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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born on this date in 1938. She is a Black African politician.
Three of Johnson-Sirleaf's grandparents were indigenous Liberians; the fourth was a German who married a rural market woman who was forced to leave the country when Liberia was loyal to the United States and declared war on Germany in 1914. Johnson-Sirleaf graduated from the College of West Africa and received a B.B.A. in Accounting at Madison Business College in Madison, WI, in 1964, an economics diploma from the University of Colorado in 1970, and a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University in 1971.
Returning to Liberia, Johnson-Sirleaf became involved in government as an Assistant Minister of Finance in President William Tolbert's administration in 1979. While running for Senate in 1985, she spoke out against the military regime and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Released after a short period, she left for Nairobi, Kenya, in exile. She returned in 1997 as an economist for the World Bank and Citibank in Africa.
Initially supporting Charles Taylor's rebellion against Sergeant Samuel Doe, she later opposed him and ran against him in the 1997 presidential elections. She managed only 10% of the votes, unlike Taylor's 75%. Taylor charged her with treason.
She campaigned for the removal of President Taylor from office, playing an active and supportive role in the transitional government as the country prepared itself for the 2005 elections. After Taylor's departure, she took over the leadership of the Unity Party. In the first round of 2005 voting, she came in second with 175,520 votes, putting her through to the runoff vote on November 8 against former footballer George Weah. The Liberian elections commission formally announced her election victory on November 23, 2005. She was the first elected female president of an African country. Her vice president is Joseph Boakai. Often referred to as the "Iron Lady,” her inauguration occurred on January 16, 2006.
On March 15, 2006, President Johnson-Sirleaf addressed a joint meeting of the United States Congress, asking for American support to help her country "become a brilliant beacon, an example to Africa and the world of what love of liberty can achieve." Two days later, she submitted an official request to Nigeria for the extradition of former president Charles Taylor.
She served as the 24th president of Liberia from 2006 to 2018 and was the first elected female head of state in Africa. Johnson-Sirleaf is the mother of four sons and has six grandchildren, some of whom live in Atlanta, GA.