The City of Monrovia was founded in 1816 with the aim of establishing a self-sufficient colony for emancipated American slaves under the auspices of the American Colonization Society.
On January 7, 1822, a second ship rescued the settlers and took them to Cape Mesurado, establishing the settlement of Christopolis. In 1824, the city was renamed Monrovia after James Monroe, then President of the United States, who was a prominent supporter of the colony in sending freed Black slaves and ex-Caribbean slaves from the United States of America and Caribbean islands to Liberia and who saw it as preferable to emancipation in America. In 1845, Monrovia was the site of the constitutional convention held by the America Colonization Society which drafted the constitution that would two years later be the constitution of an independent and sovereign Republic of Liberia.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Monrovia was divided into two parts: (1) Monrovia proper, where the city's Americo-Liberian population resided and was reminiscent of the Southern United States in architecture; and (2) Krutown, which was mainly inhabited by ethnic Krus but also Bassas, Grebos and other ethnicities. Of the 4,000 residents, 2,500 were Americo-Liberian.
In 1979, the Organization of African Unity held their conference in the Monrovia area, with then president William R. Tolbert as chairman. During his term, Tolbert improved public housing in Monrovia and decreased by 50% the tuition fees at the University of Liberia. A military coup led by Samuel Doe ousted the Tolbert government in 1980, with many members being executed. By 1926, ethnic groups from Liberia's interior began migrating to Monrovia in search of jobs.
The city was severely damaged in the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars, notably during the siege of Monrovia, with many buildings damaged and nearly all the infrastructure destroyed. Major battles occurred between Samuel Doe's government and Prince Johnson's forces in 1990 and with the NPFL's assault on the city in 1992. A legacy of the war is a large population of homeless children and youths, either having been involved in the fighting or denied an education by it.