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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

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 ...

Article

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.

Article

Anton  

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 ...

Article

Bahia  

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.

Article

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 ...

Article

Boukman  

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

The man known as Boukman was born a slave in Jamaica, at that time a British colony in the Caribbean. No one knows for certain whether Boukman was his real name. He apparently learned to read and write, and always carried a book with him. Thus he acquired the nickname “Boukman,” meaning the man with a book, or the one who knows. It is thought that this was a man of knowledge for his epoch—a n'gan (in Haitian Creole a hougan), that is, a priest of Haiti's African-derived Vodou religion. Giant in stature, with a Herculean vigor, he was sold to a certain Turpin, the owner of a plantation in French-controlled Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). Appreciating Boukman's strength, his master gave him authority over his fellow slaves as a field commander. Boukman was also appointed a cocher coachman to drive his master about in his fancy ...

Article

With official figures indicating that almost 50 percent of its 182 million inhabitants are of African descent, Brazil is both home to the largest black population outside Africa and the country where blacks are worst off vis-à-vis their white compatriots. Brazil is different from other multiracial nations, such as the United States and South Africa, where policies of segregation fostered unity within oppressed groups that faced visible enemies, and where the very contradictions of segregationist policies opened paths for the social ascension of some members of these groups. In contrast, Afro-Brazilians are virtually excluded from the labor market and the world of business and are practically invisible in the mass media.

How can one explain the apparent paradox of such a large part of the population submitting to racial domination in the absence of the huge investments in repression by physical force that eroded racist systems in other countries ...

Article

Bussa  

Article

Bussa's rebellion broke out on April 14, 1816, which was Easter Sunday (hence the name Easter Rebellion), and continued for three days. Most accounts suggest that it began in the evening in the southeastern parish of Saint Philip. Soon more than half of the island was engulfed by the insurrection, which quickly spread throughout most of the southern and central parishes: Christ Church, Saint John, Saint Thomas, Saint George, and parts of Saint Michael. The slave insurrectionists in these parishes clashed with the local militia. In addition, minor outbreaks of arson occurred in the northernmost parish of Saint Lucy. The rebellion was effectively quashed on April 17 by a joint offensive of the local militia and imperial troops garrisoned on the island.

Slaves had organized the islandwide rebellion with the goal of obtaining their freedom Some evidence suggests that slaves were motivated in part by a misinterpretation of ...

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

Liliana Obregón

Spanish colonizers first encountered the bay of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast of present-day Colombia, in 1502, although it was not until 1533 that a permanent settlement was established. Pedro de Heredia, the city's founder, named the site and bay after Cartagena in Spain, adding “de Indias” (of the Indies) for its location in the Americas. Heredia and his men soon found gold and wrote back to King Carlos I of Spain requesting permission to import African slaves to the area to work in mining and processing this precious metal. By 1545 Cartagena de Indias was developing into a prosperous port town, populated mainly by Spaniards who had been attracted by reports of gold. From 1580 to 1630 gold mines were exploited in the inland towns of Zaragoza Cáceres and Remedios which were accessible from Cartagena by river The mines extended the city s area ...

Article

As the son of a free Native American woman, José Leonardo Chirinos was born free. His father was a black slave of the Chirinos family, a prominent Creole family in what was then the Spanish colony of Venezuela. Chirinos was a tenant farmer and sharecropper in Coro, in northwestern Venezuela. He married an enslaved woman who belonged to a landowner named Don José Tellería. Chirinos accompanied Tellería on trips to Haiti and Curaçao, thereby learning of events outside Venezuela. In Haiti, then a French colony, he overheard discussions among black Haitians of their desire for liberty and equality. Because Chirinos had married a slave, his children were automatically slaves, and this increased his dislike for the institution of slavery

Chirinos emerged as leader of a rebellion that erupted near Coro on May 10, 1795 The insurgents called for the liberation of all slaves in Venezuela and demanded ...

Article

Gregory Freeland

Many of the details about Henri Christophe's early life are unclear, but it is thought that he was born a slave on the British-ruled island of Grenada. At a young age he ran away and eventually became the property of a French naval officer and then of a planter on what was then the French-ruled island of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). In 1779 Christophe was part of an armed group sent by the French to assist Americans in defending Savannah, Georgia, against the British. Christophe, at that time a slave orderly, may have fought in a battalion led by the Marquis du Rouvrary; he was wounded in a conflict in Savannah, Georgia, in October 1779. Christophe then returned to Saint-Domingue, and some time during this period he purchased his freedom. By 1790 Christophe was part of a French militia force that overcame two Haitian rebel forces ...

Article

As with other maroon settlements (communities of runaway slaves) in the Americas, few records exist that explore the history and culture of the Peruvian settlement called Huachipa (1712–1713). Even scarcer is the information on the settlement's most notable leader, Francisco Congo. Also called Chavelilla, Congo had escaped from servitude in Pisco, near the capital city of Lima, and arrived in Huachipa in early 1713, shortly after its establishment. He was welcomed into the community by its leader, Martín Terranovo.

Named mayor and captain of the community Congo handled both administrative and military duties A struggle for leadership began among members of different African tribal groups in the community which eventually became a fight between Martín and Francisco Congo During the fight Congo was severely injured and left for dead He mysteriously recovered and killed Martín His amazing recovery led to a belief that his triumph was ...

Article

Jalane Schmidt

In November 1843 slaves on the sugar plantations of Matanzas Province began a rebellion that spread to neighboring plantations. As the revolt widened, slaves destroyed property, killed some whites, and freed fellow slaves. In 1844 colonial authorities investigating the uprising claimed to have uncovered a conspiracy in Matanzas to overthrow the Spanish colonial government. Eventually they alleged that vast networks existed which linked black slaves in rural areas to free blacks and mulattoes in the cities. The Spanish forces, under the authority of Capt. Gen. Leopoldo O'Donnell, arrested, tortured, and killed hundreds in their efforts to suppress the rebellion. Investigation into subversive activities spread throughout the country, assuming the dimensions of a witch hunt. La Conspiración de la Escalera (The Conspiracy of the Ladder) was named for the ladders to which accused black and mulatto conspirators were tied in order to be whipped. The year 1844 has gone ...

Article

On October 27, 1841, the brig Creole left Hampton Roads, Virginia, for New Orleans with 135 slaves. In early November off the coast of Florida about twenty slaves, led by Madison Washington, commandeered the ship, killing one white crew member. One slave was also killed during the revolt.

The likeliest destination for the fugitives was the free settlement of Liberia, in Africa, but since the Creole was unlikely to withstand such a journey, Washington ordered the crew to sail for the British port of Nassau in the Bahamas. On arrival, the slaves asked for asylum from Great Britain, which in 1807 had banned the trade of slaves and in 1833 had outlawed slavery altogether. Except for several men detained for mutiny and murder, the slaves of the Creole were granted their freedom.

Relations between the United States and Britain had been tense for several years before ...

Article

Cudjoe  

Alonford James Robinson

The life and death of the Jamaican maroon (fugitive slave), Cudjoe, has become a symbol of black resistance in Jamaica. Cudjoe's story as the eighteenth century leader of the Clarendon maroons has also been a contested part of Jamaican history. Early European descriptions painted a caricatured portrait of him, while black recollections portrayed him as a fearless soldier.

Cudjoe was among more than 500 African-born slaves in the Jamaican parish of St. Clarendon who escaped after a violent insurrection in 1690. Cudjoe emerged as leader of a loose confederation of runaway slaves who lived in the Clarendon hills. The Clarendon maroons, led by Cudjoe, organized themselves into small gangs that secretly wandered into white towns to steal food and weapons.

Even though the Clarendon maroons were disunited they became skilled soldiers and expert marksmen Under Cudjoe s leadership they defended their freedom in a series of small skirmishes ...

Article

Leyla Keough

When William Davidson, a respected English cabinetmaker, found himself unemployed and poor as a result of the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution, he turned to a radical solution—the murder of English officials—to protest the social and economic injustices of early nineteenth-century Great Britain.

At his trial on charges of high treason against Great Britain, William Davidson professed that although he was a stranger to England in many ways, he could still claim the rights of an Englishman, “from having been in the country in my infancy.” The recognized son of the white attorney general of Jamaica and a black Jamaican woman, Davidson was brought to England for an education as a young boy. He remained there and became a cabinetmaker, until industrialization forced him into work at a poorhouse mill; at times he turned to crime in order to feed his wife and children.

Resenting this situation Davidson sought ...