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History, Tubman’s Regime

Mount Nimba, victory celebration, labor unrest, Tubman, Axis powers

U.S.-Liberian relations became closer after the United States entered World War II (1939-1945). In 1942 the republic agreed to allow U.S. troops to be based in the country despite the fact that Liberia did not declare war on the Axis powers until 1944. In 1945 Liberia became one of the original member states of the United Nations.

Following his election in May 1943, President William V. S. Tubman pursued a policy of national unification and economic development through foreign investment. The latter policy led to the exploitation in the 1950s of iron-ore deposits in the Bomi Hills, located north of Monrovia.

In the presidential election of May 1951, women and indigenous property owners voted for the first time, but the few thousand Americo-Liberians living in the coastal region still retained control of the government. The incumbent Tubman, candidate of the dominant True Whig Party, was reelected without opposition. The government had suppressed the Reformation and United People’s parties. Their leaders, supported mainly by residents of the hinterland, were arrested or exiled following the election. President Tubman was returned to office in the 1955 election, but he narrowly escaped assassination during his victory celebration. Thirty people were indicted for treason; two former cabinet ministers and five others were convicted.

Considerable progress, both social and material, was made during Tubman’s later terms as president. Thus, in February 1958, the legislature passed a law making racial discrimination punishable by fine and imprisonment for citizens and by deportation for aliens. During the 1960s a Swedish-American group completed a major iron-ore project near Mount Nimba, and German investors developed iron-ore resources in the Bong Range. The Liberian Bank of Industrial Development and Investment was established in 1965 to provide capital for private investment.

During this time President Tubman held a firm rein on power. After some labor unrest within Liberia and coups elsewhere in Africa, he was given emergency powers in February 1966 for 12 months. In 1967 he was reelected to his sixth term (a year ahead of time), and he was returned the seventh time in May 1971. Two months later he died and was succeeded by William R. Tolbert, Jr., Liberia’s vice president since 1951.



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