Higher Ground International was founded in Providence, Rhode Island in 2008 by the visionary founder & CEO, Henrietta White-Holder, a native of Liberia, to help support the vast needs of our new refugee arrivals who had experienced the traumas of civil war.
Since then, the organization’s mission has been expanded to include all vulnerable and underserved people.
Liberia, a country in West Africa, was founded as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in the early 19th century. The goal of the ACS was to give freed Black slaves in the United States a place to go back to in Africa. Liberia is the oldest democratic Republic on the West Coast of Africa. Those who settled created a flag and a system of government similar to the United States. They also named the capital city Monrovia after James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States who supported the work of the ACS, establishing a home for free slaves.
One of those freed slaves was Joseph Jenkins Roberts who left Norfolk Virginia and was one of the visionaries of the founding of Liberia. He later became president of Liberia, serving for two terms.
From 1989 to 2003, Liberia experienced two brutal civil wars that decimated the country and ruined millions of lives.
The fighting lasted for 15 years resulting in approximately 250,000 deaths. Millions were forced to flee as refugees causing significant consequences including displacement, illness, poverty, and violence. Fleeing these terrible circumstances, thousands of Liberians and other West African people were resettled in Rhode Island and in other parts of the US. Today, Rhode Island has one of the largest Liberian populations in the United States, with an estimated 10,000 – 12,000 people.
This history of pain and struggle motivated us to create a space that centers cultural identity, respects our ancestors, and improves broken relationships caused by war and inequity.