Liberian Americans

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Liberian American
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Total population
64,581 (2013 American Community Survey)[1]
71,038 (Liberian-born, 2007-2011) [2]
Regions with significant populations
Mainly Rhode Island (state) and New York, Washington, D.C., Staten Island (cities)
Related ethnic groups

Liberian Americans are Americans of full or partial Liberian ancestry. This includes Liberians who are of African American descent. It also includes the descendants of Americo-Liberian people in America. The first wave of Liberians to the United States, after the slavery period, was after of the First Liberian Civil War in the 1980s and, then, after the Second Liberian Civil War in the early 2000s. An estimated 100,000 Liberians live in the U.S. as of this time. The diplomatic relationship between Liberia and the USA goes back over 150 years since Liberia's foundation by returning African slaves freed by abolitionist societies which set aside land for the freedmen and paved the way to its independence.[3]


The first Liberians in U.S.[edit]

The first people that emigrated to United States from the regions that currently form Liberia were slaves imported between the 17th and 19th centuries. Thus, many individuals can trace backgrounds to groups such as the Kpelle, Kru, Gola, and, perhaps, the Gio, Grebo, Bassa, Vai and Mandingo. Many of them were imported by Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia planters.[4] The children of some of these slaves gained some notability in the United States, as was the case of abolitionist, journalist, physician, and writer Martin Delany (1812 – 1885), arguably the first proponent of American black nationalism and the first African-American field officer in the United States Army during the American Civil War.[5]

However, between 1822 and the second half of the 19th century, with the abolition of slavery in the United States, many slaves (probably of different African origins) returned to Africa, settling in West Africa and founding Liberia (integrating regions populated already since before of arrived of Afro American). Thus, the Liberian migration in the United States not touched again until the 20th century. In this moment, the first Liberians that came to United States, settled in this country already in the first half of this century. However, in this moment, only several hundred of Liberians immigrated to the United States, a very small number compared with the people who emigrated from Europe, Asia and Latin America. Also in the 50's and 60 migrated hundreds of Liberian to the United States (232 and 569 respectively). It was not until the 1970s when there was a considerable immigration from Liberia, which amounted to 2.081 people. This low immigration was caused, probably because Liberia had one of the most stable democracies and prosperous economies in Africa up until the military coup happened in this country in 1980.[6]

First Liberian Civil War[edit]

During the 20th century few Liberian emigrated to United States; most who did were students.[7] However, when developing the First Liberian Civil War (1989–96), emigrated thousands of Liberian to the United States, becoming so the first wave of migration from Liberians to that country. So, from 1990 through 1997, the INS reported 13,458 Liberians fled to the United States and that lived there permanently. During these years, there were also tens of thousands who sought temporary refuge in the United States. In fact, in 1991 alone, the INS guaranteed Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to approximately 9,000 Liberians in the United States.[6] However, still after the war, more than 6,000 Liberians moved to Providence, Rhode Island. About 10,000 other Liberians settled across the U.S. and most of them decided to stay after the war ended.[8] Although the INS revoked the status in 1997 following national elections in Liberia, many of these Liberian Americans refused return to Liberia. As of mid-1999, the U.S. Congress decided by legislation to give the Liberian refugees permanent status in the United States.[6]

Second Liberian Civil War[edit]

After the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003), large numbers of Liberians settled in Rhode Island, Staten Island, Philadelphia, Virginia, Georgia and Minnesota. By 2010, Liberians established another sizable community in California primarily in West Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland.[9]


Liberian American organizations estimate there are between 250,000 and 500,000 Liberians living in the United States. This figure includes Liberian residents that have a temporary status, and American of Liberian descent. The metropolitan areas with the largest Liberian immigrant populations are New York and Washington, D.C.; other cities with significant numbers of Liberians include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Fort Worth (Texas), Hartford (Connecticut), Los Angeles and Oakland (California), Miami, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. So, as states such as Rhode Island and New Jersey.[6]

Most Liberian Americans live on the east coast of United States (New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina). So, it is thought Rhode Island (specifically Providence) is the state with the largest Liberian population in the country (about 0.4% of the city's population is of Liberian ancestry).[6] Specifically in the western part, most Liberian Americans living on his coast, live in California, especially in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Stockton. In fact, the Liberian Community Foundation, in Vallejo, California, estimated that about 4,000 Liberians living in Northern California. Meanwhile, the Liberian Community Association of Southern California, estimates that another 2,000 Liberian Americans live in Southern California.[6] Also Chicago has an important Liberian community because there is the Midwestern Consul General of the Honorary Liberian Consulate.[7] More than 30,000 people of Liberian descent live in Minnesota.[10]

Many Liberians have formed families in United States. However, some still vow to return to their country once the political and social situation stabilizes, which, according to the president of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, Joseph D. Z. Korto, seems unlikely to happen in a "near future."[6]

Language and culture[edit]

While there is a variety of languages spoken in Liberia (where English, official language of the country, is spoken by 20% of the population), the majority of Liberians in the United States speak English. Kru is the native Liberian language most widely spoken in the United States. Another language spoken by some Liberian Americans is Gullah, a Creole language, though this language is spoken primarily by the descendants of slaves brought from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, and not by recent immigrants. It is spoken by a small group of people in the Carolina Sea Islands and the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The majority of Liberian Americans (unlike the people of Liberia, who are predominantly of African cultures) are Christian, while a much smaller number are Muslim. Christian Liberians have numerous denominations, including Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist and Catholic.[6]


Liberian Americans are actively involved in lobbying the federal government, supporting freedom and democracy in Liberia. They also have organizations that support various issues affecting Liberia, such as humanitarian assistance, wildlife and nature preservation, and women's rights.[6]

See also[edit]