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Fabre-Nicolas Geffrard was a general in the Haitian army during the reign of Faustin Elie Soulouque. He participated in Soulouque's unsuccessful effort to invade the Dominican Republic in 1849. In 1859 Geffrard led the insurrection which deposed Soulouque, and subsequently assumed the presidency. In 1867 he was ...


Robert Fay

Former Nigerian president Yakubu Gowon was born in Plateau State, Nigeria. As the country’s military ruler from 1966 to 1975, he advocated unity for Nigeria and national reconciliation after the conclusion of the Biafran War. After his ouster in a bloodless coup, Gowon took the role of a senior statesman and continued to work toward regional cooperation in West Africa.

A Christian missionary’s son, Gowon was born into the Anga ethnic group in the Northern Region of Nigeria. He completed secondary school in Zaria, Nigeria, in 1953. Gowon joined the Nigerian army and began his military training in Teshie, Ghana in 1954. In 1955 he moved to Great Britain, where he completed his studies at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst the following year.

Gowon served in Ibadan, at the Nigeria-Cameroon border and in The Democratic Republic of Congo He attained the rank of lieutenant ...


Chloe Campbell

Siaka Stevens was educated at Albert Academy at Freetown and went on to study trade-union operation and industrial relations at Ruskin College, Oxford, England (1947–1948). He first gained national recognition through his work in trade-union organization. In 1943 he cofounded the United Mine Workers’ Union, after becoming a mine worker at the Marampa Mines with the Sierra Leone Development Company (DELCO). His energetic prominence in the labor movement resulted in his appointment to the Sierra Leone Protectorate Assembly in 1946.

In 1951 Stevens, Milton Margai, and several others formed the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP). The SLPP became a powerful force in national politics. In the same year Stevens was also elected to the Legislative Council and in 1952 went on to become minister of Lands, Mines, and Labour.

Stevens’s growing disillusionment with the SLPP culminated in him leaving it in 1958 and he then cofounded ...


Lansana Gberie

third prime minister and first president of Sierra Leone, was born in Moyamba District, in Southern Sierra Leone, on 24 August 1905. He was the son of James Tibin Stevens, a former soldier in the notorious West African Frontier Force, and Miatta Massaquoi, part of the household of King Siaka, a prominent Mende chief and a key participant in the slave trade. Stevens’s father was from the Limba people, in the north of Sierra Leone, who—Stevens bitterly wrote in his memoirs—were regarded by others “as backward and somewhat simpleminded.” His mother was a domestic servant in King Siaka’s compound. Apart from a brief spell at the Albert Academy in Freetown, Stevens had little formal education before joining the colonial police force in 1923.

Stevens joined the police in January 1923, attaining the rank of sergeant before leaving in 1931 He had applied and was rejected for ...


Ari Nave

While attending the University of Montpellier in France, Tsiranana, an ethnic Tsimihety, formed the Union des Etudiants Malgaches in reaction to the Merina-dominated Association des Etudiants d’Origine Malgache. The Merina had historically dominated precolonial Madagascar, and the non-Merina population, also known collectively as côtiers or déshérités, feared continued subjugation at the hands of Merina rulers. These ethnic and political divisions would shape Tsiranana’s political career.

When Tsiranana returned to Madagascar in 1950, he became a schoolteacher in Majuna and took up local politics, joining the Parti des Déshérités de Madagascar. In 1956 he returned to France to represent his district in the French National Assembly, where he also joined the French Socialist Party. Later that year, Tsiranana returned to Madagascar and formed the Parti Social Démocrate (PSD), an anti-Merina political party favoring close ties to France over immediate independence. In 1957 he was elected vice president of the ...


Mary H. Moran

nineteenth president of Liberia, was born William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman on 29 November 1895 in Maryland County, Liberia. His paternal grandparents, Sylvia and William Shadrach Tubman, were among a group of slaves freed by the Tubman family of Augusta, Georgia, and sent to Liberia in 1844. Tubman’s mother, Elizabeth Barnes, also came from Atlanta, Georgia. Maryland County, in southeastern Liberia, was of all Liberian territories the farthest removed from the capital, Monrovia, and until 1857 was itself a tiny independent state called Maryland in Africa Until Tubman s rise to power most Liberian leaders had come from a small number of Monrovia or Grand Bassa based families Maryland was considered a backwater Tubman received his education in local Methodist schools and at one time planned to become a minister like his father Alexander who also represented Maryland County in the Liberian House of Representatives He read law with ...


Born in Harper, of American-Liberian descent, William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman was trained as a preacher and lawyer. Having served as a county attorney and trial judge, he was elected to the Liberian Senate (1923), where he remained (though not uninterruptedly) until 1937; he then became associate justice of the Liberian Supreme Court. The candidate of the ruling True Whig party, he was elected president in 1943 and assumed office in 1944. During his twenty-seven years as president, he made some attempts to bring African men into government and give them, as well as women, a legal status equal to that of the Americo-Liberian elite. To improve the living standard in Liberia, he followed an open-door economic policy, which opened the country to extensive foreign investment, while externally acting as a U.S. ally and moderate. Tubman sponsored the 1961 conference of African heads of state to ...