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Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. His father was Agonglo, king of Dahomey from 1789 to 1797. Adandozan was the eldest son of Agonglo. Oral narratives collected later in the nineteenth century presented him as incompetent and mentally deranged, but it should be kept in mind that rival royal family members eventually ousted Adandozan from power and would have had a vested interest in deriding his achievements. Adandozan ascended to the throne of Dahomey in 1797, in a time marked by difficulties for the kingdom. The royal slave-trading monopoly ran aground on international difficulties, particularly the decision of the French government to abandon the slave trade from 1794 to 1802 and the British and US governments’ decision to abandon the slave trade in 1807 and 1808 respectively The British government began to send warships to stop other countries from purchasing ...

Article

Born Nzinga Mbemba, Afonso I ascended the throne in 1506 after the death of his father, Nzinga a Nkuwu. Unlike his father, who had rejected Catholicism and limited contact with the Portuguese explorers, Afonso had been baptized as a Christian when the Kongo court converted in 1491. During his time as governor of Kongo's Nsundi province, Afonso entertained Portuguese priests and gained a reputation for Christian piety. When his father died, around 1590, Afonso returned to Mbanza Kongo, the capital, to seek the throne. His half brother, Mpanzu Kitima, raised a provincial army to remove Afonso from the capital. Afonso characterized the struggle as being between Christian and anti-Christian forces and later maintained that the Christians had won through the intervention of Saint James.

From the beginning of his reign Afonso sought to Christianize Kongo creating a financial base a school system a parish organization and a naturalized ...

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Jeremy Rich

leader of the Kongo kingdom, was born in the mid-fourteenth century. His birth name was Mvemba a Nzinga and he was the child of King João I Nzinga Nkuwu of Kongo and Nzinga a Nlaza, one of the king’s wives. When the Portuguese ship captain Diogo Cão first arrived in 1483, Afonso was a high-ranking officer in the kingdom. He consented to be baptized by Catholic missionaries. When a royal court faction opposed to Christianity arose after João I’s baptism in 1491, Afonso developed his authority in his own province of Nsundi. He allowed two Portuguese priests, Goncalve Vas and Rodrigue Anes, to live in his court.

Not surprisingly Portuguese missionaries and officials gave Afonso support especially after his father renounced Christianity In Nsundi Afonso used his privileged access to European trade goods to gain access to valuable high grade copper located north of the Congo River and ...

Article

Akitoye  

Jeremy Rich

ologun (king) of the city of Lagos (in present-day Nigeria), was born early in the nineteenth century in the city that he would later rule. His father, Ologun Kuture, reigned over the port from roughly 1780 to around 1803. Akitoye’s elder brothers Adele and Osinlokun battled for power in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Eventually Osinlokun won this struggle. Akitoye only entered the competition for the throne in the 1830s, after the death of Osinlokun and his son and successor Idewu. The latter had no children. When Idewu’s ambitious brother Kosoko tried to seize the crown, his numerous opponents in Lagos sought to find other candidates to prevent Kosoko from taking power. The aging Adele was named ologun but only lived two years Then various family leaders and chiefs selected Adele s son Oluwole to block Kosoko from becoming the king but he only lived ...

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Juliet Montero Brito

fugitive slave and leader of an anticolonial rebellion in Venezuela from 1553 to 1556, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Venezuela). He was a slave of Don Pedro Del Barrio, the son of Damián Del Barrio, who had discovered an important gold mine in Segovia de Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and moved his family and slaves from the island of Puerto Rico to Venezuela to establish a slave labor regime in the mines. In 1552 Miguel Barrios was moved to Nueva Segovia de Barquisimeto, at which point he had already earned a reputation as a rebellious and courageous slave, unbreakable in character. In 1553 he struck his master Del Barrio and then fled to the nearby mountains Once there he declared himself free and during the following year under cover of darkness came down from the mountains and convinced many of the other black and indigenous slaves to join ...

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Jeremy Rich

legendary hero of the Afro-Brazilian community, is believed by many to have been born in the kingdom of Kongo in Central Africa in the early eighteenth century. With few written sources available about his origins or his life that could help confirm the many stories told about Rei in later years, it is difficult to determine with precision many of the narratives that emerged about him. According to many stories about Rei, he was a leader of his people in Kongo and was captured by African rivals. These enemies sold him to a visiting Brazilian slave ship, which brought Rei and his unfortunate companions across the Atlantic to the Minas Gerais region of southern Brazil. His wife and most of his family were said to have died during the long voyage. Only one son was believed to have survived.

During the early eighteenth century Brazilian prospectors discovered large deposits of ...

Article

Aaron Myers

In the late seventeenth century, gold was discovered in the area that is now the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, triggering an inundation of gold prospectors from the surrounding provinces and Portugal. They brought large numbers of African slaves with them to extract the precious metal and began importing slaves from Africa’s Gold Coast (present-day Ghana and the surrounding countries), a region known for its advanced mining activities. By 1720 the city of Ouro Preto had become the center of gold mining in Minas Gerais. This was the destination of the African king Chico Rei and many members of his tribe.

Originally named Galanga, Chico Rei was the king of a small Congolese tribe of some 200 people in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Around 1740 he and his tribe were taken prisoner by Portuguese slave traders and sold into slavery in Minas ...

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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

Richard Watts

Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born to Congolese parents on a plantation in Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known prior to independence). He was given the name of the plantation owner, Duclos, before adopting the name of the freed black landowner, Dessalines, who purchased his services as a slave. Unlike his future comrade-in-arms, François Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and joined the ranks of maroons (runaway slaves) at a young age. In 1792 he became a partisan of the slave uprising led by Boukman, a slave of Jamaican origin, and impressed his compatriots with his courage. Yet Dessalines committed acts of cruelty that frightened some in the rebellion. His capacity for violence would contribute in equal measure to his precipitous rise and fall.

Following the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue in 1793 Toussaint Louverture allied himself with the French Dessalines joined him eventually becoming Toussaint ...

Article

Glele  

Joseph C. E. Adande

king of Dahomey (r. 1858–1888), was born Badohou, the son of Gezo, the ninth king of Dahomey, and Zognindi, a free-born woman from Adakplamè. Some sources give the date of his death as 1888. Among the thirteen kings who ruled the kingdom of Danxome (Dahomey; present-day Benin) from 1625 to 1899, those of the nineteenth century, and Glele in particular, were the most famous.

The history of the kingdom of Dahomey is recorded in and by the Kpanlingan, which is both the official recorded poetic text and the person reciting it. Each king has his own kpanlingan Glele s is the longest In this text written down by Claude Savary for the first time only in the twentieth century we find numerous images emphasizing how powerful Glele was He is said to be Axosu kololo We dede kololo ma no mia the great king you cannot ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

merchant and king of Opobo, was born in the village of Umuduruoha in the densely populated Igbo heartland of eastern Nigeria (now in Imo State). He was born into the Isu clan, and his father, Ozurumba, was most likely a farmer who supplemented that work by trading or with a skilled profession such as blacksmithing. His mother’s name was Uru. At the approximate age of twelve, Jaja was sent to live with relatives in Nkwerre, from where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. From Nkwerre he was brought to Akwete and sold to a trader named Odiari from the Royal Canoe House of Opobo. (Canoe houses had begun in the delta as trading and fighting communities capable of manning and maintaining a war canoe; the trading center city-states of the eastern delta—Brass, Nembe, Bonny—each consisted of several organized canoe houses.)

Given the name Jubo Jubogha Jaja stayed with his ...

Article

Kapuufi  

Kathleen Smythe

was king of Nkansi (mwene in Kifipa) in the late nineteenth century (c. 1860 to c.1890), one of two Fipa kingdoms between Lakes Rukwa and Tanganyika ruled by the Twa dynasty. There are conflicting accounts of the Twa genealogy, but Kapuufi was probably the son of a previous Nkansi king. He had two children, Ndalu, a daughter, and Kilatu, a son, who eventually became mwene himself. Very little is known about Kapuufi’s personal life. Much of what we know is about his kingdom and comes from travelers like Edward Hore, Paul Reichard, and Joseph Thomson, all of whom noted that Nkansi was well governed, peaceful, and prosperous and that the people respected Kapuufi.

Nkansi was a centralized kingdom that was connected to villages under its jurisdiction by politico-religious ceremonies and exchanges of labor and goods. Below the king and queen mother were the leaders of districts or provinces, mwenekandawa ...

Article

Ryan Ronnenberg

king of the Shambaa kingdom in the Usambara Mountains of what is now northeastern Tanzania, succeeded his father, Kinyashi Muanga Ike, in approximately 1815 and ruled until his death in 1862. While Shambaa historical tradition credits his ancestor Mbegha as the founder of the Shambaa kingdom, and his grandfather Bughe and father for conquering and unifying much of the land in the Usambara Mountains he would come to govern, it was Kimweri who presided over the region’s “golden age,” when it was at the pinnacle of its power.

Kimweri inherited a kingdom that had been thwarted during his father s reign both in dispatching its rival Mshihwi to the far north and in expanding to the south Kimweri s success followed a peace agreement with Mshihwi which permitted him to concentrate his efforts to create a more firmly integrated Shambaa kingdom centered about its capital of Vugha and later ...

Article

Kpengla  

Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. European diplomatic and travel accounts contend Kpengla was a son of his predecessor as king of Tegbesu, while some oral traditions from Benin declare that he was a younger brother of Tegbesu. He engaged in a short battle for the throne after the elderly Tegbesu died in 1774.

Kpengla was popular with European slave traders stationed in the southern Beninese port city of Ouidah a vassal of Dahomey because the new king promised to restore the kingdom s economic and political might that had suffered some setbacks in the last years of Tegbesu s reign In particular he wished to ensure that only prisoners of war were sold for export and that Dahomey finally would break free of its subordination to its rival kingdom of Oyo to the east Kpengla made overtures to Dahomey s western ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

“the Golden,” king of the Saʾadi dynasty of Morocco, was born in Fez. His father was the powerful Moroccan king Muhammad al-Shaikh, and his mother was apparently a concubine of African descent, probably a slave.

Ahmad became known for his military skill in his father’s service. There were plenty of opportunities for Ahmad to test his abilities, as Morocco faced powerful enemies in the sixteenth century. Across the Sahara to the south, the Askia dynasty of the Songhay Empire threatened Moroccan trade interests. Portuguese troops controlled enclaves along the Moroccan coast. To the east, Ottoman commanders had occupied the coast of Algeria. After al-Shaikh died in 1574 al Mansur s brothers Abd al Malik and Muhammad al Mutawakkil vied for the throne With Ottoman aid al Malik drove al Mutawakkil from Morocco Al Mutawakkil surrendered to Philip II of Spain Then the Moroccan exile received strong backing from the ...

Article

Msiri  

Nathaniel Mathews

political leader in eastern and central Africa, was born Mwenda Msiri Ngelengwa Shitambi in Tabora (in present-day Tanzania) to an ambitious Sumbwa Nyamwezi trader. Msiri rose to become one of the most powerful of a new class of nineteenth-century African rulers who used firearms and long-distance trade to build up spheres of influence independent of clan linkages or hereditary inheritance. Msiri’s father Kalasa held a chieftainship under the great Nyamwezi ruler Mirambo and was also a very successful copper merchant. Known as the Yeke, Msiri and other Nyamwezi brought the peoples of the Katanga plateau coastal trade goods while providing a market for the heavy copper crosses molded in Katanga refineries.

Msiri s first political strategy was to ally himself with the Wasanga in their war against a Lunda regent Msiri was able to defeat the Lunda king earning the gratitude and subordination of the Wasanga He followed this victory ...

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Jeremy Rich

king of the sultanate of Wadai (located in present-day eastern Chad), was born in the late eighteenth century. He was the brother of Sabun, the extremely successful sultan of Wadai between 1804 and 1815 who greatly expanded his monarchy’s commercial ties with the North African bey of Tripoli. Some ascribed Sabun’s death in 1815 to poison, and his demise brought on two decades of infighting between various court factions. ʿAbd al-Aziz, a sultan who managed to hold power for several years in Wadai, died around 1836 He left behind his infant son Adam as his heir Muhammad Sharif himself actually lived in the Darfur kingdom east of Wadai He seems to have married a Fulani woman from Darfur which may have led him to leave Wadai The reigning sultan of Darfur Muhammad al Fadl decided to launch an invasion to install either Muhammad Sharif or Adam as the new ...

Article

Walima T. Kalusa

the ninth or tenth Litunga (king) of the Lozi people of precolonial Zambia, was born around the 1750s. Little is known about Mulambwa’s parents and early life, but he most likely ascended to the Litungaship in the 1780s. He ruled the Lozi kingdom for the next fifty years, up to the early 1830s, when the Bulozi flood plain was invaded by the Kololo under Sebitwane from South Africa. Memorialized in local oral tradition as the greatest Lozi sovereign, he is said to have completed the conquest of the plain with its surrounding areas, bringing the Totela, the Subiya, the Kwangwa, and several other ethnic groups under his political hegemony. He also raided the Ila, the Tonga, and the Toka-Leya of what is now southern Zambia for cattle and slaves.

During his early reign Mulambwa faced rising opposition to his authority from other Lozi royals and bureaucrats determined to ...

Article

Holly Hanson

king of Buganda (r. 1856–1884), was the son of Kabaka (King) Ssuna by his tenth wife Muganzirwazza of the Njovu clan, who as nnamasole (queen mother) exercised formidable political power herself. Muteesa ruled from October 1856 until his death in 1884. In order to solidify his somewhat precarious hold on the kabakaship, Muteesa killed many people in the early years of his rule, receiving the name Mutebya, “bringer of tears.” Over time, however, he became known instead as Muteesa, “the benefactor,” as a result of the intelligence and innovation he used to meet the internal threat of enslavement and the external threat of encroachment from the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and the European scramble for spheres of influence in East Africa.

Ganda the people of Buganda traditions associate Kabaka Muteesa with the arrival of large amounts of foreign cloth and with the decision to sell slaves to obtain it That people ...

Article

Holly Hanson

king of Buganda as Mwanga II, was born to Kabaka Muteesa I and Abisagi Bagalayaze of the Ngonge clan. Mwanga was raised, following Ganda tradition, far from the palace. He had been his father’s choice as successor, and was installed as kabaka (king) on 24 October 1884. Powerful royal women, the traditional king-makers in Uganda, preferred one of his brothers, and only four months after he took office, older chiefs tried to kill him and place a rival on the throne. Mwanga had a reputation for favoritism even as a prince, and he failed to learn the skill of balancing competing interests, which was the heart of a kabaka’s power. Mwanga had his first child when he was 29, but he eventually fathered seven sons and four daughters by sixteen wives. His fourth wife, Evalyn Kulabako, gave birth to his successor, Daudi Chwa, in 1896.

Mwanga came to ...