Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (born 29 October 1938) is the 24th and current President of Liberia. She served as Minister of Finance under President William Tolbert from 1979 until the 1980 coup d'état, after which she left Liberia and held senior positions at various financial institutions. She placed a distant second in the 1997 presidential election. Later, she was elected President in the 2005 presidential election and took office on 16 January 2006. Sirleaf is the first modern, and currently the only elected, female head of state in Africa.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, to educated parents. While not Americo-Liberian by ancestry, Sirleaf is considered culturally Americo-Liberian by some observers or assumed to be Americo-Liberian. However, Sirleaf does not identify as such. Her ethnic background is 1/2 Gola from her father's side, and 1/4 Kru and 1/4 German from her mother's side.
Sirleaf’s father, Jahmale Carney Johnson, was born into rural poverty. He was the son of a Gola chief named Jahmale and one of his wives, Jenneh, in Julijuah, Bomi County. Her father was sent to Monrovia, where his last name was changed to Johnson because of his father's loyalty to President Hilary R. W. Johnson, Liberia's first Liberian-born president. He grew up in Monrovia where he was raised by an Americo-Liberian family with the surname McGritty. Sirleaf's father later became the first Liberian from an indigenous ethnic group to sit in the country's national legislature.