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Leyla Keough

Diane Abbott, a working-class Cambridge University graduate, made history on June 11, 1987, by becoming the first black female member of the British Parliament. Her outspoken criticism of racism and her commitment to progressive politics have made her a controversial figure in Britain's Labour Party.

Diane Abbott was born in 1953 in the working-class London neighborhood of Paddington. Her mother (a nurse) and father (a welder) had moved there in 1951 from Jamaica. Later they moved to lower-middle-class Harrow, where Abbott was the only black student at the Harrow County School for Girls. Graduating among the top in her class, she applied and was accepted into Newnham College at Cambridge University, despite a high school teacher's comment that attendance there would give her ambitions that were above her social status.

She began work after graduation at the home office a government department responsible for a broad range ...

Article

Grantley Herbert Adams was born in Government Hill, Barbados, then a British colony. His father, Fitzherbert Adams, was a black man and the head teacher of one of the island's largest primary schools, Saint Giles. His mother, Rosa Frances Adams, was a coloured woman (of mixed African and European descent). By West Indian standards, the Adams family was part of the lower middle class, removed from the endemic poverty that engulfed the disenfranchised black majority.

Like his father, Adams attended Harrisons College, the colony's premier secondary school. In 1919 he won a prestigious island scholarship to Oxford University in England, where he studied law. In England he met intellectuals from the colonized world, many of whom, like himself, had joined the Fabian Society, a socialist movement that supported decolonization and the end of the British Empire. In 1925 Adams returned to Barbados working as a lawyer ...

Article

Like many early nationalist leaders in Africa, Rudolph Douala Manga Bell was from a chiefly lineage and initially collaborated with the colonial authorities before ultimately turning against them. Born in the commercial port town of Douala, Bell was the eldest son of Duala king Manga Ndumbe, who had signed an annexation treaty ceding large tracts of land to the Germans. At the age of twelve he traveled to Germany to attend the gymnasium at Ulm and university in Bonn. In 1896 Bell returned to then-German Kamerun to work as a civil servant. When his father died in 1908 Bell became the paramount chief of the Duala. He soon disagreed with the colonial authorities about what he considered their contravention of an 1884 treaty that his father had signed concerning Duala rights on the Jos Plateau The Germans had effectively attempted to break the Duala trade monopoly for good Because ...

Article

Richard Watts

Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born to Congolese parents on a plantation in Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known prior to independence). He was given the name of the plantation owner, Duclos, before adopting the name of the freed black landowner, Dessalines, who purchased his services as a slave. Unlike his future comrade-in-arms, François Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and joined the ranks of maroons (runaway slaves) at a young age. In 1792 he became a partisan of the slave uprising led by Boukman, a slave of Jamaican origin, and impressed his compatriots with his courage. Yet Dessalines committed acts of cruelty that frightened some in the rebellion. His capacity for violence would contribute in equal measure to his precipitous rise and fall.

Following the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue in 1793 Toussaint Louverture allied himself with the French Dessalines joined him eventually becoming Toussaint ...

Article

David M. Carletta

Anténor Joseph Firmin was born in Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. He was a gifted child who attended Haiti's premier preparatory schools. After studying law, Firmin became the inspector of schools in Cap-Haïtien. He married Rosa Salnave, daughter of the former president Sylvain Salnave, in 1881. Two years later the government of Haiti sent Firmin to France as a diplomat. He was admitted to the Anthropological Society of Paris and became perhaps the first scholar of African descent to write a systematic work of anthropology.

In 1885 he published The Equality of the Human Races, a response to Count Arthur de Gobineau's four-volume set The Inequality of Human Races and to the racialist anthropology of the nineteenth century. Published between 1853 and 1855 de Gobineau s famous work was the first to assert the racial superiority of Aryan peoples while simultaneously reinforcing ideas of black inferiority Firmin ...

Article

Vincent Carretta

slave narrative author, was born Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, probably between 1710 and 1714 in Bournou (Bornu), a kingdom in what is now northeastern Nigeria. He was the youngest child of the oldest daughter of the king of Bournou. All that is known about James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw is found in A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself (1772), one of the earliest “as-told-to” slave narratives recorded by a white amanuensis. According to this account, Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, spiritually dissatisfied with the animist faith in which he was raised, alienated himself from his friends and relatives by his constant questions challenging their faith in physical objects, as well as by his growing belief in the existence of an uncreated creator. Consequently he became increasingly “dejected and melancholy.”

When an African merchant from the Gold ...

Article

A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, An African Prince appeared in London in 1770, related by a former slave from America in need of financial support for his family. In the work, Gronniosaw mentions how the Puritan spiritual writers John Bunyan and Richard Baxter influenced him. Thus, he tells his life story in accordance with the spiritual autobiography's traditional pattern of sin, conversion, and subsequent rebirth.

The narrative deals with Gronniosaw s remembrance of Africa where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery Transported to Barbados he was resold to a young gentleman in New York and later to a minister who taught him about Christianity A schoolmaster generously offered instructional services to the young slave who gained freedom when his master died Gronniosaw then worked aboard various ships until he settled in England There he married white Betty and ...

Article

James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw was born in present-day northeastern Nigeria to a daughter of the royal family of Bournou (Bornu). As a young man, he left his home and family when a traveling Gold Coast merchant lured him away with marvelous tales of coastal trade with Europeans. Upon his arrival at the Gold Coast, Gronniosaw was accused of espionage by a rival king, condemned to execution, and sold to a Dutch slave merchant.

After surviving the Middle Passage from Africa to Barbados, Gronniosaw was purchased first by a wealthy Dutch family of New York City and then, in 1730, by the Dutch Reformed minister Theodorus Frelinghuysen. Frelinghuysen, a famous proponent of religious revivalism, provided Gronniosaw with a religious education and guided his conversion to Christianity. Gronniosaw also learned to read Dutch under the tutelage of a local schoolmaster. When Frelinghuysen died in 1747 or 1748 Gronniosaw was ...

Article

David M. Carletta

In August 1888 a political uprising forced Lysius Salomon, the Haitian president, to sail off into exile after allegedly attempting to make himself president for life. In his absence, rebel leaders set up a provisional government, which included François D. Légitime and Louis Modestin Florvil Hyppolite. In the elections for a constituent assembly, only Port-au-Prince supported Légitime, who received prompt recognition from France, Haiti's former colonial ruler, as well as from England. A civil war followed, during which opponents of Légitime formed a government of their own under the leadership of Hyppolite at Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti.

The Democratic administration of President Grover Cleveland maintained a policy of neutrality in the conflict Légitime lacked an adequate supply of armaments and a sufficient number of ships to close off Haiti s northern ports The French unwilling to arouse the anger of the United States did not sell Légitime enough ...

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

Musa  

A grandson or grandnephew of the warrior king Sundiata Keita, who first established Mali as a major empire in the thirteenth century, Musa extended it still further and ruled it at the height of its extent and power. The pivotal event in Musa’s reign was his famous pilgrimage to Mecca (1324–1325). It involved a retinue of thousands, including 500 slaves bearing golden staffs and 100 camels, each loaded with 300 pounds of gold; and such lavish spending in Cairo, Egypt, that the price of gold plummeted and took a dozen years to recover. On his return Musa brought with him numerous Muslim scholars and artisans. With their help, he attempted a systematic conversion to Islam of the sub-Saharan population, built splendid mosques, introducing Asian architecture, and spread Islamic law and civilization. During Musa’s reign (1312–1337) Tombouctou became the unquestioned cultural center and commercial ...

Article

a prince known in Europe as the Catholic Bishop Dom Henriques, was the son of King Afonso I of the Kongo kingdom in West Central Africa. He is renowned as the first West-Central African to become a bishop in the Catholic Church, in 1518. He was educated in theology in at the monastery of Santo Elói in Lisbon, Portugal. As the son of the Kongolese king who had converted to Christianity, Prince Ndoadidiki was raised as a Catholic in the Kongo and epitomized the acculturation of one major West African royal family into Catholic Portuguese culture. Like a few other Christian Kongolese princes before him, Prince Ndoadidiki went to Portugal to attend school. While there, he received a knighthood and the title “Dom,” signifying a Portuguese nobleman.

Kongo was the only West Central African kingdom that Portugal converted to Christianity during their first century in that part of the ...

Article

Alva Moore Stevenson

revolutionary, governor, city councilman, landowner, and businessman, was born Pío de Jesus Píco at the San Gabriel Mission in California, the fourth of the ten children of José María Píco, founder of the Píco family in Southern California, and a native of Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico, and María Eustaquia Gutiérrez, from San Miguel de Horcasitas, Sonora, Mexico. Pío's ancestry was a combination of African, Hispanic, Native American, and European. José Píco migrated to California in 1801 with the Anza Expedition, which was authorized in 1775 by the viceroy of Spain. Soldiers and their families were recruited from Sonora to occupy and settle the port of San Francisco. A successful overland emigration and supply route was established between Sonora and Alta California. Among the positions he held were sergeant and corporal Many members of the Píco family served in the military including Pío Píco s ...

Article

Lois Kerschen

perhaps the most well-known African in America in the 1820s. Ibrahima Abdul Rahaman was born in Timbo, Futa Jallon, Guinea, to King Suri of the Fulbe, or Fulani, people. As a Muslim prince, he was given a highly advanced university education in Timbuktu. However, while on a military expedition in 1788, Rahaman was captured by enemies and sold to slavers.

Rahaman was transported to Natchez Mississippi and bought by Thomas Foster Sr Ironically he was named Prince because of his noticeably regal bearing and refusal to do manual labor Beaten many times for his resistance Rahaman ran away After trying unsuccessfully to survive in the wilderness and find a way home however he returned to Foster Eventually Rahaman s knowledge of plants geography and medicine gained the attention and respect of the whites in the area Foster s modest tobacco and cotton plantation grew profitably with Prince as ...

Article

Born in the Farquhar Islands, Seychelles, Albert René spent his youth on a plantation that his father managed. He attended Saint Louis College, in Victoria on the island of Mahé, and later a school in Saint Moritz, Switzerland. After abandoning plans to become a priest, he studied law in England at Saint Mary's College, King's College, and the London School of Economics (1962–1964), where he became active in the British Labour Party. Returning home in 1964, he founded the Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP), as well as the nation's first labor union. Elected to the legislative assembly in 1965, René vocally attacked British Colonial Rule and opposed plans endorsed by James Mancham, leader of the rival Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), to integrate the Seychelles into the British Commonwealth. Upon independence, in 1976 René became prime minister in a coalition government headed by Mancham ...

Article

Kyra E. Hicks

First Lady of Liberia and one of the original African American emigrants to Liberia, was born Jane Rose Waring in Virginia to Colston M. Waring, a minister, and Harriet Graves. The Waring family, including their children Susannah, Thomas, Annetta, William, Jane, and John, emigrated to Liberia aboard the Cyrus in 1824. Other children were born in Liberia to the Warings, including Christinana, Ann, Harriet, and Colston. Elder Colston Waring served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Monrovia. He was also a successful coffee planter and wealthy merchant. He served as vice agent for the American Colonization Society in Liberia and other administrative positions before his death in 1834. Jane learned to read and write in Liberia. She spoke French fluently and was “in all respects was well-bred and refined,” according to Hallie Q. Brown who met ...

Article

Raymond Pierre Hylton

college administrator, entrepreneur, and first and sixth president of Liberia, was born either in Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Petersburg, Virginia, the son of James Roberts and Amelia (maiden name unknown). A persistent rumor that his father was an unidentified white man remains no more than mere speculation. James Roberts and his wife were freed people and had seven surviving children. The family ran a boat and trading business that plied the James River. The Robertses probably lived for a while in Norfolk and later moved to Petersburg, where Joseph alternately worked for his father and in a barbershop owned by the Reverend William Nelson Colson, an African American minister and businessman. The Colson business was located at Wythe and Sycamore streets—an historical marker indicates the actual site.

By 1829 James Roberts had died leaving considerable financial assets and property in Petersburg Joseph as the eldest child ...

Article

Peter J. Duignan

fifth president of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Newark, Ohio, the son of John Roye, a wealthy merchant. His mother's name is unknown. His father died in 1829, leaving some personal property and land to Roye. He went to public schools in Ohio, attended Oberlin College, and taught for a few years in Chillicothe. He also tried his hand as a sheep trader and shopkeeper in various parts of the Midwest. After his mother died in 1840 he was influenced by the emigration movement to escape American prejudice. He rejected the idea of going to Haiti and instead traveled to Liberia in 1846 just before an independent republic was installed there in July 1847, taking with him a stock of goods.

At the time of Roye s arrival the new republic faced a variety of ills The dominant Americo Liberians remained a small minority threatened ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Sir Henry Morton Stanley was born John Rowlands in Denbigh, Wales. Beginning his career as a journalist, Stanley first traveled to Africa in 1869 on assignment for the New York Herald. The newspaper dispatched Stanley to find David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary who had gone to explore Africa and subsequently disappeared from the public eye. Traveling from Zanzibar into the interior of east Africa, Stanley finally met the ailing Livingstone at Ujiji, a town on Lake Tanganyika, on November 10, 1871. Stanley is said to have greeted Livingstone with the famous remark, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” After Livingstone was nursed back to health, they explored the northern end of Lake Tanganyika. Stanley returned to Europe in 1872 but was sent back to West Africa the following year to report on the British campaign against the Asante.

In 1874 the New York Herald and London Daily ...

Article

Ari Nave

Albert Zafy was born in Antsiranana in northern Madagascar. He traveled to France in 1954 to attend medical school in Montpellier and remained in France until 1971. Upon his return to Madagascar, he joined General Gabriel Ramanantsoa’s regime as minister of public health. When Lieutenant Commander Didier Ratsiraka assumed power in 1975, Zafy resigned from his post and took a position at the University of Madagascar. In 1989 he returned to politics and created the National Union of Democrats for Development (UNDD). The following year Zafy became the leader of a coalition of opposition parties, the Comité des Forces Vives (CFV). Never having served under Ratsiraka’s Democratic Republic of Madagascar, Zafy was seen as an ideal candidate to spearhead opposition to Ratsiraka.

On July 16 1991 the CFV unilaterally announced the formation of a new government with Zafy as prime minister The sixteen member CFV shadow ...