Ellen Johnson was born October 29, 1938, in Monrovia, Liberia. She is of Gola and German descent. Her father was the first Indigenous Liberian to rise through the ranks of the national legislature. Young Ellen would follow in her father’s political footsteps in her future career.
After completing high school, Johnson embarked on her collegiate career. She attended the College of West Africa. By the age of 17, she married a man named James Sirleaf. In 1961, Johnson Sirleaf trekked to the U.S. in order to study economics and business administration. She later obtained her M.A. in public administration from Harvard University in 1971.
After graduating from Harvard, Johnson Sirleaf returned to Liberia. She served as the assistant minister of finance from 1972 to 1973. During Samuel K. Doe’s military dictatorship, she worked as the finance minister from 1980 to 1985. She became infamous for her financial integrity and clashed with the heads of state. She was imprisoned twice and threatened with execution.
In 1985, Johnson Sirleaf ran for a seat in the Senate. She openly criticizes the military government which resulted in a 10-year prison sentence. After serving a short amount of time in prison, she was released and allowed to leave the country.
During her 12-year exile, Johnson Sirleaf lived in Kenya and the U.S. Within those 12 years, Liberia erupted into a civil war. Meanwhile, Johnson Sirleaf became an economist for the World Bank and Citibank. From 1992 to 1997, she worked as the director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Program.
The civil war in Liberia ended and in 1997, Johnson Sirleaf ran for president. She represented the Unity Party (UP) but finished second to Charles Taylor. She was then forced back into exile and charged with treason. In 1999, Liberia’s civil war continued. Then-Liberian president, Taylor, was cast into exile in 2003. From there Johnson Sirleaf returned to Liberia.
In 2005, Johnson Sirleaf ran for president of Liberia for the second time. She vowed to end the civil unrest and build unity. As a result of her aggressive campaigning, she was given the nickname, ‘Iron Lady.’ On January 16, 2006, Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in as the president of Liberia.
As the Liberian president, Johnson Sirleaf eradicated Liberia’s massive debt and reduced the unemployment rate. She has also received numerous awards and accolades for her work in the African community. At the age of 79, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf continues to fight for a stronger, more united Liberia.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**]]>