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Liberian Americans

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Liberian American
Total population
64,581 (2013 American Community Survey)[1]
74,737 (Liberian-born, 2014) [2]
Regions with significant populations
New York Metropolitan Area, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Providence, RI, Pawtucket, RI, Delaware Valley, Baltimore-Washington, Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta Metropolitan Area, Jacksonville, FL, Columbus, OH, Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Memphis, TN, Fargo, Charlotte metropolitan area, Des Moines, Chicagoland, Greater Boston,[3] San Diego California, Phoenix Arizona, Houston Texas
  • 85.6% of Liberians are Christians. Protestantism at 76.3% is predominant in the Greater Monrovia region and surrounding suburbs and Catholicism at 7.2% is predominant in the Southeastern counties. Islam is practiced by 12.2% of Liberians and is predominant among the Mandingo ethnic group as well as many members of the Vai and Mende ethnic groups. Traditional beliefs such as Voodoo or Juju is still practiced even among Christians and Muslims. The religious statistics for Liberian Americans however tend to be more Christian or irreligious.
Related ethnic groups

Liberian Americans are an ethnic group of Americans of full or partial Liberian ancestry. This can include Liberians who are 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 1990s and, then, after the Second Liberian Civil War in the early 2000s.

An estimated 74,000 Liberians living in the United States as of 2014. The diplomatic relationship between Liberia and the United States goes back over 200 years to Liberia's foundation as a settlement for free people of color and freedmen from the United States organized by the American Colonization Society in 1822.[4]


The first Liberians in the United States[edit]

The first people that emigrated to the 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.[5] 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.[6]

Between 1822 and the second half of the 19th century, many free people of color and slaves returned to Africa, settling in West Africa and founding Liberia (inhabiting regions already populated) under the aegis of the American Colonization Society. Only several hundred Liberians immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, a very small number compared with the people who emigrated from Europe, Asia and Latin America. This continued in the 1950s and 1960s, as only 232 and 569 Liberians immigrated to the United States in each respective decade. It was not until the 1970s that there was a considerable outmigration from Liberia, which amounted to 2,081 people. This low immigration was due to the fact that Liberia was one of the more stable democracies and economies in Africa prior to the military coup in 1980.[7]

First Liberian Civil War[edit]

During the 20th century few Liberian emigrated to United States; most who did were students.[8] However, during the First Liberian Civil War (1989–96), thousands of Liberians emigrated to the United States. From 1990 through 1997, the INS reported that 13,458 Liberians fled to the United States and lived there permanently. During these years, there were also tens of thousands who sought temporary refuge in the United States. In 1991 alone, the INS guaranteed Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to approximately 9,000 Liberians in the United States.[7] After the war, another 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.[9] Although the INS revoked the TPS status in 1997 following national elections in Liberia, many of these Liberian Americans refused return to Liberia. In 1999, the U.S. Congress decided to give the Liberian refugees permanent status in the United States.[7]

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 the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland).[10]


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.

As of 2017, an estimated 4,700 Liberian-Americans live in the Fargo, North Dakota area.[11] Other cities with large Liberian populations include Brooklyn Park, MN, Minneapolis, MN, St. Paul, MN, Brooklyn Center, MN Providence, RI, Pawtucket, RI, Staten Island, NY, the Bronx, NY. Newark, NJ Trenton, NJ, Morrisville, PA, Southwest Philadelphia, Darby, PA, Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania, Folcroft, PA, Sharon Hill, PA, Baltimore, MD, Silver Spring, MD, Gaithersburg, MD, Johnson City, TN, Charlotte, NC, Lawrenceville, GA, Jacksonville, FL, Des Moines, IA, Sioux Falls, SD, Columbus, OH, Fort Worth, TX, and Phoenix, AZ.

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."[7]

According to Census estimates from the American Community Survey for 2017–2021, the total number of Liberian immigrants in the United States was 95,300.[12] Of that number, the top counties were:

1) Hennepin County, Minnesota ----------------‐-------------- 10,000

2) Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania -------------------‐---- 4,600

3) Delaware County, Pennsylvania -----‐----‐----------------- 4,200

4) Mercer County, New Jersey ------‐---------------------------- 4,100

5) Providence County, Rhode Island -------------------------- 3,300

6) Mecklenburg County, North Carolina -------------------- 2,100

7) Bucks County, Pennsylvania --------------------------------- 2,100

8) Prince George's County, Maryland ------------------------ 2,000

9) Cass County, North Dakota ---------‐------‐------------------ 1,900

10) Montgomery County, Maryland ----------------‐----‐----- 1,800

11) Anoka County, Minnesota ----------------------------------- 1,800

12) Burlington County, New Jersey --------------------------- 1,700

13) Tarrant County, Texas ----------------------------------------- 1,600

14) Polk County, Iowa -----------------‐------------------------------ 1,600

15) Gwinnett County, Georgia ------------------------------------ 1,500

16) Essex County, New Jersey -----------------‐---------------- 1,400

17) Harris County, Texas ------------------------------------------- 1,300

18) Franklin County, Ohio ------------------------------------------ 1,300

19) DeKalb County, Georgia -------------------------------------- 1,300

20) Baltimore County, Maryland -------------------------------- 1,300

21) Ramsey County, Minnesota --------------------------------- 1,200

Language and culture[edit]

While there is a variety of languages spoken in Liberia (where English is the official language of the country), the majority of Liberians in the United States speak Standard English as well as the Liberian Kreyol language also known as Kolokwa which serves as a lingua franca among Liberians of different ethnic groups. The Kru languages such as Bassa, Kru, and Krahn are the most widely spoken Liberian native languages in the United States as well as Kpelle and Mandingo, both Mande languages.

The vast majority of Liberians, and thus Liberian Americans, are Christians (85.6%). Protestantism (76.3%) is predominant in the Greater Monrovia region and surrounding suburbs while Catholicism (7.2%) I mostly found in the southeastern counties. Islam is practiced by 12.2% of Liberians and is predominant among the Mandingo ethnic group as well as many members of the Vai and Mende ethnic groups. Traditional beliefs such as Voodoo or Juju have a stronghold in the more rural counties but is still practiced even among Christians and Muslims. The religious statistics for Liberian Americans however tend to be more Christian or irreligious.[7]


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.[7]

Notable Liberian-Americans[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  2. ^ "PLACE OF BIRTH FOR THE FOREIGN-BORN POPULATION IN THE UNITED STATES, Universe: Foreign-born population excluding population born at sea, 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 16 July 2013.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Ten Largest African-Born Countries of Birth in the United States by Selected Metropolitan Statistical Areas: 2008–2012" (PDF). census.gov. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  4. ^ "Liberian American Relations Revisited". Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  5. ^ Transatlantic linkage: The Gullah/Geechee-Sierra Leone Connection. Retrieved December 29, 2011, to 20:51 pm.
  6. ^ Frank A. Rollins, Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany, 1883, reprint 1969, Arno Press, pp. 14-17, accessed 21 February 2011
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Liberian Americans - History, Modern era, The first liberians in america". Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  8. ^ Encyclopedia of Chicago: Liverians in Chicago. Posted by Tracy N. Poe. Retrieved September 4, 2012, to 1:10 pm.
  9. ^ "All Africa. Stories". Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  10. ^ Lacosc: Liberian - American Association of Southern California.
  11. ^ "'We have to fit into this puzzle': Fargo's growing Liberian community seeks center of its own". InForum. 2017-04-22. Retrieved 2022-04-15.
  12. ^ "U.S. Immigrant Population by State and County". migrationpolicy.org. 2014-02-04. Retrieved 2023-06-25.
  13. ^ "Two Liberians Who Fled the Civil War Elected to House of Representatives in Colorado and Rhode Island". FrontPageAfrica. 2020-11-05. Retrieved 2021-03-25.
  14. ^ Friedman, Vanessa; O’Neill, Shane (2021-07-23). "Did You See What the Liberian Olympic Team Is Wearing?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  15. ^ Fisher, Don (2016-03-14). "Resettled Liberian Civil War refugee shares experiences at Missoula forum". KXLH. Archived from the original on 2017-11-10. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  16. ^ "Born in a refugee camp, Michigan commit Kwity Paye now living his dream". mlive. January 20, 2017.
  17. ^ GOODLAND, MARIANNE. "Biden executive order brings hope and memories to one Liberian immigrant". Colorado Politics. Retrieved 2021-03-25.
  18. ^ Zhou, Li (2023-04-17). "The outrage over Ralph Yarl's shooting, explained". Vox. Archived from the original on April 18, 2023. Retrieved 2023-04-18.
  19. ^ "Born in a refugee camp, Michigan commit Kwity Paye now living his dream". mlive. January 20, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Liebenow, J. Gus. Liberia: The Evolution of Privilege (Cornell University Press, 1969).
  • Lubkemann, Stephen C. "Diasporicity and Its Discontents: Generation and Fragmented Historicity in the Liberian Transnational Field." Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies 18.1 (2009): 208–227. excerpt
  • Ludwig, Bernadette. “Liberians: Struggles for Refugee Families.” in One out Of Three: Immigrant New York in the 21st Century, edited by Nancy Foner, (Columbia University Press, 2013) pp 200–222.
  • Reilly, Janet E. “Temporary Refugees: The Impact of US Policy on Civic Participation and Political Belonging among Liberians in the United States.” Refugee Survey Quarterly (2016) 35#3 94–118.
  • Wells, Ken R. "Liberian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2014), pp. 91–100. online