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Allen J. Fromherz

builder of the Almohad Empire and great Moroccan military leader and able administrator, led the Almohad movement for tawhid, absolute monotheistic unity, after the death of the Mahdi Ibn Tumart, the Almohad founder, in c. 1130. His full name was ʿAbd al-Muʾmin ibn ʿAli ibn ʿAlwi bin Yaʿla al-Kumi Abu Muhammad.

After defeating the Almoravid Empire at Marrakech, he established the administrative and military foundations of the Almohad state while securing a caliphal succession for his descendants, the Muʾminid dynasty. In a matter of decades ʿAbd al-Muʾmin and his followers transformed the Almohads from a vigorous but vulnerable ideological movement in the small Atlas Mountain town of Tinmal to one of the largest and most successful Islamic empires in North African and Andalusian history.

Effectively an outsider ʿAbd al Muʾmin s ancestry was different from the noble Masmuda ethnic groups that made up the core of the Almohad ...

Article

Haggai Erlich

North African political and military leader, was probably born in 1506 in the area between Harar and the Ogaden. Ahmad ibn Ibrahim married the daughter of Imam Mahfuz, the governor of Zeyla, who collaborated with Islamic scholars from Arabia against his master, the Sultan of Adal. Ahmad bin Ibrahim was similarly inspired by the renewed Islamic spirit and when he gained control of Harar in 1525, he refrained from adopting a political title and used only the religious designation of imam. His followers and his chronicler later called him Sahib al-fath (the lord of the conquest) or al-Ghazi (the holy warrior), for it was his conquest of Ethiopia, between 1529 and 1543, that made him so significant. In Ethiopian history, he is known as Ahmad Gragn, the left-handed.

The first half of the sixteenth century was marked by the weakening of the Solomonian dynasty s rule in Ethiopia ...

Article

Alan K. Lamm

Civil War army chaplain and Baptist minister, was born in North Branford, near New Haven, Connecticut, to Ruel and Jereusha Asher. His paternal grandfather had been captured in the Guinea region of Africa at the age of four and was brought to America as a slave. Young Jeremiah grew up hearing fascinating tales of his grandfather's life, which included military service during the American Revolutionary War. Those stories would later inspire Asher in his own life.

Asher's father was a shoemaker who married a Native American woman from Hartford, Connecticut. Jeremiah grew up as a member of the only African American family in North Branford and was permitted to attend school along with white children. At the age of twelve he left school to help out his family financially, and over the next several years he worked as a farmhand, servant, and coachman. In 1833 he married Abigail Stewart ...

Article

Stephen Cory

North African military leader, was born to a Muslim family on the Greek island of Mytilene. Baba ʿAruj, along with his younger brothers, Khayr al-Din and Ishaq, launched a successful corsair enterprise along the coast of North Africa in the early sixteenth century. Battling mostly against Spanish expansionism in the Maghreb, the brothers (generally known as the Barbarossas) conquered several strongholds along the coast, the most important of which was the city of Algiers. Their efforts directly led to the establishment of Ottoman authority in the North African provinces of Algiers and Tunis.

In the first decade of the sixteenth century the situation appeared grim for Maghrebi Muslims The Spanish had recently completed their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula had expelled the Jews and had also forced the remaining Muslims in Iberia to convert to Christianity Their holdings in the New World were beginning to produce the wealth that would ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

U.S. Army chaplain, World War II veteran, and Bronze Star medalist, was born in Florence, Alabama, the youngest of three children of Mary (Sneed) and Rufus Beasley. On both the maternal and paternal sides of his family, Beasley was descended from slaves and had family members who performed military duty as soldiers in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Because of a rheumatoid arthritis condition, Louis Beasley's education was delayed and he would not graduate from high school until the age of twenty. Previously, in 1924, Beasley had met his future wife, Lauvenia Minor, and the two were wed in 1930. To help support his family, Louis would subsequently work at several sales jobs and attended Normal Agricultural and Mechanical Institute, graduating in 1931 while his wife was employed as a schoolteacher Uncertain as to what career path he should take Louis Beasley ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

political, military, and religious leader and first Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, was born in the town of Morona, now located in Niger, in 1780 or 1781. His father was the revolutionary Islamic cleric and leader Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), and his mother was Hawwa bint Adam ibn Muhammad Agh. Bello received an advanced education in Islamic theology and law thanks to his father, and supported his father’s call for a strict adherence to orthodox Sunni interpretations of Islamic practices. Bello praised his father as a loving parent: “His face was relaxed and his manner gentle. He never tired of explaining and never became impatient if anyone failed to understand” (Boyd, 1989).

When Uthman Dan Fodio launched a series of holy wars against the nominally Islamic sultans of Hausa cities such as Kano in northern Nigeria and southern Niger Bello became an active lieutenant of his father ...

Article

Floyd Jr. Ogburn

soldier and evangelist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was an African servant and his mother was the daughter of Colonel Morgan, an officer in the rifle corps during the American Revolutionary War. As an infant Bowles remained with his father but dwelled with a foster parent in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, until age twelve. After the death of his foster parent, he lived with a Tory family until fourteen, when he joined the Colonial artillery as a waiter to an officer. Two years later he enlisted in the American army and served until the war concluded.

The war over, Bowles traveled to New Hampshire and married Mary Corliss his cousin and the granddaughter of Colonel Morgan Soon after marriage he was baptized and joined the Calvinist Baptist Church in Wentworth New Hampshire Finding the Calvinist denomination too inflexible he later converted to the Free Will Baptist embracing ...

Article

Marlene L. Daut

escaped slave, navy landsman, and U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1841 of unknown parentage. Brown was a slave in Mississippi on a cotton plantation, and nothing is known of his childhood or to whom he belonged. In the early 1860s, at the start of the Civil War, Brown ran away from his master on a skiff that eventually managed to reach a Union ship stationed on the Mississippi River. This encounter with the navy probably accounts for his subsequent enlistment. The navy was a likely choice for an escaped slave; many escaped slaves, as well as free blacks from the North, were often drawn to the service because of its better pay and purported fairer treatment of blacks. Brown enlisted in the Union navy on 18 March 1863 under the title 1st Class Boy and was officially described as a Contraband Negro five ...

Article

Genevieve Skinner

Civil War veteran, preacher, and teacher, was born free to an English sea captain and an African American mother on a ship sailing on the Atlantic Ocean. When Angus was two years old, his father died, and Angus and his mother were sold into slavery in Virginia, and later taken to Kentucky. He spent a majority of his early years in Virginia and learned how to read prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, an illegal pursuit for slaves. In 1864, now enslaved in Kentucky, at the age of sixteen Burleigh ran away from his master and enlisted in the Union Army at Frankfort, Kentucky. Upon enlisting Burleigh was trained at Camp Nelson in Kentucky, which was one of the largest areas for gathering African American soldiers during the Civil War. Burleigh became a sergeant with Company G 12th United States Colored Troops U ...

Article

Earl P. Stover

Louis Carter was born on February 20, 1876, in Auburn, Alabama. He attended Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), in Tuskegee, Alabama, from 1895 to 1897, and Selma University, in Selma, Alabama, from 1897 to 1900, but he did not graduate from either institution. From 1901 to 1904 he attended the Virginia Union University Theological School, in Richmond, Virginia, as a special student, graduating with a bachelor of divinity degree. From his ordination in Auburn in 1899 to his enlistment in the Army in 1910 Carter served several pastorates in Alabama Virginia and Tennessee His popularity and success as a pastor was characterized as phenomenal As pastor of the 1 500 member First Baptist Church of Knoxville he was active in the black Young Men s Christian Association YMCA and was said to have done more to encourage young men to participate in YMCA activities ...

Article

Laura Murphy

writer, sailor, soldier, teacher, and minister, was one of ten children born in North Carolina to Abel Ferebee, a slave and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and Chloe (maiden name unknown), a slave. When London was young his mother was sold, apparently because of her unwillingness to submit to her master and her ability to beat him in a fight. She was sold to a speculator, who offered to sell her to her husband or his master, who had allowed Ferebee to hire himself out to a local farmer so that they both profited from his labor. When she was subsequently bought by one of the two men—it is unclear which—London and two of his siblings were allowed to move with her, though they all remained enslaved.

Once he was old enough to begin laboring London was immediately set to ...

Article

Kathryn Grover

the first officially designated black chaplain in the Union army, was born free in Norfolk, Virginia. His father and grandfather, Henry Jackson Sr. and Jr., had been vessel pilots on the rivers flowing into Chesapeake Bay; Jackson's father had been freed in 1811 and during the War of 1812 ran the British blockade. According to an unpublished 1848 autobiography William Jackson “learned all the arts of steamboating from the kitchen to the cabins from there to the machinery,” and until Nat Turner's 1831 insurrection Jackson worked in the barrooms of the steamers and freighters that traveled between Norfolk and both Baltimore and Charleston. Jackson's father, stung by laws curtailing the assembly of free blacks after the Turner revolt, went to Philadelphia to find shelter for the family, and his son followed in 1832.

From 1834 to 1835 Jackson served in the U.S. Navy onboard the sloop Vandalia ...

Article

Michael Twaddle

Ugandan military and religious leader claimed to have been born in the small kingdom of Koki in present day Uganda Knowledge of Kakungulu s earliest years is clouded by clan disputes in the great lakes region of East Africa Nowadays there are claims by two men to have been his father and four women to have been his mother Initially these claims arose out of the declaration by Kakungulu himself toward the end of World War I that he was no longer a member of the large and influential lungfish clan of Buganda because he had been born a prince in the neighboring kingdom of Koki Retrospectively it is easy to point to personal disappointment as being a possible explanation for this change of heart following an affair between his wife and a young brother in the lungfish clan as well as genuine uncertainty whether his actual biological father had ...

Article

Heike Behrend

Ugandan spirit medium, prophet, and leader of a military force involved in the Ugandan civil war in the 1980s, later named Alice “Lakwena” after a spirit that took possession of her. She was born Alice Auma in 1956 in Bungatira, a village near Gulu in Acholi, Northern Uganda, as her mother, Iberina Ayaa’s, second child. Her father, Severino Lukoya, worked as a catechist for the Church of Uganda. In 1948, before she was born, he had a vision; in 1958, after he had fallen from the roof of his house and believed that he had “gone straight to heaven,” a voice called out that spirits would come to his children and that one child had already been chosen. It did not become clear to him that Alice was the chosen child until January 1985 when she began preaching the word of God Thus her father had experienced ...

Article

Mohammed Bashir Salau

Qurʾanic teacher and warlord, was a Fulani originating from Kebbi in the northern part of modern-day Nigeria. His real name was Muhammadu Bangana, and he was also known as “Manko.” Very little is known about his early life. Following the conquest of a vast part of the Central Sudan by jihad forces led by Uthman dan Fodio, the Nupe came under the domination of the dynasty of the Emir of Gwandu at the turn of the nineteenth century. Mallam Dendo migrated to Nupe country at about the time when the Nupe were brought under the rule of Gwandu, specifically at about 1810. It seems likely that he had, as a Qurʾanic teacher, undertaken preaching missions to several Nupe towns prior to 1810. According to various sources, Dendo settled at Nupeland during a period of great political instability, specifically following the death of the etsu king Abdullahi Yinkanko ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

soldier, preacher, educator, delegate to political and religious conventions, and writer, was born to Andrew Marrs, a free man, and Frances Marrs, at the time considered by law to be the property of one Jesse Robinson, in Shelby County, Kentucky. By law, Elijah Marrs inherited the slave status of his mother.

At the age of seven or eight Marrs was sent to work serving food in the Robinsons dining room Within a few years he was plowing corn fields and taking care of the cows Our master was not hard on us he later wrote and allowed us generally to do as we pleased after his own work was done Mothers he added including his own were necessarily compelled to be severe on their children to keep them from talking too much Many a poor mother has been whipped nearly to death on ...

Article

Patricia J. Thompson

Methodist minister, antislavery activist, and chaplain in the Civil War, was born in Norfolk, Connecticut, the son of former slaves, Jupiter and Fannie Mars.

Since his parents had escaped from their master, a Presbyterian minister, prior to his birth, John N. Mars grew up as a free man and was able to obtain six months of formal schooling. His brother James, however, born before their parents escape, remained a slave until his twenty-first birthday.

At age nineteen Mars left Connecticut and traveled to Spencertown and Ghent, New York, where he lived and worked for a number of years. Around 1824 he married Silvia Gordon and they had two sons, John S. (born c. 1832) and George (born c. 1835).

While living in the area Mars was converted in the Methodist Episcopal Church MEC and soon began to experience a call to preach He ...

Article

Michaeljulius Idani

minister, civil rights activist, New York state legislator and official, and ambassador, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the oldest of six children of Herman Carl McCall Sr., a waiter on a train, and Carolesa McCall a homemaker During his early years McCall s father lost his job and abandoned the family leaving Herman s mother struggling to raise him and his five sisters McCall grew up poor in the Roxbury section of Boston shifting through low income housing His mother collected welfare as a means to support the family they also received support from caring members of their United Church of Christ parish Despite the difficulties of being a single parent she was active in his life and stressed the importance of a good education and a close relationship with God McCall was a talented student and knew he wanted to attend college He ...

Article

Debra Jackson

abolitionist, Civil War veteran, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, and doctor of divinity, was born in New Bern, North Carolina. He was one of several children born to an enslaved father and a free black woman. Although Newton inherited his mother's legal status as a free person, he nonetheless developed a hatred of the slave system. While still a teenager he aided an acquaintance, Henry Bryan in a daring escape from bondage Newton first disguised Bryan in female clothing and led him to a hiding place in the attic of a local slaveholder this plan was of course implemented with the help of the enslaved people of the household Offers of a reward for the capture and return of Bryan yielded nothing and with Newton s further help he safely left the attic hideaway and made his way to freedom in the North Newton recounted ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Congolese warlord and religious leader, was born on 29 August 1964 under the name Frédéric Bitsamou in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. Details about his early life are extremely difficult to obtain. Etanislas Ngodi, author of the most detailed study of Ntoumi’s Nsilulu religious and political movement as of 2009 noted that he so frightened informants in Brazzaville that they refused to provide much concrete information about his family According to some sources Ntoumi was the eldest of eight children He completed his studies at the primary level he never attended middle school nor graduated from secondary school Religious pamphlets and the Bible were his favorite reading materials One individual close to Ntoumi noted It was prayer that counted for him most of all It didn t mean he wasn t intelligent at school On the contrary everyone who knew him thought he was brilliant Certainly his lack of ...