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Article

Allan D. Austin

a military leader in Africa, a slave in Mississippi, was born into the rising Bari family of the Fulbe people in the fabled but real African city of Timbuktu. His name is sometimes written as Abdul Rahahman and Abder Rahman. The Fulbe people were prominent leaders in West African jihads from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and, though enslaved, the most persistent adherents to Islam in the Americas. Abd al-Rahman's father and family had moved south to territory soon to be called Futa Jallon in the highlands of present-day Guinea after he and non-Muslim allies wrested power from their animist opposition between 1776 and 1778. Well into the twentieth century the military Bari-Soriya and religious Karamoko Alfiya families, usually peacefully, traded rule over their people and lands.

For about a century Futa Jallon was the strongest nation in the area. In its capital Timbo, Abd al-Rahman ...

Primary Source

Although the colony of Maryland imported indentured servants to work in the burgeoning tobacco industry the law initially allowed for a process of manumission as well as some basic legal rights for workers Moreover blacks were among several ethnic groups who worked as indentured servants In September 1664 however a session of Maryland s General Assembly passed a new law focused specifically on African Americans declaring that all black servants were to now be labeled as slaves on a permanent basis In addition freeborn women who married slaves would also serve their husband s master and their children would also become the master s property for the term of their lives a provision designed to prevent shameful interracial relationships The act demonstrates that slavery was not a practice inherited by the colony but was instead imposed well over a generation after Maryland was founded It would take until 1864 for ...

Article

Jeffrey A. Fortin

The idea of Africa changed dramatically from antiquity to the era of European exploration and colonization; European and African views of each other continually transformed as a result of the evolving nature of their interaction. The Atlantic slave trade, perhaps the most significant event in the history of Africa, forever changed the manner in which Africans and Europeans intermingled. Perceptions of Africa were fluid, shifting according to geographic, economic, political, racial, and religious factors stemming from within as well as outside the continent. By 1830 the most broadly held notion of Africa had transformed from one of reverence, by the peoples of antiquity, to one of contempt and apprehension, by early modern Europeans. For Africans in the diaspora, the land of their ancestors' birth remained a symbol of guidance, hope, and spirituality.

Article

Carlos Franco Liberato and Martha I. Pallante

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the African diaspora, from the origins of slave trade through nineteenth-century America. The first article focuses on the evolution and criticism of the diaspora, while the second article focuses on the cultural effects of this forced transatlantic migration.]

Article

John Herschel Barnhill

The African diaspora is the movement of people of African descent to other parts of the world; participants in the diaspora are diasporans. Struggle and resistance and the impulse to freedom inform the African diasporan memory, religion, and culture. The transatlantic African diaspora began in the fifteenth century. Earlier, Africans had moved individually and voluntarily to the Middle East, Europe, and Asia; their descendants merged with the dominant population, and only their DNA showed their African ancestry. The 1 to 11 million northern and eastern Africans taken by the Arab slave trade to Islamic countries in Asia and the Middle East intermarried, blended, and left only their DNA as physical evidence. The transatlantic slave trade relocated 10 to 12 million Africans, too many for the white populations of the Americas to absorb, particularly given the nature of the slavery and the assumptions underlying it.

Article

Amistad  

Elizabeth R. Purdy

On 28 June 1839 the schooner La Amistad sailed from Havana, Cuba, en route to Puerto Príncipe, carrying fifty-three Africans, including four children. These so-called slaves were in fact free Africans who had been stolen from their homes in West Africa and brought to Cuba. Two Spanish planters, José Ruiz and Pedro Montes, purchased them, gave them Spanish names, and falsely labeled them as native Cubans. After the schooner's cook jokingly told them that they were to be “killed, salted, and cooked,” the Africans decided to revolt. Three days after setting sail, the captives Joseph Cinqué and Grabeau led the Africans in using wood and knives to overpower the crew. During the battle three Africans as well as the schooner's captain and cook were killed.

After the revolt the Africans ordered theAmistad crew to return them to Africa However the Spaniards secretly turned the ship around each ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

On June 29, 1820, an American revenue cutter captured the Spanish vessel the Antelope off the coast of northern Florida, bringing it to port in Savannah, Georgia. The Antelope had been seized by pirates, and over 280 Africans were discovered chained in the ship's hold. Some of the Africans had been on the Antelope when it was taken by the pirates, but others had been seized from at least two other slave ships, one Portuguese and one sailed illegally by Americans. The U.S. district attorney for Georgia argued that the captives were free under the acts of the U.S. government prohibiting the Transatlantic Slave Trade in 1808 and declaring the slave trade to be a form of piracy in 1820. The Spanish and Portuguese governments, however, which had not outlawed the slave trade, claimed the Africans as property stolen from ships of their nations.

The case went to ...

Article

David Brion Davis

As even Aristotle acknowledged, natural slavery—the bondage of people who are born to be slaves—is different from other varieties of servitude which Aristotle admitted might sometimes be unjust, such as slavery forced upon the conquered by the conqueror. Yet the condition of slavery itself has not always been the most abject form of servitude, and is not necessarily so today. Some contract labor, though technically free, is more oppressive than many types of conventional bondage. One thinks, for example, of the Chinese “coolies” who were transported in the mid–nineteenth century across the Pacific to the coast of Peru, where they died in appalling numbers from the lethal effects of shoveling seabird excrement for the world's fertilizer market.

The same point applies to much convict labor which as involuntary servitude is specifically made legitimate by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution as an exception to its national abolition of ...

Article

In 1727, Robert “King” Carter the richest planter in Virginia purchased a handful of African slaves from a trader who had been cruising the Chesapeake The transaction was a familiar one to the great planter for Carter owned hundreds of slaves and had inspected many such human cargoes choosing the most promising from among the weary frightened men and women who had survived the transatlantic crossing Writing to his overseer from his plantation on the Rappahannock River Carter explained the process by which he initiated Africans into their American captivity I name d them here by their names we can always know what sizes they are of I am sure we repeated them so often to them that every one knew their name would readily answer to them Carter then forwarded his slaves to a satellite plantation or quarter where his overseer repeated the process taking care that ...

Article

Paul E. Lovejoy

abolitionist and slave-narrative author was born in the commercial center of Djougou West Africa inland from the Bight of Benin in what would later be the republic of Benin He was a younger son of a Muslim merchant from Borgu and his wife who was from Katsina the Hausa city in northern Nigeria then known as the Sokoto Caliphate his parents names are now unknown His home town Djougou was located on one of the most important caravan routes in West Africa in the nineteenth century connecting Asante the indigenous African state that controlled much of the territory that would become Ghana and the Sokoto Caliphate After a childhood in which he attended a Koranic school and learned a craft from his uncle who was also a merchant and a Muslim scholar Baquaqua followed his brother to Dagomba a province of Asante There he was captured in war in ...

Primary Source

This bill was presented to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia on 16 June 1777. Thomas Jefferson wanted to establish law that would at least take the first steps toward ending the institution of slavery. The bill, however, only covered the importation of slaves into the commonwealth; it was not an end to slavery. Slaves who fled their masters or who visited the commonwealth were not covered for manumission, and not even marriage or last will and testaments would change slave status. The bill also repealed the parts of the previous 1753 act for better governing of servants and slaves.

This effort by Jefferson to address the issue of perpetuation of slavery foreshadowed later legislation passed in the U S Congress that ended the importation of slaves but not the domestic slave trade The population of slaves in time grew to the extent that the reproduction rate was ...

Article

Roland Barksdale-Hall and Diane L. Barnes

The television adaptation of Alex Haley's Roots (1976), which traced the history of a black family beginning with its African progenitor, Kunta Kinte, aired to wide public acclaim in the 1970s. The family saga generated considerable attention, as evidenced by a rise in popular interest about the black family and genealogical organizations across the United States. The following decade Dorothy Spruill Redford organized a reunion of more than two thousand descendants of enslaved Africans—including herself—and their masters, then wrote Somerset Homecoming (1988). From the end of the twentieth century, Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family (1998) tells the story of the intertwined lives of slaves and their masters in antebellum South Carolina.

Firsthand slave narratives, while limited in number, are excellent primary sources. Narratives that give accounts of enslaved Africans' introduction to the Americas, such as the two-volume Interesting Narrative of the ...

Article

Kari J. Winter

slave, sailor, soldier, and farmer, was born Boyrereau Brinch, the seventh of eight children (four boys and four girls) born to Whryn Brinch, the son of Yarrah Brinch, and of Whryn Douden Wrogan, the daughter of Grassee Youghgon. He lived in the city of Deauyah in the kingdom of Bow-woo, which was probably situated in the Niger River basin, in the area that would later become Mali. In 1758 when he was around the age of sixteen Boyrereau was abducted by slave traders transported to Barbados and sold to Captain Isaac Mills of New Haven Connecticut who trained him for British naval service Like thousands of other slaves and freed Africans in the Caribbean Brace as he would come to be called years later after his manumission This may have been an anglicized version of Brinch was forced to labor aboard ship during ...

Primary Source

The British government's formal involvement with the slave trade began in 1660 when Charles II charted the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa. The Company traded not only in slaves but also in gold, silver, ivory, and other goods. Stock in the Company was held by the royal family and many in the aristocracy. In 1663, due to poor management, the Company was reorganized. One of the elements of the reorganization was that exclusive rights to the slave trade were given to the Company, which was made up almost exclusively of London merchants. Still the Company did not succeed financially, due in large part to England's war with Holland, and it dissolved in 1667.

In 1672 a new company was formed called the Royal African Company RAC However this new company had many of the same stockholders and exclusive rights to the slave trade remained with London In 1689 ...

Article

From the colonial era to the present, black organizations and leaders have promoted business as a route to economic equality, both on an individual basis and through the encouragement of support for black business by black economic nationalists. Other long traditions among blacks include cooperative economic ventures, from the burial societies and mutual benefit societies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the fraternal organizations and black banks and insurance companies of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The past century saw the development of black business empires built on the black consumer market and, in the late 1900s, competition and integration of black business with white corporate America.

Article

John W. Pulis and David Simonelli

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the Caribbean from 1492 through 1895 The first article discusses the Caribbean slave trade the transmission of cultural identities and the Caribbean s influence on North America while the second article discusses the 1834 emancipation of slaves in the Caribbean and annual ...

Article

The first Africans came to the region of present-day South Carolina as slaves with a Spanish expedition in 1526. Nearly 150 years later, another group of Africans arrived in Charleston—or Charles Town, the name by which it was first known. Approximately 1,000 Akan and Asante people arrived as slaves to the English settlers from Barbados who established Charles Town as the first permanent settlement in South Carolina in 1670. Beginning in the 1690s, slaves from present-day Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia provided the labor force and expertise for growing rice in the colony. There were also Bantu-speaking slaves from Kongo and Angola, the ancestors of the Gullah communities that thrived for centuries in the Sea Islands near Charleston. By 1700, African slaves and their African American children had become the majority of Charleston's population.

In the eighteenth century Charleston became the most active center ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

also known as Tallen and John Bull, was enslaved in Africa, shipped to America, freed by the interception of a British vessel, made prisoner of war while serving in the British navy, then tricked into slavery in Savannah, Georgia; he earned and purchased his freedom three times over, being defrauded the first two times.

From accounts he gave later in life, it is believed he was born among the Kissi, a people ethnologically related to the Malinke, in what is now Guinea, on a tributary of the Niandan River. His given name was Tallen. Captured in a local war at age 12, and brought to the coast for sale as a slave, he was being transported across the Atlantic when the ship carrying him was intercepted by a British vessel, probably in 1811. The exact circumstances remain a matter of controversy. By his own account, recorded in 1857 ...

Article

Robert Fay

Although Sengbe—pronounced Sin’gway, and later Anglicized as Joseph Cinque—lived for approximately sixty-six years, he is best known for his role in a drama that lasted a little more than three years. Scholars believe that Cinque, who belonged to the Mende ethnic group, was a married man and father before his abduction. Cinque was born in Sierra Leone and at about the age of twenty-six, he was kidnapped by slave raiders and sold to Portuguese slave traders who took him to Havana, Cuba. There, he and other Africans were resold and put on the Amistad Shortly after leaving Havana harbor Cinque led a group of slaves who freed themselves and attacked the ship s crew killing all but two crewmembers The rebels kept these two alive and ordered them to sail back to Africa The crewmembers however tricked them and sailed north About two months later the ship landed ...

Article

Coffee  

Alice Knox Eaton

or Cuffee slave insurrectionist was the reported leader of the first major slave rebellion in the American colonies His name means son born on a Friday in the Akan language of Gold Coast Africans The Akan known in the era of the slave trade as Coromantees were reputed to resist enslavement with great bravery and ferocity In the early eighteenth century slavery had become an integral part of the economy of New York City with an active slave market and a regular influx of slave labor from Africa As the slave population grew treatment of slaves became increasingly brutal as British colonists attempted to make slave labor as productive in the North as it was in the South Unlike slaves on southern plantations however slaves in New York City lived in densely populated areas and had many more opportunities to meet with one another and plan organized resistance On the ...