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Article

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 ...

Article

Cacos  

Georges Michel

After the downfall of Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1843, the peasants in the southern part of the island revolted. These revolutionaries were named piquets, because they carried wooden poles, called picks, as weapons. In the 1860s, peasants in northern Haiti followed the example of the piquets, becoming known as Cacos. The Cacos movement was based in the northern part of the republic in an area comprising the towns of Vallieres, Capotilles, and Mont-Organise. Some say that the term Cacos comes from the name of a small bird of prey; others trace it to the name of a species of Haitian red ants that have a bad sting.

The Cacos movement appeared for the first time during the civil war of 1868. The rebellious peasants later fought against President Sylvain Salnave in 1870 The Cacos proved themselves formidable fighters and instrumental to Salnave s ...

Article

George Reid Andrews

The son of former slaves, João Cândido was born in the cattle-ranching country of southern Brazil. In 1895, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Brazilian navy, which at that time had a very clear racial hierarchy. While the officer corps was exclusively white, an estimated 80–90 percent of the enlisted seamen were Afro-Brazilian, many of them forcibly recruited against their will. Slavery had been abolished in Brazil only a few years earlier, in 1888, and many officers continued to treat crews as though they were in fact slaves. Conditions of service were extremely harsh; and even though whipping had been outlawed in the navy in 1890, it was still widely used as a means of discipline.

Brazil joined the naval arms race of the 1890s and early 1900s expanding its fleet to become the largest naval power in Latin America Cândido himself was sent ...

Article

Enslaved husband and wife abolitionists whose self‐liberation from slavery in Georgia to freedom in England represents one of the most daring escapes from American enslavement. In 1848 light‐skinned Ellen conceived a plan to escape by cutting her hair, donning male clothing, and ‘passing’ as a southern white male slaveholder travelling to the North for medical treatment, while her darker‐skinned husband William posed as a faithful slave valet. After a dangerous journey through the South, the couple reached Boston, where their story of escape made them causes célèbres in abolitionists circles. With the fugitive slave William Wells Brown, the Crafts gave a series of anti‐slavery lectures throughout New England. Their freedom was threatened, however, by the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their masters in the South, and also mandated the assistance of northerners in the fugitives' capture. In November ...

Article

Cecily Jones

The first female African‐American author of a fugitive slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). Born in North Carolina to an enslaved mother, who died when Jacobs was aged 6, she then lived with her grandmother and her mistress, from whom she learnt to read and write. Following her mistress's death, Jacobs was sent to Dr James Norcom, who subjected her to prolonged physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. To avoid Norcom's unwanted sexual attentions, Jacobs began a relationship with a white attorney, with whom she had two children.

Hoping that by running away she might persuade Norcom to sell her children to their father, in 1835 Jacobs concealed herself above a storeroom in her grandmother's house, before escaping to the North in 1842. She joined a circle of abolitionists who worked for the North Star, Frederick Douglass's newspaper. In 1853 ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

The Maji Maji revolt, or Maji Maji Rebellion, was initiated by the stateless peasant societies of the Matumbi region and grew into a mass uprising against German Colonial Rule. Since 1891, when the German East Africa Company had taken control of what is now mainland Tanzania, these societies had been subjected to taxes, compulsory labor service, and compulsory cultivation of export crops such as coffee, sisal, and rubber. In 1902 German governor Count Adolf von Götzen tightened the company’s grip by forcing Africans throughout much of the colony to grow cotton, a crop that is both difficult to grow and hard on the soil. Resentment grew among the Matumbi and other rural people, especially after the company began imprisoning noncompliant chiefs, such as the Kisangire leader Digalu Kibasila. In late July 1905 Matumbi laborers began uprooting cotton plants on a nearby plantation, effectively declaring war on the Germans.

To ...

Article

Juan Otero-Garabis

As a child, Esteban Montejo escaped a sugar plantation to live as a maroon until the abolition of slavery in 1885. His memories were published by the Cuban writer Miguel Barnet in Maroon's Biography (1966), considered a pioneering work of the Latin American testimonial genre. The first part of the book is one of the most detailed descriptions of the harsh working and living conditions of slaves on the sugar plantations. Montejo's account of his survival as a solitary runaway affirms that hunger and lack of shelter were preferable to living the life of a slave.

In the last part of the book Montejo narrates his experience in the Cuban Liberation Army during the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). His account underscores the important role played by the Afro-Cuban officials and soldiers, particularly of Antonio Maceo This section of the book also describes the ...

Article

The struggle against slavery throughout the Americas involved different forms of rebellion. Many slaves escaped; some merged with the urban free black and colored population, while others became maroons and set up their own communities in the backlands, often in cooperation with indigenous peoples. Slaves who remained within the system worked to undermine it, through sabotage of production. At the same time they found ways of using their owners' dependence on their labor to influence their terms of work. And from time to time these slave workers, sometimes in alliance with freed people, erupted in rebellion in an effort to destroy slavery outright.

Article

Jeremy Rich

rebel leader and politician, was born in 1922 in the village of Kaheti in the South Tetu region of Nyeri district, located in central Kenya. His father, Itote, was a successful famer and his mother was Wamuyu. Like most residents of Nyeri, Itote's family belonged to the Kikuyu ethnic community. Itote began to attend a Church of Scotland mission school at Kiangure in 1929, but his father opposed this education on the grounds it took the boy away from farming. In 1933 Itote continued his primary education at Mihuti school. He then left his hometown for the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in 1939 because he could not progress far in his education and was frustrated with his family. There he worked briefly in a factory before starting a vegetable business with several friends. In 1940 he married Leah Wambura. The produce-selling venture closed in 1941 To make ...