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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

Jeremy Rich

political leader and legendary founder of the Chadian kingdom of Wadai, was born in the late sixteenth century. Since the early nineteenth century, a number of competing narratives have emerged about his origins. Several Wadai notables told the North African traveler Muhammad al-Tunsi during his stay in the kingdom in 1810 and 1811 that Saleh ʿAbd al-Karim came to their land from Mecca via Egypt. Thus he was an Arab whose family may have fled the Ottoman occupation of the Hejaz in 1517. In the mid-nineteenth century the German travelers Heinrich Barth and Gustav Nachtigal both recorded stories about ʿAbd al-Karim’s origins, which stated that the founder of Wadai was a member of a Sudanese Arab clan or a member of a Guimir community located on the modern Chadian-Sudanese frontier. However, a number of elderly Wadai men interviewed by historians in the 1960s and 1970s claimed that he ...

Article

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

A. K. Bennison

Moroccan ruler, was one of the sons of Muhammad al-Shaykh of the Saʿdi or Saadian dynasty, which ruled a region roughly coterminous with modern Morocco from 1525 until c. 1610. He was born Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik to a woman called Sahaba al-Rahmaniyya who accompanied her son on his later travels through the Mediterranean. The Saʿdi dynasty came to power at an important historical juncture. During the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Portugal had constructed numerous trading enclaves (feitorias along Morocco s Atlantic seaboard and imposed its control on much of the Gharb plain In the last decades of the fifteenth century Spain had finally conquered Muslim Granada and established a series of footholds on the Mediterranean coast of Africa At the same time both countries had established vast overseas empires At the other end of the Mediterranean the Ottomans acted as a Muslim counterbalance conquering the ...

Article

Aomar Boum

second sultan of the Saʿdian dynasty, reigned between 1557 and 1574. He was also known Abdallah al-Ghalib Billah. In 1549 Muhammad al-Shaykh occupied Fez, but the Wattasids sought the Ottomans’ help and regained control of Fez in 1554. Muhammad al-Shaykh was able to control Fez and named his son Abdallah al-Ghalib as its governor. Under the authority of al-Ghalib, Fez regained the political stability and economic prosperity that it had lost under the Wattasids. However, it also remained a center of opposition to the emerging Saʿdian dynasty that had already controlled southern Morocco and captured Marrakech from the Wattasids. In 1557 Turkish officers assassinated Muhammad al-Shaykh, and Abdallah al-Ghalib became the new Saʿdian sultan after intense family infighting over the legitimate successor.

Abdallah al-Ghalib faced major internal and external challenges. He moved from Fez to Marrakech in 1558 and made it his new capital The Ottoman Turks were ...

Article

Ahmed T. el-Geili

patriarch of the ʿAbdallab group and cofounder of the first Muslim state in Sudan, the Blue Sultanate, in the sixteenth century, was born ʿAbdallah bin Mohammed al-Baqir.

Shaykh ʿAbdallah Jammaʿ’s father, Mohammed al-Baqir, was a member of the elite Meccan Qawasma tribe, whose members claim to have descended from Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Mohammed al-Baqir is reported to have migrated from Mecca to Sawakin on the Red Sea, where he married Hosna, daughter of Abdallah al-Qareen of the Rufaʿa tribe and where their son ʿAbdallah was born. When the young ʿAbdallah turned seven, his father took him back to Mecca, where he studied the Qurʾan and other religious sciences until the age of twenty-three, when Shaykh ʿAbdallah returned to Sawakin in Sudan.

In Sawakin he married the daughter of the sharif of Sawakin Shaykh Abu Dhanana and began his efforts to unite the dispersed Arab tribes His ...

Article

Aomar Boum

Moroccan troubadour poet and Sufi figure, was born in 1506 in the village of Tit near the city of Azemmour. He is also known as al-Shaykh Abu Zayd Abderrahman al-Majdoub Ibn Ayyad Ibn Yaacub Ibn Salama Ibn Khashan al-Sanhaji al-Dukkali and as al-Majdoub; his contemporaries nicknamed him El Majdoub. He moved with his father to Meknès in 1508 His father was a renowned Sufi trained by al Shaykh Ibrahim Afham al Zarhuni a disciple of al Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq Zarruq was a North African Sufi who lived through the fifteenth century Marinid religious turmoil He called for new interpretations of Islam based on juridical sainthood that stressed religious form Accordingly Zarruq asked Sufi authorities of Fez to avoid opportunistic notions of jihad that scapegoat some Muslims in order to increase the accusers political status Abderrahman El Majdoub was influenced indirectly by some of Zarruq s ideas regarding the nature ...

Article

José Antonio Fernández Molina

was born in Sonsonate, currently located in El Salvador. Nothing is known of his early years, but his later actions and writings show that, despite his ethnic category of mulato, he acquired a cultural capital in writing, law, history, the Bible, and the symbolic figures common in Baroque Spanish literature. Abendaño was recognized as mulato letrado, a highly literate mulatto, at a time when literacy was rare among the African-descended population of Spanish America.

Although he had married Lucia Badillo, also from Sonsonate, by 1765 he already lived in Costa Rica He showed his knowledge of basic law regarding maritime trade in a trial related to a ship s contract This expertise probably came from earlier practice because Acajutla the main port on the Central American Pacific coast was an annex to his birthplace As a literate mulatto he became secretary for Juan José de la Madriz ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

The cultural and economic center of the Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan surrounds the Ébrié Lagoon on the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf of Guinea. Historians are not sure when people first inhabited the area, but modern settlement dates from the early sixteenth century. Later in the century the Ébrié people selected the area as the site for three fishing villages—Locodjo, Anoumabo, and Cocody. Portuguese traders explored the area for a brief period in the seventeenth century, but Europeans largely ignored it until French Colonial rule in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1903 the French chose the settlement as the endpoint for a railway connecting Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) to the coast, and a small town soon developed around the train station. The lack of a viable port, however, initially stifled the town's growth.

In 1934 shortly after the completion of the rail link to the Upper ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian historian, was born in Cairo possibly around the year 1409 three years after the death of his distinguished predecessor Ibn Khaldun He was the son of a Mamluk The Mamluk system relied on the recruitment of fresh slave soldiers and usually excluded the sons of Mamluks Although his father became chief of the Egyptian armies under Sultan al Faraj and governor of Damascus Abu Mahasin Taghribirdi did not have the same opportunity to rise to the same levels in government as his father Although he was welcomed into the Mamluk court and even provided with a fief to maintain his income he concentrated as much on his writing and study as on the maintenance or expansion of his political powers He took an active part in the campaigns of Sultan Barsbay who patronized the work of the historian al ʿAyni It was customary at the time for histories ...

Article

thirtieth and final sultan of the Moroccan Marinid dynasty, became titular head of the state at the age of one, after his father, Abu Saʿid Uthman III, was murdered. This development allowed ʿAbd al-Haqq’s regent, Abu Zakariyya Yahya al-Wattasi, to rule the state in his name. Upon Abu Zakariyya’s death in 1448, his nephew, ʿAli ibn Yusuf, took power, once again in the name of ʿAbd al-Haqq, whom the Wattasids kept excluded from real authority. Ten years later, in 1458, ʿAli ibn Yusuf al Wattasi died, and Abu Zakariyya’s son, Yahya, took over the all-powerful position as ʿAbd al-Haqq’s regent.

It was at this point that ʿAbd al-Haqq rebelled against Wattasid dominance in order to exercise his authority independently. After executing every member of the Wattasid family living in Fez, ʿAbd al-Haqq proceeded to punish Fezzi ulama who had countenanced the Wattasid co optation of power His ...

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

David Dabydeen

Africanservant who served and died in Henbury, Bristol. Africanus was the servant of Charles William, Earl of Suffolk and Bindon. The Earl married into the Astry family of Henbury House. Africanus, who was named after an ancient Roman general, was a symbol of their wealth. He, like other servants of African origin who worked in aristocratic homes, was a novelty who, besides doing domestic chores, also functioned as a showpiece for wealthy guests.

In the 18th century thousands of male and female slaves arrived in Britain to become servants of the rich minority They mainly came from the New World rather than directly from Africa The common erroneous belief was that Bristol slavers brought Africans back and kept them chained in the Redcliff caves before shipping them across the Atlantic The truth was that most African slaves were part of the triangular trade being transported from ...

Article

Agaja  

Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the later decades of the seventeenth century. According to oral traditions collected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Agaja succeeded his brother Akaba to the throne in large part because of his support from influential royal women. Na Geze, a royal princess married to the ruler of the city-state of Ouidah located directly south of Dahomey, supported Agaja’s claims to power. Likewise, his eldest sister and Akaba’s twin Na Hangbe also intervened on the behalf of Akaba’s son Agbo Sassa. According to European slave traders’ accounts and oral narratives, Agaja battled Agbo Sassa for the throne around 1718. Apparently, Hangbe denounced Agaja as a usurper, to no avail; and her son was forced to flee to the north.

Once Agaja had seized the throne he launched a series of reforms within the kingdom and led numerous campaigns against Dahomey s neighbors One ...

Article

Agaja  

Elizabeth Heath

The third ruler of the Dahomey Kingdom, Agaja succeeded his brother, Akaba, in 1708. Agaja was a shrewd and powerful king, expanding the kingdom and making it one of the most powerful in West Africa. He spent much of his early reign instituting administrative reforms that centralized and strengthened the kingdom: he created an elite corps of female guards, enlarged the royal army, and employed a group of military spies who acquired information about neighboring groups. These innovations proved crucial to his victorious conquest of the Allada and Whydah Kingdoms in the 1720s. The acquisition of these coastal kingdoms gave the previously landlocked Dahomey access to the sea and, consequently, European trade.

Agaja's ambition to control the transatlantic slave trade that flowed through these ports brought him into rivalry with the neighboring Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, whose attacks on Dahomey forced Agaja to surrender in 1730 and ...

Article

Agonglo  

Robin Law

king of Dahomey (in modern Benin), was the son of Kpengla, his predecessor as king of Dahomey (r. 1774–1789). His official “Queen Mother” (kpojito), appointed as such after his accession to the throne, was a woman called Senume, but it is not clear whether she was also his biological mother. Contemporary European sources give his name as Wheenoohew, but this is not recognized in Dahoman tradition. He was also alternatively called Adarunza, but this seems to be a generic surname which (also in other variants, such as Adahoonzou) was applied by Europeans to all kings of the dynasty (Agonglo being counted as Adarunza VIII).

Agonglo s accession to the throne was contested with two other princes presenting themselves as candidates and his political position at the beginning of his reign appears to have been insecure requiring him to conciliate his senior officials and the populace more generally ...

Article

Yesenia Barragan

enslaved rebel in the province of Chocó in New Granada modern day Colombia was born in the late eighteenth century Agustina lived in the small town of Pueblo Viejo present day Tadó located south of Quibdó where she was the slave of Miguel Gómez Agustina was admired for her tremendous physical beauty and like all female slaves faced the danger of sexual assault by her master especially common among slaves who lived and worked in close quarters This was the case for Agustina who worked as a cook in addition to performing other household tasks Sometime in the late eighteenth century Agustina was raped and impregnated by Gómez Upon discovering her pregnancy Gómez demanded that Agustina abort the child immediately to avoid public scandal but she refused Abortion infanticide and refusal to abort were common forms of resistance employed by enslaved women to control their bodies and livelihoods Consequently Gómez ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Ahmad Baba was one of the best-known Islamic scholars and writers of his time. Born into the prestigious Aqit family near Tombouctou (Timbuktu) in 1556, he was educated in Islamic theology and law. After completing his studies, he began writing books and treatises on theology, Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Arabic grammar. Over the course of his life he wrote more than fifty-six works. More than half of these are still in existence, and several are still used by West African ulama (scholars). Ahmad Baba also was a great collector of books; he amassed a library containing thousands of volumes. At this time, Tombouctou, ruled by the Songhai empire, was renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of learning.

In 1591 the sultan of Morocco invaded Tombouctou. Ahmad Baba and other scholars refused to serve the Moroccan rulers and, by some accounts, instigated a 1593 rebellion against ...