Joseph Jenkins Roberts was born in Norfolk in 1809. Six years later, his family moved to Petersburg, where Roberts' father ran a river transport business between the two cities. In 1829, Roberts and his mother, brothers and sisters emigrated to the colony of Liberia, which was run by the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color. There, Roberts served as sheriff, chief justice, lieutenant governor and governor of the colony. When Liberia proclaimed its independence in 1848, he became its first president, serving until 1856 and then again from 1871 until 1876, the year of his death.