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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

Alloron  

Stephanie Beswick

Sudanese leader, was the first prominent Bari private merchant, slave trader, and opportunist insurgent warlord. He rose to power during the 1860s by exploiting poisonous dynastic rivalries between Nyigilo and Subek, the royal sons of Lagunu, the unchallenged Bari leader in 1840, and their respective noble offspring. The faction of Nyigilo had enjoyed the support of Catholic missionaries up to their departure in 1860, but thereafter allied with the northern slave traders who at that time were establishing fortified trading operations throughout southern Sudan. It was to become an era, for the first time in Bari history, during which commoner traders such as Alloron found it possible to acquire economic and political power. However, the upstart was often reminded of his humble origins by the epithet “man without rain,” implying that he lacked the arcane fructifying powers of royalty.

The arrival of Turks northern Sudanese and Europeans ...

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

David Northrup

Atlantic merchant, was born and lived in Duke Town, a part of the trading community of Old Calabar, near the Cross River in what is now southeastern Nigeria. The names of his parents are unknown. His name is also given as Ntiero Edem Efiom. He married Awa Ofiong, whom he called his “dear wife,” as well as two other wives whose names are not known. His only known child was a son, Duke Antera.

Antera grew up in a family prominent in the marketing of merchandise brought by Europeans in exchange for African slaves and other goods In addition to the local Efik language the young Antera learned to speak English through contact with the British captains and crew who called at Old Calabar The fact that he could also read and write English suggests he may have received some formal education in England as did the sons of other ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

merchant, community leader, and socialite, was born Ada Jagne to Francis and Marie Jagne in Bathurst (now Banjul), Gambia. Little is known of her life before 1916, when she married Job Beigh, the richest merchant in Bathurst. Job owned choice real estate in Bathurst, many warehouses and shops, and a fleet of riverboats that transported merchandise to the ports of the Gambia River for European firms.

Job Beigh's career as a merchant exemplified the cutthroat business environment in the Gambia colony in the second half of the nineteenth century. He was born in Bathurst in 1847 and, following his secondary education in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he began his business career as a clerk with the Bathurst Trading Company, one of the six major European companies operating in Bathurst and upriver towns. Later, Job started trading on his own account in Bathurst in 1888 He was ...

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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

Gail Saunders

was born in Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas, on 11 August 1906. His father, George Butler, was a descendant of Glascow, an African slave owned by George Butler, a planter. Milo was named for his great-grandfather who was a well-off farmer in Bannerman Town, Eleuthera, one of the Bahamian Out Islands (also known as the Family Islands) 50 miles east of Nassau. Milo Butler’s mother, Frances (née Thompson), was an organizer and a community leader, and became known as “Mother Butler.” Milo’s grandfather Israel Butler acquired property in Nassau, in the Pond area where George and his wife, Frances, lived. Milo was the only surviving son of that union. He had seven sisters.

In some aspects Milo Butler was larger than life Tall and large of stature he made an imposing figure While he was fearless bold and courageous he was also gentle and usually soft spoken and always ...

Article

Philip J. Havik

merchant and trader in Portuguese Guinea, present-day Guinea-Bissau, was born in the 1780s, in the town of Cacheu on the Guinea coast, into a family with strong connections to administration and commerce in the region. Her father, Manuel de Carvalho Alvarenga, was also Guinean-born; he was descended from Cape Verdeans who had settled there in the 1700s, acting as commanders of the ports of Cacheu, Farim, and Ziguinchor, who intermarried with African women. Her brother, Francisco de Carvalho Alvarenga, became an important trader and held posts in the Portuguese administration in the town of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region (part of Senegal since 1886 Her aunt Josefa de Carvalho Alvarenga was born in the Cape Verde islands and married wealthy officials and owned landed property and slaves in the archipelago Although Rosa de Carvalho Alvarenga s mother s name is unknown she was in all likelihood of Banhun origin ...

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

Madge Dresser

Controversial philanthropist and merchant involved in the slave trade. He was the Bristol‐born son of a Bristol merchant who spent his early life in London, but it is in Bristol that he is most famous. A staunch Anglican and Tory, he was briefly MP for the city in 1710. His huge donations to church renovation and school building projects, mainly but not exclusively in Bristol, ensured his reputation as the city's greatest benefactor, as his major statue in the centre and his fine tomb by Michael Rysbrack attest. Several Bristol streets, schools, buildings, and venerable local charities still bear his name, and his birthday is still honoured in civic celebrations.

Colston s relevance to black history lies in the fact that he was involved in the British slave trade and in the trade of slave produced goods By the 1670s he was a City of London merchant trading ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

Gambian merchant and the first Gambian woman to enter active politics, was born Hannah Johnson on 14 January 1893 in Bathurst (present-day Banjul) to C. C. Johnson, a Krio civil servant on postings from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Elizabeth Johnson, a schoolteacher. Forster attended St. Mary’s Primary School in Banjul, and in 1907 she proceeded to Freetown to attend high school, as there was no secondary school in Gambia. The death of her mother forced her to cut short her schooling in 1911 to become a teacher in her former school in Banjul. She married in 1913.

When her husband died leaving her with two children Forster left her teaching job to venture into trading She owned shops in Banjul and in the Gambia River ports of Kaur Kuntaur and Kartong Unlike other Banjul merchants who traded upriver only during the five months of the groundnuts trade season from December ...

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

Swithin Wilmot

was a passionate advocate for the rights of freed people in early post-slavery Jamaica. He was summarily tried and executed after the Morant Bay Rebellion in October 1865. Gordon was born into slavery sometime between 1817 and 1820, the son of Joseph Gordon, a Scotsman who owned or managed several coffee plantations, livestock pens, and sugar estates, and an enslaved black woman on Joseph Gordon’s Cherry Garden estate in the St. Andrew foothills overlooking Kingston. This common-law union produced George William and at least three girls. The absence of his mother’s and his sisters’ names from biographies of Gordon underscores the general invisibility of women in the historical record.

Joseph Gordon kept George William and his sisters nominally in servitude until the Emancipation Act in 1834 but early on he recognized his son s intellectual abilities and encouraged his interest in books and figures When George William ...

Article

Bruce L. Mouser

trader, traditional medical practitioner, and political arbiter, was born on the coast of Guinea-Conakry. She is also known as Elizabeth, Beth, and Liza Heard. Her likely father was a British merchant attached to commercial firms maintaining factories at Bance Island in the Sierra Leone River or on the nearby Iles de Los. It was customary for African headmen to arrange a husband/wife relationship for resident foreign “strangers”—of which Heard’s father was likely one. Her mother’s name and relationship to local leaders are unknown. At a young age, Betsy was recognized as exceptionally intelligent, and she was sent to Liverpool, where she was boarded and educated, with the expectation that she would return to the Windward Coast as an agent for European commerce and Liverpool interests.

By the 1790s Heard had established a commercial footing at Bereira on the southern Guinea Conakry coast At that time Bereira was a border ...

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 ...

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Genaro Vilanova Miranda de Oliveira

West African–born self-manumitted slave and prosperous merchant who lived in Brazil in the first half of the nineteenth century. Accused of collaborating with the 1835 slave and Muslim-led Malê Revolt in Salvador da Bahia, de Jesus was deported to Africa and forced to abandon all properties and businesses in Brazil. Documents refer to de Jesus as belonging to the Jeje nation, a nineteenth-century slave classification today associated with people from the region of the former kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Benin). The reasons behind de Jesus’s arrival in Brazil are not fully clear. Possibly, he was enslaved and sold as a result of retaliatory, military incursions of the kingdom of Oyo against its tributary kingdom of Dahomey.

After ten years working as a wage-earning slave (escravo de ganho), de Jesus was able to buy his freedom in 1810 An alternative explanation for his manumission argues that he received ...

Article

Thomas Spear

renowned Kamba trader, was born in Kibwezi on the Machakos-Kitui border of eastern Kenya about 1790 The early nineteenth century was a period of rapidly expanding trade in eastern Kenya as Giriama and other Mijikenda traders from the coast traveled inland with cloth beads and other trade goods to exchange for ivory cattle hides and craft products At first they met Kamba hunters and traders at the periodic local markets held throughout Kitui but soon Kamba hunters and traders themselves began to travel farther inland to Kikuyu Embu Mbeere Tharaka and Maasai to acquire cattle and ivory establishing wide ranging networks of kin and trade partners with whom they did business By the 1820s Kamba traders were accompanying their Giriama partners to the coast and by the 1840s and 1850s they had come to dominate the long distance trade routes between the coast and highlands At the same time ...

Article

Krotoa  

Julia Wells

Khoikhoi interpreter and trader at the first Dutch East India Company settlement at the Cape of Good Hope (present-day South Africa), was also known as Eva. Nothing is known of her parents or place of birth, except that her mother lived with a neighboring clan and showed hostility toward Krotoa, who was separated from her sister in infancy. When the Dutch landed on 7 April 1652, Krotoa lived with her uncle, Autshumao, leader of the Goringhaicona people. For several decades, Autshumao ran a postal service for passing ships of various countries. His people lived in the Table Bay area as hunter-gatherers of shellfish, in contrast to neighboring Khoikhoi groups who were itinerant pastoralists. When the Dutch landed and started to construct buildings, the Goringhaicona lived next door and often worked for tobacco, food, and drink.

From roughly the age of twelve Krotoa lived in the household of Jan Van ...

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 ...