Africa, Earth, Liberia, Western Africa

Liberia – 50 Dollars – Year 2016

Front of 50 dollar banknote, Liberia, 2016

The front of our year 2016 banknote features one time President of Liberia, Samuel K. Doe. 1, the first native Head of State in the history of Liberia. 2 The story of President Doe incarnates the dichotomy of Liberia. Samuel K. Doe, born in 1950, become Head of State in 1980 at age 30, died by assassination in 1990 at age 40, and honored on our banknote twenty-six years after that.

Back of 50 dollar banknote, Liberia, 2016

For 133 years previous, the government of Liberia was dominated by the pioneering founders of the country and their descendants. In 1980, that all changed.
The generations-long brew of resentment among indigenous inhabitants of Liberia and the descendants of American transplants informed the thinking of young Samuel Doe. Having joined the army at age 18, and having displayed talent, in 1980, at age 30 he led the squadron which took the palace and killed the President. Naming himself general, Samuel Doe became Head of State at age 30, the first native Head of State in the history of Liberia.

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Flag of Liberia

The flag is modeled after that of the United States of America.  Liberia’s 11 stripes represent the 11 signers of the Lberian Declaration of Independence.  The single star symbolizes African unity.

Coat of Arms of Liberia

The Coat of Arms for Liberia contains numerous symbols of the country’s founding and aspirations.

The sailing ship represents the arrival of freed slaves from the United States.  The plow and the shovel represent dignity and labor.  The palm tree represents royalty; and the rising sun, the birth of the country.  The white dove symbolizes the breath of peace.  The motto of the nation is bannered across the top of the shield, The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here.3

 

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The colonial era began with the voyage of Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic ocean in 1492.  What has become known as the Atlantic slave trade, commenced almost simultaneously, and grew with the growth of colonialism.  In 1494, the Pope blessed the Treaty of Tordesillas which effectively divided the New World, outside of Europe, between Spain and Portugal, an indicator of just who were the dominating world powers at that time.  For the next one and one third centuries, the colonial era was largely the story of the Spanish and the Portuguese; and so was the story of the Atlantic slave trade.

Within 10 years of Columbus’ first voyage of 1492, the first African slave arrived in the new Spanish colony.  The year was 1501.  The place was Hispaniola, now known as The Dominican Republic.  The Portuguese began to colonize Brazil in 1532.  Although the Portuguese initiated their slave operations in the new world later than Spain, it wasn’t long before they exceeded Spain in the slave trade.  In fact, by the time of the final abolition of the African Slave Trade, the Portuguese had imported more African slaves into Brazil than any other country did into any other colony.  An estimate has 4 million slaves from Africa arriving in Brazil, 40% of the total number of slaves from Africa in the New World.4  Another million arrived in Spanish colonies.

With the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, ‘the image of Spain’s invulnerability in the Atlantic’5 was also overthrown.  Soon other European nations embarked on colonization programs and, building upon the established economic model, expanded the Atlantic Slave Trade.  These nations included Great Britain, France, Holland and Denmark.  The Dutch transported their first slaves to colonies in 1637 and the British in 1641.  And then the British were among the first nations to abolish slavery in1808, followed soon by Holland in 1814.6Spain abolished slavery in 1818 and Portugal in 1858.  Approximately 4% of the total Atlantic slave trade arrived in the territories now under the governance of the United States.

Slaves were transported to the United States territory, both before and after the founding of the country.  Modern estimates from various sources often range around 400,000 souls in total7 8 9., with about 25% arriving following the ratification of the Constitution, and 99% of that latter number to the southern states of the country.10

The spreading views of The Enlightenment combined with Christian sentiments to fuel political movements against slavery in the early history and prehistory of the United States. These views rang out in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson in 177611 and the 2nd Inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln12 almost 100 years later.
In the early years after the founding of the United States of America, a movement developed out of concern for the slavery dilemma. By this time, slavery as an institution was well established, particularly in the agricultural oriented states of the South. And, in the natural evolution of things, there were people who defended slavery, people who attacked slavery, people who were slaves, and people who were free men now and formerly slaves. What to do? What is to be Done? Liberia was an early answer to this question. Liberia. The very name means Liberty. Liberia.

An early movement was known as American Colonization Society led directly to the founding of our nation Liberia.  In 1822 the ACS formed a colony on the West coast of Africa with the intent to found a nation for free African Americans.  The concept was that freedom there would be better than emancipation within the United States.  The concept had supporters and detractors across the spectrum, but the colony was established and in 1847 declared independence as the country of Liberia, about a decade and a half before the American Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War.  By 1867, just after the end of the American Civil War, 13,000 people had emigrated to Liberia from the United States..

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The map below is from the website database www.slavevoyages.org.  Select tab “Assessing the Slave Trade”, and, from the drop down menu, select “Introductory Maps“, and got to Map 9: Volume and direction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from all African to all American regions

Map 9: Volume and direction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from all African to all American regions

 

I would sincerely welcome your suggestions for improvement to this article.  Thank you.