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The Phelps Stokes Fund’s special relationship with Liberia began over 100 years ago. Long before the Phelps Stokes Fund was founded in 1911 to create educational opportunities for African Americans, Native Americans and Africans living in Africa, The Phelps Stokes family played an active role in the American Colonization Society (ACS). The ACS facilitated the “back to Africa” movement that began in the early 1800s. Liberia, whose name means “land of the free” was founded in 1821 as an independent state in Africa and a destination for freed American slaves repatriated back to the continent. Anson Greene Phelps played an active role in the American Colonization Society’s efforts to found the nation and the first flag of Liberia was sewn in the family’s home.
The Phelps Stokes Fund has maintained a presence in Liberia from the 1920’s until the present. When the Liberian civil war reached political resolution with the election of Charles Taylor in 1997, the Fund immediately returned to Liberia to implement a training program for former combatants at the Booker T. Washington Institute (BWI) in collaboration with USAID. As a result of this program nearly 2,500 Liberians were trained and prepared for productive employment as artisans and skilled technicians. In addition to this training program, the library and several buildings at BWI were also renovated. The Fund closed its Monrovia office only between the years of 2000-2002 when US diplomatic relations with former President Charles Tayler soured and international development programs became difficult to maintain. Shortly after departure of Charles Taylor and the nego tiation of the Accra Accord, the Fund began strengthening its resources in Liberia once again through it’s partnerships with Liberian institutions, local non-governmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations to strengthen Liberian civil society.
The Phelps Stokes Fund’s activities in Liberia have focused on educational development and leadership programs. Major historical milestones include:
- Convening a joint advisory committee on education and appointing an educational advisor to support the Liberian government’s efforts.
- Performing multiple third-party needs assessment on education Liberia.
- Fielding and funding proposals for private sector projects.
- Founding the Booker T. Washington Institute (BWI) in 1929. (The important role that BWI has played in the history of Liberia and the recent celebration of their 75 th anniversary stand as a testimony to the successful transformation of a Liberian institution that has survived the civil war due to the loyalty and affection of its citizens.)
- Supporting the development of the Ricks Institute in Virginia, Liberia.
- Developing curricula and training faculty at Cuttington College.
- Serving as the host of Cuttington College in-exile during the height of the civil war.
- Partnering with a variety of educational institutions to implement educational projects.
- Co-producing strategies to solve educational problems with the Liberian people.
The Phelps Stokes Fund will reopen its permanent offices in Monrovia this summer and will continue its long-time commitment to education for the Liberian people through the Liberian Education Trust and other public and private ini tiatives.