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[Detail] Map of Liberia. Lith. by E. Weber & Co., 1845.

3) Colonization and Nation Building

Much of the history of Western civilization can be told as a series of stories of colonization. Colonists influenced the new found lands' economic systems, governments, and culture. In some cases, as in the United States and Liberia, the colonists eventually called for independence in their new homes and formed new nations. Using Maps of Liberia, students can learn more about the process of colonization and nation building.

Students can browse Maps of Liberia by Subject Index using the maps to identify

  • Hardships faced by colonists in terms of climate and hostile neighbors
  • Place names chosen to reflect those places left behind
  • Land acquired by colonists
  • Boundaries set by colonists

By searching on American Colonization Society in From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1824-1909 students can find accounts of nation building in Liberia. Have students read the example below to surmise the Society's perspective on "Americo-Liberians'" self-assertion.

With a government modeled after our own, with rulers chosen, and well chosen too, thus far, by themselves, with a soil to which they are akin, capable of self-support, self-government and self-defense, the people of Liberia are slowly developing a distinct nationality. No longer mere emigrants from the United States experimenting doubtfully, they are Liberians, Americo-Liberians as their phrase is, looking forward to a future of their own. Fast losing our traditions, they aim at becoming historical themselves. Meanwhile, with steady purpose, they pursue quietly and honorably the course of their destiny.

From page 5 of African colonization--its principles and aims. An address delivered by John H. B. Latrobe, president of the American Colonization Society, January 18, 1859.

  • What does Latrobe identify as the main characteristics of a "distinct nationality"?
  • Can you think of any other characteristics based on the maps or inference and imagination?