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Jeremy Rich

political leader and legendary founder of the Chadian kingdom of Wadai, was born in the late sixteenth century. Since the early nineteenth century, a number of competing narratives have emerged about his origins. Several Wadai notables told the North African traveler Muhammad al-Tunsi during his stay in the kingdom in 1810 and 1811 that Saleh ʿAbd al-Karim came to their land from Mecca via Egypt. Thus he was an Arab whose family may have fled the Ottoman occupation of the Hejaz in 1517. In the mid-nineteenth century the German travelers Heinrich Barth and Gustav Nachtigal both recorded stories about ʿAbd al-Karim’s origins, which stated that the founder of Wadai was a member of a Sudanese Arab clan or a member of a Guimir community located on the modern Chadian-Sudanese frontier. However, a number of elderly Wadai men interviewed by historians in the 1960s and 1970s claimed that he ...


A. K. Bennison

Moroccan ruler, was one of the sons of Muhammad al-Shaykh of the Saʿdi or Saadian dynasty, which ruled a region roughly coterminous with modern Morocco from 1525 until c. 1610. He was born Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik to a woman called Sahaba al-Rahmaniyya who accompanied her son on his later travels through the Mediterranean. The Saʿdi dynasty came to power at an important historical juncture. During the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Portugal had constructed numerous trading enclaves (feitorias along Morocco s Atlantic seaboard and imposed its control on much of the Gharb plain In the last decades of the fifteenth century Spain had finally conquered Muslim Granada and established a series of footholds on the Mediterranean coast of Africa At the same time both countries had established vast overseas empires At the other end of the Mediterranean the Ottomans acted as a Muslim counterbalance conquering the ...


Aomar Boum

second sultan of the Saʿdian dynasty, reigned between 1557 and 1574. He was also known Abdallah al-Ghalib Billah. In 1549 Muhammad al-Shaykh occupied Fez, but the Wattasids sought the Ottomans’ help and regained control of Fez in 1554. Muhammad al-Shaykh was able to control Fez and named his son Abdallah al-Ghalib as its governor. Under the authority of al-Ghalib, Fez regained the political stability and economic prosperity that it had lost under the Wattasids. However, it also remained a center of opposition to the emerging Saʿdian dynasty that had already controlled southern Morocco and captured Marrakech from the Wattasids. In 1557 Turkish officers assassinated Muhammad al-Shaykh, and Abdallah al-Ghalib became the new Saʿdian sultan after intense family infighting over the legitimate successor.

Abdallah al-Ghalib faced major internal and external challenges. He moved from Fez to Marrakech in 1558 and made it his new capital The Ottoman Turks were ...


Ahmed T. el-Geili

patriarch of the ʿAbdallab group and cofounder of the first Muslim state in Sudan, the Blue Sultanate, in the sixteenth century, was born ʿAbdallah bin Mohammed al-Baqir.

Shaykh ʿAbdallah Jammaʿ’s father, Mohammed al-Baqir, was a member of the elite Meccan Qawasma tribe, whose members claim to have descended from Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Mohammed al-Baqir is reported to have migrated from Mecca to Sawakin on the Red Sea, where he married Hosna, daughter of Abdallah al-Qareen of the Rufaʿa tribe and where their son ʿAbdallah was born. When the young ʿAbdallah turned seven, his father took him back to Mecca, where he studied the Qurʾan and other religious sciences until the age of twenty-three, when Shaykh ʿAbdallah returned to Sawakin in Sudan.

In Sawakin he married the daughter of the sharif of Sawakin Shaykh Abu Dhanana and began his efforts to unite the dispersed Arab tribes His ...


Haggai Erlich

North African political and military leader, was probably born in 1506 in the area between Harar and the Ogaden. Ahmad ibn Ibrahim married the daughter of Imam Mahfuz, the governor of Zeyla, who collaborated with Islamic scholars from Arabia against his master, the Sultan of Adal. Ahmad bin Ibrahim was similarly inspired by the renewed Islamic spirit and when he gained control of Harar in 1525, he refrained from adopting a political title and used only the religious designation of imam. His followers and his chronicler later called him Sahib al-fath (the lord of the conquest) or al-Ghazi (the holy warrior), for it was his conquest of Ethiopia, between 1529 and 1543, that made him so significant. In Ethiopian history, he is known as Ahmad Gragn, the left-handed.

The first half of the sixteenth century was marked by the weakening of the Solomonian dynasty s rule in Ethiopia ...


Dierk Lange

West African ruler of present-day northern Nigeria and southern Chad, Ali consolidated the power of the Sefuwa dynasty in Bornu after a long period of dynastic rivalry. By building the fortified town of Birni Gazargamo, he laid the foundation of the second Sefuwa empire. After the retreat of the Sefuwa court from Kanem to its immediate neighbour Bornu in about 1380 royal power rotated between the Idrisid and the Dawudid branch of the dynasty for thirty five years and then the great officials of the state manipulated succession between the two families for twenty years and subsequently civil war ravaged the country for fifteen years During these seventy years the Sefuwa resided in temporary encampments in the eastern part of Bornu Finally the Idrisid Ali Gajideni the son of Dunama IV finally vanquished Uthman ibn Kade the last Dawudid king expelled all remaining members of the hostile Dawudids and ...


Ness Creighton

Mamluk leader of Egypt (1760–1773), was born in the western Georgian region of Abkhazia to a Christian family. His father was, according to most sources, a Christian monk. ʿAli Bey al-Kabir was kidnapped in 1741, at the age of thirteen, by Turkish soldiers. From there he was recruited into the Egyptian Mamluk forces, in which he gradually gained rank and influence over the next several years.

While in name the Ottoman viceroy held power in Egypt, the majority of real power in the country was held by the Mamluks, who had since the late seventeenth century held most administrative and military positions of rank. As such, the leader of the dominant faction of the Mamluk became the unofficial shaykh al-balad.

In 1745 an insurrection of the Janissaries lead to the eventual assassination of Ibrahim Kahya Bey who had been the head of the Qazdughliyya Upon ...


Charlton W. Yingling

military and political figure on the island of Hispaniola in the early nineteenth century, identified himself as being from northern French Saint-Domingue. Despite his importance, little is known about his life, especially his early years. Because of his surname, scholars have conjectured that he was originally Muslim. He was likely enslaved in the northern part of the French colony of Saint-Domingue on the western part of the island until the outbreak of the 1791 slave insurrection that began the Haitian Revolution, after which he rebelled and joined other black troops fighting for Spain against the French Republic. Further complicating the issue are court documents in which he identified himself as ‘Paul’ and claimed he was from Saint Domingue not brought there in captivity from West Africa Regardless of his origins it is known that he accelerated through the ranks becoming a captain under Georges Biassou a leading black general ...


Nathalie Pierre

also known as Anacaona Fleur d’Or (gold flower), a Taíno cacique (leader), religious expert, and poet. She was born in Yaguana (now Léogane in the Republic of Haiti), the capital of the Xaraguá cacicagzo (territory of a cacique) on the Caribbean island of Ayiti (now Hispaniola). The Taíno people called the entire island Ayiti, which means “land of mountains” or “rough hill.” As she was a member of an elite family, it was important that Anacaona become a specialist in cemí interpretation.

Cemís are portable religious objects that represent supernatural entities, particularly ancestors who could intervene on behalf of their living descendants. Human political power could be enhanced through the deployment of cemí icons. To reveal the deity’s personhood, a specialized practitioner, like Anacaona, would conduct religious ceremonies. These ceremonies involved singing accompanied by tambourine music, and Anacaona would recite areytos a form of poetry that detailed ...


Stephen D. Glazier

African American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Benjamin Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, Eighty‐seven Years, 79). He was educated in a one‐room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly in 1858 when a cancerous tumor necessitated the amputation of his left leg. He turned to teaching and was granted a certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time he was the only African American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887 ...


Robert Ross

Griqua leader and hunter in the region that is present-day South Africa, was born around 1770. During the second half of the eighteenth century, his family was one of several families of mixed Khoekhoe and Dutch descent who came to prominence in the dry lands of Namaqualand and along the Gariep River, on the northern frontier of the Cape Colony. Among them were two brothers, known variously as Claas and Piet Bastard or Claas and Piet Barends (sometimes spelled Berends). They first appear in the archival record in the 1760s accompanying Dutch and French expeditions to the Gariep and as overseers on the farms of the Van Reenen family who were then the Cape s most important butchers In time the family grew in wealth prominence and size primarily on the basis of hunting stock farming and trading to the Cape so that it was able to acquire ...


Tayren Woodard

lawyer, politician, missionary, and diplomat, was born in Ohio to Rebecca and Billy Bowser in 1831, the year of the Nat Turner Revolt in Virginia. To avoid being sold into slavery, the Bowsers, who were free-born black natives of Virginia, left the state soon after the revolt, in which over sixty whites were killed. The Bowser family relocated to Logan County, Ohio. Rebecca, who worked as a house servant, owned about $500 worth of real estate around the time of her death. During this time, her real estate was considered impressive for a free black in Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Billy also died.

At the time Bolding was the only boy and the oldest of four children Bolding had three younger sisters Cristine Mary and Elizabeth All of the Bowser children attended school Although little is known about his early years we do know that Bolding attended school at the ...


Carl Moneyhon

businessman and politician, was born a slave in Moscow, Tennessee. Nothing is known about his father. In 1862 his master moved him and his mother, whose name is unknown, to Arkansas to keep them from being freed when the Union army moved into western Tennessee. Bush's mother died when he was seven years old. He was educated in the freedmen's and public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas, and was considered a good student by his teachers. He paid his school tuition by molding bricks. In 1876 he graduated from high school with honors and was immediately appointed principal of Capital Hill School, a public institution for African Americans in Little Rock. In 1878 he moved to Hot Springs, where he was named to head that city's African American high school.

In 1879 Bush returned to Little Rock, where he married Cora Winfrey the daughter of a wealthy contractor Solomon ...


William C. Hine

clergyman and politician, was born to free parents in Greenbriar County, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1831 his family moved to Gallipolis, Ohio. Cain was educated at local schools and worked on an Ohio River steamboat before being licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844. Complaining of racial discrimination in the church, he resigned and joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Assigned a pulpit in Muscatine, Iowa, he was ordained a deacon in 1859. He returned to Ohio and in 1860 attended Wilberforce University. From 1861 to 1865 he served as pastor at Bridge Street Church in Brooklyn, New York, and was elevated to elder in 1862. He participated in the 1864 national black convention in Syracuse, New York, that advocated abolition, equality before the law, and universal manhood suffrage. Cain married Laura (maiden name unknown), and they adopted a daughter.

In 1865 ...


Janice L. Greene

antislavery memoirist and lecturer, Civil War veteran, and first black elected to the Common Council of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was one of ten children born into slavery in Madison County, Kentucky, on the plantation of his maternal grandfather Samuel Campbell. One of Milton's older brothers was the noted abolitionist Lewis G. Clarke. Also known as J. Milton Clark(e) and John M. Clark, Milton was the eighth child of Campbell's biracial daughter Letitia and her husband Daniel or Donal a Scotch Irish widower who immigrated to America to fight the British for this country s freedom The father s tales of battles at Bunker Hill and Valley Forge during the American Revolution were an inspiration for his sons persistent struggle against slavery and for the education and uplift of their brethren That struggle led them to escape slavery regardless of their sometimes privileged status and lighter skin ...


Jeremy Rich

commercial and political leader, was born sometime in the late seventeenth century on the coast of southern Ghana. Little is known about Conny’s background. He became an extremely prosperous trader by acting as a middleman between European buyers with interior trade networks that provided slaves and gold. It is highly likely that Conny profited indirectly from the Asante kingdom’s bloody rise to power against its rivals, since these wars produced thousands of slaves sold to Europeans on the Ghanaian coast between roughly 1700 and 1750. Conny established his headquarters at Cape Three Points in the Ahanta region. One of his immediate neighbors was the Prussian fort of Gross Friedrichsburg, established by the kingdom of Prussia in 1682 as a trade center to purchase gold and slaves This small post faced both European rivals in the Dutch fort of Axim and the English post of Cape Coast According to a ...


Willard B. Gatewood

public official and businessman, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of the prominent African American clergyman and educator John Francis Cook (1810?–1855) and Jane Mann. Educated first at his father's school, Union Seminary, he later attended Oberlin College in Ohio from 1853 to 1855. Upon the death of their father, he and his brother George F. T. Cook, also a student at Oberlin, returned to Washington to assume direction of Union Seminary. Except for a brief tenure in New Orleans as a schoolteacher, John Cook was connected with the seminary until it ceased operation in 1867 after the District of Columbia opened public schools for blacks While his brother remained in the education field and was for many years superintendent of the separate colored school system in the District of Columbia John Cook embarked upon a career in government service Republican politics and ...


Floyd Jr. Ogburn

physician and politician, was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina. Born free and the youngest of seven children in a family with German African ancestry, he matured on an Orangeburg plantation, which his father, Darius, had inherited from his German father, who had settled in South Carolina in the early nineteenth century. The Crums owned and used forty-three slaves to farm their plantation, yet the close of the Civil War marked the death of Darius and their fortune.

The dissolution of the family fortune drove Crum's older brothers north in search of employment, but they helped him get an education. He graduated in 1875 from Avery Normal Institute in Charleston, South Carolina, and briefly attended the University of South Carolina shortly thereafter. In 1881 he obtained an MD degree from Howard University, establishing a medical practice in Charleston two years later. After setting up his medical practice Crum married Ellen ...


Cwa I  

Shane Doyle

Bunyoro monarch, was born in the mid-seventeenth century to Olimi II and Runego. Also known as Rumoma Mahanga, Cwa or Cwamali ruled Bunyoro during the late seventeenth century. His reign holds a prominent place in the historical tradition of the Great Lakes region as it was followed by military defeat and, in the absence of a designated heir, a long succession crisis. This marked the beginning of Bunyoro’s decline from its long-established position of preeminence in the region. Cwa’s reign has been depicted as the moment at which the regional balance of power shifted, not only geographically but also structurally, with the decentralized, ritually powerful empire of Bunyoro being displaced by more cohesive states such as Buganda and Rwanda.

Rumoma Mahanga took the throne from his older brother Nyarwa in a violent coup while still a young man Shortly thereafter Bunyoro suffered a cattle plague that depleted the kingdom s ...


Steven J. Niven

lieutenant governor of Mississippi, was probably the most obscure of the African American politicians to reach high state office during Reconstruction. In 1871 Davis testified before a select committee of the U.S. Congress that he had moved from Shelby County, Tennessee, to Noxubee County in eastern Mississippi in June 1869, but he did not state how old he was or whether he had been a slave or free before the end of the Civil War. If he was born a slave it would be significant since all but one of the eighteen blacks elected to statewide office in the South during Reconstruction were born free, many of them in northern states. Although Davis testified before Congress that he had been admitted to the bar, he did not mention in which state he earned this qualification, though it was almost certainly not Mississippi. Irvin C. Mollison s extensive history ...