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The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Archive consists of two collections that document her life, her presidency, and her legacy. The first is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Personal and Professional collection consisting of papers, photographs, artifacts, awards, gifts, audio, and film that document the story of her life before and after her twelve-year tenure as President of Liberia. The second collection is the Presidential Archive which is the official record of the initiatives and the actions she and her government took to lead the Liberian people.

The Archives will house two collections documenting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s life, presidency, and legacy. The first collection— featuring papers, photographs, artifacts, memorabilia, and audio-visual materials — will document the story of her life before and after her twelve-year tenure as President of Liberia. The second will document the history of the Liberian people. It will include the official records of President Sirleaf’s challenging and award-winning tenure as the first democratically elected woman president of an African nation.

The signature attraction of the library will be a permanent exhibition focused on the life and legacy of Madam Sirleaf. In addition, the Center will create temporary exhibitions that tell stories highlighting its work to promote African women’s leadership.

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Timeline of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Early, Life, and Education

Daughter of a lawyer and a teacher, Ellen Eugenia Johnson was born in Monrovia in 1938. As a young mother of four boys, she began her studies in economics in Liberia, before moving to the United States to further her education, supporting herself by working as a waitress and a clerk. Returning to Liberia to work in the government as a finance specialist, she rose to become Minister of Finance under President William Tolbert


October 29, 1938: Born in Monrovia, Liberia, to the son of a Gola chief and the daughter of a market woman


1971: Becomes Liberia's Deputy Minister of Finance

1955: Graduates College of West Africa, marries at age 17, has four sons and later divorces

1964-1971: Studies at Madison Business College, University of Colorado, and Harvard University, where she earns a master's degree in public administration.

1972: Delivers address at College of West Africa criticising Liberian government, signifying the beginning of her political career

1973: Leaves Liberia to become a loan officer at the World Bank

Political Beginnings

Returns to Liberia to join Treasury Department in 1975 and rises to Minister of Finance in 1979

Flees Liberia after 1980 military coup; becomes vice president of Citicorp’s Africa Regional Office in Kenya

Defiance, Imprisonment, and Exile

Blamed for civic unrest, jailed, and exiled, Johnson Sirleaf campaigned for a more democratic state for decades, both from within Liberia and from without, where she served as an officer for the World Bank, Citibank, Equator Bank, and the UNDP.

Delivers landmark speech to Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas, criticizing the Liberian government, 1985

Wins seat in the Senate; refuses the position, 1985

Accused of supporting attempted coup and imprisoned for seven months. Freed in 1986

Returns to Liberia to run for president, loses the 1997 election, and goes into exile in Côte d’Ivoire

Lives in exile in the US; works at World Bank, Equator Bank, and United Nations; investigates the Rwandan genocide in 1998


Liberians first elected Johnson Sirleaf president in 2005 and reelected her in 2011. Assuming the reins of a shattered national economy in 2006, President Johnson Sirleaf used her extensive experience as a financial executive and economist to guide her plans for Liberia’s well-being. She increased government revenues by 700 percent and increased its reserves from $5 million to $154 million by attracting significant private and donor investment in Liberia, underlining the nation’s new financial transparency. Over her two terms as president, the government built 800 kilometers of new roads, while increasing nationalized power generation from nothing to 140 megawatts, providing electric lighting for millions. Under her leadership, 700 schools were constructed or renovated, providing the foundation for a far better-educated emerging generation of Liberians.


She oversaw two transparent democratic elections and the peaceful handover of power to a new president in 2018.

Returns to Liberia and wins the 2005 presidential election

Receives US Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2007

Wins Nobel Peace Prize for her work for women, peace, and security, 2011

Reelected president of Liberia, 2011

Receives the Gandhi Prize, 2012

Confronts and ends the Ebola crisis in Liberia, 2014–2015

Oversees the country’s peaceful transition to newly elected President George Weah, 2018

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