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Adams, Sir Grantley Herbert  

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 ...


Baamuta, Yusufu Ssemukasa  

Kristopher Cote

public servant, politician, and businessman in present-day Uganda, was born in the Kingdom of Buganda in 1894. His father, Thomas Ssemukasa, was a subcounty chief and general of Kabaka (King) Mwanga’s army. His name, which was not a customary clan name, means “it is better to die on the battlefield than to die of a natural death.” He was educated at an elite private school, King’s College in Buddo, and at Sheffield College in England. Upon his return to Uganda he was a clerk in the protectorate government, but soon he became an outspoken politician and businessman who challenged the application of British administration in Uganda.

After several years of service to the protectorate government, Baamuta was appointed secretary of the Lukiiko (the Bugandan parliament). He was a vociferous defender of the rights afforded to the Buganda Kingdom under the terms of the Uganda Agreement (1900 which ...


Bairros, Luiza Helena de  

Sônia Beatriz dos Santos

was born on 27 March 1953 in the city of Porto Alegre, state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Bairros’s interest in political issues began when she was in school. In 1979 she adopted the city of Salvador, state of Bahia, as her main residence; it was in this city that she began to participate in the Unified Black Movement (Movimento Negro Unificado, MNU); she remained involved in this organization until 1994.

She began her activism in the women’s movement in 1981 within the Women’s Group of the MNU. Bairros was a vocal member of this group, and she participated in the main initiatives of the black movement in Bahia and Brazil. In 1991 she was elected the first national coordinator of the MNU.

In 1994 Luiza Bairros joined the Labor and Social Action Secretariat of the State of Bahia managing support for independent workers programs and participating in ...


Buxton, Sir Thomas Fowell  

David Dabydeen

Social reformer and active fighter for the abolition of slavery. Thomas Fowell Buxton was born at Castle Hedingham, Essex, to an Anglican family. Despite this, his mother was a member of the religious Society of Friends, and Buxton soon became acquainted with Quakerism. Through the Society of Friends he became closely connected to the Gurney family, who were Quakers, and later married one of the Gurney daughters, Hannah. The Quakers were renowned for their social reformation campaigns, and Buxton became heavily involved in many of these movements, most notably with one of the Gurney daughters, Elizabeth Fry, to whom he provided financial support for her prison reform work. In 1818 he was elected member of Parliament for Weymouth and worked, within the House of Commons, for the abolition of the slave trade. He helped William Wilberforce with the founding of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual ...


Carter, Sir John  

David Killingray

Guyaneselawyer, politician, and diplomat who was appointed travelling secretary of the League of Coloured Peoples (LCP) during the Second World War. Carter was born in the British colony of British Guiana. He attended Queen's College, Georgetown, and came to London University in 1939 to read law, qualifying as a barrister at the Middle Temple in 1942. During the war years the LCP grew in members and significance, and so did its concern for the welfare of the many military and labour volunteers from the colonies. Another concern was for the large numbers of African‐American soldiers in Britain from 1942 onwards. Carter became general and travelling secretary of the LCP in early 1942 using his legal skills to deal with numerous instances of racial discrimination and also the case of an African American soldier sentenced to death for rape by a US military court Carter ...


Danquah, Mabel Dove  

Josephine Dawuni

Ghanaian journalist, writer, political and gender activist with ancestral roots in both Sierra Leone and Ghana, was born to Francis Thomas Dove, an accomplished barrister at law and Madam Eva Buckman, a Ga businesswoman. In 1933, Mabel Dove married Dr. J. B. Danquah, a leading figure of the anti- imperialist independence movement; the couple had one son. Mabel Dove Danquah’s formative years began in Sierra Leone, where at the early age of six, she attended the prestigious Annie Walsh Memorial School, the oldest girls’ school in Sierra Leone. After receiving her primary and secondary education in Sierra Leone, she went to England, where she attended the Anglican Covenant in Bury and then St. Michael’s College. She then proceeded to take a four-month course at Gregg Commercial College in secretarial training.

In 1926 at the age of twenty one Danquah took her first job as a shorthand typist with Elder ...


Gordon, George  

Alonford James Robinson

George Gordon was born in Jamaica to a black slave and her wealthy white master. His father, Joseph, devoted more time to running his estate and furthering his political career than he did to his colored son. Like most wealthy whites in Jamaica during the 1820s, Joseph Gordon was both a member of Jamaica's exclusive House of Assembly and a custos in Saint Andrew's Parish—the highest administrative official in the local province.

As the illegitimate son of the slave master, George Gordon learned the importance of self-reliance at an early age, even teaching himself how to read and write. Much to his father's surprise, he showed signs of proficiency in accounting at an early age. By age ten he was a skilled bookkeeper, and around this time Joseph Gordon decided to free his son, sending him to live with his godfather, businessman James Daley, in Black River, Jamaica.

With ...


Grant, Bernie  

Leyla Keough

Bernie Grant was a controversial parliamentarian, more at home with grassroots organization and black radicalism than with establishment politics in the House of Commons. Described as “a leader walking the rope between street heroism and government office,” Grant defended his black constituents and articulated their views.

Grant grew up in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, where he attended a Jesuit school. In 1963 he and his parents, Eric and Lily Grant, moved to Great Britain, where Bernie attended Tottenham Technical College and then studied mining engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He left the university because of racist policies that refused to admit blacks into a program of study in mining in South Africa. He worked as a railway clerk and a postal employee until he became a trade union official.

During the 1970s Grant led a campaign against the National Front a white supremacist organization active ...


Jordon, Edward  

Leila Kamali

Newspaper editor, statesman, and Mayor of Kingston, Jamaica. Jordon was born a freeman on 6 December 1800. He founded the Watchman and Jamaica Free Press in Kingston, which printed an editorial in 1832 calling to ‘knock off the fetters, and let the oppressed go free’. Jordon was tried for sedition—a crime that carried the death penalty—but was eventually acquitted.

He campaigned vigorously against slavery and, having won the Kingston seat in the House of Assembly in 1835, saw complete abolition in Jamaica in August 1838. He then founded the Morning Journal, became manager of Kingston Savings Bank, and director of the Planters' Bank.

Jordon was the first appointment to the Executive Committee under Sir Henry Barkly's governorship, and in 1854 the first man to be appointed both Mayor of Kingston and Custos. In 1860Queen Victoria made him a Companion of the Bath the first ...


Machel, Graça  

Eric Young

The youngest of six children, Graça Machel, née Simbine, was a leading figure in Mozambique’s war for independence. She became a prominent national and international figure not only as an education and human rights advocate but also as the wife of the late Mozambican president Samora Machel.

In the early 1970s, Graça Machel received a scholarship to study romance languages at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. She soon became involved in clandestine work for the Mozambican opposition group Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and in 1973 went to Tanzania to join the war for independence. After some time in the “liberated zones” of Mozambique, she returned to Tanzania, where Samora Machel was also working with FRELIMO, to run FRELIMO’s school. In 1974 she was a member of the team that negotiated Mozambique s independence The following year she became minister of education and the ...


Martin, Charles  

Nazneen Ahmed

Alias of Azaj Warqnah Ishete (1865–1952), Ethiopia's first modern‐trained physician and Ethiopian Minister to London at the time of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Born in Gondar, at the age of 3 Ishete was abandoned by his family during the capture of the fortress of Magada in 1868. Two British officers took him to India, assumed responsibility for his education, and christened him Charles Martin. Martin graduated from Lahore Medical College in 1882, becoming a medical officer in Burma in 1891. He was reunited with his family and his Ethiopian name on his visit to Addis Ababa in 1899. On another trip in 1908 as temporary medical officer in the British legation he treated the ailing Emperor Menilek. In 1919 he returned to Ethiopia to settle practising medicine and undertaking various forms of development work including the founding ...


Mensah Sarbah, John  

Kwaku Larbi Korang

With the 1897 publication of his groundbreaking Fanti Customary Laws, John Mensah Sarbah (1864–1910), lawyer, “ethno-sociologist,” nationalist, politician, and newspaper publisher,

positioned himself at the head of a modern African intellectual tradition in which the Western-educated African, in empirical study, identified him- or herself with his or her own native customs as “originally” expressed in the oral tradition. As exemplified in Sarbah’s work, the native intellectual who applied the empirical method to the traditional world was also expected to come away with proof that, in (spite of) their oral expression, native traditions had a rational constitution and expressed this rationality in their institutional life-histories. Orality not being an order of mere randomness, therefore, the native intellectual could codify it and, in writing, reveal its inherent constitutional and institutional rationality. This is the task that the genius of Sarbah brilliantly accomplishes in Fanti Customary Laws and Fanti National ...


Montagu, John  

John Gilmore

second Duke of Montagu (1690–1749). Patron of Blacks, John succeeded his father as duke in 1709. A wealthy and learned man, if not scholarly in any systematic way, Montagu was regarded as a whimsical eccentric who dabbled in many different things. In 1722 he obtained a royal grant of the Caribbean islands of St Lucia and St Vincent, and made an unsuccessful attempt to have these colonized on his behalf, which reportedly lost him a great deal of money.

Montagu was the patron of at least two black people who became well known in the British society of his time. In 1734 he entertained Job ben Solomon on several occasions, gave him presents, and organized the redemption of Job's former companion Loumein Yoai from slavery in Maryland. At a later date Montagu befriended the young Ignatius Sancho and gave him books Subsequently after the duke s ...


Morúa Delgado, Martín  

Marveta Ryan

Poverty and racism forced Martín Morúa Delgado, born in Havana, Cuba, to a Spanish immigrant father and an ex-slave mother, to leave school at an early age and find work. He managed to educate himself, often by purchasing books with part of his salary. His experiences working in a barrel factory led him to become a labor activist. Besides organizing workers in several Cuban cities, Morúa made speeches and wrote newspaper and magazine articles on workers' rights, thus launching his career as a political leader and a journalist.

In the nineteenth century, paid readers read books aloud to factory workers while they engaged in nonmechanical tasks like rolling cigars. Even before slavery had been abolished, Morúa was the first man of African descent to become a professional reader in Cuba. He also became the first reader of color in New York, New York when he worked in ...


N’jie-Saidy, Isatou  

Jeremy Rich

politician and vice president of Gambia, was born on 5 March 1952 in the town of Kuntaya. She received her primary education from Brikama Primary School from 1959 to 1964 and then completed her secondary education at Armitage High School in Georgetown. From 1970 to 1972, she taught at a secondary school while she took classes at Yumdum Teacher’s Training College. She continued to work as a schoolteacher from 1974 to 1976, and also found work teaching Gambian languages to United States Peace Corps volunteers at this time. N’jie-Saidy then chose to serve as an administrator with the Indigenous Business Advisory Services Bureau from 1976 to 1983. This junior position within the government civil service opened doors for further opportunities for advancement. From July to December 1979 she received funding to obtain an advanced degree in industrial management from the Research Institute for Management Science in ...


Odinga, Jaramogi Oginga  

Hannington Ochwada

first Kenyan vice president, was born at Nyamira Kang’o among the Luo people of Sakwa, Kenya, and christened Obadiah Adonijah in the Anglican Church. His father, a woodworker, was called Odinga, son of Rayila, and his mother was Opondo Nyar Magolo. The family also farmed for a living and kept some animals. After a few years of home schooling from his eldest stepbrother, Abisai Ajuang’, Odinga commenced his formal education in 1926 at Maranda Primary School. He went to Maseno School three years later, joining Alliance High School in 1934 and within two years received a scholarship to Makerere College to study teaching. In 1939 he graduated from Makerere University College with a diploma in education.

After graduating from college Odinga returned to teach at Maseno for four years before moving on to Maseno Veterinary School as headmaster Throughout his career as a teacher he was opposed to the overly ...


Odinga, Oginga  

Robert Fay

After his death in 1994, Oginga Odinga was described by Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi as a “patriotic citizen,” ironic praise for a man who spent most of his career in opposition to the government. As Moi also noted, Odinga was a nationalist as well, a teacher who became a leading member of the independence struggle while president of the Luo Union from 1952to1957 . In addition, he was one of the first Africans to be directly elected to the colonial government’s legislative council.

In 1960 Odinga, with fellow Luo Tom Mboya, founded the Kenya African National Union (KANU). After Kenya achieved independence in December 1963 he served briefly in Jomo Kenyatta’s administration, first as minister for home affairs and then as vice president. But Odinga’s political beliefs lay considerably to the left of Kenyatta’s, and in 1966 he resigned to form the Kenya People s Union ...


Rogombe, Rose Francine  

Jeremy Rich

Gabonese politician and judge, was born on 20 September 1942 to a Galwa family in the central Gabonese town of Lambaréné. The small Galwa community belongs to the minority Omyènè ethnic community that had received favored access to educational opportunities throughout much of the colonial period. She attended primary and secondary schools in Gabon, and her family was close to the extremely powerful Gabonese politician Georges Rawiri. Like Rawiri, Rogombe (née Etoumba) backed the single-party regime of Omar Bongo Ondimba established in 1968. She was a faithful member of Bongo’s Parti Démocratique Gabonais (PDG; Gabonese Democratic Party), and upon completing her undergraduate and graduate studies of law in France, Rogombe returned to Gabon to work for the government. After first working as a magistrate, Rogombe served as minister of women’s affairs and human rights in the 1980s under longtime prime minister Léon Mebiame, another PDG stalwart.

Rogombe authored ...


Roscoe, William  

David Dabydeen

Englishhistorian, writer, and active denouncer of the African slave trade. Roscoe was born in Liverpool and was repulsed by the slave trade and its ubiquity in his home town, where most of its wealth was derived from the trade. He became politically active in the 1790s, and in October 1806 he was elected member of Parliament for Liverpool. One of his earliest speeches called not only for parliamentary reform and peace with France, but for the abolition of the slave trade. He was spoken of highly by William Wilberforce. Wilberforce referred to Roscoe as ‘a man who by strength of character has risen above the deep‐seated prejudices of his townspeople and eventually won their respect’. Roscoe's first published work, Mount Pleasant, a Descriptive Poem (1777), deprecated the slave trade. In 1787 he wrote and published The Wrongs of Africa The poem promoted him ...


Ruth-Rolland, Jeanne-Marie  

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

Central African educator, government minister, businesswoman, political prisoner, and reportedly the first African woman to run for president, was born Jeanne-Marie Ruth on 17 June 1937. She was the daughter of a French father and an African mother in Bangassou, a predominantly Nzakara region in the southeastern corner of the French colony of Ubangi-Shari (now the Central African Republic [CAR]). As a métis offspring of a French father, Jeanne Marie had privileged access to whatever French education was available in the region during the last two decades of colonial rule, which was particularly rare for Ubangian women at this time. In 1956, when she was only twenty-three years old, she became a monitor or supervisor for the educational system in the colony, which became an independent nation in 1960 This was certainly an exceptional position for a young woman to have at this time She remained active ...