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David L. Weeks

military leader, enslaved and later repatriated to Africa, was born in Timbuktu, the son of Ibrahima Sori (d. c.1788), a West African Fulbe king (also called Fulah, Fulani, Peuls), and one of his four wives. ʿAbd al-Rahman's grandfather, a Moor (a North African Muslim), had been king of Timbuktu.

As the son of an almami (Muslim theocratic ruler), ʿAbd al-Rahman was surrounded by wealth and power. He was raised in Futa Jallon, the lush highlands of modern Guinea, in the city of Timbo. After learning to read, write, and recite the Qur’an, Ibrahima went to Jenne and Timbuktu to study with Islamic clerics. At age seventeen, he joined his father's army. His military prowess soon resulted in significant leadership positions. In 1786 Ibrahima married and had a son (al-Husayn).

Fulbe tribesmen traded with Europeans along the African coast 150 miles 240 kilometers away Taking wares ...

Article

Adhuu  

Trevor Hall

who was one of the first West Africans enslaved by the Portuguese in 1441, and transported by ship to Europe. He lived in Rio de Oro (modern-day Western Sahara). Information about his parents and marital status is not known; however, Adhuu was captured with a youth who may have been his relative. His reason for renown is that after he was enslaved in Portugal, he negotiated his freedom with Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460). Adhuu probably spoke Berber or Arabic, and communicated with Portuguese translators.

The Portuguese royal chronicler Gomes Eannes da Azurara witnessed Adhuu’s arrival in Portugal in 1441 Azurara said that Prince Henry had ordered Captain Antam Goncalves to sail from Portugal to West Africa and capture the first persons he found and transport them back to him Captain Goncalves sailed to Rio de Oro where he spotted human and camel tracks along the ...

Article

Baye Yimam

Ethiopian painter, diplomat, customs director, entrepreneur, linguist, university professor, and novelist, was born in Zage, Gojjam province of Ethiopia, on 10 July 1868. His father, Gebre Iyesus Denke, was a priest serving a local church, and his mother, Fenta Tehun Adego Ayechew, was presumably a housewife. In Zage, then a center of learning, Afewerq learned the painting, poetry, church music, and liturgical dancing of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian tradition.

Afewerq was related to Empress Taytu Betul, wife of Emperor Menilek (1844–1913 on account of which he was brought to the palace to continue what he had started in Zage He was later sent to Italy to further his studies at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin Upon his return from Italy he began to produce mural paintings by order of the palace and decorated the churches at Entotto then the capital city However he soon ...

Article

Trevor Hall

of the sixteenth-century slave trading ship Santa Margarida in the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands. Not much else is known about Alemam except that on 27 December 1515 Luis Carneiro, a scribe in the Cape Verde customs house at Ribeira Grande, Santiago Island, described him as “captain.” This information appears in entries of the surviving 1513–1516 Cape Verde customs receipt book transcribed from the original Portuguese manuscript into English by historian Trevor Hall (Before Middle Passage, 2015). In outfitting a slave ship and paying customs duty on a captive he imported from West Africa, Alemam shows the growing involvement of non-Iberian Europeans in the early sixteenth-century slave trade in Cape Verde.

In 1462 another non Portuguese ship owner the Genoese Antonio de nolle Antonio de Noli had colonized the uninhabited Cape Verde Islands for Portugal transforming the islands into the center of the expanding Atlantic slave trade ...

Article

George Michael La Rue

preeminent trans-Saharan merchant and caravan leader (khabir) from the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur, was born in Kubayh, the son of Ibrahim ibn ʿAli, a Tirayfi merchant from Kordofan who immigrated to Darfur, and an unknown mother. He was commonly known as khabir ʿAli. In the nineteenth century Darfur was Egypt’s leading supplier of trans-Saharan goods including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves. In 1838, when Darfur’s sultan Muhammad Fadl died, young ʿAli ibn Ibrahim had already crossed the Sahara along the route from Kubayh (Darfur’s commercial capital) to Asyut in Upper Egypt, perhaps as part of a caravan led by his mentor, paternal uncle, and future father-in-law, Muhammad Kannun, or one of the lesser Tirayfi caravan leaders. ʿAli ibn Ibrahim allegedly heard the news of the sultan’s death from Muhammad ʿAli, the viceroy of Egypt.

ʿAli married six times and had numerous children His first marriage was probably ...

Article

Alloron  

Stephanie Beswick

Sudanese leader, was the first prominent Bari private merchant, slave trader, and opportunist insurgent warlord. He rose to power during the 1860s by exploiting poisonous dynastic rivalries between Nyigilo and Subek, the royal sons of Lagunu, the unchallenged Bari leader in 1840, and their respective noble offspring. The faction of Nyigilo had enjoyed the support of Catholic missionaries up to their departure in 1860, but thereafter allied with the northern slave traders who at that time were establishing fortified trading operations throughout southern Sudan. It was to become an era, for the first time in Bari history, during which commoner traders such as Alloron found it possible to acquire economic and political power. However, the upstart was often reminded of his humble origins by the epithet “man without rain,” implying that he lacked the arcane fructifying powers of royalty.

The arrival of Turks northern Sudanese and Europeans ...

Article

Moroccan female scribe, jurisprudent, and scholar, was a well-known inhabitant of nineteenth-century Tetouan. Her full name was Amina bint al-Hajj ʿAbd al-Latif ibn Ahmad al-Hajjaj.

Morocco had a long tradition of manuscript production, rivaled only by Egypt. Manuscripts in Arabic were created and copied there from the eighth down to the nineteenth centuries, when the arrival of lithography and machine printing virtually put an end to the professional scribe. Although the profession of scribe was normally the province of men in most parts of the Islamic world, in the western parts—Spain and North Africa—women played an important role. In the tenth century there were said to be a thousand women scribes in Cordova who were engaged in copying out Qurʾans. The names of some of these scribes are known, but little other information about them is available.

However in a few cases we do have more information about women scribes ...

Article

David Northrup

Atlantic merchant, was born and lived in Duke Town, a part of the trading community of Old Calabar, near the Cross River in what is now southeastern Nigeria. The names of his parents are unknown. His name is also given as Ntiero Edem Efiom. He married Awa Ofiong, whom he called his “dear wife,” as well as two other wives whose names are not known. His only known child was a son, Duke Antera.

Antera grew up in a family prominent in the marketing of merchandise brought by Europeans in exchange for African slaves and other goods In addition to the local Efik language the young Antera learned to speak English through contact with the British captains and crew who called at Old Calabar The fact that he could also read and write English suggests he may have received some formal education in England as did the sons of other ...

Article

Robert Ross

South African businessman, also known as Harry the Strandloper, was born a member of the Khoesan group known as the Goringhaikona, who lived mainly in the vicinity of Table Bay, where modern Cape Town is situated. The group was known to the Europeans as “strandlopers” (beachcombers) because they acquired the majority of their subsistence by harvesting the resources of the sea, including shellfish, sea fish, and marine mammals, including seals, for which on occasion they visited Robben Island in the bay. No doubt they also collected plants as appropriate. They had few, if any, cattle or sheep.

At the time of Autshumao s birth European ships were beginning to use Table Bay with increasing frequency in order to take on fresh water and firewood and to leave messages for each other This provided an evident opportunity for those Africans living in the neighborhood Autshumao quickly came to take advantage of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

a prominent trader in nineteenth-century Ghana, was born in 1790 His mother was a Ga woman from Accra who had family ties with the Alata chief in the neighboring town of Osu and the Asere chief of Kinka His father was Colonel Henry Bannerman a Scottish officer and a trader in the Royal Africa Company stationed at the British fort of Cape Coast Bannerman s father s connections in the British government and his mother s connections in southern Ghana helped prepare the way for his rise as a businessman Bannerman s ambitions were facilitated by the changing nature of trade between European nations and West Africa The British government s efforts to close the international slave trade posed some challenges for coastal communities on the Ghanaian coast although the stabilization of the Asante kingdom s borders had already led to a decline of slave exports from the region ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

writer and escaped slave, was born probably in 1824 in the town of Djougou located in what is now northern Benin Djougou was an important trading town with close commercial connections to the kingdom of Dahomey to the south and the sultanate of Nupe to the east Baquaqua s family which spoke Dendi as their first language was deeply involved in long distance trade His mother was originally from the Hausa speaking town of Katsina far to the east of Djougou while his father claimed Arab descent He probably spoke Hausa as well as the Arabic he learned in qurʾanic school Baquaqua traveled on caravans to the east and west of Djougou at the behest of his father However he did not want to follow his father s wish that he become a Muslim scholar so he stayed with one of his maternal uncles a well connected Hausa trader ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

politician, business leader, and historian, was born in the late nineteenth century in Burundi. He belonged to the Batare royal family that had controlled Burundi prior to the entrance of German military officers in the 1890s. He originally came from southern Burundi as his father was a chief in the Vyanda region not far from the town of Bururi. He received a primary education at a German school at Gitega. After the Belgian government took over Burundi following World War I, Baranyanka became one of the most fervent supporters of the new administration in the entire colony. He was a firm supporter of Catholic missions and the development of cash-crop production. Baranyanka converted to Catholicism after undertaking instruction for four years. He established an extremely large coffee business that consisted of thirty-five thousand coffee bushes by 1935. A young Belgian tourist in 1949 expressed the views of most ...

Article

Trevor Hall

based in Portugal whose merchant ships traded between the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands and Valencia, Spain. Nothing is known about his family. Barchi’s reason for renown was that during the last two decades of the fifteenth century his ships transported thousands of enslaved Africans from the Cape Verde Islands to Valencia. Although not much is known about Barchi himself, his business opens a window into the working and scope of the Old World Atlantic slave trade from the Portuguese archipelago in Cape Verde Islands, West Africa to Spain.

During the fifteenth century Portugal had a monopoly over European maritime trade with West Africa. Although the Treaty of Alcáçovas (1479) and the protocol of Tordesillas (1494 prohibited non Portuguese ships from trading with sub Saharan West Africa the treaties permitted European merchants to trade with Portuguese islands off the West African mainland The Portuguese crown established customs ...

Article

Mohammed Hassen Ali

pharmacist, lawyer, and Oromo nationalist and political activist in Ethiopia, was mainly responsible for the formation of the Oromo Liberation Front, which in turn transformed Oromo cultural nationalism to political nationalism. He was born in the region of Wallaga. He lost both his parents while very young, and it was his elder brother, the Reverend Gudina Tumsa, who brought him up and provided him with the best education.

While at Haile Selassie I University, Baro Tumsa immersed himself in student politics as well as risky underground Oromo political activities. From 1964 to 1966 he served as secretary and president of the union of the university students in Addis Ababa It was under his leadership that university students were radicalized and energized More than many of his contemporaries Baro Tumsa realized that the Oromo and other conquered people of southern Ethiopia were landless subjects without rights who were exploited economically ...

Article

Barquq  

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian sultan, was the first of a new dynasty of Mamluks or “slave” sultans of Egypt. Purchased in Crimea, Barquq, whose full name was al-Malik al-Zahir Sayf al-Din Barquq, was a Circassian. The previous series of Mamluks, starting with Baybars, were Kipchak Turks. Bought as a slave soldier, Barquq quickly rose through the ranks of the Burji regiment of soldier slaves. Unlike the Bahri regiment that supplied previous sultans, the Burji regiment had their barracks near the dungeons (burj of the citadel in Cairo It appears that Barquq s father a man of some stature named Anas may have willingly given his son up for sale In fact after Barquq came to power he invited his father to come to Cairo and join his court Indeed Anas would have been pleased to learn that his son was first purchased by the powerful marshal of the army Yalbogha al ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

fourth of the Bahri dynasty of Mamluk sultans of Egypt, was born a slave. His full name was al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din al-Salihi al-Bundukdari. Although his date of birth is uncertain, most scholars agree he was born around 1233 far away from Egypt in the steppes of the Kipchak Turkish nomads. Before being purchased by the sultan, he took the name of his first immediate master, a relatively minor character named Aydakin Bundukdar. After demonstrating exceptional qualities as a youngster, Baybars was purchased by the Ayyubid sultan and successor to Saladin, Malik Salih. He started as only one of many fellow Kipchak slaves who served the Ayyubids. In fact, there were so many Kipchak soldiers in Egypt that it stimulated the creation of Kipchak-Arabic dictionaries such as the thirteenth-century Codex Cumanicus Soon after being purchased by Malik Salih he would have been subjected to the code of strict military ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

merchant, community leader, and socialite, was born Ada Jagne to Francis and Marie Jagne in Bathurst (now Banjul), Gambia. Little is known of her life before 1916, when she married Job Beigh, the richest merchant in Bathurst. Job owned choice real estate in Bathurst, many warehouses and shops, and a fleet of riverboats that transported merchandise to the ports of the Gambia River for European firms.

Job Beigh's career as a merchant exemplified the cutthroat business environment in the Gambia colony in the second half of the nineteenth century. He was born in Bathurst in 1847 and, following his secondary education in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he began his business career as a clerk with the Bathurst Trading Company, one of the six major European companies operating in Bathurst and upriver towns. Later, Job started trading on his own account in Bathurst in 1888 He was ...

Article

Jodie N. Mader

diamond magnate, financier, imperialist, and philanthropist in southern Africa, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the eldest of six children. His father was an affluent merchant. Beit performed poorly in school, and in his teens he was sent to be an apprentice at the office of Jules Porges and Company in Amsterdam. In 1875, Beit went to Kimberley, South Africa, as a representative of the firm. While in Africa he went into property speculation and joined up with a young German named Julius Wernher. These two men formed the Wernher, Beit, and Company firm, which was known for its deep-level mining and use of cyanide processing for treating gold ore. His most famous friendship was with Cecil Rhodes, an English financier. They formed the De Beers Mining Company. Much of Rhodes’s success depended on the financial advice he received from Beit.

Together Rhodes and Beit worked to drive out other ...

Article

Belinda  

Jeremy Rich

author of the first known slave narrative by an African woman in the United States, and successful petitioner for reparations for her enslavement, was born around 1713. Some historians have argued that she was brought to the US from Ghana, because her petition noted that she had lived on the “Ria da Valta River,” which they viewed as a reference to the Volta River. However, she recalled praying in a sacred grove “to the great Orisa who made all things” as a child. Orisa deities are associated with spiritual traditions among Yoruba-speaking communities in southwestern Nigeria and parts of Benin.

Regardless of the exact location of her original home in her narrative she recalled her childhood as a happy one This peaceful world of groves gave way to the hardships of the Middle Passage European raiders came into her village when she was about twelve years of age whose ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Benedetto, or as he became known, Saint Benedict the Moor, was born in San Fratello, on the Italian island of Sicily, to Christopher and Diane Manasseri. His parents had been transported as slaves from Africa to Sicily, where they converted to Christianity. Benedetto worked on a farm until he gained his freedom as a teen.

Benedetto continued to work as a laborer. Sharing his wages with the poor and healing the sick, he became known as “the black saint.” He joined a group of hermits who chose Benedetto as their leader. In 1562 he became a lay brother. Stories began to circulate about his saintliness and miraculous deeds; he is said to have resurrected a young boy. Church accounts report that people of all classes in Sicily sought his prayers and his counsel. In 1578 though he was neither a priest nor literate he was chosen to lead a ...