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George Michael La Rue

preeminent trans-Saharan merchant and caravan leader (khabir) from the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur, was born in Kubayh, the son of Ibrahim ibn ʿAli, a Tirayfi merchant from Kordofan who immigrated to Darfur, and an unknown mother. He was commonly known as khabir ʿAli. In the nineteenth century Darfur was Egypt’s leading supplier of trans-Saharan goods including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves. In 1838, when Darfur’s sultan Muhammad Fadl died, young ʿAli ibn Ibrahim had already crossed the Sahara along the route from Kubayh (Darfur’s commercial capital) to Asyut in Upper Egypt, perhaps as part of a caravan led by his mentor, paternal uncle, and future father-in-law, Muhammad Kannun, or one of the lesser Tirayfi caravan leaders. ʿAli ibn Ibrahim allegedly heard the news of the sultan’s death from Muhammad ʿAli, the viceroy of Egypt.

ʿAli married six times and had numerous children His first marriage was probably ...

Article

Mary Ann Mahony

whose career spanned the late Brazilian Empire through the fifth decade of republican rule, was born to Maria Francisca Vitória, an unmarried, free Afro-Brazilian woman descended from rural slaves, on a small cacao farm in the emerging cacao district of Cachoeira de Itabuna in the municipality of Ilhéus, in the northeastern province of Bahia. Alves dos Reis is an example of the rapid social mobility available to ambitious and well-connected young men of African descent in the emerging cacao region of the northeast as European and US demand took off for cocoa and chocolate.

By 1887, when Alves dos Reis registered with the local National Guard unit, he was already a moderately prosperous merchant. In 1883 he and his wife lived in a one story wattle and daub thatched roof house with a door a window and a dirt floor It resembled the slave cabins on nearby local ...

Article

Amar Wahab

Pan‐Africanistleader in Britain in the early 1900s. Born in Sierra Leone, in 1869 he was sent to Cheshire to be educated and started working for the family firm, Broadhurst and Sons, in Manchester in 1905. By 1936 he is known to have been a cocoa merchant in the Gold Coast. He was heavily involved in the realm of Pan‐Africanist politics in Britain, becoming a founder member of the African Progress Union between 1911 and 1925. He became secretary of the Union in his sixties and continued as a member of the executive committee until its end. He worked with other leading supporters such as Duse Mohamed Ali, Edmund Fitzgerald Fredericks, and ‘the Black doctor of Paddington’ John Alcindor The Union organized around issues related to the welfare of Africans and Afro Peoples worldwide and vociferously advocated self determination This involved for example protests about ...

Article

Jeffrey Green

Black merchant in Africa. He was one of six Liverpool‐born children of Octavia Caulfield and Antigua‐born Jacob Christian. George and his brother Arthur worked for the merchant John Holt in Nigeria, and George then established his own import–export business in German Cameroon. The Germans expelled him in 1904 (his compensation claim led to correspondence with Britain's ambassador in Berlin). His youngest sister, Rubena Laura Patterson, and her husband, Oscar, and three children migrated to Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1906. His eldest sister, Julia Waldren Rogers, a widow, took her six children to Saskatchewan in 1910.

By 1910 Christian had opened four branches of his import–export business in Nigeria, and Alexander (another brother) ran the Liverpool head office, incorporated as G. W. Christian & Co. Ltd in 1911 the year he married a Liverpool nurse Isabella Stanbury The Nigerian enterprise flourished Three children were born in ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

black English entrepreneur and merchant prominent in West and Central African trading, was born in the Toxteth neighborhood of Liverpool, England, on 12 November 1872. His father, Jacob Christian, was a sailor from the Caribbean island of Antigua who had moved to Liverpool at the age of fifteen. Octavia Caulfield, his mother, was originally from Liverpool and was also of African or Afro-Caribbean descent. Christian had at least two brothers and sisters. Although Christian’s father gave up the life of a mariner to become a timber merchant, his son apparently shared some of his father’s wanderlust. After attending primary and perhaps secondary schools in Liverpool, Christian decided to commence the life of a trader in West Africa. In 1888 one of the biggest British trading firms in West and Central Africa John Holt hired Christian at the young age of fifteen to be an agent at one of ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

merchant and teacher, was born Maryann Benjamin Gabbidon in Bathurst, the daughter of Charles Benjamin, a successful groundnuts trader in the protectorate, and Julia, a kindergarten teacher. Later affectionately known as “Mammy” Gabbidon, Maryann received a sound education in the 1880s, when very few Gambian girls attended school. She attended St. Mary's School in Bathurst, and the famous Annie Walsh Secondary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where she was top of her class in the Senior Cambridge Examinations. She returned home in 1888 to teach at her alma mater.

Like many women of the day, Gabbidon engaged in petty trading in order to supplement her meager teacher's salary. From humble beginnings selling cooked food in the Bathurst Albert Market in the 1890s, Gabbidon soon saved enough money to import kola nuts from Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea Bissau) and Sierra Leone. By 1911 she was the ...

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

Nana Yaw B. Sapong

domestic slave, slave trader, and merchant prince, was born Adzoviehlo Atiogbe in Agoue in Dahomey (Benin) in 1804 He is also known as Adzoviehlo Atiogbe or Geraldo de Vasconcellos A man of several names he is one of the least understood and most complex characters in modern West African history Geraldo de Vasconcellos probably a Brazilian name given to him by his master in servitude entered into a period of apprenticeship under Brazilian slave trader Cesar Cerquira Lima who had a slave factory warehouse at Vodza in present day Ghana Slaves were kept in the Vodza factory before shipment to various destinations Cesar Cerquira Lima was one of a succession of Brazilian traders who had been establishing factories along the eastern coastline of the Gold Coast in the nineteenth century Geraldo de Vasconcellos became one of Cesar s trusted agents in Anlo who kept the supply of slaves steady ...

Article

Isabelle de Rezende

prominent trader and warlord in present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa, former Zaire), was born between 1855 and 1860 in what today is Congo’s Maniema Province, between the rivers Lomami to the west and Lualaba to the east. Ngongo’s origins are unclear. Most commentators situate him as a Tetela-Kusu, Songye, or Hina (Lomami River people, connected linguistically and culturally to their various neighbors); the preferred spelling of his name by these communities is Ngongo Leteta.

What we know of Ngongo’s life was lived in the context of eastern and central Congo in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. Swahili traders, the most famous of whom was Tippu Tip, culturally mixed Muslims from the East African island of Zanzibar, began incursions into the Congo west of the Lualaba. They established the slave and ivory market towns of Kasongo and Nyangwe.

There are different stories about how Ngongo came to Tippu Tip ...

Article

Rosemary Elizabeth Galli

warlord, trader, and founder of perhaps the greatest Yao dynasty in Niassa in northern Mozambique, was the grandson of Syungule, head of the Chisyungule lineage. Mataka Nyambi, along with his biggest rival Makanjila, was instrumental in transforming the Niassa Yao from a society of matriclans to one governed by territorial chiefs. In the process, he brought a large population under his control and gained many wives; he is said to have had six hundred wives and numerous children. In about 1875 Mataka (now Mataka I) beheaded his adversary Makanjila.

A fierce drought drove the Niassa Yao to invade and ransack their neighbors for food and, subsequently, slaves in the 1830s Attacks by Nguni raiders have been responsible for their militarization Small and weak matriclans submitted to the stronger territorial chiefs and even sought their protection Mataka Nyambi was both feared and admired for his military prowess In addition trade ...

Article

Louis S. Gerteis

Montgomery, Benjamin Thornton (1819–12 May 1877), businessman, was born a slave in Loudoun County, Virginia. As the boyhood companion of his owner’s son, Montgomery completed in the afternoon the lessons the young white boy learned from his tutor in the morning. In this manner Montgomery gained a basic education. In 1836 he was sold to a trader who transported him to Natchez, Mississippi, where he was purchased by Joseph Davis, elder brother of Jefferson Davis, and settled on Davis Bend below Vicksburg. Davis had determined to apply the reform principles of Robert Owen who sought order and efficiency in the management of industrial labor to the management of his plantations This required a rational relationship between owner and worker that in Davis s application meant a relationship between master and slave based on kindness not cruelty and on wholesome living conditions not squalor Davis sought ...

Article

Louis S. Gerteis

businessman, was born a slave in Loudoun County, Virginia. As the boyhood companion of his owner's son, Benjamin completed in the afternoon the lessons the young white boy learned from his tutor in the morning. In this manner he gained a basic education. In 1836 he was sold to a trader who transported him to Natchez, Mississippi, where he was purchased by Joseph Davis, elder brother of future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and settled on Davis Bend below Vicksburg. Davis had determined to apply the reform principles of Robert Owen who sought order and efficiency in the management of industrial labor to the management of his plantations This required a rational relationship between owner and worker that in Davis s application meant a relationship between master and slave based on kindness not cruelty and on wholesome living conditions not squalor Davis sought and gained the confidence ...

Article

Raymond Dumett

overseas merchant, teacher, and civic leader in the Gold Coast, was born about 1834 and was related to the royal family of Anomabu state in the central Gold Coast We know little about his youth or early education but it seems clear that he came under the influence of the renowned traveling Methodist preacher Reverend Thomas Birch Freeman in the 1840s We also have evidence that he spent much of his early manhood as a mission agent and teacher for the Weslyan Missionary Society of the Gold Coast established by Freeman From this he acquired the education needed for effective correspondence commercial arithmetic and business relationships on the coast and in England There is no doubt about his commitment to Christianity but the lure of business profits from overseas trading also attracted him In fact there is strong evidence that he doubled as a both a teacher and an ...

Article

Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

vendor and entertainer popularly known as Spader was born in Pennington New Jersey to Joseph and Josephine Seruby His mother was a laundress and his father worked as a coachman for several central New Jersey families Seruby s family roots in New Jersey go back decades before the Civil War His father served in the Civil War as part of the 25th U S Colored Infantry and Seruby himself was said to be a veteran of the Spanish American War He was regularly present at athletic events at Princeton University and frequently appeared at other public venues throughout central and southern New Jersey Seruby was known as the Peanut King because of the principal item that he sold bags of roasted peanuts Seruby s vending featured clever banter and a stylish mode of dress that frequently included a silk top hat a Prince Albert coat or a double breasted Chesterfield ...

Article

M. W. Daly

Sudanese merchant prince, was a Jaʾli Arab born at al-Jayli on the right bank of the main Nile about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Khartoum. He rose to prominence as a trader and virtually independent ruler in the hinterlands of Egypt’s African empire in the 1860s–1870s.

Although the northern Sudanese had engaged in long-distance trade before the Turco-Egyptian conquest of 1820–1821 the colonial regime s policies especially of taxing agriculture drove many young men from the land and into commerce Of these al Zubayr emerged as the most famous and formidable accompanying indeed preceding the Egyptian flag into the Bahr al Ghazal and beyond to dominate the trade in ivory and slaves Egypt prompted by Europe and increasingly employing European agents was never able to suppress the slave trade which matched demand from northern Sudan Egypt and beyond with supply from as far as central Africa Al Zubayr ...