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Steven J. Niven

Pan-Africanactivist, was born Amy Ashwood in Port Antonio, Jamaica, to relatively prosperous middle-class parents. Her father was a successful caterer in Panama, and shortly after her birth Amy traveled with her brother and mother to live there. She returned to Jamaica in 1907 to be educated at the renowned Westwood Training College for Women, from which she graduated in 1914 It was there that the twelve year old first learned that her forebears had been taken forcibly from Africa by British traders and enslaved in Jamaica Though frightened and angered to learn the horrors of the Middle Passage Ashwood also became determined to learn more about her African roots A visit to her elderly grandmother who had been sold into slavery as a girl on the African Gold Coast instilled in her a strong sense of pride in her Ashanti ancestors She determined then that she had ...


Christopher Clapham

emperor of Ethiopia, was born Tafari Makonnen; his father was Ras Makonnen, first cousin of Emperor Menilek II and governor of Harar in southeast Ethiopia. Educated by Jesuit missionaries and at secondary school in Addis Ababa, he was appointed governor of Harar at the age of 17. In September 1916 Menilek’s grandson and successor Yasu was ousted in a palace coup, and his daughter Zawditu installed as empress, with Tafari (whose role in the coup has remained obscure) as regent and heir to the throne with the title of ras, thus gaining the name by which he was to be known to the Rastarafians.

Over the next fourteen years, Tafari gradually built up his power through a capacity for skillful political maneuver that he never lost, steadily reducing the power of formerly quasi-independent regional governors. He was instrumental in securing Ethiopia’s admission to the League of Nations in 1923 ...


David Goldsworthy

Kenyan political leader, was born Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya near Thika, north of Nairobi, on or about 15 August 1930. He was the eldest of the six children of Leonardus Ndiege, a sisal cutter from Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, and Ndiege’s wife Marsella Awuor. By ethnic identity Mboya was a Suba Luo. He was baptized a Catholic and was given the additional name of Joseph at his confirmation. Between the ages of 7 and 17, he attended Irish-run schools in widely dispersed parts of the country. In his book Freedom and After (1963), he maintained that his nontribal outlook in later life owed much to a childhood during which he lived among and learned the languages of several of Kenya’s major ethnic communities, notably Luo, Kikuyu, and Kamba.

From 1948 to 1950 Mboya attended the Jeanes School a vocational training college at Kabete near Nairobi There ...


Joseph Goakai

leader of Sierra Leonean rebel group the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), was born Foday Saybana Sankoh in Masumbiri, Kholifa Rowala Chiefdom, Tonkolili District in the northern province of Sierra Leone on 17 October 1937. His father, Morlai Sankoh, was an ethnic Temne from Masang, Tonkolili District, who for a long time moved between farming and dealing in gold. His mother, Mbalu Serry, was also a Temne from Robis, in the Kholifa Rowala Chiefdom, Tonkolili District.

Sankoh descended from a fierce local warrior family on his father s side and a prominent local ruling family on his mother s side His paternal grandfather Pa Fosekie Fosiki Sankoh was a local warrior from a town called Yunkro Yonkro in the Kafu Bollom Chiefdom Port Loko District and was a chartered mercenary in the Temnedom According to the family oral history Pa Fosekie was hired from Yonkro during the tribal wars of ...


Elizabeth Schmidt

president of Guinea, trade union leader, and champion of Pan-African unity, was born on 9 January 1922 in Faranah, Guinea. He attended qurʾanic school, lower-primary school, and vocational school, before continuing his studies by correspondence. Although revered as a pioneer of African nationalism, Touré tarnished his record with a postindependence regime that was notorious for its human rights violations.

In 1945, Touré helped to establish a trade union for African postal, telegraph, and telephone workers, holding the position of secretary-general. The following year, he organized the Union des Syndicats Confédérés de Guinée (USCG; Union of the Confederated Trade Unions of Guinea), which brought together all the Guinean affiliates of the French Communist Party’s Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT; General Confederation of Labor). Touré’s greatest success as a trade union leader came in 1953 when workers across the colonized regions of French West Africa went on strike to force ...