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This claim was made in a documentary I saw on youtube called 'The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia' at about 1:22, as well as on the blog BloggingWithoutMaps

I can't find strong sources to back this claim up, although some websites claim that the freed slaves (Americo-Liberians) did subject the local populace to some sort of hierarchical system and possibly forced labor.

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Definition of slave, Oxford dictionary: a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. It would require legal documentation for the claim to be substantiated if the above definition is to be adhered to. Not sure if this helps or not... – Sardathrion Sep 24 '13 at 8:12
up vote 5 down vote accepted


Slavery was banned in the first 1820 constitution and this ban was explicitly re-enforced in the 1847 constitution when Liberia declared independence.

If Liberians owned slaves within Liberia they did so without any legal recourse and the strong risk of losing their property.

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A caste system with disenfranchised races is a different story. I wonder if US patrons and abolitionists lost any residual interest in Liberia's development after the US Civil War settled the issue of slavery at home. – LateralFractal Sep 24 '13 at 22:20
There are many forms of slavery. Slavery is illegal in the US but was effectively practiced into the 1970s by forcing prison inmates into what was effectively indentured servitude, renting them out to business owners with their prison terms and even food allowance being dependent on how hard they worked. Similarly in 1800s Russia slavery was illegal but farmers were the property of the people owning the land they farmed by law, and by law could not leave that land. Etc. etc. etc. – jwenting Sep 25 '13 at 10:36
@jwenting - no, indentured servitude isn't slavery. Nor is labor required by prisoners, who have lost rights. Trying to blur the meanings of words is a subject for rhetoric, where blurring lines is part of the game. – Oldcat Dec 4 '15 at 18:03
@Oldcat indentured servitude is effectively slavery. The victim can't leave their employment and they typically don't get paid except for cost of living. Which is slavery in all but name. – jwenting Dec 11 '15 at 6:49
@jwenting Can they transfer your deed? Does it apply to your children? Is it inherently without a finite duration? Chattel slavery was something far more than economic bondage. – LateralFractal Dec 11 '15 at 7:25

The claim in the documentary is that the Americo-Liberians, the term for the ruling class of Liberians of American descent, "immediately" went to Liberia and enslaved the natives using something akin to the chattel slavery system to force them to work on plantations. That is absolutely false. The pictures of plantations that can be viewed on the blog might be related the Firestone Company, which operated slave labor in the 1920's, but Liberia was founded in 1842.

The Americo-Liberians believed they were cultural superior and believed they would "civilize" the other Africans. This ended in many wars with the native peoples, considered "civil wars" since they never took the outlook of racial superiority. (wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Liberia)

In the 1920's when they joined the League of Nations, the precursor to the modern United Nations, they were investigated for claims that slavery still existed in Liberia by the presidential challenger of Charles D. B. King. It was found: 1. that the native tribes were still using domestic servitude, which could be considered slavery 2. POW's from the civil wars against the native peoples of Liberia and criminals were being used under an unjust "convict labor system" that should be considered slavery "...Vice President Yancy [of Liberia] and other high officials of the Liberian Government, as well as county superintendents and district commissioners, have given their sanction for compulsory recruitment of labor for road construction, for shipment abroad and other work, by the aid and assistance of the Liberian Frontier Force; and have condoned the utilization of this force for purposes of physical compulsion on road construction for the intimidation of villagers, for the humiliation and degradation of chiefs, of captured natives to the coast, there guarding them till the time of shipment [to Fernando Po and Sao Tome.] The Firestone Company was implicated in this scandal.

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To those who believe the claims to be false,

I ask have you actually been to Liberia and spoken with the locals?

I have and can honestly say that many locals will disagree with you.

History and the news is written by those who are victorious to control both.

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OTOH, it might be informative to ask whether de facto slavery was practiced among the locals prior to the arrival of freed slaves from America. – jamesqf Mar 3 at 20:40

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