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Americo-Liberians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Americo-Liberians Liberia
Total population
150,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Languages
Religion
Protestantism
Related ethnic groups
Sierra Leone Creole and African Americans

Americo-Liberians, or Congo people or Congau people in Liberian English,[2] are a Liberian ethnic group of African-American, Afro-Caribbean and Liberated African descent. The sister ethnic group of Americo-Liberians are the Sierra Leone Creole people, who shared similar ancestry and related culture.[3] Americo-Liberians trace their ancestry to free-born and formerly enslaved African Americans who emigrated in the 19th century to become the founders of the state of Liberia. They identified there as Americo-Liberians. (Some African Americans – in the more common sense of the term – following resettlement in Canada also participated as founding settlers in Sierra Leone and present-day Côte d'Ivoire.[3]) Although the terms "Americo-Liberian" and "Congo" had distinct definitions in the nineteenth century, they are currently interchangeable and refer to an ethnic group composed of the descendants of the various free and ex-slave African American, Caribbean, Recaptive, and Sierra Leone Creoles who settled in Liberia from 1822.

Later in Liberia, these African Americans integrated 5,000 liberated Africans called Congos (former slaves from the Congo Basin, who were freed by British and Americans from slave ships after the prohibition of the African slave trade) and 500 Barbadian immigrants into the hegemony.[4] Americo-Liberians rarely intermarried with indigenous West Africans.[5]

Although Western literature and discourse in the United States and United Kingdom use the term "Americo-Liberians", this term is outdated and in common parlance the majority of Liberians (including the Americo-Liberian people themselves) and neighbouring West Africans such as Sierra Leoneans refer to the Americo-Liberian people as "Congo" or "Congau" people.[2]

The colonists and their descendants led the political, social, cultural and economic sectors of the country; they ruled the new nation from 19th century until 1980 as a dominant minority. From 1878 to 1980, the Republic of Liberia was a de facto one-party state ruled by both the indigenous and Americo-Liberian-dominated True Whig Party and Masonic Order of Liberia.[6]

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Transcription

Contents

History and settlement

Monrovia in the 19th century
Monrovia in the 19th century

"The love of liberty brought us here" was the motto of some 13,000 persons who crossed the Atlantic to create new settlements on the Grain Coast of West Africa between 1817 and 1867. Americo Liberians joined the Kingdom of Koya royal armed forces with the aid of the American Colonization Society. The early settlers practiced their Christian faith, sometimes in combination with traditional African religious beliefs. They spoke an African American Vernacular English, and few ventured into the interior or mingled with local African peoples.

Development of Americo-Liberian society

They developed an Americo-Liberian society, culture and political organization that was strongly influenced by their roots in the United States, particularly the country's Southeast. Americo-Liberians were credited for Liberia's largest and longest economic expansion, especially William V. S. Tubman, who did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendants of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior.[6] Most of the powerful old Americo-Liberian families fled to the United States in the 1980s after President William Tolbert was assassinated in a military coup.

Americo-Liberian settlements

The Americo-Liberians established several settlements along the St Paul River such as Monrovia, Crozerville or Crozierville, Careysburg, Clay-Ashland, Buchanan, Maryland, Mississippi-in-Africa, and Greenville. Several of the Americo-Liberians also settled in Cape Mount and the Barbadian settlers, who were incorporated into the Americo-Liberian or Congo ethnicity, settled in Crozierville and included prominent families such as the Barclays, Morgans, Bests, Thorpes, Weeks, and Portemans. The original Congo people or Liberated Africans or Recaptives were settled in New Georgia, and were into the Americo-Liberian ethnic group. Immigrants from Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast settled in Monrovia or in other Americo-Liberian settlements, and were incorporated into Americo-Liberian society. There was a distinction between the rural 'up-river' Americo-Liberians and the political and mercantile oriented Americo-Liberians in Monrovia.

Americo-Liberian and the political developments in Liberia

As founders of the nation, and taking up about 5% of the Liberian population, Americo-Liberians had a leading role national politics from the founding of the colony until Samuel Doe led a military coup in 1980. There is debate about how Americo-Liberians held on to power for so long. Some attribute it to the fact that divisions were based on "light-skin vs. dark skin", particularly because the first president was of mixed race, as were numerous immigrants, reflecting the nature of African-American society in the Upper South. Scholars have noted, however, that during the Americo-Liberian reign, the leaders had an array of skin colors and African-European admixture, meaning that theory is unlikely. It is more likely they built their power on their connections to the ACS, familiarity with American culture and economics, and ability to create a network of shared interests. Others believe their long reign was in part due to the Masonic Order of Liberia, a fraternal organization, as opposed to colorism. A marble Masonic Lodge was built in 1867 as one of Monrovia's most impressive buildings. It was considered a bastion of Americo-Liberian power, and was strong enough to survive the civil war. After years of neglect after the war the Masonic order has repaired the lodge.[7]

In 1980, a violent military coup was led by Samuel Doe. Doe's tenure as leader of Liberia led to a period of civil wars, resulting in destruction of the country's economy. In the early 21st century, Liberia has been reduced to one of the most impoverished nations in the world, in which most of the population lives below the international poverty line.

Americo-Liberian culture

Americo-Liberian culture is a blend of the African American and Caribbean culture brought to Liberia by the various American, Recaptive, and West Indian settlers and is exhibited by the cuisine, language, and architectural style of the Americo-Liberians. The Americo-Liberians introduced various aspects of African American culture in Liberia including Liberian Settler English and a unique form of antebellum architecture. Furthermore, Americo-Liberians contributed to the culinary cuisine of the region by introducing American baking techniques.

Education

The Americo-Liberians arrived with varying degrees of formal and informal education. Americo-Liberians established schools and also established the University of Liberia, formerly Liberia College, in addition to other higher learning institutions such as Cuttington College. The Americo-Liberians were among the first black Africans to qualify as medical doctors and lawyers in the United States and prominent Americo-Liberian pioneers include Dr Solomon Carter Fuller, a distinguished Harvard-educated Liberian psychiatrist and physician. Several Americo-Liberians worked as teachers and taught both Americo-Liberian and Liberians from other ethnic groups. Americo-Liberians made a concerted effort to educate Liberians from other ethnic groups, including through the use of the ward system.

Religion

The Americo-Liberians introduced Protestant Christianity on a wider scale in the modern-day region of Liberia. Several Americo-Liberians served as missionaries to other ethnic groups in Liberia and were among the first Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopal missionaries of black African descent in Liberia.

Food

Americo-Liberians introduced traditional African American baking techniques into the modern-day region of Liberia. Liberia remains unique for its baking traditions that are derived from the African American immigrants to Liberia

Dress

Americo-Liberians, similar to other Liberians, wear both African and Western-style dress. Ethnic groups in Liberia had been accustomed to European dress prior to the arrival of the Americo-Liberians, as a consequence of extensive trade with Europeans dating to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. However, the Americo-Liberians popularised Western-style dress including the top hat, tailcoat, and frock coat. In the modern era, Liberians, irrespective of ethnicity, wear both African and Western-style dress.

Language

The Americo-Liberians introduced a form of African American Vernacular English that influenced the existing pidgin English or patois that existed in the region of Liberia from the precolonial era.

Architecture

Americo-Liberian architecture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a unique fusion of antebellum architecture from the United States blended into the African environment of Liberia. Americo-Liberian houses were built of weather-board or stone frame and had both verandahs with wealthier Americo-Liberians incorporating the neo Greco-Roman of the antebellum southern plantation great houses.

Americo-Liberian legacy

While globalization has carried African-American culture around the world, Americo-Liberians reproduced their own cultural American continuity in Liberia. Its name means "land of the free", and it is considered the most American of African countries in terms of its political institutions.[8] The Liberian constitution, structure of government, and flag resemble those of the United States. The former residences of Americo-Liberian families were built in the style of antebellum plantation homes they may have admired in the American South.[7] Their language continued to carry elements of African American Vernacular English.[citation needed] By many accounts, Liberians easily integrate into African-American communities. Liberian immigrants to the United States have the highest passport acceptance rates and the longest extension rates of any citizens of African nations.[citation needed]

Although many of the Americo-Liberian class left or were killed during the civil wars, and their houses and monuments crumbling, ordinary Liberians look to the United States for aid. In 2007, BET founder Robert Johnson called for "African Americans to support Liberia like Jewish Americans support Israel".[9]

Notable people

The Americo-Liberian or Congau ethnic group has produced several notable politicians, businessman, and professionals including:

American-born presidents of Liberia

Americo-Liberians formed a cultural elite in Liberia. The following presidents of Liberia were born in the United States:

Also one president of Liberia was born in the British West Indies:

All subsequent presidents were born in Liberia, though only one (except acting heads of state), Samuel Doe, is believed to be of exclusive indigenous heritage.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Americo-Liberians". BlackPast.org. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Cooper, Helene, The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood (United States: Simon and Schuster, 2008), p. 6
  3. ^ a b Liberia: History, Geography, Government, and Culture, Infoplease.com
  4. ^ "About this Collection - Maps of Liberia, 1830-1870". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  5. ^ "Settlement of Liberia and Americo-Liberian Rule". PeacebuildingData.org at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  6. ^ a b President William V. S. Tubman, 1944–1971
  7. ^ a b "For Liberians, old ties to US linger", Christian Science Monitor, 8 August 2003.
  8. ^ Wegmann, Andrew N. "Christian Community and the Development of an Americo-Liberian Identity, 1822-1878," (M.A. Thesis: Louisiana State University, 2010) Archived 2010-06-30 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Robert L. Johnson, "Liberia's Moment of Opportunity", Washington Post, 13 May 2007
  10. ^ "25 years after his demise, Samuel Doe continues to cast a long shadow across Liberian politics". African Arguments. 9 September 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 December 2018, at 00:37
Basis of this page is in Wikipedia. Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License. Non-text media are available under their specified licenses. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. WIKI 2 is an independent company and has no affiliation with Wikimedia Foundation.