It’s one of those random pieces of trivia that could win you a pub quiz or a game of Trivial Pursuit: why is the capital of Liberia named Monrovia?
I never knew the answer until I moved to Monrovia and learned about the history of Liberia, which is intimately intertwined with that of the United States. Just like the American capital is named after President Washington, so the Liberian capital is named after President James Monroe.
Liberia is a Republic founded by freed black American slaves under the auspices of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which President Monroe was a supporter of. In 1824, during Monroe’s term as fifth President of the United States, the site at which the original settlers had landed in 1822 was renamed Monrovia in his honor.
(Mind you, it is slightly ironic, seeing as Monroe owned dozens of slaves himself, and like other non-abolitionist members of the ACS, his support may have been motivated by the desire to rid the US of freed blacks who could potentially inspire rebellion if they continued to live side-by-side with still-enslaved blacks.)
Amusingly, Monroe also has a fast food joint named after him – “Monroe Chicken” on Randall Street in downtown Monrovia. The decorations are all red, white, and blue and a picture of President Monroe hangs on the wall, alongside some historical quotes and a bastardization of Liberia’s motto (“The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here”) into “The Love of Chicken Brought Us Here.”
Cheesy, I know. But their chicken sandwiches are pretty good.