The leadership of Freed American Slaves Over Indigenous Africans in Liberia

The leadership of Freed American Slaves Over Indigenous Africans in Liberia
June 6, 2018, Stephen B. Yarsiah Sr.

Freed American slaves who migrated to Africa at the end of slavery in America and established Africa’s first black independent country, Liberia, in 1847. While these freed slaves had parts of the land (what is the nation of Liberia today) purchased by the America colonization society, there were indigenous Africans (Liberians) living in those very parts upon their arrival. The freed slaves, known later as Americo-Liberians, ruled the new nation from the 19th century until 1980 as a dominant minority. From independence to 1980, the Republic of Liberia was a one-party nation, governed by the Americo-Liberians. Much is documented about the leadership styles of slave masters in the United States during slavery, but what about the leadership style of former slaves when they became leaders, on the land and continent of their forefathers?

They migrated to Africa coming straight out of slavery. Liberia “.. came into being in 1820 as a territory of the American Colonization Society, whose members believed that the way to solve the numerous problems posed by slavery generally and freed blacks specifically was to resettle them in Africa. Never mind that they had been born in the United States and that in many cases their families had been here for generations; to abolitionists who hated slavery and to slave-holders who feared that freed blacks would incite slave rebellions, sending them to Africa would get them out of sight and out of mind” (Yardley, 2004).

Americo-Liberians were sons and daughters of slaves. They were mostly born and raised in slavery, thus making it the only social order or something close to a leadership style they knew. They encounter resistant by the indigenous for disregarding their values and culture, considering it as primitive. What should have been a reunion of freed black slaves and native Africans turned into a similar slave – master relationship or leadership style of that of the United States? Only this time, former slaves who fought for their freedom, enslave the indigenous Africans they met upon their arrival in Africa. The Americo-Liberians, consisting of 5% of the population, eventually won the battle and established a minority rule over the indigenous majority.

The induction of the English language as the national language made trade possible with western states more than the local dialect spoken by the indigenous. The Americo-Liberian leadership brought stability and growth to the country. On the contingency side of leadership, the Americo-Liberian leadership style proved ineffective as it did not change the situation for over a hundred and thirty-three years. However, they had a segregationist policy that did not improve the situation and the ineffectiveness on the contingency leadership style that resulted in a rebellious coup that brought an end the Americo-Liberians rule in 1980 by descendants of the indigenous majority.


Yardley, J. (2004). A troubled country and its resettled Americans. The Washington Post.

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