Saturday, February 17, 2007


We get many questions about Liberia. Most do not know where the country is. Before we brought the children home we would get people who would say "So you're adopting from Russia?" No. That's LIthuania. Now that we have our children home it is pretty evident that they are from Africa. The geography is narrowed down a bit but Africa is a big continent. There are over fifty countries on the continent.
West Africa is densely populated with countries. LIberia is surrounded by Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Guinea. Most of these countries I have grown up knowing about through missionary stories. Liberia and Sierra Leone have very interesting histories.
The United States has a vested interest in helping Liberia. In the 1820s, there was a lot of fuss on what to do with slaves in America. The British had abolished slavery and were sending their slaves to the British colony of Sierra Leone to start a new life. Men like Thomas Jefferson felt that black and white people could never live together in harmony. One of the proposals was to send the black people (those that were free and slaves) to the West coast. But, many feared that the black people would make an alliance with the Indians, Canadians, and Mexicans and ultimately make war against the United States. So, the next best idea was to send them back to Africa. Mind you, this is before the civil war.
So, many free blacks and some emancipated slaves were sent to Liberia. We still did not think that they could govern themselves so we sent white Americans to fill those positions. LIfe was rough on these new immigrants. There were existing tribes to deal with (these tribes were still selling slaves), adjustment to weather, and the fact that they had to learn how to live in, what was for them, a foreign country. By the way, Stonewall Jackson (a Confederate General) emancipated his slaves, sent them to Liberia, and helped them establish themselves. Their letters back and forth is some of the only history we have of this new colony.
Over the years, Liberia became its own country. As with many African countries, Liberia has had many ups and downs. At one point Monrovia was considered a resort area and was a big, modern city. After the recent dictatorship of Charles Taylor the country is in ruins. There is no electricity or running water. We liken it to what the U. S. would be like if we had a dictator who cut off all utilities. We would not know how to live without running water, sewers, and electricity or gas. Lawlessness would take over considering that police and firemen would be completely helpless. Our lives would change as much as their lives have changed.
LIberia was prosperous because they have a big economic export: rubber. Firestone used to have quite a few plants there until the war. As for the present, Liberia's new president, Ellen Shurleaf Johnson, is trying to reverse years of destruction and corruption. A bit hard to do when the government is so saturated with corruption. But, she is really trying and should be applauded for any attempt that she can make to reestablish Liberia as a democratic Africa country.
I must add that if you have any questions about Liberia or life there I will try to answer them as best I can or lead you to the right resource. We have gained most of our info from a wonderful children's book that you can get at your local library. It is called "This Our Dark Country" by Catherinne Reef.

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