Important events in Liberia's history include its colonization by free American blacks in the early 19th century, the founding of the republic in 1847, extension of the right to vote to indigenous peoples in 1946 and a United States-backed military coup in 1980. Historically, English-speaking Americo-Liberians formed Liberia's ruling class.
Free black settlers, pushed by colonization societies such as the American Colonization Society, started to colonize the area that would become Liberia during the early 19th century near British-controlled Sierra Leone. The American Colonization Society started the first major settlement in Cape Mesurado in 1822.
Colonization societies hopped that free American blacks would fair better in Africa than in the United States and become leaders of African society. American slave states saw African colonization as a convenient way to rid themselves of free black populations. Liberia declared independence on July 26, 1847. Britain and other European countries soon recognized the country. President Lincoln extended official recognition to Liberia in 1862.
Despite only forming about 5 percent of the population, English-speaking decedents of American free blacks dominated the Liberian economic and political structure during its early history. The Liberian Constitution denied many rights to indigenous Africans, including the right to vote, until the mid-20th century.
In 1980, after 36 years of government by President Tubman and his successor President Tolbert, a United States-backed military coup led to years of turmoil in Liberia, ruining the country's economy, leading to civil war in the 1990s and continued rebellion into the 2000s.