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John Calvert

Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Battuta was one of the greatest travelers of the premodern era. Toward the end of his life he recounted his journeys in a book entitled Tuhfat al-Nuzzar fi Ghara’ib al-Amsar wa- ‘Aja’ib al-Asfar, or A Gift to the Observers Concerning the Curiosities of Cities and the Marvels Encountered in Traveling. The work is one of the principal sources available to modern researchers for the social, economic, and political conditions of the fourteenth-century Islamic world. Although not as well known as Marco Polo’s, Ibn Battuta’s travels were, in fact, more extensive than those of his younger European contemporary. Over a period of twenty-eight years, he crossed the breadth of Africa and Asia and visited the equivalent of approximately forty-four modern countries.

Ibn Battuta was born in February 1304 in Tangier Morocco into a well respected family of judges who adhered to the Maliki School ...

Article

Adam Jones

traveler and writer from what is now southern Ghana, was born c. 1827 in or near the Asante capital of Kumasi. In contemporary documents, his name often appears as Aquassie Boachi. His father Kwaku Dua (c.1797–1867) was Asantehene (King of Asante) from 1834 to 1867. According to the “History of Ashanti,” prepared in the mid-twentieth century under the chairmanship of Asantehene Prempeh II (1892–1970), Kwasi Boakye belonged to the village of Atomfuo, 8 miles (13 km) east of Kumasi. This suggests that on his mother’s side he came from the lineage of royal blacksmiths, which may explain why, in 1837 in accordance with his father s wishes he and a close relative of the same age Kwame Poku were chosen to accompany a Dutch embassy under Major General Jan Verveer on its return to Elmina on the coast They were subsequently brought to ...

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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

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 ...

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Geoffrey Roper

Russian-Swiss writer and traveler in North Africa, was born in Geneva on 17 February 1877, the illegitimate daughter of Aleksander Trofimovskiĭ, a Russian ex-priest, anarchist, and horticulturalist, and Madame de Moerder (née Eberhardt), a general’s wife. She was educated mainly by her father, who taught her several languages, including Arabic. Among other things, she read the Qurʾan with him and subsequently acquired a love of classical Arabic and Islam. She later claimed to have been born and brought up a Muslim, but this, like much else in her account of herself, was a fantasy.

In her youth, inspired by the novels of Pierre Loti, she dreamed of escaping to an exotic Muslim environment. The deserts of North Africa especially attracted her, and in 1896 she entered into correspondence with Eugène Latord a French officer in southeast Algeria who fed her imagination with accounts of life there At this ...

Article

Sharon Harrow

the first English woman to write and publish a narrative of her travels to West Africa, was born Anna Maria Horwood to Grace Roberts and Charles Horwood in Bristol.

In 1788 she married the physician and abolitionist Alexander Falconbridge; friends and family disapproved of the match. Alexander’s vehement abolitionist views resulted from his service as surgeon on four slave ships. The year of their marriage, he published An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa in order to publicize the horrors of the Middle Passage. He worked with Thomas Clarkson’s abolitionist campaign and was subsequently contracted by the St. George’s Bay Company (later renamed the Sierra Leone Company) to rescue the ailing colony of Sierra Leone. Earlier in the century, it had been a trading site for the Royal Africa Company, and it remained a country of economic interest to England. In 1787 the abolitionist Granville ...

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Jeremy Rich

a missionary and a founding father of the Methodist Church in Ghana and Nigeria, was born on 6 December 1809 in Twyford England His father Thomas Freeman was a former slave of African descent who worked as a gardener It is unclear if he was born in Jamaica or somewhere on the African continent although Freeman adamantly claimed his father was from Africa rather than the Caribbean His mother was an Englishwoman of European descent named Amy Birch Freeman s father died when he was only six years old He was raised in his grandfather John Birch s middle class home as his mother remarried and apparently left the boy in her father s care Freeman as a boy received a fair amount of education as displayed by his excellent training in botany Freeman became the head gardener and botanist for a wealthy aristocrat Sir Robert Harland who lived ...

Article

David Killingray

Black BritishWesleyan missionary and traveller in West Africa. Freeman was born in Hampshire, the child of a black father and a white mother. Little is known of his early years, but he was employed as a gardener in Suffolk and became a Christian, joining the Wesleyan Methodists. In 1838 Freeman went as a missionary to the Gold Coast, an area of West Africa where he was to spend most of his life. He built Methodist churches at Cape Coast and Accra, promoted education, and trained local men for the ministry. He established a mission station in Kumase, the Asante capital, and visited towns in southern Nigeria and also the kingdom of Dahomey, where he urged King Gezo to stop the slave trade. On furlough in Britain in 1843 Freeman actively promoted missionary work and also the anti‐slavery cause, both helped by publication of his travel accounts. In 1847 ...

Article

Cynthia Staples

world traveler and writer, was born in Mississippi. Little is known of her early childhood except that her formal education ended at age ten. Like many African American girls of her generation, Harrison found employment as a domestic in the homes of white families. At age sixteen she left the South, traveling as far north as Canada and even making her way deeper south to Cuba, where she learned Spanish and French. Sometime during these years of work and travel, Harrison saw a magazine article depicting temple spires in a foreign land. That image fueled her lifelong desire to travel around the world.

While working in Denver, Colorado, Harrison managed to save $800 toward fulfilling her dream. Unfortunately the bank holding her savings failed. Harrison was left with just enough money to travel to California. There she secured a position with the family of George Dickinson a real ...

Article

Moroccan writer and explorer, was born in Tangier, Morocco, into a well-respected Berber family of judges who adhered to the Maliki school of jurisprudence. Toward the end of his life he recounted his journeys in a book entitled A Gift to the Observers Concerning the Curiosities of Cities and the Marvels Encountered in Traveling. The work is one of the principal sources available to modern researchers for the social, economic, and political conditions of the fourteenth-century Islamic world. Although not as well known, Ibn Battuta’s travels were more extensive than the journeys of his younger European contemporary, Marco Polo. Over a period of twenty-eight years, he crossed the breadth of Africa and Asia and visited the equivalent of approximately forty-four modern countries. He combined his travels with scholarly pursuits, or with professional posts such as that of judge (qadi in cities along the way A native speaker ...

Article

Barbara Worley

Like the majority of North Africans, Ibn Battutah (whose full name was Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn’Abd Allah al-Lawati at-Tanji ibn Battutah) was ethnic Berber, and his family traced its ancestry to the nomadic Luwata ethnic group originating in Cyrenaica west of the Nile Delta. Born into the Muslim religious elite in Tangier, Morocco, he would have received a classical literary education in addition to rigorous studies in Islam.

Ibn Battutah wrote poetry in addition to traveling across Africa, Arabia, Asia Minor, India, and China. Most important of his works are his descriptions of the life and culture of peoples of the Niger Basin and Central Sahara, among the earliest and by far the most detailed. After Ibn Battutah returned from his voyages he recounted his observations to Ibn Juzayy, who recorded and edited them at Fès, in Morocco.

At the age of twenty-one, Ibn Battutah set out on ...

Article

Charles C. Stewart

traveler, travel writer, and historian, was born in Wadan (in present-day Mauritania). Talib Ahmad al-Mustafa, whose father’s name, translated literally, makes him the “son of the little bird of paradise” (ibn Twayr al-Janna), was the author of Mauritania’s most widely known example of nineteenth-century travel literature (rihla), but he was also an historian and widely versed author on diverse subjects, including his hometown of Wadan. His name in full is Ahmad al-Mustafa ibn Twayr al-Janna ibn ʿAbd Allah ibn Ahmad Sa’im al-Hajji al-Wadani or, in a shortened version, Ibn Twayr al-Janna.

In Wadan he became a student of the highly acclaimed scholars Sidi ʿAbd Allah ibn al Hajj Ibrahim al ʿAlawi d 1818 Ahmad Salim ibn al Imam al Hajji al Wadani d 1823 al Salik ibn al Imam al Hajji d 1830 Muhammadhan Fal ibn Mbarik al Yadmusi al Shamshawi d 1848 and Abu ʿAbd Allah Muhammad ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Togolese writer and traveler, was born in the southern coastal town of Anecho, located 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the Togolese capital of Lomé. His father, a member of the Ouatchi ethnic community who followed indigenous spiritual traditions, was married to a number of wives. Kpomassie had over twenty siblings and half-siblings. Although his father was a bokonon priest who claimed he could heal, he had trouble accomplishing miracles and eventually promised his son to a priestess for training in return for help. Angry with his father and uninterested in working with the priestess, Kpomassie started to explore other options. He did not have many to choose from. In comparison to other internationally known Togolese writers, Kpomassie had a far more limited formal education. He only attended six years of primary school. In 1957 Kpomassie stumbled on a book about Inuit communities in Greenland The relative freedom of young ...

Article

Martha L. Wharton

abolitionist, writer, lecturer, women's rights activist, and social critic, was born Nancy Gardner in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the daughter of an African American and Indian mother and an African American father, Thomas Gardner, who was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and died within three months of Nancy's birth. What is known about her is drawn primarily from her 1850 memoir, A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince. While Prince does not name her mother in her narrative, she provides descriptions of both parents that highlight their African descent, and she recounts her grandfather's violent removal to America, along with his memories of a proud life in Africa. She briefly notes the capture of her Indian grandmother by local English colonials. Her narrative speaks clearly to issues of race, gender, slavery, and morality in the United States and the Caribbean.

Prince s childhood ...

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Nancy Gardner Prince's 1850Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince, Written by Herself, chronicles the antebellum economic conditions of free blacks, her experience in the court of two Russian tsars, and the difficulties of missionary work in politically volatile, newly emancipated Jamaica. Prince's life, as told in this fascinating volume, reveals the opportunities available to and hindrances suffered by nineteenth- century black women.

Prince s early life as a free black in New England was marked by hunger hard work and racism She endured these harsh conditions by clinging to the dignity of her family history which included the exploits of an African grandfather who fought in the Revolutionary War a Native American grandmother once enslaved by the British and an African stepfather who emancipated himself by jumping off a slave ship Despite her pride in her heritage her frustration with the social and ...

Article

Australia Tarver

Prince’s autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince, Written by Herself (1850), is distinctive for several reasons. Its narrator wrote it as evidence of her energy, leadership, and agency during the antebellum era, when few black American women wrote or traveled beyond the locations where they were enslaved. It is textual evidence of the presence of a limited number of blacks living in czarist Russia. It defines Prince’s leadership, spiritual prowess, and transnational awareness as a black woman traveler, missionary, and reporter across lands and cultures outside the experience of most nineteenth-century African Americans and whites as well. Prince’s narrative authenticates her family background, its multiracial origins, the history of traveling seamen, and the extreme difficulties of being nominally free in a slave society.

Prince was born free in Newburyport Massachusetts the second of eight children Although her narrative does not name her mother ...

Article

Anthony Aiello

Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to free parents, Nancy Prince and the details of her life are known largely through her own autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince (1850). Nancy Gardner had as many as seven siblings and was the daughter of Thomas Gardner, a seaman from Nantucket who died before Nancy was three months old. Her mother, whose name Prince never gives in her autobiography, was the daughter of Tobias Wornton, or Backus, who was taken from Africa and, though he was a slave, fought at Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary army; Gardner's maternal grandmother, a Native American, was captured and enslaved by English colonists. Gardner's stepfather, Money Vose was her mother s third husband the other two having died He escaped a slave ship by swimming ashore but was later kidnapped and pressed into ship service During the ...

Article

slave, teacher, world traveler, and Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War, was born in Kouka, the capital of Bornu. Said was his mother's ninth child; all told, he had eighteen siblings. In the early nineteenth century, Bornu (spelled Bornou in Said's narrative) was a kingdom that was home to the Kanuri people of north-central Africa. His father, Barca Gana, born into a prominent Muslim family, was the eldest son of the ruling chief of Molgoy. A military man, he was a highly valued lieutenant of the King of Bornu. Said's mother also came from a prominent family: she was the daughter of a Mandra chief. Said's family owned several slaves.

Nicholas spent much of his childhood studying Islam and in formal schooling He learned to read and write in both his native tongue and Arabic He also had a great passion for hunting and often persuaded his friends ...