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Article

Aaron Myers

In the first half of the nineteenth century, thousands of African slaves were involuntarily brought from the Calabar region of southwestern Nigeria to Cuba in order to labor on the sugar plantations. In Cuba, these enslaved people reconstructed aspects of their language (Igbo) and religious rituals in Abakuás, all-male organizations with closely guarded religious, musical, and dance traditions. The prototype for Cuba's Abakuás can be found in Calabar's leopard societies, groups of highly respected, accomplished men who adopted the leopard as a symbol of masculinity. Today as in the past, Abakuás are found predominantly in the city of Havana and the province of Matanzas and are united by a common African mythology and ritual system.

Abakuás preserve African traditions through performative ceremonies a complex system of signs and narratives in the Igbo language Customarily led by four leaders and eight subordinate officers members of the Abakuás seek to protect ...

Article

John Gilmore

The term can be applied either to the ending of slavery, or to the ending of the slave trade, but in British historical writing the former is more usually referred to as emancipation.

While there are earlier examples of individuals who had doubts about the legality or morality of both the slave trade and slavery, serious public questioning of these institutions only began in Britain in the third quarter of the 18th century, with the attention focused on legal cases such as those of Jonathan Strong and James Somerset (see Somerset case). The first group of people who collectively questioned the legitimacy of the slave trade were the Quakers, who formed a Committee on the Slave Trade in 1783 and were also prominent in the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade also referred to as the Society for the Abolition of the ...

Article

The phenomenon of African former slaves returning to their original homes has thus far not received the attention it deserves. Pierre Verger has done much work on the relationship between Brazil and West Africa, and several others have written on the subject. More needs to be done, however, to clarify the motivations and the influences that determined the former slaves’ attitudes and reactions on returning to their home areas.

This essay examines the attitudes, occupations, and contributions of Brazilian returnees to West Africa in the nineteenth century. Their stay in Brazil so affected them that they behaved more like Brazilians than Africans on the West African coast. For this reason, in this essay they are called “Brazilians.”

The term however is not completely accurate because the Brazilian communities included people of different origins some having had little or no connection with Brazil Some were men who had been former officials ...

Article

Afro-Colombians (Colombians of African descent) were invisible in the 1886 constitution that ruled Colombia for over 100 years. By 1990, after centuries of marginalization and discrimination, Afro-Colombian organizations emerged as a political force. They denounced implicit racial discrimination and demanded that the constitutional reform take ethnic identity into account without restricting their rights to equality. The black movement received support from representatives of indigenous groups and of the progressive left. Both groups had representatives in the Constitutional Assembly, formed in 1990 to rewrite the constitution.

Article

Amador  

Gerhard Seibert

was the leader of a major slave revolt in 1595, which almost succeeded in defeating the Portuguese colonial authorities in São Tomé. The hitherto uninhabited island of São Tomé was discovered by Portuguese navigators around 1471, but the successful colonization of the island began only in 1493, when Portuguese colonists established sugarcane plantations to be worked by African slaves brought from the neighboring continent. In the sixteenth century the local sugar industry prospered; however, the island was marked by continuous political instability provoked by frequent power struggles among the governor, the Catholic bishop, and the town council, which was dominated by the sugar planters. Amador was a Creole slave, that is, a slave born on the island.

From the beginning slavery provoked resistance and smaller slave uprisings occurred before and after Amador s revolt In addition gangs of runaway slaves locally known as macambos established maroon communities ...

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

Bahia  

Aaron Myers

Of all the states in Brazil, Bahia has maintained the strongest ties with Africa and African culture. During the first two centuries of the colonial era, Bahia absorbed most of the slaves imported to Brazil. At this time, the slaves came to constitute a majority of Bahia's population and exerted a proportional effect on the developing character of the state. Today, Bahia's traditions and customs are living testimony to the enormous influence of Africans and their descendants.

Article

Led by the slave and lay Baptist preacher Samuel Sharpe, this slave revolt became known as the Baptist War because of the Baptists' involvement in educating slaves and their fierce opposition to slavery. Also referred to as the Christmas Rebellion because it occurred around Christmas day, the Baptist War began as a demand for the payment of wages to slaves. Jamaican slaves initially organized a strike to halt work on the island's sugar plantations immediately following the Christmas weekend. The conflict escalated on December 27, 1831, when slaves set a series of fires that raced across the plantations, destroying many sugar fields. Samuel Sharpe set the initial fire at an estate in Saint James to signal the beginning of the strike. The strike and the rebellion that followed gained support from more than 20,000 slaves and spread throughout western Jamaica.

Slaves and the British militia fought for ...

Article

Bayano  

Jeremy Rich

fugitive slave and leader of an anticolonial rebellion in Panama, was born somewhere in Africa in the early decades of the sixteenth century. Nothing is known of his life prior to his enslavement and transport to the Americas. However, some have contended Bayano may have been a Mande-speaking Muslim from West Africa.

A Spanish ship carrying Bayano and 400 other slaves headed to the thinly populated colony of Panama in 1552. Smallpox and mistreatment had killed many Native Americans living in Panama, and so the Spanish government hoped to bring in these slaves as workers to replace indigenous people. However, the isthmus of Panama region also by this time had become a favored destination of many cimarrones (runaway slaves). Slave revolts had already taken place in Panama in 1525, 1530, and 1549 Slaves outnumbered free people in many Panamanian locales Bayano thus was well positioned to ...

Article

The Berbice slave rebellion began in February 1763. It was precipitated by the harsh conditions that existed on plantations in the Berbice colony (later part of British Guiana, present-day Guyana). The rebels were mostly African-born slaves from private plantations along the Canje and Berbice rivers. Kofi (Cuffy), an Akan slave, emerged as commander of the Berbice contingent and led the rebellion. The rebels intended to overthrow the Dutch or, short of that, to partition the colony between the Africans and Dutch. Kofi and the rebels forced the governor to abandon the seat of government at Fort Nassau and retreat with refugees to Daargradt plantation. Mercenary soldiers arrived from neighboring Dutch Guiana, allowing the Dutch to garrison Daargradt at the end of March.

Also that month, Kofi and his second-in-command, Akara, initiated an ongoing correspondence with the governor of Berbice, Wolfert van Hoogenheim Their letters attributed the ...

Article

Judith Morrison

Known also as Domingo Benkos Biohó, Dionisio Biohó, Rey (King) Benkos, Rey de la Matuna and Biohó Rey, Benkos Biohó is recognized for his rebellious leadership and for founding one of the longest surviving communities of escaped Africans in Spanish America. Born in Guinea-Bissau, on the western coast of Africa, Biohó was enslaved and taken to the South American slave port of Cartagena de Indias. In 1596 he was sold to Spanish colonizer Alonso del Campo, who baptized him Domingo (or Dionisio). In 1599 Biohó, claiming to have been a king in Africa, escaped along with several male and female slaves into the neighboring forests and marshlands known as the Matuna. There he founded one of the first palenques (rebel slave communities) in the Americas.

Biohó's leadership earned him the title Benkos meaning king He became renowned for his skill in administering ...

Article

Boukman  

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

The man known as Boukman was born a slave in Jamaica, at that time a British colony in the Caribbean. No one knows for certain whether Boukman was his real name. He apparently learned to read and write, and always carried a book with him. Thus he acquired the nickname “Boukman,” meaning the man with a book, or the one who knows. It is thought that this was a man of knowledge for his epoch—a n'gan (in Haitian Creole a hougan), that is, a priest of Haiti's African-derived Vodou religion. Giant in stature, with a Herculean vigor, he was sold to a certain Turpin, the owner of a plantation in French-controlled Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). Appreciating Boukman's strength, his master gave him authority over his fellow slaves as a field commander. Boukman was also appointed a cocher coachman to drive his master about in his fancy ...

Article

With official figures indicating that almost 50 percent of its 182 million inhabitants are of African descent, Brazil is both home to the largest black population outside Africa and the country where blacks are worst off vis-à-vis their white compatriots. Brazil is different from other multiracial nations, such as the United States and South Africa, where policies of segregation fostered unity within oppressed groups that faced visible enemies, and where the very contradictions of segregationist policies opened paths for the social ascension of some members of these groups. In contrast, Afro-Brazilians are virtually excluded from the labor market and the world of business and are practically invisible in the mass media.

How can one explain the apparent paradox of such a large part of the population submitting to racial domination in the absence of the huge investments in repression by physical force that eroded racist systems in other countries ...

Article

Bussa  

Article

Bussa's rebellion broke out on April 14, 1816, which was Easter Sunday (hence the name Easter Rebellion), and continued for three days. Most accounts suggest that it began in the evening in the southeastern parish of Saint Philip. Soon more than half of the island was engulfed by the insurrection, which quickly spread throughout most of the southern and central parishes: Christ Church, Saint John, Saint Thomas, Saint George, and parts of Saint Michael. The slave insurrectionists in these parishes clashed with the local militia. In addition, minor outbreaks of arson occurred in the northernmost parish of Saint Lucy. The rebellion was effectively quashed on April 17 by a joint offensive of the local militia and imperial troops garrisoned on the island.

Slaves had organized the islandwide rebellion with the goal of obtaining their freedom Some evidence suggests that slaves were motivated in part by a misinterpretation of ...

Article

Cacos  

Georges Michel

After the downfall of Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer in 1843, the peasants in the southern part of the island revolted. These revolutionaries were named piquets, because they carried wooden poles, called picks, as weapons. In the 1860s, peasants in northern Haiti followed the example of the piquets, becoming known as Cacos. The Cacos movement was based in the northern part of the republic in an area comprising the towns of Vallieres, Capotilles, and Mont-Organise. Some say that the term Cacos comes from the name of a small bird of prey; others trace it to the name of a species of Haitian red ants that have a bad sting.

The Cacos movement appeared for the first time during the civil war of 1868. The rebellious peasants later fought against President Sylvain Salnave in 1870 The Cacos proved themselves formidable fighters and instrumental to Salnave s ...

Article

George Reid Andrews

The son of former slaves, João Cândido was born in the cattle-ranching country of southern Brazil. In 1895, at the age of fifteen, he joined the Brazilian navy, which at that time had a very clear racial hierarchy. While the officer corps was exclusively white, an estimated 80–90 percent of the enlisted seamen were Afro-Brazilian, many of them forcibly recruited against their will. Slavery had been abolished in Brazil only a few years earlier, in 1888, and many officers continued to treat crews as though they were in fact slaves. Conditions of service were extremely harsh; and even though whipping had been outlawed in the navy in 1890, it was still widely used as a means of discipline.

Brazil joined the naval arms race of the 1890s and early 1900s expanding its fleet to become the largest naval power in Latin America Cândido himself was sent ...

Article

Liliana Obregón

Spanish colonizers first encountered the bay of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast of present-day Colombia, in 1502, although it was not until 1533 that a permanent settlement was established. Pedro de Heredia, the city's founder, named the site and bay after Cartagena in Spain, adding “de Indias” (of the Indies) for its location in the Americas. Heredia and his men soon found gold and wrote back to King Carlos I of Spain requesting permission to import African slaves to the area to work in mining and processing this precious metal. By 1545 Cartagena de Indias was developing into a prosperous port town, populated mainly by Spaniards who had been attracted by reports of gold. From 1580 to 1630 gold mines were exploited in the inland towns of Zaragoza Cáceres and Remedios which were accessible from Cartagena by river The mines extended the city s area ...

Article

As the son of a free Native American woman, José Leonardo Chirinos was born free. His father was a black slave of the Chirinos family, a prominent Creole family in what was then the Spanish colony of Venezuela. Chirinos was a tenant farmer and sharecropper in Coro, in northwestern Venezuela. He married an enslaved woman who belonged to a landowner named Don José Tellería. Chirinos accompanied Tellería on trips to Haiti and Curaçao, thereby learning of events outside Venezuela. In Haiti, then a French colony, he overheard discussions among black Haitians of their desire for liberty and equality. Because Chirinos had married a slave, his children were automatically slaves, and this increased his dislike for the institution of slavery

Chirinos emerged as leader of a rebellion that erupted near Coro on May 10, 1795 The insurgents called for the liberation of all slaves in Venezuela and demanded ...

Article

Gregory Freeland

Many of the details about Henri Christophe's early life are unclear, but it is thought that he was born a slave on the British-ruled island of Grenada. At a young age he ran away and eventually became the property of a French naval officer and then of a planter on what was then the French-ruled island of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). In 1779 Christophe was part of an armed group sent by the French to assist Americans in defending Savannah, Georgia, against the British. Christophe, at that time a slave orderly, may have fought in a battalion led by the Marquis du Rouvrary; he was wounded in a conflict in Savannah, Georgia, in October 1779. Christophe then returned to Saint-Domingue, and some time during this period he purchased his freedom. By 1790 Christophe was part of a French militia force that overcame two Haitian rebel forces ...