Key Events in Firestone and the Warlord

From Charles Taylor's rise to power to Liberia's leadership under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a timeline of key events.

  1. February 6, 1820

    The Elizabeth, a U.S. ship, departs the United States to create a new home in Africa for freeborn blacks and freed slaves.

  2. July 26, 1847

    Liberia declares itself an independent republic.

  3. 1926

    Firestone signs concession contract with Liberia with generous terms.

  4. 1926

    Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. begins operations at the Firestone plantation in Liberia.

  5. 1930

    The League of Nations begins an investigation into the use of forced labor in Liberia. It finds no evidence that Firestone has consciously employeed forced labor.

  6. 1944

    William Tubman elected president. Rules Liberia for more than 30 years, until his death in 1971.

  7. 1951

    The golden years for Firestone and Liberia’s elite. Firestone’s after-tax profits are three times Liberia’s annual revenue.

  8. 1971

    William Tolbert becomes president. Battles with Firestone. Killed by Samuel Doe in 1980 coup.

  9. April 12, 1980

    Forces led by Master Sargeant Samuel Doe kill Liberian President William Tolbert.

  10. September 15, 1985

    Charles Taylor breaks out of a prison in Massachusetts, where he is being held pending extradition to Liberia to face embezzling charges.

  11. 1988

    Bridgestone Corp. acquires Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.

  12. December 24, 1989

    Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia invades Liberia from a remote spot on the border with neighboring Ivory Coast.

  13. April 6, 1990

    Firestone plantation general manager Donald Ensminger warns expatriates to prepare for evacuation in the face of Charles Taylor’s advancing forces.

  14. April 28, 1990

    Firestone plantation general manager tells Liberian staff that there is "nothing to fear."

  15. 1990

    Herman "Hank" Cohen, the State Department’s top official for Africa, tries to negotiate with Charles Taylor to seek a peaceful resolution.

  16. June 5, 1990

    Firestone plantation boss Donald Ensminger’s diary of invasion by Charles Taylor forces.

  17. June 5, 1990

    Charles Taylor’s forces invade the Firestone plantation.

  18. June 7, 1990

    Some 1,500 to 2,000 Firestone Liberian workers approach Firestone expatriates to ask for help. They are turned away.

  19. June 8, 1990

    Firestone senior Liberian manager seeks help from Firestone expatriates. They are turned away.

  20. June 13, 1990

    Taylor soldiers threaten Firestone plantation manager with RPG.

  21. June 14, 1990

    Mary Pollee flees Firestone plantation after her husband is killed and she is raped by Liberian government soldiers.

  22. June 14, 1990

    Firestone expatriates decide to evacuate. They leave behind some 8,000 Firestone Liberian employees.

  23. 1990

    Charles Taylor begins first attack on Monrovia. Gets within 500 yards of presidential mansion before retreating.

  24. 1990

    West African allied force sends in soldier to counter Taylor’s forces.

  25. September 9, 1990

    Liberian President Samuel Doe tortured, mutilated and killed.

  26. 1990

    In the fall of 1990, Liberian plantation workers begin starving to death. Hospital records 10 to 15 deaths a day at one point.

  27. 1990

    Firestone’s Donald Ensminger writes brusque letters to Charles Taylor asking to visit the plantation.

  28. October 20, 1990

    Charles Taylor forms a rebel government called the National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government.

  29. October 26, 1990

    Human Rights Watch issues a report criticizing Taylor forces for putting one ethnic group "at risk of genocide."

  30. November 28, 1990

    Bamako Accord signed in Mali, formally creating Liberia’s interim government and the "no peace, no war" ceasefire.

  31. December 3, 1990

    Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases its final report, citing Firestone for aiding Taylor.

  32. 1991

    Firestone plantation general manager Donald Ensminger says that he is let go from the company after protesting the company’s decision to enter into negotiations with Charles Taylor.

  33. January 12, 1991

    The U.S. State Department annual human rights report is released to Congress. The report blamed Charles Taylor’s forces for killing civilians, raping women and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to become refugees during 1990.

  34. 1991

    Firestone executives return to assess damage to the plantation for first time since June 1990.

  35. April 6, 1991

    U.S. Ambassador Peter Jon De Vos and Firestone plantation manager Donald Ensminger meet Charles Taylor in Gbarnga.

  36. May 21, 1991

    Firestone tells U.S. embassy that it is "very concerned" about the possibility of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

  37. July 3, 1991

    Firestone corporate executives John Schremp and Richard Stupp meet with warlord Charles Taylor near Gbarnga, Liberia.

  38. September 13, 1991

    Washington diplomats warn Firestone about the dangers of doing business with Charles Taylor.

  39. 1991

    Donald Ensminger, former general manager of the Liberian plantation, leaves Firestone.

  40. December 17, 1991

    Firestone board of directors meets to approve deal with Charles Taylor.

  41. January 17, 1992

    Firestone and Charles Taylor’s rebel government sign memorandum of understanding.

  42. January 18, 1992

    Firestone and Charles Taylor government sign memorandum of agreement. The company agrees to pay taxes to his rebel government in exchange for protection.

  43. January 30, 1992

    The U.S. State Department annual human rights report is released to Congress. It says that Taylor forces carried out clandestine killings, raped women, looted homes and stole cattle.

  44. 1992

    Donald Weihe takes over as Firestone plantation’s general manager to resume operations.

  45. May 22, 1992

    Firestone Chairman and CEO Yoichiro Kaizaki meets with Taylor representatives in Akron, Ohio.

  46. July 5, 1992

    Donald Weihe gives U.S. Embassy officials a tour of the plantation. Some 300 Taylor fighters are protecting the plantation and another 1,000 fighters are living there.

  47. October 8, 1992

    U.S. Ambassador William Twaddell visits the Firestone plantation. Firestone is producing rubber. Taylor fighters are guarding the plantation.

  48. October 15, 1992

    Taylor launches Operation Octopus from Firestone’s Liberian plantation as an all-out attack to capture Monrovia, capital of Liberia.

  49. October 15, 1992

    Taylor launches his second attack on Monrovia. Called Operation Octopus, it is staged from Firestone’s plantation.

  50. October 23, 1992

    Three American nuns from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ order are killed. Two others had been killed on October 20.

  51. November 2, 1992

    West African allied air force bombs the Firestone plantation. More than 40 people are killed and 200 are injured.

  52. November 18, 1992

    Donald Weihe writes to Charles Taylor to inform him that Firestone’s expatriates are abandoning the plantation.

  53. December 14, 1992

    Firestone board of directors meets to consider the option of selling plantation. Instead, they vote to restart operations.

  54. 1992

    Firestone records show the company paid more than $2.3 million in taxes to Taylor’s rebel government during 1992.

  55. March 12, 1993

    Amos Sawyer, Liberia’s interim president, visits the Firestone plantation. He accuses Firestone of helping Taylor prosecute the civil war.

  56. July 8, 1993

    John Schremp, the Firestone Akron executive who oversees the plantation, answers Sawyer’s accusations of complicity with Taylor, defending the company.

  57. 1994

    Amos Sawyer’s interim government is replaced by another transitional government that includes Taylor representatives.

  58. April 21, 1994

    Firestone files a lawsuit against its insurance companies after they decline to pay damage claims.

  59. February 6, 1996

    Firestone begins negotiating with the transitional Liberian government to resume operations at the plantation.

  60. March 8, 1996

    Firestone and Cigna reach an agreement to settle Firestone’s suit for between $15 million and $45 million. The exact amount remains unknown.

  61. April 6, 1996

    Charles Taylor launches his third attack against Monrovia. It fails.

  62. 1997

    John Schremp tells the media that Firestone has shipped its first rubber from Liberia in years.

  63. July 19, 1997

    Charles Taylor elected president of Liberia with 75 percent of the vote.

  64. March 7, 2003

    Charles Taylor is indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes against humanity.

  65. August 11, 2003

    Charles Taylor resigns as president of Liberia and flees to Nigeria. The Liberian civil war ends.

  66. November 23, 2005

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is declared the winner of Liberia’s presidential elections. She becomes the first elected female head of state in Africa.

  67. April 28, 2012

    Charles Taylor is found guilty on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He becomes the first head of state since Nazi Germany to be found guilty. of such crimes. He is sentenced to 50 years in prison.