Over time, these disparate groups merged to become Americo-Liberians.
The early history of the republic was characterized by struggles between political parties representing "mulattoes" (lighter-skinned, upper-class businessmen or "merchant princes") and "true blacks" (poorer ex-slaves and recaptives).
With most government institutions concentrated in coastal cities, many inhabitants of the interior had little sense of being Liberian until the second half of the twentieth century. A monsoon climate of alternating wet and dry seasons characterizes the weather.
The area had been known as the Grain Coast, in reference to the malagueta pepper that was the primary export.
Negotiations with the Bassa and Dei to "purchase" land for the settlers apparently were carried out at gunpoint, and the indigenous people probably believed they were entering into a trade agreement with the newcomers rather than giving up ownership of their territory. A disastrous civil war from late 1989 to 1997 is believed to have cost at least 200,000 lives, and many Liberians live as refugees in neighboring countries and elsewhere in the world.
In 1877, the True Whig Party (TWP), identified with the "blacks" and with agricultural rather than trading interests, came to power.
The TWP remained dominant for almost a hundred years, making Liberia essentially a one-party state.
The nation's origin as a nation-state lies in a paradox of United States history.
Even before the end of the war for American independence, public figures such as Thomas Jefferson were concerned about the status of free people of African descent and their integration into a free society.
All the other groups number less than 10 percent of the total. The official language is English, which is used for instruction in all public and mission schools and in university education.
A significant portion of the population is bilingual and often competent in several indigenous languages as well as English.
The flag is a replica of the American flag, but with a single large white star on a blue field representing Liberia's long history as the "Lone Star," the only independent republic in Africa during the colonial period.