May 14 - Integration Day in Liberia

Posted on May 14, 2020

Today's Liberian holiday is also commonly called Unification Day, or Unification and Integration Day.

The word "integration" in the holiday name might make you wonder if this day celebrates racial integration. Liberia is an African nation, and South Africa once had horrible, strict, severe racial segregation called apartheid. 

However, the integration celebrated today in Liberia wasn't black people and white people or any other racial integration. It was bringing together black people who had come from the United States - formerly enslaved people, many of them - and black people who had never been enslaved and for the most part never been out of Africa. 

The unique history of Liberia was set up by the American Colonization Society, in the 1800s; this organization funded the shipping of more than 15,000 freed and free-born black people people from the U.S. and more than 3,000 Afro-Caribbeans to one region on the western coast of Africa. Those black people of course took their culture with them, and many aspects of that culture looked a lot like life in the pre-Civil-War-American South!

Because they had faced so much discrimination and disempowerment, in the U.S., it is perhaps natural that these colonists eagerly took leadership roles in the new colony - and eventually in the new, independent nation. It is sad that they didn't worry enough about NOT trammeling on the rights and culture of the indigenous people they lived alongside. 

There was a terrible parallel between the black Americo-Liberians' treatment of indigenous Liberians and the white Americans' treatment of Native Americans.

As a matter of fact, people living on their own land, the land of their ancestors, were denied citizenship in the nation! (See what I mean about terrible? And parallel to treatment of indigenous Americans?)

It wasn't until the middle of the 1900s that President William Tubman began efforts to reduce the tension between Americo-Liberians (like himself) and indigenous Liberians.

Today is Unification and Integration Day because it is the anniversary of President Tubman's inaugural speech in which he first announced the National Unification Policy.

Like all nations, Liberia has some lovely places to enjoy:

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