The history of Liberia as a political entity begins with the arrival of the black American settlers - the Americo-Liberians, as they came to be known, to Africa - who established a colony of "free men of color" on its shore in 1822 under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. The historical roots from which a majority of present-day Liberians derive their identity, however, are found in the varied traditions of the several ethnicities of indigenous Africans whom the settlers confronted in their struggle to gain a foothold in Africa and, later, extend their control into the interior.
Two events were of particular importance in releasing Liberia from its self-imposed isolation. The first was the grant in 1926 of a large concession to the American-owned Firestone Plantation Company; that move became a first step in the modernization of the Liberian economy. The second occurred during World War II, when the United States began providing technical and economic assistance that enabled Liberia to make economic progress and introduce social change.
On 12 April 1980, a successful military coup was staged by a group of noncommissioned Krahn officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, and they executed the President of nine years William R. Tolbert, Jr. in his mansion, after torturing him for a period of several days. Constituting themselves the People's Redemption Council, Doe and his associates seized control of the government and brought an end to Africa's "first republic".
After the exile of Taylor, Gyude Bryant was appointed Chairman of the transitional government in late 2003. The primary task of the transitional government was to prepare for fair and peaceful democratic elections. With UN and ECOMOG troops safeguarding the peace, Liberia successfully conducted presidential elections in the fall of 2005. Twenty three candidates stood for the October 11, 2005 general election, with the early favorite George Weah, internationally famous footballer, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and member of the Kru ethnic group expected to dominate the popular vote. No candidate took the required majority in the general election, so that a run-off between the top two vote getters, Weah and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, was necessary. The November 8, 2005 presidential runoff election was won decisively by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist. Both the general election and runoff were marked by peace and order, with thousands of Liberians waiting patiently in the Liberian heat to cast their ballots.