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Article

Jeremy Rich

political, military, and religious leader and first Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, was born in the town of Morona, now located in Niger, in 1780 or 1781. His father was the revolutionary Islamic cleric and leader Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), and his mother was Hawwa bint Adam ibn Muhammad Agh. Bello received an advanced education in Islamic theology and law thanks to his father, and supported his father’s call for a strict adherence to orthodox Sunni interpretations of Islamic practices. Bello praised his father as a loving parent: “His face was relaxed and his manner gentle. He never tired of explaining and never became impatient if anyone failed to understand” (Boyd, 1989).

When Uthman Dan Fodio launched a series of holy wars against the nominally Islamic sultans of Hausa cities such as Kano in northern Nigeria and southern Niger Bello became an active lieutenant of his father ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Muhammad Bello was born in Gobir, in what is now Niger. He helped his father, Usuman dan Fodio, overthrow the Hausa states and build the powerful Sokoto Caliphate, which ruled over the northern half of present-day Nigeria. In the early nineteenth century Bello’s father, a Fulani Muslim religious leader, called on the rulers of the Hausa states to abandon their corrupt ways. He organized a popular movement among the Fulani and among Hausa peasants and merchants, advocating a purer form of Islam and the application of the Shari’a, or Islamic law. Usuman first tried peaceful means, but his peaceful movement only provoked repression from the Hausa rulers. In 1804 Usuman and his followers called for a jihad, or holy war, to overthrow resistant rulers. Among those who led the military campaign was Usuman’s 23-year-old son, Muhammad Bello A capable military leader and administrator Bello was crucial ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Social reformer and active fighter for the abolition of slavery. Thomas Fowell Buxton was born at Castle Hedingham, Essex, to an Anglican family. Despite this, his mother was a member of the religious Society of Friends, and Buxton soon became acquainted with Quakerism. Through the Society of Friends he became closely connected to the Gurney family, who were Quakers, and later married one of the Gurney daughters, Hannah. The Quakers were renowned for their social reformation campaigns, and Buxton became heavily involved in many of these movements, most notably with one of the Gurney daughters, Elizabeth Fry, to whom he provided financial support for her prison reform work. In 1818 he was elected member of Parliament for Weymouth and worked, within the House of Commons, for the abolition of the slave trade. He helped William Wilberforce with the founding of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual ...

Article

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Charles Alexis Oswald Durand became an orphan at the age of two when an earthquake destroyed the city of Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti in 1842. Afterwards, Durand went to live with his grandmother in the frontier town of Ouanaminthe. Little is known of his first years of studies, but at age sixteen he was already working for his living as a tinsmith. While making pots and pans in the tiny village of Saint-Louis du Nord, he read and wrote his first verses. He was later offered a job as a primary school teacher.

Demesvar Delorme, a renowned politician and writer, assisted Durand in publishing his first books of poetry. Durand's reputation as a poet grew, particularly after the publication of “Choucoune” in 1883, which recounts how the narrator's beautiful black mistress is seduced by a white foreigner. Other works by Durand include Quatre nouveaux poèmes (1896 ...

Article

David M. Carletta

Anténor Joseph Firmin was born in Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. He was a gifted child who attended Haiti's premier preparatory schools. After studying law, Firmin became the inspector of schools in Cap-Haïtien. He married Rosa Salnave, daughter of the former president Sylvain Salnave, in 1881. Two years later the government of Haiti sent Firmin to France as a diplomat. He was admitted to the Anthropological Society of Paris and became perhaps the first scholar of African descent to write a systematic work of anthropology.

In 1885 he published The Equality of the Human Races, a response to Count Arthur de Gobineau's four-volume set The Inequality of Human Races and to the racialist anthropology of the nineteenth century. Published between 1853 and 1855 de Gobineau s famous work was the first to assert the racial superiority of Aryan peoples while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of black inferiority Firmin ...

Article

Fabre-Nicolas Geffrard was a general in the Haitian army during the reign of Faustin Elie Soulouque. He participated in Soulouque's unsuccessful effort to invade the Dominican Republic in 1849. In 1859 Geffrard led the insurrection which deposed Soulouque, and subsequently assumed the presidency. In 1867 he was ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Slave owner, instigator of the ‘coolie trade’, and father of the British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809–98). Sir John Gladstone was a leading member of the West Indian Association of Liverpool, a group of plantation owners and merchants trading with the West Indies in slave‐produced commodities. He owned sugar estates in Jamaica and British Guiana and was a passionate opponent of abolition. In 1830, in a series of last‐ditch attempts to persuade the government not to end West Indian slavery, Gladstone (then a member of Parliament and spokesman for the West India interest) argued that slavery was normal in primitive societies, and that West Indian Blacks had peculiar constitutions, enabling them to work easily under a tropical sun. He held up the dreadful prospect of freed slaves slaughtering the smaller white populations.

In 1833 Gladstone was deputed by Liverpool's West Indian interest ...

Article

The son of slaves, Juan Gualberto Gómez was born in Santa Ana, Cuba. His parents bought his freedom, a practice allowed through manumission laws in Cuba. He was educated under the tutelage of mulatto (of African and European descent) poet Antonio Medina y Céspedes at a local religious school that was known to be a refuge for black children. Sensing that his racial background would limit his opportunities in Cuba, Gómez left the island in 1869 for Paris, France, where he studied the art of cabinetmaking and, later, engineering. Poverty soon forced him to leave his studies and pursue a career in journalism, a profession that would provide him with an outlet for expressing his political and social views.

Gómez's stay in Paris was a formative experience in his life. He became acquainted with various eminent members of Cuba's expatriate community, including separatists such as Vicente Aguilera ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

George Gordon was born in Jamaica to a black slave and her wealthy white master. His father, Joseph, devoted more time to running his estate and furthering his political career than he did to his colored son. Like most wealthy whites in Jamaica during the 1820s, Joseph Gordon was both a member of Jamaica's exclusive House of Assembly and a custos in Saint Andrew's Parish—the highest administrative official in the local province.

As the illegitimate son of the slave master, George Gordon learned the importance of self-reliance at an early age, even teaching himself how to read and write. Much to his father's surprise, he showed signs of proficiency in accounting at an early age. By age ten he was a skilled bookkeeper, and around this time Joseph Gordon decided to free his son, sending him to live with his godfather, businessman James Daley, in Black River, Jamaica.

With ...

Article

Curt Johnson

doctor, explorer, and eponymous leader of the failed British coup in colonial South Africa, was born 9 February 1853 in Edinburgh, the son of a writer. His family moved to London, and Jameson took his medical degree from University College. He would come to be known popularly as “Doctor Jim.” Although by all accounts a competent, even accomplished doctor, Jameson was more attuned to the restless life of the adventurer; and it was that spirit of adventure, in addition to ill health, that brought him to southern Africa. He established a practice in Kimberley and became private physician to many of British South Africa’s more prominent personages, including the businessman, magnate, and arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes; the Boer leader Paul Kruger; and (eventually) Lobegula, king of the powerful Ndebele of Matabeleland.

Jameson became enmeshed in Rhodes s schemes to extend British dominion northward in south central Africa beyond the Zambesi River ...

Article

Article

David Dabydeen

Biographer of Ignatius Sancho, the African writer whose letters were published in England in 1782. Jekyll was the only son of Edward Jekyll, a captain in the Royal Navy. Details concerning his place of birth are uncertain. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford, left for France upon completion of his studies in 1774, and was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1788.

Jekyll may have met Sancho during this period, but there is no confirmation of this. In fact, information regarding their relationship is scarce and is left to much speculation. However, one piece of evidence affirms that Jekyll and Sancho did indeed meet and had some form of connection that extended beyond the purely professional. A letter written around 1803 by Sancho's son William to Jekyll, suggests that Jekyll was generous to the Sancho family:

To Joseph Jekyll Esq M P From ...

Article

Leila Kamali

Newspaper editor, statesman, and Mayor of Kingston, Jamaica. Jordon was born a freeman on 6 December 1800. He founded the Watchman and Jamaica Free Press in Kingston, which printed an editorial in 1832 calling to ‘knock off the fetters, and let the oppressed go free’. Jordon was tried for sedition—a crime that carried the death penalty—but was eventually acquitted.

He campaigned vigorously against slavery and, having won the Kingston seat in the House of Assembly in 1835, saw complete abolition in Jamaica in August 1838. He then founded the Morning Journal, became manager of Kingston Savings Bank, and director of the Planters' Bank.

Jordon was the first appointment to the Executive Committee under Sir Henry Barkly's governorship, and in 1854 the first man to be appointed both Mayor of Kingston and Custos. In 1860Queen Victoria made him a Companion of the Bath the first ...

Article

John Gilmore

Historian of Jamaica and writer on slavery. Long was born in England, a member of a family that had long been settled in Jamaica and owned plantations there. Long himself spent only twelve years (1757–69) in Jamaica, where he was a judge, a member of the House of Assembly, and (for a very brief period) its Speaker, but he always identified himself with the interests of the Jamaican plantocracy, that is, the group of white landowners whose prosperity depended on the ownership of sugar plantations worked by slaves.

Long's major work was The History of Jamaica (1774 This contains an enormous amount of information on all aspects of the island and is still an essential source for historians of the Caribbean However the work is strongly marked by his partisan support for the plantocracy which leads him not only to emphasize Jamaica s importance to Britain ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

José María Morales was the son of a military man who fought in the Battle of the Patricios in 1807 against the British forces. His father's continued participation in Argentina's independence and civil wars forced Morales to leave school early and work as a tinsmith. In 1838 Morales followed his father's example, setting out for Montevideo to fight with the Unitarians (who envisioned a centralized political system based in Buenos Aires) in exile against the Argentine leader Juan Manuel Rosas. Rosas enjoyed widespread support in the black community—including Domingo Sosa, another rising Afro-Argentine military figure and contemporary of Morales—in part because his opposition to Buenos Aires's white Creole elite allowed for a more socially diverse society. Rosas's highly authoritarian government sparked opposition, however, especially among some middle-class blacks, including Morales. Argentina's civil war lasted until 1852 when the Unitarians finally marched triumphantly into Buenos Aires and ...

Article

Sanjay Mistry

The first Asian elected to the House of Commons. Dadabhai Naoroji was born in Bombay in 1825. The son of a Parsee priest, he was educated at Elphinstone Institute School and later became a teacher.

In 1855 Naoroji was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He became involved in politics and in 1867 helped to establish the East India Association. He was one of the first leaders of the Indian nationalist movement, who supported independence for India. He played an important role in establishing the Indian National Congress in 1865 and in 1886 was appointed President of the Indian National Congress.

Naoroji moved to England and joined the Liberal Party, and in July 1892 was successfully elected to Parliament where he represented Finsbury He therefore became the first Asian to be elected to the House of Commons Although he promised that his first duty would be to ...

Article

Alva Moore Stevenson

revolutionary, governor, city councilman, landowner, and businessman, was born Pío de Jesus Píco at the San Gabriel Mission in California, the fourth of the ten children of José María Píco, founder of the Píco family in Southern California, and a native of Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico, and María Eustaquia Gutiérrez, from San Miguel de Horcasitas, Sonora, Mexico. Pío's ancestry was a combination of African, Hispanic, Native American, and European. José Píco migrated to California in 1801 with the Anza Expedition, which was authorized in 1775 by the viceroy of Spain. Soldiers and their families were recruited from Sonora to occupy and settle the port of San Francisco. A successful overland emigration and supply route was established between Sonora and Alta California. Among the positions he held were sergeant and corporal Many members of the Píco family served in the military including Pío Píco s ...

Article

Ari Nave

The son of Andrianampoinimerina, Radama I distinguished himself at a young age, leading two military operations against the Betsileo and the Boina when he was only fifteen years old. Upon his father’s death in 1810, Radama took the reins of power and continued the campaign to extend the Merina Empire over all of Madagascar, conquering the Toamansing in 1817. Mistakenly predicting that the seventeen-year-old king would be unable to retain control of his father’s extended domain, the Bezanozano and Betsileo peoples rebelled. But with a clear military superiority over all other Malagasy kingdoms, Radama’s army quickly quelled the uprisings.

Shortly after England took control of Mauritius in 1810 the newly assigned governor Robert Townsend Farquhar established diplomatic relations with Radama The English crown sought to eliminate the slave trade in Mauritius for which Madagascar was the primary supplier as well as to limit French influence in the ...

Article

Kyra E. Hicks

First Lady of Liberia and one of the original African American emigrants to Liberia, was born Jane Rose Waring in Virginia to Colston M. Waring, a minister, and Harriet Graves. The Waring family, including their children Susannah, Thomas, Annetta, William, Jane, and John, emigrated to Liberia aboard the Cyrus in 1824. Other children were born in Liberia to the Warings, including Christinana, Ann, Harriet, and Colston. Elder Colston Waring served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Monrovia. He was also a successful coffee planter and wealthy merchant. He served as vice agent for the American Colonization Society in Liberia and other administrative positions before his death in 1834. Jane learned to read and write in Liberia. She spoke French fluently and was “in all respects was well-bred and refined,” according to Hallie Q. Brown who met ...

Article

David Dabydeen

Englishhistorian, writer, and active denouncer of the African slave trade. Roscoe was born in Liverpool and was repulsed by the slave trade and its ubiquity in his home town, where most of its wealth was derived from the trade. He became politically active in the 1790s, and in October 1806 he was elected member of Parliament for Liverpool. One of his earliest speeches called not only for parliamentary reform and peace with France, but for the abolition of the slave trade. He was spoken of highly by William Wilberforce. Wilberforce referred to Roscoe as ‘a man who by strength of character has risen above the deep‐seated prejudices of his townspeople and eventually won their respect’. Roscoe's first published work, Mount Pleasant, a Descriptive Poem (1777), deprecated the slave trade. In 1787 he wrote and published The Wrongs of Africa The poem promoted him ...