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Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire  

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 ...


Asmara, Eritrea  

David P. Johnson

Asmara is located in a highland region of Eritrea that was settled roughly 700 years ago. It is believed to have been the site of four small, feuding villages, which, under pressure from the villages’ women inhabitants, finally made peace and united around 1515. The name Asmara comes from Arbate Asmara, which in the Tigrinya language means “the four villages of those [women] who brought harmony.” Sixteenth-century Italian sources describe Asmara as a caravan trading center.

Shortly afterward Asmara was sacked by Islamic warriors and went into decline. Few historical records even mention Asmara again until the late nineteenth century, when the Italians began their colonial conquest of the region. After occupying Aseb in 1882 and Massawa in 1885, the Italians pushed into the highlands, where they encountered resistance. However, in exchange for weapons Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II signed a treaty in 1889 acquiescing to Italian control ...


Bamako, Mali  

Elizabeth Heath

The administrative, economic, and cultural center of Mali, Bamako lies on the left bank of the Niger River in the southwestern part of the country. Little is known about Bamako before the eleventh century, when it achieved prominence as a center of Islamic scholarship in the Mali empire. After the fall of Mali in the sixteenth century, the Bambara occupied the town, which became a fishing and trading center. In 1806 Scottish explorer Mungo Park estimated Bamako’s population to be less than 6,000. By 1880 the town had fallen under the domination of the Mandinka warrior Samory Touré, whose kingdom covered an expanse of territory to the south.

In 1883 French Lieutenant Colonel Gustave Borgnis Desbordes occupied Bamako and used it as a base for military campaigns against Touré Bamako took on new importance under the French who valued the town s position on the navigable ...


Black Muslims  

Humayun Ansari

Evidence of a black Muslim presence in Britain dates back to Tudor and Stuart times. By 1596, so alarmed was Queen Elizabeth I by the growing number of ‘infidel’ ‘Blackamoors’ that she unsuccessfully ordered their expulsion. While many Muslims arrived in England as merchants and traders, others were involuntary residents. In the 1620s North African corsairs operating in English waters were captured, and records testify to a number of Muslims languishing in jails in the south‐west of England. However, a 1641 document suggests the presence in London of a small settled community of Muslims, and by 1725 English society had become well accustomed to their presence. During the 17th and 18th centuries black staff and servants—likely to have been Muslims—accompanied Ottoman emissaries to Britain. Many remained in Britain and Muslims came to form an important element within the ‘permanent’ black population. They included servants (King George I's ...


Black Nationalism  

Jeffrey O. Ogbar and Jeffrey O. G.

Black nationalism is the belief system that endorses the creation of a black nation state It also supports the establishment of black controlled institutions to meet the political social educational economic and spiritual needs of black people independent of nonblacks Celebration of African ancestry and territorial separatism are essential components of black nationalism Though not fully developed into a cogent system of beliefs the impulse of black nationalism finds its earliest expression in the resistance of enslaved Africans to the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth century Various groups of Africans who felt no particular organic connection as black people were forced into a new racialized identity in a brutal and dehumanizing process of enslavement The transportation and forced amalgamation of hundreds of different African nationalities resulted in Creolized communities in the Americas enslaved Africans revolted and established new societies which functioned autonomously on the outskirts of colonial towns and ...


Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso  

Susanne Freidberg

The city of Bobo-Dioulasso is located in one of the greener areas of Burkina Faso, and has long benefited from the fertility of the surrounding countryside. According to the legends of the Bobo people, their ancestors migrated from present-day Mali sometime between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries c.e.. and became the first inhabitants of what Bobo folk songs call “the plateau of abundance” in the southern Volta region. Over the following centuries, long-distance traders settled among the Bobo peasants on this plateau and established a community known as Sya on the banks of the Houet River. Located at the crossroads of trans-Saharan and east-west trade routes, Sya was a lively market town by the time European colonization began in the late nineteenth century. French troops, facing fierce resistance from Sya’s Zara warriors, conquered the town in 1895 They renamed it Bobo Dioulasso in Dioula house of the ...


Conakry, Guinea  

Kate Tuttle

Conakry is on Guinea’s Atlantic coast and is the nation’s largest deep-water port. It originally comprised only Tombo Island, but today includes the Los Islands and the tip of Kaloum Peninsula, to which Tombo is connected by a causeway. The climate is tropical; much of the surrounding area is swampland.

The city’s name comes from the language spoken by the Soso ethnic group that has dominated coastal Guinea since the seventeenth century. Conakry was originally a Soso fishing village. The French chose the site for a town in 1880. The town became the capital of French Guineawhen the French declared Guinea a colony in 1891.

When the country gained independence under Sékou Touré in 1958 Conakry remained its capital and became increasingly important as a processing and trading center for the iron ore and bauxite mined in the surrounding regions Today Conakry is Guinea s ...



Robert Baum

The Dinka people, who number approximately 1.5 million (though estimates vary), are divided into twenty-five subgroups, each of which has its own name. Each once occupied a distinct territory. Each group is further subdivided into a number of lineages based on patrilineal descent (descent through the father’s line). The groups were led politically by a chief from a dominant lineage within the group, but his authority depended on general consensus and the cooperation of individuals. The religious authority of each group’s spear master (chosen from a second prominent lineage) complemented the primarily secular power of the chiefs. The spear master represented the power of tradition and the authority of the ancestors. Like their Nuer neighbors, the Dinka derived their livelihood mainly from cattle raising, though the cultivation of millet, fishing, and hunting were important supplemental activities.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Dinka expanded their control over southern Sudan ...


Douala, Cameroon  

Eric Young

The town of Douala first developed on the southeastern shore of the Wouri River estuary in the 1700s as a station for the transatlantic slave trade. Dutch merchants initially dominated the transatlantic trade, but the town was also frequented by ethnic Duala traders, many of whom acted as middlemen in the human traffic. British influence slowly usurped the Dutch until 1884, when Germany, after signing a treaty with two Duala chiefs, formally colonized Cameroon. With a good harbor, Douala quickly became the colony’s largest trading center, attracting African migrants as well as German and, later, French and British colonists. During World War II (1939–1945), it briefly served as the colonial capital.

Although Yaoundé is now the capital of Cameroon post independence infrastructure projects have solidified Douala s role as a national and regional economic hub Today Douala handles approximately 95 percent of the country s ...


Edward, Lake  

Lake Edward, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, has an area of about 2,150 square kilometers (about 830 square miles) and lies 912 meters (2,990 feet) above sea level. It is connected on the northeast with Lake George (or Lake Dweru) in Uganda, by means of the Kazinga Channel. Lake Edward is fed by the Rutshuru River, a headstream of the White Nile. The lake has only one outlet, the Semliki River, which links it with Lake Albert to the north. High escarpments run along the western shore of the lake and mountains rise on the northwestern shore. The water is brackish with mineral salts. Many fish and crocodiles live in the lake, and waterfowl abound on its shores. The Anglo-American explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley discovered the lake in 1889. The lake was formerly called Albert Edward Nyanza.

See alsoGeomorphology, African ...



Shirley A. Jackson

Expatriates are those individuals who leave the United States to live in other parts of the world. Many African American émigrés believed that in other countries they could experience a life free from the oppression they faced in the United States, a country that talked about democracy and freedom but was unable to provide it to all citizens equally. For others the desire to flee was accompanied by a fear of political persecution. For these expatriates, leaving the United States meant freedom of person and beliefs. In essence, dissatisfaction with social and political conditions was the impetus for many African American émigrés.

In his 1852 book The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States Politically Considered, Martin Robinson Delany explored the suitability of Canada Africa Central and South America and the West Indies for African Americans He noted that while other groups ...


Fouta Djallon  

Now mainly a geographic reference to the central Guinean highlands, Fouta Djallon also refers to an independent state that existed within the borders of present-day Guinea from the mid-1700s to the late 1800s. The region had been home to the Yalunka (Jallonke) people since around the eleventh century. The Yalunka, who were mostly farmers, were part of the Mandinka or Malinke ethnic group. They practiced a traditional religion. In the fifteenth century, members of another ethnic group, the Fulani, began to enter the region peacefully. Starting in the seventeenth century, Fulani people (also known as Fulbe, or Peul) from the Futa Toro empire in the area presently known as Senegal began entering the Fouta Djallon, bringing with them the Islamic faith.

The Muslim Fulani gradually conquered the entire Fouta Djallon and despite their inferior numbers became the dominant group using both Yalunka and non Muslim Fulani as slaves In ...



Eric Young

The Gbaya, who speak a Niger-Congo language, number more than a million, mainly in the west of the Central African Republic. Fleeing Fulani slave raids and holy wars connected with the founding of the Sokoto Caliphate, the ancestors of the Gbaya migrated to the region from present-day northern Cameroon and Nigeria in the early 1800s. They incorporated many of the indigenous inhabitants, creating the six basic subgroups of the Gbaya. Fulani continued to raid the Gbaya region each year to capture slaves for sale, both in the Caliphate and to trans-Saharan caravans.

The traditional Gbaya political organization was decentralized, with village chiefs acting as symbolic leaders and judges rather than political rulers. Only in emergencies were war chiefs temporarily elected, as among the Banda. In war, age sets insured unity by cutting across clan identities. The clans managed trade with foreigners, marriage arrangements, and religious customs.

French ...



Patrick Manning, James Oakes, Stanley L. Engerman, and Stephen P. Bensch

[To survey the scope of historical research on slavery in major parts of the world, this entry comprises five articles:

An Overview

African Slavery

Medieval European and Mediterranean Slavery

Latin American and Caribbean Slavery

North American Slavery

The first is a general overview of historiography from the nineteenth century to ...



Jennifer R. Lyons

Located in West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean, the country of Liberia shares a northern border with Guinea, an eastern border with the Ivory Coast, and a northwestern border with Sierra Leone. Its capital city Monrovia is named after the U.S. president James Monroe, during whose presidency the first African Americans departed to resettle this piece of Africa.


Literature, Black, in Cameroon  

Phyllis Taoua

Cameroonian literature in French has been shaped by a particular set of circumstances unlike those of any other former French colony in sub-Saharan Africa. The literary landscape was marked very early on by anticolonial activism associated with a liberation movement organized by the political party Union des populations du Cameroun (UPC) (1948–), which was led by Ruben Um Nyobé (1913–1958). Print culture and sociopolitical life were transformed in a lasting way by the violence of the anticolonial protest and the way in which the movement was ultimately supplanted. Cameroon was the only colony to mount sustained armed resistance to French rule in sub-Saharan Africa.

A palpable sense of dispossession persists alongside preoccupations with neo-colonial intervention, especially from France, which continue to shape Cameroonian writing and inspire activism in this country where there has not been a free, fair, and uncontested election since 1960. Mongo Beti ...


Literature, Black, in South Africa  

Tlhalo Sam Raditlhalo

Literary production in English in postcolonial societies is usually said to go through stages of development from the moment of the colonial encounter to the point when an “independent” indigenous literature in English emerges. In South Africa the emergence of black literature was initially influenced by the missionaries who also ran schools. The process of urbanization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries enhanced the literary aspirations of sensitive individuals and an attempt at a national literature in English emerged; resistance literature appeared after the Sharpeville Massacre. In the post-apartheid period, South African black literature negotiates the uncertain possibilities of the country’s future.



Eric Young

The Makonde of Tanzania and Maconde of Mozambique live in the coastal regions to the north and south of the Ruvuma River, respectively, also known as the Umakonde. Although distinct peoples, the two groups share a history shaped in part by their harsh, remote environment.

It is believed that the Makonde and Maconde, traveling in litawa, or small kin groups, migrated to the region in the late eighteenth or nineteenth century from the undulating grassy plain, or ndonde, to the west of the present-day Maconde of Mozambique. Driven primarily by pressures for more land, these migrants also had to contend with Nguni slave raiders from the interior For protective purposes they settled on the plateaus rather than in the river valleys and lived in scattered homesteads rather than villages On the dry land they cleared they practiced stump cultivation in which tree stumps were left in place to promote ...


Malabo, Equatorial Guinea  

Eric Young

Much more a town than a city, this small, somewhat run-down capital, after years of dereliction, has recently enjoyed some prosperity from Equatorial Guinea’s newfound oil revenues. In 1827 British traders founded the town and named it Clarence City. It was located on the northern beaches of Bioko Island, known then as Fernando Pó, at the base of a volcanic cone (present-day Mount Malabo). Renamed Santa Isabel in 1843, the town served as the administrative and commercial center of Spain’s only colony in sub-Saharan Africa; it became best known as “death’s waiting room,” because of the oppressive tropical climate and disease.

By 1960 the town’s population had reached nearly 20,000. But after Equatorial Guinea’s independence in 1968 there was a rapid departure of 7 000 Spanish residents Following years of dictatorial rule this exodus nearly destroyed the town s economy which had been sustained primarily by a ...


Monrovia, Liberia  

Kate Tuttle

In 1821 the first African American settlers in the area that would become the Republic of Liberia purchased land from King Peter, an indigenous leader, to establish a settlement at Mesurado Bay. They called the small town, set on a rocky hilltop on the banks of the Mesurado River, Christopolis, “the City of Christ.” Three years later they renamed it Monrovia, after James Monroe, who was then president of the United States. Monrovia grew quickly. Settlers with adequate means built houses with columns and verandas that echoed the architecture of the American South, from which many of them had come.

Traditionally the home of Americo Liberians through the years Monrovia became an important center of both commerce and government as well as the home of the University of Liberia and the presidential palace In contrast to the Liberian countryside where indigenous languages and religious beliefs prevail Monrovia has long had ...