Presidential delegation to attend Liberia bicentennial marking arrival of first free Black Americans

The West African nation, first settled by Black Americans, marks its 200th anniversary with the launch of year-long celebrations.

President Joe Biden announced the designation of a presidential delegation to Liberia to attend the bicentennial celebration which officially launches on Feb. 14 in the capital city of Monrovia.

The celebration marks the arrival of the first free Black Americans to Providence Island on Jan. 7, 1822, which led to the establishment of the city of Monrovia, and in 1847, the Republic of Liberia.

Between 1822 and the American Civil War in 1861, some 15,000 African Americans settled in Liberia. The West African nation became the first democratic republic in Africa’s history upon its 1847 independence. 

A view of Monrovia, Liberia (Adobe Stock)

In January, when the U.S. State Department issued a statement to commemorate the initial arrival of African Americans to Liberia 200 years ago, it acknowledged the racist nature of the American Colonization Society (ACS). They are the group that purchased land in Liberia to resettle free Black people in Africa in order to deal with the “problem” of the growing number of free blacks in the United States. 

The presidential delegation was initially set to be led by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations. However, according to Reuters, she canceled the planned visit to Liberia this week to focus instead on U.N. diplomacy over Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine.

The delegation will now be led by Dana Banks, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Africa, National Security Council. Other members of the presidential delegation include United States Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia, Michael A. McCarthy, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Lonnie G. Bunch III and Chair of the Governing Board, National Council of Churches in the United States, Rev. Dr. Teresa Jefferson-Snorton. 

Liberia’s Bicentennial Anniversary will be marked by a year-long set of activities through December of 2022 under the theme, “The Land of Return – Commemorating 200 Years of Freedom and Pan-African Leadership.”

Monrovia, Liberia (Adobe Stock photo)

The theme is intended to represent significant historical milestones achieved by the country since its founding. It commemorates Liberia as the land chosen as a refuge by free people of African descent who had endured years of servitude in the United States, and where they chose to settle as their home country.

It also aims to commemorate Black freedom and nationhood, as well as the determination for self-governance that began 200 years ago with the establishment of Liberia.

The Bicentennial seeks to deepen US-Liberia historical ties, forge stronger economic and social bonds between Liberians and Americans, and further US-Liberian relations. 

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