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David P. Johnson

As a leader of the largest rebel force in Eritrea's independence struggle, Isaias Afwerki strove to unify peoples of diverse cultures and religious beliefs. Since assuming office, he has been widely praised for his pragmatism and modesty and for maintaining a regime free of corruption. Like Rwanda's Paul Kagame, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, and Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi, Afwerki belongs to what has been called Africa's “new generation” of leaders, all of whom are known for their military backgrounds and for their tactical rather than ideological approach to leadership.

Isaias Afwerki was born in Asmara, Eritrea, at a time when the fate of the former Italian colony was in limbo. By the time he graduated from the elite Prince Makonnen Secondary School in Asmara in 1965, Ethiopia had annexed Eritrea, and Eritrean opponents to the despotic rule of Emperor Haile Selassie were preparing for all out warfare ...

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Marian Aguiar

Mohamed Farah Aidid was born in Italian Somaliland and trained in the military in Rome and Moscow. After returning to independent Somalia, Aidid served in the army under General Mohamed Siad Barre. When Siad Barre assumed the presidency in 1969, he appointed Aidid chief of staff of the army. Later that year, however, he began to suspect Aidid's loyalties and imprisoned him without trial for seven years on charges of treasonous conspiracy.

In 1977 Siad Barre released Aidid and welcomed him back to the administration, no doubt seeking his help for the ongoing border war against Ethiopia. The loyalties of Aidid to his former jailer are unclear, but he served Siad Barre's military administration until the late 1980s. In 1989 Aidid broke with Siad Barre and joined the United Somali Congress USC an organization dominated by the Hawiye clan The USC was one of several groups ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

Somali politicomilitary leader who played a central role in the collapse of the state and the large-scale violence against civilians that accompanied it, was born in the Mudug region of Somalia, into the Habr Gidir clan. His name is also spelled Maxamed Faarax Caydiid. Little is known about his early life, other than that he served with the Italian colonial police force and in the 1950s received some training in Italy and in the Soviet Union. He served under Somalian president Mohamed Siyad Barre, rising to the rank of general. He was involved in the Ogaden War of 1977–1978, in which Somalia tried and failed to take over what is now Ethiopia’s Region Five and is largely populated by Somalis.

In the 1980s Aidid began to turn against Siyad Barre and when the president suspected him of plotting against him he imprisoned Aidid for six years As ...

Article

Carlos Dalmau

A passionate speaker and outspoken critic of United States imperialism and the 1898 invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico, Pedro Albizu Campos spent many years in prison for his role in the pro-independence nationalist movement, during the turbulent years of the 1930s through the 1950s. He opposed the annexation of Puerto Rico by the United States when the island was ceded by the Spanish after the Spanish-Cuban-American War (1895–1898). For Albizu, Puerto Ricans—ethnically mixed and culturally different—were not, and should not be, Americans. Independence was the only legitimate and anti-imperialist solution to the island's status.

From an early age Albizu stood out as an excellent student He grew up in the city of Ponce a municipality in southern Puerto Rico where he received a grant that gave him the opportunity to study chemical engineering at the University of Vermont He later graduated from the Harvard Law School where ...

Article

Bernard Gainot

representative in the French Directory government (1795–1799), was born a slave around the year 1758 in Cap-Français, now Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. His master, Pierre Antoine, a free black man from Le Cap, who was an entrepreneur and mason, took Jean-Louis along with him as an aide-de-camp to the Savannah expedition in 1779 during the American War of Independence. More than five hundred free men of color, many of them from Le Cap, fought as allies of the Americans against the British. Upon his return, Jean-Louis was freed for an amount of £300, according to the notarial deed dated 3 May 1783, as a reward for his faithful service to Antoine.

The slave Jean Louis then became Jean Louis Annecy a surname probably originating from the designation of a house often found on the plains of the Cape and frequently spelled Ansy He may have been the owner of ...

Article

Lynda R. Day

Ejisuhemaa (female ruler) who led a formidable but ultimately unsuccessful armed resistance to British colonial rule of the Asante Kingdom (in present-day Ghana) from April 1900 until March 1901, was born at Besease, a small town south of Ejisu about 12 miles from Kumasi, capital of the Asante kindom. She and her brother Kwesi were the only children of Nana Atta Poo (mother) and Nana Kweku Ampoma (father). Through her mother in this matrilineal society, Yaa and her brother were members of the Asona royal clan of Ejisu. Based on the estimate that she was at least sixty years old at the time of the Asante-British War of 1900, she is believed to have been born about 1830, during the reign of Osei Yaw Akoto (1822–1833 She married Owusu Kwabena a son of the Asantehene Osei Bonsu and together they had one child a daughter ...

Article

Michael J. Murphy

automobile worker and activist, was born General Gordon Baker Jr. in Detroit, Michigan, one of five children of General Gordon Baker Sr., an automobile worker, and Clara Baker, a housewife. Baker attended Southwestern High School in Detroit and went on to take classes at Highland Park Community College and Wayne State University. In the early 1960s he took a job with Ford Motor Company and continued to work in the automobile industry for almost forty years. In 1941 Baker s father had moved his family to Detroit from Georgia in search of a job in the booming war production industries taking part in the massive migration of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North during the first half of the twentieth century Becoming an autoworker allowed Baker Sr to dramatically improve his family s standard of living especially in comparison to his prospects ...

Article

Quintín Banderas's parents were free but poor. To help support his family, Banderas began to work in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba as a bricklayer at the age of eleven. Dissatisfied with the profession, he left home when he was thirteen years old and enlisted as a sailor on a Spanish merchant ship. After he was in Spain for a few months, his mother filed a petition before the merchant for his return because he was a minor. Banderas was returned to Santiago and went back to working as a bricklayer.

During the Ten Years' War (1868–1878), Cuba's first major war of independence, Banderas joined the revolutionary army led by the black military leaders Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo and the white Creole Carlos Manuel Céspedes. Due to his bravery and military achievements, Banderas soon attained the military rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1879 ...

Article

Joshua H. Clough

a leader of the caco uprising against the United States’ occupation of Haiti begun in 1915, was born in Mirebalais in Haiti’s Central Plateau. The oldest child of his father, Anacréon Batraville, Benoît was nicknamed Ti-Benoît for his short stature and slight build. He completed his primary education in Mirebalais before taking up farming, animal husbandry, and natural medicine. As was common among the peasants of Mirebalais, Batraville was a practitioner of Haitian Vodou, otherwise known as a Vodouisant. Although literate, Batraville had difficulty writing. Nevertheless, for a number of years, before formal education had reached the area, he was known to gather children under a tree to hold informal classes. In 1911 he was appointed vice inspector of police in Mirebelais by President Cincinnatus Leconte thanks to the political influence of his uncle Estiverne Péralte who was at that time commanding officer of the region He served ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Ahmed Ben Bella was born in Maghnia, Algeria. After fighting for the French during World War II, Ben Bella returned home to witness the colonial administration’s crackdown on the Algerian population. During the crackdown, the French bombed Islamic villages and killed thousands of Muslims in response to the 1945 anticolonial riots in the Sétif region. Inspired to join the growing Algerian independence movement, Ben Bella worked with several illegal revolutionary groups until he was arrested and imprisoned by the French in 1950.

After escaping from prison in 1952, Ben Bella joined other exiled anticolonial leaders, including Mohamed Boudiaf and Hocine Aït Ahmed, in Cairo, Egypt. Together they helped found the main revolutionary party, the Algerian National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale, or FLN). Ben Bella was an arms procurer for the FLN in 1956 when he was captured aboard a plane ...

Article

Lahcen Ezzaher

Moroccan anticolonialist leader, was born in Rabat. Although he was raised in a family of modest income, he managed to attend a French elementary school for children of notable families at the age of nine. In 1938, he graduated from Moulay Youssef High School in Rabat. He attended Algiers University in Algeria, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1942. He returned to Morocco and taught mathematics at Gouraud High School and then joined the teaching faculty at the Royal College. In La mémoire d’un roi: Entretiens avec Eric Laurent, the late King Hassan II, who was one of Ben Barka’s students, described him as a man with “a vast knowledge, a charming personality, and a passionate nature” (p. 108).

The year 1935 marked the beginning of Ben Barka s involvement in the national movement for independence He was the youngest member of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Algerian anticolonial leader and politician, was born on 25 December 1916 in the town of Maghnia in western Algeria. His family was relatively affluent, and he was the youngest child of five boys and several girls.

Although Ben Bella’s father was a practicing Muslim, Ben Bella himself never managed to master Arabic. He attended primary schools in Maghnia and graduated in 1930. Ben Bella was a phenomenal football (soccer) player at school, and he seriously considered becoming a professional athlete. However, he ended up joining the French army and served in numerous campaigns during World War II. His bravery and skill made him a legend in his own unit, and he eventually reached the rank of Sergeant Major. At the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, he carried his wounded company commander 1500 yards to safety and then took charge of the company Charles De Gaulle his future ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Algerian political leader, was born on 14 April 1929 in the town of Bouteldja located near the port city of Annaba. His father was a small landowner who was able to provide his son with a primary school education in Annaba. However, the family had relatives in Tunisia, and it appears Bendjedid grew up in a relatively cosmopolitan household.

Bendjedid joined the French military after World War II and served in Vietnam. He reached the rank of noncommissioned officer and was back in Algeria when the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN; National Liberation Front) anticolonial armed movement launched its armed struggle against French rule on 1 November 1954. By early 1955, Benjdedid joined the armed wing of the FLN, where he rose in the ranks. He was promoted to regional commander in 1956 and assistant commander in 1957. He suffered serious wounds in combat in 1957 ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Chadli Benjedid grew up in the Annaba region of colonial Algeria, then joined the military wing of the national liberation group, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). Moving quickly through the ranks, he became a rebel commander in 1960. After Algeria’s independence he helped oversee the withdrawal of French troops.

While in the rebel army, Benjedid earned the trust of chief of staff Houari Boumedienne, whom he later supported in the 1965 coup d’état against President Ahmed Ben Bella. Under President Boumedienne, Benjedid held high positions in the military and served on the ruling Revolutionary Council.

Within the FLN Benjedid gained a reputation as an evenhanded leader, and for this reason he was sought as the presidential candidate to heal divisions within the party after Boumedienne’s death. In 1979 Benjedid was elected and began a tenure that lasted through two reelections During his thirteen years ...

Article

Lahcen Ezzaher

Moroccan anticolonial leader, was born in a remote, small village in the region of Oujda, a major city on the border with Algeria. He was raised in a low-income family. He attended elementary school and high school in Oujda, where he met Abdelaziz Bouteflika, later the president of Algeria.

When Benjelloun graduated from high school in 1955, he moved to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, to study at the Scientific Institute. In Rabat he met leading members of the national movement for independence such as Mohamed Elyazghi, who is currently a key figure in the USFP (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires). At the end of his first year in college, which coincided with the year the country gained its independence from the French Protectorate (1956 Benjelloun who chose to follow a career in the postal service and communication seized an opportunity to get into a two ...

Article

Carlos Dalmau

Although he was officially considered white, Ramón Emeterio Betances proudly affirmed that he was of African descent. Born to a well-to-do family in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Betances was sent to study in Toulouse, France at the age of ten. He later moved to Paris and in 1855 graduated from medical school.

In 1856 Betances returned to Puerto Rico. At that time an epidemic of cholera hit the island and killed more than 30,000 people from all social levels of the population. The plague lasted more than a year and Betances was exceptionally compassionate in looking after poor patients, including slaves. His medical service to the underprivileged and oppressed during the plague caused him to become known as “doctor of the poor.”

The colony s political and social problems concerned Betances as much as the health of his patients Convinced that slavery was the cruelest institution of the colonial ...

Article

Nicole L. Phillip-Dowe

was born on 29 May 1944 in Aruba to Alimenta (née La Grenade) and Rupert Bishop. The family returned to their native Grenada when Maurice was 7 years old. He attended the J. W. Fletcher Memorial primary school in St. George’s and won a scholarship to complete his secondary education at the Presentation Boys College. In 1963 he migrated to England where he studied law at Gray’s Inn, London. As a law student he was the cofounder of a legal aid clinic at Notting Hill. On completing his law degree in 1969 he took a job in the tax department of the British Civil Service. He returned to Grenada in 1970.

Racism and the economic disparity of rich and poor formed part of Bishop s experience in London The rise of black nationalism and black power made evident by the works of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana Julius Nyerere of ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Paul Bogle is a beloved figure in Jamaica. Although his legal status at the time of his birth is unclear, most scholars believe that he was born free in Stony Gut, Jamaica, in 1822. He operated a small independent farm there and became a lay preacher in the Native Baptist Church. His affiliation with this antislavery branch of the Baptist Church brought him into contact with British and Jamaican abolitionists, including activist George Gordon. Methodist and Baptist leaders, as well as leaders of other religious denominations, were active participants in the antislavery struggle. As a result, members of local black congregations like Bogle's were often exposed to antislavery debates, pamphlets, and sermons.

When slavery was abolished in 1834 blacks in Jamaica were promised freedom at the end of what turned out to be a four year period known as apprenticeship The apprenticeship policy forced slaves ...

Article

was the mixed-race son of a wealthy plantation-owning family in the Torbec parish in the south of the French colony of Saint-Domingue. He is most famously known for being the secretary who coauthored the Haitian Declaration of Independence with Jean-Jacques Dessalines. In 1784 Boisrond-Tonnerre’s parents, Mathurin Boisrond and a free woman of color from the Félix family, moved to Aquin where they acquired a plantation and a number of slaves. About this time, Boisrond-Tonnerre set sail for the French metropole to begin his education. Many plantation owners sent their sons to France for their education, and Boisrond-Tonnerre was part of a larger group of wealthy, mixed-race young men who traveled to the metropole.

The origins of the use of Tonnerre in his name are uncertain One historian argues that a lightning bolt struck at the exact time that he was born which inspired his father to add the word to ...

Article

Matthew LeRiche

southern Sudanese rebel leader, was born in 1948 near Gorgrial in what was then the Bahr el Ghazal Province of Sudan. He was from the Dinka ethnic group. Just before Sudan was grantedn independence in 1955, Kerubino decided to cease his formal education to join with the growing armed resistance groups that were developing in a southern rebellion against the Khartoum government, eventually called Anyanya, under the command of Joseph Lagu. After the 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement brought a conclusion to the Anyanya rebellion Kerubino was integrated into the Sudanese Armed Forces SAF He became a major in the SAF and was made the commander of the SAF detachment in Bor Southern Sudan While in Bor the home of John Garang the eventual leader of the Sudanese People s Liberation Army Movement SPLA M Kerubino became involved in a conspiracy of Southern SAF officers and soldiers in ...