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William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman (November 29, 1895 – July 23, 1971) was a Liberian politician. He was the 19th President of Liberia, serving from his election in 1944 until his death in 1971.

Tubman is regarded as the “father of modern Liberia”; his presidency was marked by attracting sufficient foreign investment to modernize the economy and infrastructure. During his tenure, Liberia experienced a period of prosperity. He also led a policy of national unity in order to reduce the social and political differences between his fellow Americo-Liberians and the indigenous Liberians. However, during his tenure, he became increasingly authoritarian in his exercise of power.

William Tubman was born November 29, 1895, in Harper, Liberia. Tubman’s father, the Reverend Alexander Tubman, was a stonemason, general in the Liberian army, and a former Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives, as well as a Methodist preacher. A strict disciplinarian, he required his five children to attend daily family prayer services and sleep on the floor because he thought beds were too soft and “degrading to character development.” Tubman’s mother, Elizabeth Rebecca (née Barnes) Tubman, was from Atlanta, Georgia. Alexander’s parents, Sylvia and William Shadrach Tubman, were freedmen, part of a group of 69 freed slaves whose transportation to Liberia in 1844 was paid by their former mistress Emily Tubman, a widow and philanthropist in Augusta, Georgia. (Source: Wikipedia)

Interesting Biographical Snippets
  • In 1923, aged 28, Tubman was elected to the Senate of Liberia from Maryland County, becoming the youngest senator in the history of Liberia.
  • In 1961, following a Pan-African conference held in Monrovia, Tubman helped to found the African Union, formerly known as the Organization of African Unity.
  • Tubman established an economic policy known “open door” to attract foreign business investment and from 1950-1960, Liberia experienced an average annual growth of 11.5.%
  • Tubman also established a domestic policy known as National Unification and tried to reconcile the interests of the native tribes with those of the Americo-Liberian elite.
  • After a gunman attempted to assassinate Tubman in 1955, he brutally repressed the political opposition.
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