Liberia is a country with historical ties to the United States. It was founded by freed black slaves during the pre-Civil War antebellum era of the nineteenth century. The capital, Monrovia, was named after James Monroe. Liberia's flag closely resembles the American flag, reflecting the historical ties of Liberia to the United States.
Anthropological research shows the region of Liberia was inhabited at least as far back as the 12th century, perhaps earlier. Between 1461 and the late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders had contacts and trading posts in Liberia. The Portuguese had named the area Costa da Pimenta, later translated as Grain Coast, because of the abundance of grains of melegueta pepper.
In 1822, the American Colonization Society which was the primary vehicle for returning black Americans to greater freedom in Africa, established Liberia as a place to send people who were formerly enslaved. This movement of black people by the A.C.S. had broad support nationwide among white people in America. While the institution of slavery in America grew, reaching almost four million slaves by the mid 1800s, a growing population in the U.S. chose to emigrate to Liberia as well. African-Americans gradually migrated to the colony and became known as Americo-Liberians, from whom many present day Liberians trace their ancestry. On July 26, 1847, Americo-Liberian settlers declared independence of the Republic of Liberia.
Liberia retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa, but lost its claim to extensive territories that were annexed by Britain and France. Economic development was hindered by the decline of markets for Liberian goods in the late 19th century and by indebtedness on a series of loans, payments on which drained the economy.
On April 12, 1980, a successful military coup was staged by a group of non-commissioned army officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe. The soldiers were a mixture of the various ethnic groups that claimed marginalization at the hands of the minority Americo-Liberian settlers. In late 1989, the First Liberian Civil War began and the country was in state of war to varying degrees until 2003. Liberia is recovering from a devastating civil war that ended with a ceasefire in August 2003.
While the country is now on the mend, it has not yet redeveloped the necessary infrastructure to sustain a large increase in tourism, with little for the average visitor outside Monrovia. Towns like Buchanan, Ganta etc are little more than a collection of shanty houses with no decent hotels or food. Monrovia in general is calmer than the more far-flung areas although the situation countrywide is improving with the presence of UN Peacekeepers. Fear should not stop you enjoying your visit but act with caution. Travel outside Monrovia is very difficult and not advisable on your own.