Although graced with picturesque beaches, lush rain forests, and abundant diamond mines, the tiny West African nation of Sierra Leone is a land haunted by tragedy. It is the region from which the first slaves in North America were brought during the 1600s. A century later, thousands of freed slaves would establish a settlement called Freetown, which later became part of the British colony of Sierra Leone. Despite its diamond resources, Sierra Leone remained a poverty-stricken nation after achieving independence in 1961. During the 1990s, its people were devastated by horrific atrocities that occurred during a brutal civil war. Since peace came to the troubled nation in 2002, Sierra Leone has begun the slow process of rebuilding. However, much work must still be done before Sierra Leone can become a stable and prosperous nation.