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Aaron Myers

In the first half of the nineteenth century, thousands of African slaves were involuntarily brought from the Calabar region of southwestern Nigeria to Cuba in order to labor on the sugar plantations. In Cuba, these enslaved people reconstructed aspects of their language (Igbo) and religious rituals in Abakuás, all-male organizations with closely guarded religious, musical, and dance traditions. The prototype for Cuba's Abakuás can be found in Calabar's leopard societies, groups of highly respected, accomplished men who adopted the leopard as a symbol of masculinity. Today as in the past, Abakuás are found predominantly in the city of Havana and the province of Matanzas and are united by a common African mythology and ritual system.

Abakuás preserve African traditions through performative ceremonies a complex system of signs and narratives in the Igbo language Customarily led by four leaders and eight subordinate officers members of the Abakuás seek to protect ...


Allan D. Austin

a military leader in Africa, a slave in Mississippi, was born into the rising Bari family of the Fulbe people in the fabled but real African city of Timbuktu. His name is sometimes written as Abdul Rahahman and Abder Rahman. The Fulbe people were prominent leaders in West African jihads from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and, though enslaved, the most persistent adherents to Islam in the Americas. Abd al-Rahman's father and family had moved south to territory soon to be called Futa Jallon in the highlands of present-day Guinea after he and non-Muslim allies wrested power from their animist opposition between 1776 and 1778. Well into the twentieth century the military Bari-Soriya and religious Karamoko Alfiya families, usually peacefully, traded rule over their people and lands.

For about a century Futa Jallon was the strongest nation in the area. In its capital Timbo, Abd al-Rahman ...

Primary Source

After nearly ten years of working as an itinerant preacher throughout the colonial South, the former slave George Liele (c. 1750–c. 1828) left the American colonies during the British evacuation of Savannah in 1782. Liele had fought with the Loyalists, and traveled to Kingston, Jamaica, to found the first Baptist church in that country. By 1784, Liele’s congregation was large enough for him to purchase property and construct a new building. However, because the church was made up almost entirely of slaves, Liele faced constant difficulties raising funds, and had to assure local elites that his assembly of servants was not somehow fomenting a rebellion.

The passage below is taken from the Baptist Annual Register, for 1790, 1791, 1792, and part of 1793 in which the church official John Rippon of gives an account of Liele s progress in the early 1790s Rippon gives the preacher the opportunity to ...


John Herschel Barnhill

The African diaspora is the movement of people of African descent to other parts of the world; participants in the diaspora are diasporans. Struggle and resistance and the impulse to freedom inform the African diasporan memory, religion, and culture. The transatlantic African diaspora began in the fifteenth century. Earlier, Africans had moved individually and voluntarily to the Middle East, Europe, and Asia; their descendants merged with the dominant population, and only their DNA showed their African ancestry. The 1 to 11 million northern and eastern Africans taken by the Arab slave trade to Islamic countries in Asia and the Middle East intermarried, blended, and left only their DNA as physical evidence. The transatlantic slave trade relocated 10 to 12 million Africans, too many for the white populations of the Americas to absorb, particularly given the nature of the slavery and the assumptions underlying it.


Any discussion of African ethnic groups in the Americas must begin with certain caveats concerning the nature of African “ethnic groups” in the areas of west, west central, and southeastern Africa, from which African diasporic populations in the Americas and the Caribbean originated. First, scholars and other observers have rightly pointed out the cultural similarities and shared histories of large groups of people whom they have termed ethnic groups. However, among African people themselves, before the age of European colonialism in the nineteenth century, such labels affiliating large groups of people held little everyday meaning. That is to say, an Igbo woman in a village in West Africa did not necessarily attach great importance—or any importance at all—to belonging within a larger Igbo collective of tens of thousands of people.

Second within all such ethnic groups there exist literally countless local and regional subgroups with various cultural and historical distinctions ...


When enslaved black Africans were brought to the Americas and the Caribbean, their languages came into contact with European languages. At the same time, plantations brought together Africans from different ethnic and linguistic origins who did not share a common language. As a result, the plantations became multilingual settings in which the slaves were compelled by circumstances to resort to using the owners' languages as lingua francas and later as vernaculars, that is, languages used for day-to-day communication. The vast majority of African slaves brought to the New World were adults, and thus already fluent speakers of their local languages, which inevitably influenced the way they spoke European colonial languages.

The European languages used in the colonies were already different from their metropolitan ancestors as they were by products of communication among European colonists who spoke diverse dialects and languages They were further restructured when spoken by the Africans especially ...


Filomena Sandalo and Luciana Storto

Although the issue remains inconclusive, Brazil's spoken Portuguese appears not to have evolved from or have been a full-fledged Africanized creole, such as those creoles spoken in many parts of the Caribbean. Nevertheless, Brazilian Portuguese was significantly influenced by the languages that the country's large slave population introduced.

Evaluating Brazil s three centuries of slavery might lead to the hypothesis that the varieties of Portuguese spoken in the country could have gone through a process of creolization in colonial times parallel to what has happened in many countries of the Caribbean The African presence in Brazil is the largest in the Americas 38 percent of all Africans who came in colonial times to the New World were brought to Brazil as opposed for example to the 4 5 percent who were brought to North America Slavery in Brazil also lasted longer than anywhere else in the New World the slave ...


Miranda Kaufmann

Over 360 individuals of African descent lived in Britain between 1500 and 1640 They were living across Britain from Scotland and Hull in northern England to Truro in the farthest southwest county of Cornwall Around one third were found in London with concentrations in southern port cities such as Southampton Bristol and Plymouth but also in remote rural villages such as Bluntisham cum Earith in Cambridgeshire They appear in a wide range of archival sources including parish registers tax returns household accounts letters diaries wills government papers and legal records Identifying people of African origin in these sources is not always easy as many different terms were used to describe them In any case when in doubt it is vital to read the original document and not to be misled by toponymical surnames such as Blackemore or the word black used to describe someone who may just have had ...


David Dabydeen

Africanservant who served and died in Henbury, Bristol. Africanus was the servant of Charles William, Earl of Suffolk and Bindon. The Earl married into the Astry family of Henbury House. Africanus, who was named after an ancient Roman general, was a symbol of their wealth. He, like other servants of African origin who worked in aristocratic homes, was a novelty who, besides doing domestic chores, also functioned as a showpiece for wealthy guests.

In the 18th century thousands of male and female slaves arrived in Britain to become servants of the rich minority They mainly came from the New World rather than directly from Africa The common erroneous belief was that Bristol slavers brought Africans back and kept them chained in the Redcliff caves before shipping them across the Atlantic The truth was that most African slaves were part of the triangular trade being transported from ...


When Africa is regarded as part of the cultural and political history of the African diaspora, it is usually recognized only as an origin—as a past to the African American present, as a source of survival in the Americas, as the roots of African American branches and leaves, or, at the most dialectical, as a concept conjured up by New World blacks as a trope of racial unity.

Yet, in truth, the cultures of both Africa and the Americas have shaped each other through a live dialogue that continued beyond the end of the slave trade. In ways easily documented since the eighteenth century, travel by free Africans and African Americans (by which I mean people of African descent throughout the Americas) has continued to shape political identities and cultural practices in North and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Since the eighteenth century enslaved or free black seamen have ...


The phenomenon of African former slaves returning to their original homes has thus far not received the attention it deserves. Pierre Verger has done much work on the relationship between Brazil and West Africa, and several others have written on the subject. More needs to be done, however, to clarify the motivations and the influences that determined the former slaves’ attitudes and reactions on returning to their home areas.

This essay examines the attitudes, occupations, and contributions of Brazilian returnees to West Africa in the nineteenth century. Their stay in Brazil so affected them that they behaved more like Brazilians than Africans on the West African coast. For this reason, in this essay they are called “Brazilians.”

The term however is not completely accurate because the Brazilian communities included people of different origins some having had little or no connection with Brazil Some were men who had been former officials ...


Afro-Colombians (Colombians of African descent) were invisible in the 1886 constitution that ruled Colombia for over 100 years. By 1990, after centuries of marginalization and discrimination, Afro-Colombian organizations emerged as a political force. They denounced implicit racial discrimination and demanded that the constitutional reform take ethnic identity into account without restricting their rights to equality. The black movement received support from representatives of indigenous groups and of the progressive left. Both groups had representatives in the Constitutional Assembly, formed in 1990 to rewrite the constitution.


The African presence in the Caribbean was established during the first decade of the European explorations in the Americas. Nicholas Ovando, the Spanish governor, brought Negro slaves to Hispaniola in 1502, shipping them from Spain to this island where the first permanent Spanish settlement in the New World had been established. These Negro slaves who came to Hispaniola via Spain spoke Spanish and Arabic. That they were able to communicate in these two languages was more the rule than the exception, since the Moors had ruled Spain for six centuries, and Granada—the last of the Moorish strongholds—had fallen to the Spanish on January 2, 1492, a mere seven months before Columbus had set sail on his historic voyage In fact over those many centuries of enlightened Moorish rule the evolving Spanish and Portuguese cultures had constantly oscillated between Europe and Africa Therefore at the beginning of ...


The presence of Africans in the Andean region was recorded as early as the first expedition of the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro, which departed from Panama in 1524. Spanish chroniclers point out that even before Pizarro arrived at the Empire of the Incas (in present-day Ecuador and Peru), an African slave saved the life of Diego de Almagro, one of Pizarro's partners, during an attack by natives from the western coast of what is today Colombia. When Pizarro returned to Spain in 1529 after his second expedition, the Spanish king Charles V granted him the title of governor of Peru, along with a license to import fifty African slaves (“at least a third female”) to the newly conquered lands. Pizarro at last managed to capture Atahualpa, the last ruling Inca, in the northern Incan city of Cajamarca on November 16, 1532 during his third ...


José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is best known for helping Brazil achieve independence in 1822. It is less often recognized that the year after independence he authored a plan for “the slow emancipation of the blacks.” In this plan he argued: “It is time, and more than time, for us to put a stop to a traffic so barbaric and butcherlike, time too for us to eliminate gradually the last traces of slavery among us, so that in a few generations we may be able to form a homogeneous nation, without which we shall never be truly free, respectable, and happy.”

Andrada e Silva argued that slavery was morally wrong and economically inefficient a violation of God s laws and the laws of justice and a corrupt influence over Brazil s inhabitants Slave labor he believed resulted in the slaveholders idleness and gave ordinary Brazilians little incentive to ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Anguillan tradition holds that Christopher Columbus himself named the narrow island Anguilla—which is Spanish for “eel”—during one of his early trips to the Caribbean at the end of the fifteenth century. Many historians now believe that it was probably French explorers, passing the island en route from Dominica to Florida in the middle of the sixteenth century, who established the first European contact with it. Whenever Europeans may have reached Anguilla, its indigenous Amerindian population had probably lived there since at least 1300 b.c.e. By the time Columbus first visited the Caribbean in 1492, substantial communities of Arawak Indians were living across Anguilla, which they called Malliouhana. Within decades of the first European settlement of Anguilla, the island's entire Amerindian population had all but disappeared, victims of both enslavement and European diseases.

English colonists established the first settlement in 1650 Despite attempted attacks by the French the Irish ...



Jean Mutaba Rahier

In 1553 Anton and twenty-two other slaves embarked from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, as part of merchandise bound for the Peruvian port of Callao. The ship wrecked off the coast of Esmeraldas, and the twenty-three slaves killed their Spanish captors and escaped into the forest.

At that time various small indigenous groups inhabited central Esmeraldas: the Niguas, Yumbos, Campaces, Lachas, and Malabas. The first contact of the maroons was with the Niguas and the Yumbos. As the groups clashed, the maroons enjoyed an advantage in combat, owing to the surprise provoked by their arrival and the firearms they had liberated from the shipwreck. Anton was nicknamed “the big sorcerer,” and his witchcraft skills were also a decisive factor in instilling fear into the Niguas and gaining their respect.

Through Anton's leadership the maroons increasingly dominated the indigenous communities. Sebastian Alonso de Illescas gradually established himself as Anton s ...


Alonford James Robinson

In 1807 the British Parliament voted to end British participation in the international slave trade. In 1834 it ended slavery entirely, promising freedom to more than a million slaves in the Caribbean. In an effort to soften the effects of emancipation on white slaveholders, the British Parliament decided to implement a program known as apprenticeship. Under this program all slaves under six years of age, and those born after August 1, 1834, were freed. But praedials (fieldworkers) were required to work for their current owners for a period of six years, and nonpraedials for a period of four years. After this period all slaves would be emancipated.

The apprenticeship program was so overloaded with rules and restrictions that special magistrates had to be appointed to monitor the system Slaves worked forty hours per week in exchange for food clothing and shelter They were permitted to spend their remaining time ...



Aaron Myers

Of all the states in Brazil, Bahia has maintained the strongest ties with Africa and African culture. During the first two centuries of the colonial era, Bahia absorbed most of the slaves imported to Brazil. At this time, the slaves came to constitute a majority of Bahia's population and exerted a proportional effect on the developing character of the state. Today, Bahia's traditions and customs are living testimony to the enormous influence of Africans and their descendants.


Led by the slave and lay Baptist preacher Samuel Sharpe, this slave revolt became known as the Baptist War because of the Baptists' involvement in educating slaves and their fierce opposition to slavery. Also referred to as the Christmas Rebellion because it occurred around Christmas day, the Baptist War began as a demand for the payment of wages to slaves. Jamaican slaves initially organized a strike to halt work on the island's sugar plantations immediately following the Christmas weekend. The conflict escalated on December 27, 1831, when slaves set a series of fires that raced across the plantations, destroying many sugar fields. Samuel Sharpe set the initial fire at an estate in Saint James to signal the beginning of the strike. The strike and the rebellion that followed gained support from more than 20,000 slaves and spread throughout western Jamaica.

Slaves and the British militia fought for ...