History and Significance
Providence Island tells an important chapter in the history of the United States and its relationship to Africa and people of African descent. In 1822, the small island at the mouth of the Mesurado River became one of the first places freed slaves from America landed and founded the nation of Liberia. Originally called Dozoa, meaning “Land in the center of water” in the language of the Gola ethnic group who then occupied Cape Mesurado, today the island is at the center of the modern city of Monrovia.
Despite its huge significance to the cultural, social and economic history of Liberia and the region, very little remains of the original settlement on Providence Island. Discernable vestiges of the settlement include a well, remains of a jetty landing, and a cotton tree said to be 200 years old. There is no information available for visitors about the history or significance of the site, and although the area is protected, it is increasingly threatened by urban encroachment and neglect.
Development of a Plan for Preservation and Reuse
In 2020, World Monuments Fund was awarded a grant by the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation to develop a preservation and reuse plan for Providence Island.
Efforts to preserve Providence Island as an urban park that tells the story of the founding of the nation and its deep historical ties to the United States began in October 2020, in partnership with the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism. WMF's project will include research, documentation, surveys, and an extensive field study developed jointly by students from the University of Liberia and the University of Virginia School of Architecture’s Center for Cultural Landscapes, which will provide recommendations for the preservation and reuse of the island.
WMF’s work at Providence Island is supported by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) at the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia.