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George Michael La Rue

sultan of the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur from 1785 to 1801, was born to Sultan Ahmad Bukr and an unknown woman. The youngest of four sons of Ahmad Bukr who ruled Darfur, many thought him a weak choice. He became a very successful monarch, after overcoming internal opposition. During his reign Darfur’s system of sultanic estates (hakuras) flourished, and the sultanate became Egypt’s main supplier of trans-Saharan goods, including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves.

After a series of wars and intrigues involving internal factions, the rival Musabbaʾat dynasty in Kordofan, and Wadai, sultan Muhammad Tayrab ibn Ahmad Bukr made peace with Wadai to the west and successfully invaded Kordofan. This war took the Fur armies far from home (reputedly to the Nile), and the sultan was forced to turn back in 1786 By the time the army reached Bara the sultan was dying and the succession ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. His father was Agonglo, king of Dahomey from 1789 to 1797. Adandozan was the eldest son of Agonglo. Oral narratives collected later in the nineteenth century presented him as incompetent and mentally deranged, but it should be kept in mind that rival royal family members eventually ousted Adandozan from power and would have had a vested interest in deriding his achievements. Adandozan ascended to the throne of Dahomey in 1797, in a time marked by difficulties for the kingdom. The royal slave-trading monopoly ran aground on international difficulties, particularly the decision of the French government to abandon the slave trade from 1794 to 1802 and the British and US governments’ decision to abandon the slave trade in 1807 and 1808 respectively The British government began to send warships to stop other countries from purchasing ...

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

Born Nzinga Mbemba, Afonso I ascended the throne in 1506 after the death of his father, Nzinga a Nkuwu. Unlike his father, who had rejected Catholicism and limited contact with the Portuguese explorers, Afonso had been baptized as a Christian when the Kongo court converted in 1491. During his time as governor of Kongo's Nsundi province, Afonso entertained Portuguese priests and gained a reputation for Christian piety. When his father died, around 1590, Afonso returned to Mbanza Kongo, the capital, to seek the throne. His half brother, Mpanzu Kitima, raised a provincial army to remove Afonso from the capital. Afonso characterized the struggle as being between Christian and anti-Christian forces and later maintained that the Christians had won through the intervention of Saint James.

From the beginning of his reign Afonso sought to Christianize Kongo creating a financial base a school system a parish organization and a naturalized ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

leader of the Kongo kingdom, was born in the mid-fourteenth century. His birth name was Mvemba a Nzinga and he was the child of King João I Nzinga Nkuwu of Kongo and Nzinga a Nlaza, one of the king’s wives. When the Portuguese ship captain Diogo Cão first arrived in 1483, Afonso was a high-ranking officer in the kingdom. He consented to be baptized by Catholic missionaries. When a royal court faction opposed to Christianity arose after João I’s baptism in 1491, Afonso developed his authority in his own province of Nsundi. He allowed two Portuguese priests, Goncalve Vas and Rodrigue Anes, to live in his court.

Not surprisingly Portuguese missionaries and officials gave Afonso support especially after his father renounced Christianity In Nsundi Afonso used his privileged access to European trade goods to gain access to valuable high grade copper located north of the Congo River and ...

Article

Akitoye  

Jeremy Rich

ologun (king) of the city of Lagos (in present-day Nigeria), was born early in the nineteenth century in the city that he would later rule. His father, Ologun Kuture, reigned over the port from roughly 1780 to around 1803. Akitoye’s elder brothers Adele and Osinlokun battled for power in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Eventually Osinlokun won this struggle. Akitoye only entered the competition for the throne in the 1830s, after the death of Osinlokun and his son and successor Idewu. The latter had no children. When Idewu’s ambitious brother Kosoko tried to seize the crown, his numerous opponents in Lagos sought to find other candidates to prevent Kosoko from taking power. The aging Adele was named ologun but only lived two years Then various family leaders and chiefs selected Adele s son Oluwole to block Kosoko from becoming the king but he only lived ...

Article

Frances Smith Foster

author and activist, was born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, the daughter of slaves. Details of her life are sketchy. Little is known of her parents or her childhood beyond the date and place of her birth and the fact that she was born into bondage; thus, it is particularly intriguing that in 1870, only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and one year after Atlanta University opened, seventeen-year-old Octavia was among the 170 students enrolled at that institution. Most of the little we know of her life comes from The House of Bondage (1890), the book that made her famous. From that source we learn that in 1873 she was teaching in Montezuma, Georgia, when she met her fellow teacher A. E. P. Albert. They married in 1874 and had one daughter.Sometime around 1877 Albert s husband was ordained as a Methodist ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

slave and state legislator, was born to unknown slave parents near Holly Springs in Marshall County, Mississippi, just south of that state's border with Tennessee. His parents were owned by different masters, and in 1857, when George was eleven, his father was sold and forced to move to Texas.

Later when he was in his nineties Albright recalled that he had learned to read and write as a child even though the state of Mississippi prohibited slaves from doing so Historians have estimated that despite legal restrictions at least 5 percent of all slaves were literate on the eve of the Civil War though literacy rates were probably lowest in rural Black Belt communities like Holly Springs In Albright s recollection a state law required that any slave who broke this law be punished with 500 lashes on the naked back and have his or her thumb cut ...

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

Susan Bragg

tailor, store owner, and newspaper editor, was born in Pennsylvania, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Little is known about Anderson's early life except that he was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, ultimately gaining appointment as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for the State of Pennsylvania. Anderson migrated west in the waning days of the California gold rush and in 1854 set up a tailor shop and clothing store in San Francisco. There he plunged into the city's small but energetic black community, a community linked by both the mining economy and by shared protest against injustices in the new state of California.

Anderson soon became a regular contributor to political discussions at the recently organized Atheneum Institute, a reading room and cultural center for black Californians. In January 1855 he and other prominent African Americans joined together to call ...

Article

José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is best known for helping Brazil achieve independence in 1822. It is less often recognized that the year after independence he authored a plan for “the slow emancipation of the blacks.” In this plan he argued: “It is time, and more than time, for us to put a stop to a traffic so barbaric and butcherlike, time too for us to eliminate gradually the last traces of slavery among us, so that in a few generations we may be able to form a homogeneous nation, without which we shall never be truly free, respectable, and happy.”

Andrada e Silva argued that slavery was morally wrong and economically inefficient a violation of God s laws and the laws of justice and a corrupt influence over Brazil s inhabitants Slave labor he believed resulted in the slaveholders idleness and gave ordinary Brazilians little incentive to ...

Article

Michael C. Miller

The son of Jonathan Andrew, a farmer and storeowner, and Nancy Green Pierce, a schoolteacher, John Andrew was born in Windham, Massachusetts (in the part of the state that became Maine in 1820). He attended Bowdoin College and graduated in 1837. He moved to Boston, where he entered the law and became active in politics. An idealistic lawyer, devoting much of his early career to pro bono work for prisoners and blacks, he made a name for himself fighting fugitive slave laws. He considered the abolitionist John Brown a hero and arranged for his defense counsel after Brown was caught at Harpers Ferry in 1859. In politics he was active with the “Young Whigs,” an antislavery splinter group that became the Free-Soil Party. He served a term in the Massachusetts legislature (1857).

During the 1860 elections Andrew was the head of the Massachusetts delegation ...

Article

Anton  

Jean Mutaba Rahier

In 1553 Anton and twenty-two other slaves embarked from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, as part of merchandise bound for the Peruvian port of Callao. The ship wrecked off the coast of Esmeraldas, and the twenty-three slaves killed their Spanish captors and escaped into the forest.

At that time various small indigenous groups inhabited central Esmeraldas: the Niguas, Yumbos, Campaces, Lachas, and Malabas. The first contact of the maroons was with the Niguas and the Yumbos. As the groups clashed, the maroons enjoyed an advantage in combat, owing to the surprise provoked by their arrival and the firearms they had liberated from the shipwreck. Anton was nicknamed “the big sorcerer,” and his witchcraft skills were also a decisive factor in instilling fear into the Niguas and gaining their respect.

Through Anton's leadership the maroons increasingly dominated the indigenous communities. Sebastian Alonso de Illescas gradually established himself as Anton s ...

Article

Rob Garrison

José Antonio Aponte, a free black man, worked as a carpenter and a wood carver in Havana, Cuba, before taking the role of revolutionary leader. Like many other Afro-Cubans in the early 1800s, he was discontented with the continuation of slavery and Spanish dominance that kept blacks from freedom. Afro-Cubans had already supported an unsuccessful independence movement in 1810, and had their hopes raised when Spanish courts briefly considered ending slavery. Once this proposal was rejected, blacks knew that freedom could be achieved only through their own means. Aponte seized this opportunity and proceeded to gather both the free and enslaved blacks of Havana in 1811 to form the Central Revolutionary Junta. The group quickly expanded and established smaller units throughout Cuba. Aponte solicited the help of Haitian general Jean François, who promised support for the proposed revolt.

Aponte s intention was not only to end Afro ...

Article

Clarence Maxwell

was born on the island of Antigua in 1788. He moved to Bermuda in 1807, settling in the island’s former capital of St. George’s. Whether he arrived in Bermuda as either bond or free, he was certainly free by 1821 when he made one of his earliest appearances in the local records. The St. George’s Vestry noted him among the parish’s “free persons of colour” in 1828.

Between 1807 and 1821 Athill established himself as a shipwright a skill he may have learned living in Antigua There was a market for such in his new home Bermuda had experienced since the late 1600s a maritime and commercial economic revolution dominated by the carrying trade and including ancillary industries such as shipbuilding and boatbuilding As one of the few Bermuda residents classified as Free Coloured the 41 year old Athill purchased a freehold in St George s ...

Article

Awutiek  

Stephanie Beswick

chief of the Palyoupiny Malwal, created an early aristocratic Dinka state in the southern Sudan during the 1880s. Awutiek’s uncle and predecessor Duang Marial had gained power by collaborating with slave traders such as Zubayr and with officials of the Egyptian colonial government. These lessons were not lost on the young chief Awutiek, who quickly realized the importance of firearms and purchased large quantities from Fertit middlemen, northern Sudanese traders, and Azande. He also acquired arms from Mahdists fallen in battle. Awutiek built a standing army. He set his warriors to regular military drills and maintained a strong, well-trained force. By 1892 having annihilating the last Mahdist force to venture into his territory Awutiek extended his influence down the Chell and Loll Rivers as far as the Rek country in the eastern Bahr el Ghazal By the height of his power Awutiek controlled most of the diverse peoples living ...

Article

Aybak  

Allen J. Fromherz

first Mamluk Sultan of Egypt in the Bahri line of Mamluks, or slave rulers. His name is also given as Al Malik al Mu’izz Izz al Din. Although he ruled for a short seven years from 1250 to 1257, Aybak’s rule built the system of military slave rulership that characterized government in Egypt for centuries. Originally known as Turkmani, he spoke Turkish as his native tongue. He had been bought from the region of Turkish-speaking tribes hundreds of miles form Cairo. Slave soldiers from these lands were favored over conscripted troops from Egypt because of their distance from local political and tribal obligations.

Creating a disciplined army that was expressly subject to the Sultan however resulted in a military that knew no loyalties except its own when the Sultan fell out of power It was almost inevitable that these foreign regiments would eventually not only serve the ruler but ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw

a Bandia paramount chief (or “sultan”) of the Nzakara kingdom, a precolonial polity spanning the Mbali River in the southeastern region of what is now the Central African Republic. Named Kpangba at birth, he adopted the name Bangassou (“blazing sun”). According to Nzakara oral history, his father was Mbali/Bali (Mbari/Bari) “the gazelle,” son of Gwendi (or Boendi) “the taciturn,” son of Beringa “the drunkard,” son of Dunga “the quarrelsome,” son of Gobenge, son of Pobdi, son of Bwanda “the healer,” son of Agungu, son of Pongiet, son of Bongumu. These ancestors of Bangassou were members of the Bandia clan who left their Ngbandi homeland on the Ubangi River and conquered the Nzakara people.

The Bandia rulers participated in the growing slave trade of the nineteenth century and incorporated women and children into their polity thus prospering while nearby peoples in stateless societies were raided by slave traders The Nzakara often ...

Article

Eduardo R. Palermo

was born in Africa in the mid-eighteenth century and brought to the River Plate region as a slave at an unknown date. After she was freed and purchased her own land, Barberá donated her property for the establishment of Tacuarembó, a city in northern Uruguay, in 1832. The donation represents the only documented case of a person of African descent contributing land for the subsequent founding of a town or city.

The existing historical record refers to Barberá as a freedwoman or “morena libre.” Until the late 1790s, she is registered as residing in rural northern Uruguay, with the respective landowner’s permission. She settled at the intersection of the Tranqueras and Tacuarembó Chico rivers, a site that became known among locals as “el rincón de Tía Ana” (Aunt Ana’s Corner). In July 1804 in Montevideo Barberá signed a commitment to officially purchase the plot of land with an ...