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Monrovia, Liberia (1821- )

Monrovia is the capital of Liberia as well as its largest city. It is located on Bushrod Island and Cape Mesurado along the Mesurado River. A 2008 census showed its population as 970,824.

Monrovia was founded on April 25, 1822 by members of the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization created to return U.S.-born former slaves to Africa.  ACS representatives first arrived on the Mesurado River in 1821. The original name of Monrovia was Christopolis. In 1824 it was renamed “Monrovia” after James Monroe, who was the American President at the time as well as a supporter of the American Colonization Society. The indigenous populations of the areas surrounding Monrovia felt that the city was built on stolen land and began attacking it as early as 1822. Those attacks continued sporadically until the mid-nineteenth century.

Monrovia’s first settlers were former Southern slaves. Not surprisingly the early architecture of the city was largely influenced by the style of the Southern antebellum buildings.

Monrovia grew slowly during the rest of the 19th Century.  After the Civil War the American Colonization Society was taken over by emigrationists such as Edward Wilmot Blyden and Bishop Alexander Crummell. They urged post-Civil War African Americans to settle there and many of them did until World War I. These Americo-Liberians, both those in the initial wave of settlement in the 1822-1848 period (Liberia became independent that year), and those who came after the U.S. Civil War, politically and culturally dominated the city.

After World War II growing numbers of indigenous people from the interior of Liberia began migrating to the capital to exploit new job opportunities. Always present in the city back to its founding, by 1950 for the first time, they were the majority of the city’s residents.   

In 1980 Sergeant Samuel Doe of the Liberian Army led a coup which toppled the existing government.  For the first time in its history Liberia was controlled by indigenous people rather than Americo-Liberians. Doe

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