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to Liberia.
The American Colonization Society was established in 1816 by Abolitionists who felt that freed slaves should be helped in returning to Africa. Land was purchased from local tribes on the West African coast, and the territory founded there came to be known as Liberia, from the Latin word liber (“free”). The gradual expansion of the territory and population of Liberia led to its acquisition of a distinctive flag on April 9, 1827. The U.S. flag was the basis for the design. It should be understood however that before the area covered by the country was named Liberia, there were at least 16 indigenous groups inhabiting it.
Gradually developing an Americo-Liberian identity, the settlers carried their culture and tradition with them. Liberia declared independence on July 26, 1847, which the U.S. did not recognize until February 5, 1862. Fast forward during World War II, Liberia supported the United States war effort against Germany, and in turn received considerable American investment in infrastructure, which aided the country’s wealth and development.
Modern influences in Liberia
In modern-day Liberia, all ethnic groups are spread across 15 counties that each carry a unique flag. This diversity is one of the country’s best attributes. The most popular sport in Liberia is association football, with George Weah (former footballer and current President of Liberia) being the nation’s most famous athlete. He is so far the only African to be named FIFA World Player of the Year. Liberia also boasts a record of being the first country to elect the first female head of State in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Liberia has its own ancient music and instruments. While Liberian music is part of wider West African music heritage, it is also distinct from its neighbours. There are several different types of drums used in traditional music. Drums are one of the most widely used instruments in many ceremonies both official and nonofficial, weddings, christenings and graduations. Due to its strong relationship with the United States, Liberia has also produced its own American-influenced quilts. The free and former US slaves who emigrated to Liberia brought with them their sewing and quilting skills.
It is only fair to state that the U.S helped in Liberia`s establishment and consequently has a major influence in the country`s lifestyle. America never colonized Liberia, neither did it originate this West African country.