Libreville means Freetown in French. It was home to several native people, including Mpongwé tribe. In 1839, the French acquired the region, and Libreville became a trading station.
In 1842, some American missionaries established a mission in Baraka, Gabon, on what is now Libreville. In 1846, the slave ship L'Elizia of Brazil was captured by the French navy near Loango. Around 50 freed slaves were resettled in Libreville in 1849. It was the main port of French Equatorial Africa from 1934 to 1946.
The city was the main focus of the Battle of Gabon in 1940. Vichy French forces battled with Free French forces. Under the ruling of General Charles de Gaulle, the Free French forces succeeded in liberating Gabon and all of French Equatorial Africa.
After independence from the French in 1960, Libreville grew rapidly. Numerous construction sites and foreign investments slowly changed the city's skyline. In 1930, the Bank of West Africa (BAO) opened its branch in Libreville.