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George Michael La Rue

preeminent trans-Saharan merchant and caravan leader (khabir) from the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur, was born in Kubayh, the son of Ibrahim ibn ʿAli, a Tirayfi merchant from Kordofan who immigrated to Darfur, and an unknown mother. He was commonly known as khabir ʿAli. In the nineteenth century Darfur was Egypt’s leading supplier of trans-Saharan goods including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves. In 1838, when Darfur’s sultan Muhammad Fadl died, young ʿAli ibn Ibrahim had already crossed the Sahara along the route from Kubayh (Darfur’s commercial capital) to Asyut in Upper Egypt, perhaps as part of a caravan led by his mentor, paternal uncle, and future father-in-law, Muhammad Kannun, or one of the lesser Tirayfi caravan leaders. ʿAli ibn Ibrahim allegedly heard the news of the sultan’s death from Muhammad ʿAli, the viceroy of Egypt.

ʿAli married six times and had numerous children His first marriage was probably ...

Article

Mary Ann Mahony

whose career spanned the late Brazilian Empire through the fifth decade of republican rule, was born to Maria Francisca Vitória, an unmarried, free Afro-Brazilian woman descended from rural slaves, on a small cacao farm in the emerging cacao district of Cachoeira de Itabuna in the municipality of Ilhéus, in the northeastern province of Bahia. Alves dos Reis is an example of the rapid social mobility available to ambitious and well-connected young men of African descent in the emerging cacao region of the northeast as European and US demand took off for cocoa and chocolate.

By 1887, when Alves dos Reis registered with the local National Guard unit, he was already a moderately prosperous merchant. In 1883 he and his wife lived in a one story wattle and daub thatched roof house with a door a window and a dirt floor It resembled the slave cabins on nearby local ...

Article

Amar Wahab

Pan‐Africanistleader in Britain in the early 1900s. Born in Sierra Leone, in 1869 he was sent to Cheshire to be educated and started working for the family firm, Broadhurst and Sons, in Manchester in 1905. By 1936 he is known to have been a cocoa merchant in the Gold Coast. He was heavily involved in the realm of Pan‐Africanist politics in Britain, becoming a founder member of the African Progress Union between 1911 and 1925. He became secretary of the Union in his sixties and continued as a member of the executive committee until its end. He worked with other leading supporters such as Duse Mohamed Ali, Edmund Fitzgerald Fredericks, and ‘the Black doctor of Paddington’ John Alcindor The Union organized around issues related to the welfare of Africans and Afro Peoples worldwide and vociferously advocated self determination This involved for example protests about ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

merchant, public official, religious leader, and longtime state legislator, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the eldest son of free, mixed-race parents John Cail (Cale) and Elizabeth Mitchell, a homemaker, who were married in 1827. His father worked as a miller, later as a fisherman, and moved his large family—as many as nine children—to Edenton in nearby Chowan County in the 1850s. Little is known of Hugh Cale's early life or education, although he had learned to read and write by the end of the Civil War.

After the Union army occupied much of northeastern North Carolina in early 1862, Cale began working as a manual laborer for federal installations at Fort Hatteras and Roanoke Island. In 1867 he moved to Elizabeth City North Carolina where he commenced a singularly successful career as a grocer and held a number of local offices during and after ...

Article

Philip J. Havik

merchant and trader in Portuguese Guinea, present-day Guinea-Bissau, was born in the 1780s, in the town of Cacheu on the Guinea coast, into a family with strong connections to administration and commerce in the region. Her father, Manuel de Carvalho Alvarenga, was also Guinean-born; he was descended from Cape Verdeans who had settled there in the 1700s, acting as commanders of the ports of Cacheu, Farim, and Ziguinchor, who intermarried with African women. Her brother, Francisco de Carvalho Alvarenga, became an important trader and held posts in the Portuguese administration in the town of Ziguinchor in the Casamance region (part of Senegal since 1886 Her aunt Josefa de Carvalho Alvarenga was born in the Cape Verde islands and married wealthy officials and owned landed property and slaves in the archipelago Although Rosa de Carvalho Alvarenga s mother s name is unknown she was in all likelihood of Banhun origin ...

Article

Swithin Wilmot

was a passionate advocate for the rights of freed people in early post-slavery Jamaica. He was summarily tried and executed after the Morant Bay Rebellion in October 1865. Gordon was born into slavery sometime between 1817 and 1820, the son of Joseph Gordon, a Scotsman who owned or managed several coffee plantations, livestock pens, and sugar estates, and an enslaved black woman on Joseph Gordon’s Cherry Garden estate in the St. Andrew foothills overlooking Kingston. This common-law union produced George William and at least three girls. The absence of his mother’s and his sisters’ names from biographies of Gordon underscores the general invisibility of women in the historical record.

Joseph Gordon kept George William and his sisters nominally in servitude until the Emancipation Act in 1834 but early on he recognized his son s intellectual abilities and encouraged his interest in books and figures When George William ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

singer, dancer, ventriloquist, and junk merchant, was born in Greenwich Village, New York, on the eve of the Civil War. To date, questions remain about Harmon's real name, parents, siblings, if any, and childhood. In addition, there appears to be no documentation about his years as a performer. The available information indicates that he worked in show business as a singer, dancer, and ventriloquist. Essentially, he was a well-rounded entertainer who had many talents and a knack for the stage. Harmon was married and had two children; however, the names of his wife and children are not readily available. When Harmon was around 38 and 39, his wife and children died from influenza in 1898–1899, during the Spanish American War. Harmon then moved to Harlem and lived in a two-room apartment.

Around 1910 Harmon having left the stage began a new career with a small cart and a ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

merchant and king of Opobo, was born in the village of Umuduruoha in the densely populated Igbo heartland of eastern Nigeria (now in Imo State). He was born into the Isu clan, and his father, Ozurumba, was most likely a farmer who supplemented that work by trading or with a skilled profession such as blacksmithing. His mother’s name was Uru. At the approximate age of twelve, Jaja was sent to live with relatives in Nkwerre, from where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. From Nkwerre he was brought to Akwete and sold to a trader named Odiari from the Royal Canoe House of Opobo. (Canoe houses had begun in the delta as trading and fighting communities capable of manning and maintaining a war canoe; the trading center city-states of the eastern delta—Brass, Nembe, Bonny—each consisted of several organized canoe houses.)

Given the name Jubo Jubogha Jaja stayed with his ...

Article

Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

vendor, was born in Easton, Maryland, as the slave of Philip Wallis of Maryland. The names of Johnson's parents are unknown. Johnson is said to have run away in his early twenties, after having been sent on an errand for his master. Johnson first took a boat from Maryland and later a train. In 1839 he reached Princeton, New Jersey, where he was employed as a laborer and janitor in Nassau Hall in the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He had been known as James Collins in Maryland but called himself James Johnson once he reached Princeton.

In 1843 Johnson was recognized as an escaped slave and was seized and put on trial in Princeton as a fugitive slave The son of Johnson s owner Severn Teackle Wallis traveled from Maryland to claim Johnson The younger Wallis was later a well known lawyer politician provost of the ...

Article

Nana Yaw B. Sapong

domestic slave, slave trader, and merchant prince, was born Adzoviehlo Atiogbe in Agoue in Dahomey (Benin) in 1804 He is also known as Adzoviehlo Atiogbe or Geraldo de Vasconcellos A man of several names he is one of the least understood and most complex characters in modern West African history Geraldo de Vasconcellos probably a Brazilian name given to him by his master in servitude entered into a period of apprenticeship under Brazilian slave trader Cesar Cerquira Lima who had a slave factory warehouse at Vodza in present day Ghana Slaves were kept in the Vodza factory before shipment to various destinations Cesar Cerquira Lima was one of a succession of Brazilian traders who had been establishing factories along the eastern coastline of the Gold Coast in the nineteenth century Geraldo de Vasconcellos became one of Cesar s trusted agents in Anlo who kept the supply of slaves steady ...

Article

Isabelle de Rezende

prominent trader and warlord in present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa, former Zaire), was born between 1855 and 1860 in what today is Congo’s Maniema Province, between the rivers Lomami to the west and Lualaba to the east. Ngongo’s origins are unclear. Most commentators situate him as a Tetela-Kusu, Songye, or Hina (Lomami River people, connected linguistically and culturally to their various neighbors); the preferred spelling of his name by these communities is Ngongo Leteta.

What we know of Ngongo’s life was lived in the context of eastern and central Congo in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. Swahili traders, the most famous of whom was Tippu Tip, culturally mixed Muslims from the East African island of Zanzibar, began incursions into the Congo west of the Lualaba. They established the slave and ivory market towns of Kasongo and Nyangwe.

There are different stories about how Ngongo came to Tippu Tip ...

Article

Ana-Lucia Araujo

alias “Dominguinhos da Costa,” also known as Domingo Martinez, was one of the most important Brazilian slave merchants who developed his career in the Bight of Benin. He contributed greatly to trade connections between Bahia, Ouidah, and Lagos. Martins was born c. 1813 in Salvador, the capital of the captaincy of Bahia. He was the filho natural (out-of-wedlock) child of Domingos José Martins and Francisca Romana Pinto, who was probably an Afro-Brazilian.

In 1834, after the slave trade to Brazil had been outlawed, Martins traveled from Bahia to the Bight of Benin as a crew member of a slave ship sent to Francisco Félix de Souza (1754–1849), a notorious Brazilian-born slave merchant who held the honorific title of chacha In this capacity Martins played the role of commercial agent in Ouidah controlling the slave trade in a port that was part of the territory of the ...

Article

Rosemary Elizabeth Galli

warlord, trader, and founder of perhaps the greatest Yao dynasty in Niassa in northern Mozambique, was the grandson of Syungule, head of the Chisyungule lineage. Mataka Nyambi, along with his biggest rival Makanjila, was instrumental in transforming the Niassa Yao from a society of matriclans to one governed by territorial chiefs. In the process, he brought a large population under his control and gained many wives; he is said to have had six hundred wives and numerous children. In about 1875 Mataka (now Mataka I) beheaded his adversary Makanjila.

A fierce drought drove the Niassa Yao to invade and ransack their neighbors for food and, subsequently, slaves in the 1830s Attacks by Nguni raiders have been responsible for their militarization Small and weak matriclans submitted to the stronger territorial chiefs and even sought their protection Mataka Nyambi was both feared and admired for his military prowess In addition trade ...

Article

Louis S. Gerteis

Montgomery, Benjamin Thornton (1819–12 May 1877), businessman, was born a slave in Loudoun County, Virginia. As the boyhood companion of his owner’s son, Montgomery completed in the afternoon the lessons the young white boy learned from his tutor in the morning. In this manner Montgomery gained a basic education. In 1836 he was sold to a trader who transported him to Natchez, Mississippi, where he was purchased by Joseph Davis, elder brother of Jefferson Davis, and settled on Davis Bend below Vicksburg. Davis had determined to apply the reform principles of Robert Owen who sought order and efficiency in the management of industrial labor to the management of his plantations This required a rational relationship between owner and worker that in Davis s application meant a relationship between master and slave based on kindness not cruelty and on wholesome living conditions not squalor Davis sought ...

Article

Louis S. Gerteis

businessman, was born a slave in Loudoun County, Virginia. As the boyhood companion of his owner's son, Benjamin completed in the afternoon the lessons the young white boy learned from his tutor in the morning. In this manner he gained a basic education. In 1836 he was sold to a trader who transported him to Natchez, Mississippi, where he was purchased by Joseph Davis, elder brother of future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and settled on Davis Bend below Vicksburg. Davis had determined to apply the reform principles of Robert Owen who sought order and efficiency in the management of industrial labor to the management of his plantations This required a rational relationship between owner and worker that in Davis s application meant a relationship between master and slave based on kindness not cruelty and on wholesome living conditions not squalor Davis sought and gained the confidence ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

an itinerant merchant from West Africa, who tapped into the desperate yearning of many Americans of African descent to get out from under the vicious Jim Crow laws and culture of the early twentieth century, organized clubs and sold shares of stock in a plan for resettlement in the British colony of Gold Coast (now Ghana).

Sam's age is known only from entries on ship passenger manifests; the names of his parents have never been established. He once told a reporter that he was the son of James K. Sam, that his grandfather had been a chief of Obosse and Appasu in West Akim, and that he had inherited the title from his uncle, Kwawim. He attended the Basel Missionary School at Kibi. The Akim were a people conquered in 1814 by the Asante in modern Ghana the Asante Akim have at least six traditional councils and paramount ...

Article

Raymond Dumett

overseas merchant, teacher, and civic leader in the Gold Coast, was born about 1834 and was related to the royal family of Anomabu state in the central Gold Coast We know little about his youth or early education but it seems clear that he came under the influence of the renowned traveling Methodist preacher Reverend Thomas Birch Freeman in the 1840s We also have evidence that he spent much of his early manhood as a mission agent and teacher for the Weslyan Missionary Society of the Gold Coast established by Freeman From this he acquired the education needed for effective correspondence commercial arithmetic and business relationships on the coast and in England There is no doubt about his commitment to Christianity but the lure of business profits from overseas trading also attracted him In fact there is strong evidence that he doubled as a both a teacher and an ...

Article

Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

vendor and entertainer popularly known as Spader was born in Pennington New Jersey to Joseph and Josephine Seruby His mother was a laundress and his father worked as a coachman for several central New Jersey families Seruby s family roots in New Jersey go back decades before the Civil War His father served in the Civil War as part of the 25th U S Colored Infantry and Seruby himself was said to be a veteran of the Spanish American War He was regularly present at athletic events at Princeton University and frequently appeared at other public venues throughout central and southern New Jersey Seruby was known as the Peanut King because of the principal item that he sold bags of roasted peanuts Seruby s vending featured clever banter and a stylish mode of dress that frequently included a silk top hat a Prince Albert coat or a double breasted Chesterfield ...

Article

Benjamin R. Justesen

public official, Prohibitionist, and legislator in two states, was born a slave in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, the mixed-race son of Jane Sykes, a slave, and an unnamed father. His mother's owner was Caleb Sykes, an Elizabeth City, North Carolina, cabinetmaker. Only the year of his birth is recorded. Nothing is known of Sykes's early life, or his education before the Civil War, although he had learned to read and write by the war's end.

Sykes first appears in public records as a delegate to the North Carolina Colored Convention of 1866, and he soon became active in the state's new Republican Party. In 1868, he was selected as a member of the North Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee and was appointed as a magistrate by Governor William W. Holden The same year Sykes was also elected as Pasquotank County s first ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

waiter, storekeeper, and politician, was born near Montgomery, Alabama, to slave parents whose names-are unknown. His parents had been brought to Alabama from South Carolina in the 1830s by their owner, William H. Taylor, who became a wealthy planter in Montgomery County. Taylor also owned Thompson but appears to have allowed him to hire out his time as a waiter at the Madison House hotel in Montgomery prior to the end of the Civil War. Thompson learned to read and write and probably enjoyed greater freedom than most slaves in Alabama, though as a slave he was not allowed to marry legally. He did, however, have a common-law wife, Binah Yancey, who was born in 1842 in Alabama and was owned by William Lowndes Yancey a prominent Alabama secessionist politician Like her husband Binah Yancey was able to read and write and enjoyed a ...