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History, Relations with Indigenous People

Malinke, forced labor, rubber plantation, Firestone Tire, Kru

The Americo-Liberian communities eked out a precarious existence during the 19th century. Claims over interior territory were disputed not only by the indigenous Mandinka (also known as Mandingo or Malinke), Kru, and Gola peoples, but also by European states that did not recognize Liberian jurisdiction over the interior. U.S. support led to a series of agreements with Britain and France between 1892 and 1911, which marked the present boundaries. (Liberian control over the interior peoples, however, was not completely assured until the 1940s.) Loans from Britain and the United States partially eased the countryís financial difficulties. Liberia declared war on Germany on August 14, 1917, which gave the Allies an additional base in West Africa during World War I (1914-1918). In 1926 the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company opened a rubber plantation on 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land granted by the Liberian government the year before. Rubber production became the mainstay of the nationís economy.

In 1931 the League of Nations confirmed that Americo-Liberians were using native Africans for forced labor, tantamount to slavery. The ensuing scandal implicated the highest government officials; the president and vice president resigned. By 1936 the new government had succeeded in abolishing forced-labor practices and Liberia was again in good standing with the League. The indigenous population, however, was still treated as second-class citizens, without voting rights.

Article key phrases:

Malinke, forced labor, rubber plantation, Firestone Tire, Kru, League of Nations, labor practices, Rubber Company, indigenous population, European states, hectares, World War, good standing, mainstay, Allies, Loans, West Africa, Mandingo, slavery, new government, vice president, Britain, France, abolishing, acres, Germany, century, land, year, United States, support, rights


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