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Justin J. Corfield

“Leo Africanus,” (1488 or 1490–c. 1554), whose proper name is al-Hassan ibn Muhammad al-Wizzaa al-Fasi, is best known for his book on Africa, which was published in 1550 and which gave a great insight in early modern Europe into the world view of Africans. It remained, for many years, one of the major published sources on west-central Africa, and brought the city of Timbuktu to the attention of Europeans. His work also led to great tales being told of Timbuktu, a place of wealth but more importantly of remoteness, in a similar manner to Shangri La, which represented remoteness and spirituality, and El Dorado, a place of unimaginable wealth.

Leo Africanus was born in the kingdom of Granada, but his wealthy family had to leave the city when it was conquered by the armies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492 They moved to Fez ...

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Miles M. Jackson

explorer and businessman, was born a slave in German Flats, New York. He was owned by the Dougal family and spent his youth in Schenectady. It is very likely his mother was a slave (New York did not abolish slavery until 1827); his father was a freeman and a mariner. Following the death of his master, he was purchased by another owner. After gaining his freedom in 1796, Allen arrived in Boston in 1800 and went to sea just as his father had done. Indeed, many African Americans living in Boston had ties to the maritime industry in some way. Like other black mariners, Allen faced the risk of reenslavement when he traveled to Southern ports. Once he was saved from imprisonment by one of the ship's owners, who paid $300 for his release.

Allen's years at sea between 1800 and 1810 provided him with unique experiences ...

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James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

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M. W. Daly

British adventurer, explorer, and administrator, was born in London to Samuel Baker, a businessman, and his wife. Educated in England and Germany, and a civil engineer by training, he played a notable role in the history of the Upper Nile in the 1860s. His varied and peripatetic life as a planter, big-game hunter, writer, and controversialist may be studied in his extensive writings and the enormous literature on European travel in Africa.

His work in Africa began in 1861–1865 with explorations in the eastern Sudan, up the White Nile, (where he met James Augustus Grant and John Hanning Speke), and beyond to the Great Lakes. Credit for discovery of the source of the Nile has gone to Grant and Speke; Baker, famously accompanied by his second wife, Florence, explored and named Lake Albert Nyanza. For these adventures, embellished in several books, Baker was much acclaimed, and in 1869 as ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

During the mid-nineteenth century, Heinrich Barth traveled widely in northern Africa and the central Sudan and authored some of the earliest and most comprehensive works on North and West African history. The son of a German businessman, Barth earned a degree in classics and linguistics at the University of Berlin. He completed his studies in 1845 and subsequently spent two years traveling in northern Africa, where he perfected his Arabic and kept a detailed diary of his trip. After a disappointing experience teaching in Germany, he accepted an offer to join a British expedition to the central Sudan. At first led by James Richardson, the expedition left Tripoli in 1850. Within a year, however, Richardson died and Barth assumed command. During the next four years, Barth led the group through present-day Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, and Mali and visited all of the major towns ...

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Jeremy Rich

cartographer, ethnographer, and traveler to Africa, was born in Vienna, then capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the son of Heinrich Baumann, who worked at a bank, and a mother, whose name is not recorded. His family had some Jewish ancestry, which would in 1938 prompt the Nazi government of Austria to destroy a monument erected to celebrate his African exploration. Though his parents do not seem to have been very prosperous, his distant relations in the wealthy von Arnstein banking family paid for his secondary education. Baumann attended primary and secondary schools in Vienna, and at the age of seventeen, joined the Imperial Royal Geographical Society based in the same city. He did some geographical research in Montenegro and began to study geography and geology at the University of Vienna, but in 1885 took a leave of absence from school to join an Austrian expedition to Central ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

Article

French explorer and administrator, was born on 26 January 1852 in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, to the aristocratic family of Ascanio Savorgnan de Brazza and Giacinta Simonetti de Brazza. Although he was born and raised in Italy, he volunteered to join the French navy and became an officer in 1869 and served in Algeria. In 1874, he proposed to the French Minister of the Navy an expedition to travel up the Ogooué River, the longest waterway in Gabon, to see if it eventually reached the Congo River. Although French officials had established a small coastal enclave on the northern Gabonese coast in 1843, the limited budget and personnel of the colony had restricted exploration of the Gabonese interior.

Brazza assembled a collection of several dozen Frenchmen and Senegalese soldiers for this mission His ability to combine intimidation with diplomacy proved very useful as he struggled to convince Adouma Fang ...

Article

After schooling and naval service in France, the Italian-born Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza became a naturalized French citizen in 1874. The following year he led his first official trip to Africa to explore Gabon. From 1875 to 1878 he traveled along the Gabon coast and up the Ogooué River to its source, also reaching the Alima River, a tributary of the Congo River. In 1880, in competition with American journalist and explorer Henry Stanley, Brazza traveled into the Congo River basin interior. There he signed a treaty with leaders of the Téké people, clearing the way for French control of the northern bank of the Congo River, an area that would be known as the Moyen-Congo. He served as general commissioner of the Moyen-Congo from 1884 to 1898, establishing the town that became Brazzaville and building the colonial administration As commissioner Brazza became disenchanted with ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

French traveler and travel writer who explored West Africa, was born in 1799 in Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon in the Deux-Sèvres region of France. His family was extremely poor. Caillié’s father had been banished to work as a prisoner rowing on government boats before he was born. His mother died very young. According to his later account of his travels in West Africa, Caillié had dreamed of reaching the fabled trade center of Timbuktu on the banks of the Niger River since he was a child. Whether or not this actually was the case, Caillié did manage to reach the Senegalese town of Saint Louis in 1815 He stayed there for several months and tried to join an English expedition up the Gambia River This project did not work out He then spent some time working on the French Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe but soon returned to Senegal He came back to ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

In 1825 the Paris Société de Géographie offered a prize of 10,000 francs to the first person to visit the legendary city of Tombouctou and return with a description of it. With this challenge they made official an undeclared competition among European Explorers that had already claimed the lives of more than twenty men. Since 1788, explorers had been trying to reach the Sahelian market town, rumored to be the richest in Africa but also one of the most heavily guarded. Only one European, a Scottish explorer named Major Alexander Gordon Laing, had yet entered the fabled city, but he was murdered only days after leaving. However, in 1827 explorer René-Auguste Caillié, born in Mauzé, France, embarked on a journey to Tombouctou that would at last win the prize.

Inspired by the adventures of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719 Caillié had already made two voyages to ...

Article

Osire Glacier

Moroccan explorer, professor, and astronomer, was born on 11 October 1969 in Casablanca. Her father was a blacksmith and her mother a housewife who took care of the couple’s seven children. In spite of her humble origins, Chadid decided to be an astronomer at the age of twelve, when her brother Mustapha gave her a book by the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler. Since then, she has pursued her goal one step at a time.

During her adolescent years, Chadid read extensively about the sky, the stars, and the planets. In 1992 she graduated with a master s degree in Physics from the University of Casablanca After graduation Chadid faced a difficult decision leave her family in order to pursue the relevant field of study for her professional objectives at a French university or remain with her family and renounce the opportunity to turn her passion into a profession The ...

Article

Jamie Bruce-Lockhart

British Royal Navy commander, who played a significant role in the opening of relations between Europe and the interior of west Africa in the 1820s through his participation in two expeditions sponsored by the British government to investigate countries of the central Sudan (Arabic, bilad as-Sudan land of the blacks and the final course of the River Niger He made important diplomatic contacts with leading states of the region and while he ultimately failed to clarify where the river entered the sea his accounts shed light on regions of Africa then unknown to Western science He was the first to chart every degree of latitude from the Mediterranean to the Guinea coast His extensive reports introduced Europeans to the character and riches of long established civilizations of the African interior and his investigations reliant as in part they were upon indigenous sources and aid paved the way for ...

Article

Born in Annan, Scotland, Hugh Clapperton went to sea at the age of thirteen and later became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. In 1821 the British Colonial Office sent him, along with explorers Walter Oudney and Dixon Denham, on the Bornu Mission to trace the true course of the Niger River in Africa. They crossed the Sahara from Tripoli, in present-day Libya, and became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad, which Denham set off to explore on his own. From there, Clapperton and Oudney headed west into present-day Nigeria toward Kano, but Oudney died along the way and Clapperton reached it alone. He then traveled on to Sokoto but, detained by local rulers, was unable to find a guide to take him the 240 km (150 mi) to the Niger. He returned briefly to England before coming back to West Africa in 1825 With British ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer and colonial official, was born in Nancy, France on 18 November 1864 the son of Charles Victor Crampel a devout Catholic tobacco inspector and Elisabeth Pierret After attending primary school in Nancy and Dordogne Crampel then attended secondary school in Périgueux and Bordeaux Since other civil servants had doubts about Crampel s father s loyalty to the French Republic due to his Catholic faith his career required Paul and the rest of the family to move frequently Like so many other young Frenchmen Crampel became interested in Africa through the work of explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza whose first two expeditions to Africa received much coverage in the French press Crampel viewed both his mother s religious zeal and the discipline he endured in secondary education as backward Rather than continue his education as his father had hoped Crampel quit the prestigious Henry IV school where he ...

Article

William E. Burns

interpreter, was probably born in the sixteenth century in the region of West Africa under Portuguese influence. What is known of his career comes from legal cases and documents carried out in the Dutch Republic and France from 1607 to 1619. Da Costa's African Portuguese origin can be surmised from his Portuguese name, and the fact that a community of interpreters, some of African descent and some of mixed African and Portuguese descent, had formed in West Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. That Da Costa appeared to his European contemporaries as black can be shown from the use of the word naigre to refer to him. However, his particular point of origin is not certain, nor is the way in which Da Costa's skills as an interpreter transferred from the African coast to that of North America.

Da Costa first appears in the historical record in 1607 ...

Article

Peter Hudson

The history of black people in Canada can be dated from the early seventeenth-century expeditions of French explorer Pierre du Gua sieur de Monts Traveling with du Gua was an African man Mathieu da Costa who worked as an interpreter between the French and the indigenous Mic Mac people ...

Article

Eric J. Morgan

Portuguese ex-plorer, was born around 1451. Details of his early life are unknown, though some scholars believe Dias may have been related to João Dias and Diniz Dias, other prominent Portuguese explorers of the fifteenth century. Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail around the southern coast of Africa, which he accomplished in 1488. Born into a prominent noble family, by his mid-thirties Dias was a member of the Portuguese royal court, in charge of the crown’s warehouse of goods, and an accomplished sailor. Dias had accompanied the nobleman Diogo de Azambuja on his expedition to the Gold Coast in 1481, where São Jorge da Mina, a Portuguese fort on the Gulf of Guinea, was constructed. On 10 October 1486 King John II of Portugal appointed Dias as the head of an expedition to sail around Africa to find a trade route to India The ...

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Jeremy Rich

African-born slave who became one of the first Spanish explorers of North America, was probably born somewhere in Morocco in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. No sources are available for his early life. His travel companion Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca reported that Esteban was born in the Portuguese-controlled town of Azemmour, Morocco, around 1513. He may have been bought there and brought from elsewhere in Morocco or had come from somewhere else in the north of West Africa. He may also have chosen to sell himself into slavery to improve his life, given Azemmour’s numerous economic and environmental problems. He converted to Christianity after his enslavement. In 1520 he was sold to Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, a Spanish aristocrat. When Dorantes decided to make his fortune in North America in 1527, Esteban joined him.

This expedition led by Pánfilo Narváez of five caravels left Spain ...