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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 ...

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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

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 ...

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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

Nazneen Ahmed

Alias of Azaj Warqnah Ishete (1865–1952), Ethiopia's first modern‐trained physician and Ethiopian Minister to London at the time of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Born in Gondar, at the age of 3 Ishete was abandoned by his family during the capture of the fortress of Magada in 1868. Two British officers took him to India, assumed responsibility for his education, and christened him Charles Martin. Martin graduated from Lahore Medical College in 1882, becoming a medical officer in Burma in 1891. He was reunited with his family and his Ethiopian name on his visit to Addis Ababa in 1899. On another trip in 1908 as temporary medical officer in the British legation he treated the ailing Emperor Menilek. In 1919 he returned to Ethiopia to settle practising medicine and undertaking various forms of development work including the founding ...

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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

Marveta Ryan

Poverty and racism forced Martín Morúa Delgado, born in Havana, Cuba, to a Spanish immigrant father and an ex-slave mother, to leave school at an early age and find work. He managed to educate himself, often by purchasing books with part of his salary. His experiences working in a barrel factory led him to become a labor activist. Besides organizing workers in several Cuban cities, Morúa made speeches and wrote newspaper and magazine articles on workers' rights, thus launching his career as a political leader and a journalist.

In the nineteenth century, paid readers read books aloud to factory workers while they engaged in nonmechanical tasks like rolling cigars. Even before slavery had been abolished, Morúa was the first man of African descent to become a professional reader in Cuba. He also became the first reader of color in New York, New York when he worked in ...

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 ...

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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

James Jankowski

Egyptian lawyer, cabinet minister, and prime minister, was born in Cairo in 1863. He belonged to the Topuzzadeh family and was thus a member of the Turko-Circassian (Ottoman-Egyptian) elite that dominated Egypt through the nineteenth century. Educated in Egypt, Geneva, and Paris, he held a French law degree. Rushdi began his public career as a lawyer in the Finance Ministry and later served as an inspector of education and as a judge in both the Mixed Courts and the National Court of Appeal. His first wife was the French feminist writer Eugenie Le Brun; after her death in 1908 he married a sister-in-law of Sharif Husayn of the Hijaz.

Rushdi was a fixture in Egyptian ministries before and during World War I. He served as minister of justice from 1908 to 1910, as foreign minister from 1910 to 1912, and again as minister of justice from 1912 ...

Article

Raymond Dumett

Ghanian lawyer and anticolonial activist, was born in Britain’s Gold Coast colony (present-day Ghana) on 3 June 1864. He was the eldest son of the prominent Gold Coast merchant John Sarbah and his wife, Sarah. Following in his father’s footsteps John Mensah Sarbah was educated at the Methodist primary school of Cape Coast before entering the newly opened Wesleyan High School (later Mfantsipim School) in 1876 at the age of twelve. Subsequently, he embarked to England at age sixteen for enrollment at Taunton College, Somerset, a private school also associated with Methodism.

The young Sarbah had little desire to follow his father in the coastal mercantile business, which by 1895 was entering into decline Instead with his parents continued support he continued to live in the UK and entered upon the study of the law at Lincoln s Inn Fields London After three years of study and apprenticeship ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer and representative of Leopold II of Belgium’s efforts to build a Central African empire, was born with the name John Rowlands on 28 January 1841 in Denbigh, Wales. He came from an impoverished background. His mother, Elizabeth Parry, was nineteen years old and unmarried, and there is some debate over who his father may have been. While Stanley believed his father was an alcoholic named Rowlands, a lawyer named James Vaughan Horne may have actually been his father. In any event, his mother left Henry in the care of his grandfather, but his death in 1846 resulted in the boy’s placement in a workhouse for abandoned children and poor people. He only met his mother in 1850 Extremely bitter about his extended family s unwillingness to treat him as one of their own as well as the physical and psychological abuse he experienced in the workhouse Stanley graduated ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Sir Henry Morton Stanley was born John Rowlands in Denbigh, Wales. Beginning his career as a journalist, Stanley first traveled to Africa in 1869 on assignment for the New York Herald. The newspaper dispatched Stanley to find David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary who had gone to explore Africa and subsequently disappeared from the public eye. Traveling from Zanzibar into the interior of east Africa, Stanley finally met the ailing Livingstone at Ujiji, a town on Lake Tanganyika, on November 10, 1871. Stanley is said to have greeted Livingstone with the famous remark, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” After Livingstone was nursed back to health, they explored the northern end of Lake Tanganyika. Stanley returned to Europe in 1872 but was sent back to West Africa the following year to report on the British campaign against the Asante.

In 1874 the New York Herald and London Daily ...

Article

Kurt J. Werthmuller

Egyptian military officer and Minister of War, and leader and namesake of the “Urabi Revolt” against the Ottoman-Egyptian ruling class of the military in 1881–1882, was born in Huriya, a village near the Nile Delta city of Zaqaziq, on 1 April 1841. Because of the changing norms of Arabic-English transliteration, his name is also written as “Ahmed Orabi” and “Ahmed Arabi.” While his village belonged to the agricultural (fellah) class of Egyptian society, his father was a religious elder (shaykh) of the village, and a man of some means relative to the community. His family’s resources afforded ʿUrabi the opportunity to receive an excellent early education, culminating at the age of eight in the completion of his primary education at the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo.

It was ʿUrabi s conscription into the Egyptian army at the age of thirteen however that set him on the ...

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James Jankowski

Egyptian administrator, politician, and prime minister, was a scion of Egypt’s Ottoman-Egyptian aristocracy. His father, Khalil ibn Ibrahim Yakan, was a grandson of the sister of Muhammad ʿAli. From a large landowning family from which he inherited great personal wealth, ʿAdli was raised in affluence; his cosmopolitan education was acquired in German and Jesuit schools in Egypt as well as in Ottoman and French institutions. More Franco-Ottoman than Egyptian in personal manners and comportment, some sources maintain his knowledge of and fluency in Arabic were weak.

ʿAdli had an extensive and distinguished administrative career in the three decades before World War I. Appointed to a post in the Ministry of the Interior in 1880, he became private secretary to Nubar Pasha in 1885 Thereafter he served as deputy governor of Minufiyya and al Minya provinces and as governor of al Minya Fayyum Sharqiyya Daqahliyya and Gharbiyya provinces as ...