Liberia, which has never been colonized, was the first African republic to proclaim its independence and is Africa’s oldest republic. The region became known as the Grain Coast because the Melegueta pepper, a rare spice that was as valuable as gold, was the principal item of trade.
The country’s long history of conflict and instability began in the 1800s when it was suggested by the American Colonization Society as a suitable home for freed American slaves, for it was believed that black people had more chances in Africa rather than in the US. When the Americo-Liberians began to settle the area and declared it an independent Republic, they turned into a small elite that politically and economically overpowered the many indigenous people, who were even excluded from birthright citizenship in their own land. Hence, Liberia enjoyed relative stability until a rebellion in 1989 escalated into a destructive civil war that did not fully cease until 2003. During the first democratic elections after the peace agreement, the first female president in the whole continent was elected. The conflicts, however, as well as an outbreak of the Ebola virus, severely affected national infrastructure and basic social services. Today, traditional and Western lifestyles coexist; English is the official language, but over 20 indigenous languages are spoken (making up more than 95% of the population). African culture is highly promoted by the government through agencies like the National Museum in Monrovia and the National Cultural Center in Kendeja, and in school where students are instructed on the legends, traditions, songs, arts, and crafts from their culture.