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Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean leader of anticolonial revolt against Italy and warlords from northern Ethiopia, and popular hero, was born in the town of Segeneity. The exact date of his birth is unknown: he was born between 1839 and 1850 into a rich peasant family. Bahta Hagos’s parents, Hagos Andu and Weizero Wonau, were agro-pastoralists who owned farmlands around Segeneity and in the eastern escarpments. As a young man, he became renowned for his physical strength as well as for his skills as a cattle herder. Like a majority of the people in Eritrea in colonial times, Bahta Hagos was converted from Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity to Roman Catholicism in the 1870s.

Bahta Hagos rose to prominence after he killed fitewrari Embaye, the son of Araya Selassie Demsu—the Ethiopian emperor Yohannes IV’s uncle and the governor of the Agame area in Tigray. After Embaye arrived at Segeneity in October 1875 he ordered that ...

Article

Gordon Root

Ignacio Villa, known by his stage name, Bola de Nieve, was born and grew up in a poor neighborhood in Guanabacoa, Cuba. His parents introduced him to Afro-Cuban music when he was a child, and he was exposed to European classical music in his formal studies. His classical training began when he studied privately with Gerado Guanche. Later Villa enrolled in the Conservatorio de José Mateu, where he studied mandolin and flute as well as piano.

At home Villa absorbed many elements of traditional Afro-Cuban music through his contact with Rumba and other rhythms and dances. It has been suggested that his parents participated in African-based religions and that young Ignacio had been educated in the music and practices of Afro-Cuban religion as well.

As a boy Villa helped support his family by performing in house for neighborhood audiences His professional career began in the 1920s ...

Article

N. Gregson Davis

Aimé Césaire (1913–2008) was a major literary figure, statesman, and intellectual leader, both in the francophone Antilles and in the international arena, from the middle of the twentieth century. As a young social activist, he played a formative role in the articulation of the seminal concept of négritude, a neologism that he is credited with having invented. As literary artist he has achieved global recognition for his poetry and lyric drama in signal ways; for example, his lyric volume Corps Perdu (Lost Body) was published in a deluxe edition with illustrations by Pablo Picasso in 1950; several of his poetry collections won literary prizes in metropolitan France (e.g., the Prix René Laporte for Ferrements [1960], and the Grand Prix National de la Poésie for moi, laminaire … [1982]). La Tragédie du roi Christophe The Tragedy of King Christophe a play based ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

legendary hero of the Afro-Brazilian community, is believed by many to have been born in the kingdom of Kongo in Central Africa in the early eighteenth century. With few written sources available about his origins or his life that could help confirm the many stories told about Rei in later years, it is difficult to determine with precision many of the narratives that emerged about him. According to many stories about Rei, he was a leader of his people in Kongo and was captured by African rivals. These enemies sold him to a visiting Brazilian slave ship, which brought Rei and his unfortunate companions across the Atlantic to the Minas Gerais region of southern Brazil. His wife and most of his family were said to have died during the long voyage. Only one son was believed to have survived.

During the early eighteenth century Brazilian prospectors discovered large deposits of ...

Article

legendary founder of the Chadian kingdom of Baguirmi, was apparently born in the early sixteenth century. Given the wealth of legends about his life and the lack of documentary evidence, it may be that stories involving Dala Birni Bisse may refer to events linked to several early mbang kings of Baguirmi Many oral traditions collected about Dala Birni Bisse claim that his grandfather ʿAbd al Tukruru was the great grandson of ʿAli son in law of the prophet Muhammad Supposedly ʿAbd al Tukruru s father Muhammad Baguirmi was a black child of two Arabian parents who was nearly killed by his angry relatives ʿAbd al Tukruru advised his twelve sons and twelve of their friends to leave Yemen and establish a kingdom somewhere to the west They brought with them bellows made of stone from the holy city of Medina three drums three trumpets and three lances carried by ...

Article

Diyab,  

Allen J. Fromherz

the Aeneas of North African Arabs, was a semilegendary Arab chief and a primary character in the most important medieval Arab epic, the Sira al-Hilaliyya. The Sira al-Hilaliyya glorifies the story of the great “western march” of Arabs from their original homelands to Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The Sira tells of the odyssey of the Arab migrants who journeyed from Yemen and Arabia to the more verdant lands of North Africa. It relates the resistance they encountered from Berber peoples as they spread across the continent in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The arrival of the Arabs irrevocably changed the cultural and linguistic landscape of the Maghreb.

The first part of the Sira takes place in Arabia and details long struggles between warring factions and the eventual displacement of one tribe the Banu Hilal to the land of Jaziya in North Africa Driven from Arabia by famine ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

musician, activist, author, painter, and sculptor, was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of nine children. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His father, Richard Havens, worked as a metal plater and dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, eventually learning to play a number of instruments. Richie's mother Mildred a bookbinder and casual singer at home encouraged her young son when he started singing background vocals at the age of twelve for local groups All kinds of music were played in the Havens home Richie s grandmother listened to Yiddish gospel and big band music his mother enjoyed country music and his father loved jazz He joined the doo wop singing group the Five Chances at age fifteen and performed the next year with the Brooklyn McCrea Gospel Singers a group that sang hymns for neighborhood churches Havens ...

Article

David C. Conrad

ruler of the West African Soso Empire in present-day Mali, was a central iconic figure in the Sunjata epic. In this story, Kanté is described as a “sorcerer king” and is credited with the acquisition of Mande musical instruments and conquest of pre-Malian Mande chiefdoms. His sister Kosiya Kanté was the mother of Fakoli Koroma, who is claimed as an ancestor by most Mande endogamous blacksmith lineages.

Our knowledge of Sumanguru also known as Sumaworo Sumamuru Sumawolo and other similar names comes almost entirely from oral tradition although his ephemeral kingdom is historical and it is reasonable to assume the existence of the ruler on which this legendary character is based Moreover in the Mande worldview Sumanguru plays a pivotal role in events affecting key historical ancestors and leading up to the founding of the Mali Empire The existence of Sumanguru s kingdom is acknowledged in the Arabic sources including ...

Article

David C. Conrad

also known as Mari Djata I was credited in oral tradition with founding of the Mali Empire and acknowledged in an Arabic source as ruler of his western sudanic state Sunjata s place of birth has often been identified as the village of Niani on the Sankaran River but there are convincing arguments against this Recently presented etymological and oral evidence points to the no longer extant village of Farakoro in the chiefdom of Konfara a region of modern day northeastern Guinea near the Mali border The oral sources identify Sunjata s father by various names associated with his chieftaincy including Maghan Konfara Naré Maghan Konaté and Farako Manko Farakonkèn Oral tradition recalls Sunjata s most distant paternal ancestor as Mamadi Kani in a genealogy that continues with other ancestral names recognizable in a score of variants but it is not clear if the earliest ones represent sons of Mamadi ...

Article

Kimera  

Holly Hanson

semimythical king of Buganda in what is now southern Uganda is said to have been born in the palace of Winyi I ruler of Bunyoro a neighboring kingdom to the north His mother was Wannyana the chief wife of King Winyi According to the dynastic history of Buganda Kimera s father was Kalemeera son of Kabaka King Chwa and grandson of Kabaka Kintu the founder of the Buganda kingdom Kalemeera was invited by King Winyi to sleep in the house occupied by his wife and found her irresistible Kalemeera died as he journeyed south after fathering Kimera The newborn Kimera was thrown into a clay pit but Mulegeya a royal potter retrieved the baby and raised him in his own household supported with gifts of cattle from Wannyana When Ganda chiefs learned of Kimera s existence they called him to come and rule Buganda In the Nyoro version of the ...

Article

Ryan Ronnenberg

Tanzanian spirit medium, mganga (traditional doctor), political and military leader, and revolutionary, was likely born in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He was a central figure in the 1905 Maji Maji uprising against German colonial forces in southeastern Tanganyika. Most famously, Kinyikitile was responsible for the introduction of maji, or “water,” war medicine, which rendered the blessed impervious to bullets. The Maji Maji conflict itself, owing in no small part to its inclusion of different ethnic and linguistic groups at a very early date, has been the subject of intense interest by nationalist historians, and an appreciation of Kinjikitile’s significance to Tanzania must discern the extent to which he fits the role of proto-nationalist hero.

Kinjikitile may have found fertile ground for his teachings among turn of the century southern Tanganyikan peoples who generally concurred with his assertions of a kind of spiritual hierarchy including a creator ...

Article

Nicola Cooney

Jorge de Lima was the son of José Mateus de Lima, a wealthy businessman, and Delmira Simões Lima. He studied humanities at Maceió, the seaport capital city of Alagoas State, Brazil, and earned a degree in medicine, which he practiced in Maceió and Rio de Janeiro. He went on to become a university professor and local politician in Rio de Janeiro.

Lima's talent for writing emerged at an early age. He published his first poems, including “O Acendedor dos Lampiões” (The Street Lamp Lighters, 1907 in a small literary paper he produced while still in secondary school He spent his childhood living either at the stately house of a sugar plantation or the family s second home in the city These experiences inspired much of his literary work Both his father and his maternal grandfather were white abolitionists who refused to accept slave labor on ...

Article

Kimani Njogu

, legendary Swahili leader (also referred to as Liongo Fumo), was born in Siu. One of the most remarkable figures in Swahili oral traditions, Liyongo’s praises are found in Utendi wa Fumo Liyongo (The Epic of Liyongo), composed in 1913 by Muhamadi bin Abubakar bin Omari al-Bakry, popularly known as Muhammad Kijumwa. The epic is derived from the oral tradition of the Swahili as the most authoritative source on Liyongo.

It is not clear when Liyongo lived. Some scholars have suggested that he lived in the ninth century, while others have dated him between 1160 and –1204, or circa 1600. It is likely that Fumo Liyongo lived around the thirteenth century around Pate on the northern Kenyan coast. In Tarekhe ya Pate The History of Pate reference is made to a ruler in the region of Ozi by the name of Fumo Liyongo who lived at the time ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

king (r. 205–148 BCE) of Numidia, the territory south and west of Carthage, who brought his kingdom from a Carthaginian-allied principality to one of the major powers of the era and began the romanization of North Africa. The sources for his long career are Polybius 14, Livy 25–42, and Appian, Libyka.

Massinissa was educated at Carthage a protégé of the famous Hasdrubal He fell in love with Hasdrubal s daughter Sophoniba who was married to Syphax a rival for the throne of Numidia When the Romans invaded the region in the Second Punic War Massinissa gave Sophoniba poison so that she would not be captured alive He fought for Carthage in the early years of the war commanding a group of cavalry that went as far west as Tingis modern Tangier and then crossed into Spain and was responsible for killing the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio the Elder ...

Article

Mbegha  

J. C. Winter

was the partly historical, partly legendary founder of the Kilindi royal dynasty of the Shambaa of Usambara in present-day Tanzania. He was the great-grandfather of Kimweri ye Nyumbai (c. 1815–1862), who was responsible for the expansion and consolidation of the kingdom, after which it disintegrated into an array of local chiefdoms under the strains of slave-raiding promoted by his son Semboja at Mazinde. Much of what is known about Mbegha is based on oral traditions, and historians have tried to separate historical facts from the myths contained in those oral traditions. What is indisputable historical fact is that three generations before Kimweri there was a founder of the dynasty, and most likely his name was Mbegha, which means “Colobus monkey.” Probably also historical were some of the details of his life.

Mbegha was a native of Ngululand to the southwest of Usambara which he left as a social outcast Together ...

Article

Menes,  

Jacco Dieleman

legendary Egyptian pharaoh. According to Egyptian tradition, Menes was the first human to rule Egypt as king after the succession of gods and heroes, and he is considered the founder of the pharaonic state for having united Upper and Lower Egypt into one political and cultural unity. As a cultural hero, he is not a historical figure but the product of historical imagination and cultural memory.

No written records contemporary with the period of Egyptian state formation c 3300 3000 BCE mention Menes s name In fact his name is not attested in writing before the Ramesside period c 1302 1198 BCE when his name occurs in king lists the Abydos King List the Turin Canon and the Min Festival reliefs in the Ramesseum However earlier annals are fragmentary and may have contained his name The king lists place him at the head of royal succession but give no biographical ...

Article

folk artist, community activist, and Mardi Gras Indian leader, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Alfred Montana, “Big Chief” of the Yellow Pocahontas, a leading Mardi Gras Indian organization, and Alice Herrere Montana, both natives of New Orleans. When he was young, one of his cousins nicknamed him Tootie, and the name stuck. Masking as Mardi Gras Indians ran deep in the Montana family. Tootie was a third-generation black Indian leader. His great-uncle Becate Batiste was the legendary founding Big Chief of the Creole Wild West, the city's first and oldest masking Indian society; his father Alfred Montana was a famous leader of the Yellow Pocahontas, which was an offshoot of the Creole Wild West; but Tootie eventually surpassed both by far in terms of craftsmanship, influence, and fame.

The Mardi Gras Indian culture developed as an expression of black resistance ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

also known as Macías Nguema Biyogho Negue Ndong, Equatorial Guinean politician, was born on 1 January 1924 in the northern Gabonese village of Nfenga near the border of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon So many stories have emerged about Nguema s early life that it is hard to verify many of the details of his childhood His father has long been portrayed as a ritual specialist of indigenous spiritual traditions held by many Fang speaking people Nguema and his father both belonged to the Esengui Fang speaking clan Nguema accompanied his father in a move across the border from Gabon to the town of Mengomo in Equatorial Guinea in the 1920s which was part of the Río Muni province of Spanish Guinea at the time He there attended an elementary school staffed by Catholic missionaries Nguema showed little interest in church or school but he learned how to speak and ...

Article

Douglas H. Johnson

also Wundeng was the most important Nuer prophet in nineteenth century Sudan Operating in the expanding eastern frontier of Nuer society which was absorbing many Dinka and Anuak into newly founded Nuer communities Ngundeng more than any other contemporary spiritual leader drew on the religious images and ideas of many peoples and created a new prophetic idiom He claimed to be seized by and speak with the voice of Deng a Dinka divinity widely known among other Nilotic peoples he merged the symbolism of the Dinka spear masters with that of Nuer leopard skin priests in his own rites and by building a large mound shrine in the territory of the Lou Nuer among whom he lived he created a permanent physical focus for spiritual activity for the Nuer and their neighbors He enunciated a social philosophy that promoted the incorporation of foreign peoples into Nuer society and opposed ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

artist and writer, was born Faith Willie Jones at Harlem Hospital in New York City, the youngest of three children of Willi(e) Edell (Posey) and Andrew Louis Jones Sr., a truck driver for the city sanitation department. The Joneses separated in the early 1930s and divorced in 1942, by which time Willi Jones had begun work as a seamstress in the garment district. By the 1950s, using the name Madame Willi Posey, she had established a small dressmaking and design business in Harlem. Faith, who suffered from severe asthma and missed kindergarten and much of first grade because of her illness, enjoyed an especially close relationship with her mother, who organized creative projects to occupy her curious daughter. After graduating from Morris High School (she spent the first three years at George Washington High School) in 1948 Faith Jones began studying art at the City ...