Liberia, the oldest independent Negro state in West Africa, has beenstruggling for survival ever since its foundation in 1822. Progress has beenhampered by constant hostility between the American Negroes whose familiesreturned there in the early 19th century, and the West Africans whose ancestorsnever left the continent. Though the two groups are of the same race, they aredivided by language and outlook and regard each other with deep suspicioncreating a conflict which was not foreseen by Liberia's founders.
In addition, neighboring states, native tribe, disease, and poverty havemade life dangerous and difficult. The government has tried desperately,through loans and a trickle of trade, to make ends meet. Anxiety aboutfinancial matters lessened somewhat when, in 1910, the United States acceptedresponsibility for Liberia's survival. However, not until Harvey Firestone, theAmerican rubber king, decided that the United States must produce its ownrubber – with Liberia as the site of the rubber plantations----did Liberia havemuch hope of paying its debts and balancing its budget.
The rubber industry,founded in the 1920’s, and the activity that followed it brought both progressand profit to Liberia. Before that time Liberia had no roads, no mechanicaltransport and no good port; its people had little education and few tools.Liberians feel that the country is being ruled by rubber. For this reason, therecent discovery of iron ore is important. Liberian leaders are trying tomoderate the power of the rubber industry and to establish the country'spolitical and economic independence.