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Adam Jones

traveler and writer from what is now southern Ghana, was born c. 1827 in or near the Asante capital of Kumasi. In contemporary documents, his name often appears as Aquassie Boachi. His father Kwaku Dua (c.1797–1867) was Asantehene (King of Asante) from 1834 to 1867. According to the “History of Ashanti,” prepared in the mid-twentieth century under the chairmanship of Asantehene Prempeh II (1892–1970), Kwasi Boakye belonged to the village of Atomfuo, 8 miles (13 km) east of Kumasi. This suggests that on his mother’s side he came from the lineage of royal blacksmiths, which may explain why, in 1837 in accordance with his father s wishes he and a close relative of the same age Kwame Poku were chosen to accompany a Dutch embassy under Major General Jan Verveer on its return to Elmina on the coast They were subsequently brought to ...

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Bill Nasson

farmer, general, and first prime minister of the Union of South Africa, was born on 27 September 1862 near Greytown in the British colony of Natal. His paternal grandfather, Philip Rudolph Boot (or Both), was of German settler descent and had participated in the 1830s Boer Great Trek into the interior. The son of migrant trekkers Louis Botha and Salomina van Rooyen, Louis was the ninth of thirteen children. In 1869, the Botha family left Natal and settled on a farm near Vrede in the Orange Free State, where Louis lived until the age of twenty-two. Earlier, he had been schooled at a local German mission where he received only a very basic education.

Botha’s minimal formal learning proved to be no handicap to the development of his exceptional aptitude for fieldcraft and understanding of the working of the highveld terrain. In 1886 he settled on his ...

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Hassoum Ceesay

district colonial chief and master farmer, was born in Njau Village, in the Upper Saloum District of present-day Gambia in 1890. His name is also spelled Sise or Sisi. He was among the few formally educated Gambian colonial chiefs, having attended the prestigious Mohammedan School in Bathurst (now Banjul) in the 1910s before working as an interpreter for the Traveling Commissioner North Bank Province. Interpreters were central to the running of the colonial machinery. As the intermediaries between the local people who could not speak English and colonial officials, they wielded influence because of their perceived proximity to the colonial powers. European officials also did not always trust the interpreters, who were occasionally sacked or jailed for suspected treachery.

Unlike the French colonizers who completely replaced local chiefs with French officials the British in West Africa administered their colonies through preexisting traditional authorities and used local customary institutions ...

Article

clerk, farmer, historian, and scion of several chiefly Kaonde lineages was born in Chimimono in present-day northwestern Zambia in 1899. The title chibanza, first held by Jilundu's father, Kunaka Mwanza (d.1916), was brought into being when Kunaka inherited one of the names of Kasongo Chibanza, his mother's maternal uncle. Muyange (d.1901), Jilundu's mother, was a daughter of Kamimbi, son of Kabambala, holder of the kasempa title until his assassination in around 1880. Muyange's mother was Lubanjika, sister of Nsule, holder of the bufuku title. The history of these titles and his defense of their prerogatives were to dominate Jilundu's later life. By 1912 or 1913 Jilundu had moved to the center of his mother's matrilineage, the village of Nsule Bufuku, and enrolled in the South Africa General Mission's (SAGM) newly established Lalafuta boarding school. In 1916 Kunaka Mwanza Chibanza died and was succeeded ...

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Harmony O'Rourke

Cameroonian politician, educator, and farmer, was born Ngu Foncha in the fondom (similar to the concepts of kingdom or chiefdom) of Nkwen, of the colonial Southern Cameroons, to Foncha, a prince of the fondom, and his fourth wife, Ngebi. Though his father never became the fon (king or chief) of Nkwen, the boy Ngu grew up in the Nkwen palace precincts. He attended a Christian mission at Big Babanki, where he was baptized in 1924 and took the name John. In 1926 he went to the Bamenda Government School, where he impressed a Nigerian teacher, who enrolled him in Calabar’s St. Michael’s School. In 1934, Foncha returned to Cameroon to serve as a teacher but headed back to Nigeria in 1936 to seek further training at the Saint Charles’ Teachers Training College at Onitsha. From 1939 to 1947 Foncha taught in Njinikom Cameroon a stint that was ...

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Hassoum Ceesay

also called Tamba Jammeh, a Gambian colonial chief, farmer, and political figure, was born probably in 1880, to Jatta Selung Jammeh, a Serere-Mandinka, and Awa Job, a Wollof in the Baddibu district of Gambia. He retired in 1964 and died on 13 October 1987. When the British colonialists declared a colonial protectorate in Gambia in 1893, Jatta Selung was allowed to become the first chief of the Illiasa district. His son, Mama Tamba, attended the Muhammedan School in Bathurst (now Banjul) from 1905 to 1913. Soon after, he was employed as a scribe in his father’s court. In 1925, he was appointed deputy chief, as his father was infirm. Mama Tamba Jammeh became chief of Illiasa on 28 February 1928.

The new chief of Illiasa embodied tradition modernity sagacity and innovation At a time when only European colonial officials could afford cars Mama Tamba ...

Article

Thomas Spear

renowned Kamba trader, was born in Kibwezi on the Machakos-Kitui border of eastern Kenya about 1790 The early nineteenth century was a period of rapidly expanding trade in eastern Kenya as Giriama and other Mijikenda traders from the coast traveled inland with cloth beads and other trade goods to exchange for ivory cattle hides and craft products At first they met Kamba hunters and traders at the periodic local markets held throughout Kitui but soon Kamba hunters and traders themselves began to travel farther inland to Kikuyu Embu Mbeere Tharaka and Maasai to acquire cattle and ivory establishing wide ranging networks of kin and trade partners with whom they did business By the 1820s Kamba traders were accompanying their Giriama partners to the coast and by the 1840s and 1850s they had come to dominate the long distance trade routes between the coast and highlands At the same time ...

Article

Neil ten Kortenaar

sharecropper in the Transvaal, South Africa, was born in 1894 to Sekwala Maine, who came from a BaSotho family that had emigrated to the Transvaal, and his wife Motheba. Kas Maine was also known as Ramabonela Maine and Kas Teeu. Maine was raised among SeTswana-speakers. His full name, Kasianyane, was a SeTswana praise name alluding to where he was born, in the southwestern corner of the Transvaal. Teeu was a Tswana pronunciation of “dou,” the Afrikaans translation of phoka meaning “dew,” the family totem. As an adult, Maine was baptized Philip in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Maine spent his long life working on other people’s land, growing grain and raising livestock. He also worked as a cobbler and saddle-maker, a ngaka or traditional healer and diviner, a transport rider, a stable hand, a buyer and seller of livestock, and a cook.

When researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand ...

Article

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni

Zimbabwean schoolteacher and farmer, one of the early colonially educated elite in present-day Zimbabwe, was born on 17 July 1920 in Matshetsheni at a place called Mgwanda near Mgwanda Mountain west of the Shake ward and east of the Lumene River in the district of Gwanda His full name was Phinda Mfakazi Sayimana Ndlovu Gatsheni His father Sayimana Simpa Ndlovu Gatsheni traced his historical roots from the Zulu people of South Africa owned a large herd of cattle and was a successful peasant farmer His mother Mnqgibanto Nale Moyo hailed from the Kalanga people of the Matopo area Ndlovu Gatsheni s father was born during precolonial times and experienced the colonial conquests of the 1890s during which white settlers appropriated the land of many Africans Ndlovu Gatsheni was born into a hardworking family that fought fiercely for grazing land for their cattle To this family which treasured its large ...

Article

Frank Afari

Ghanaian agricultural innovator, credited as the first successful planter of cocoa in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), was born in Christiansborg (Osu) in 1842 to Ga parents. His father, Mlekuboi, was a farmer from Teshie, and his mother, Ashong-Fio, came from Labadi. Though both parents came from poor backgrounds, and were not literate, they were known to be intelligent people of good moral standing.

Like his father, Quarshie could not read and write. In his youth he trained as a blacksmith at the Basel Missionary Industrial Training Institute at Christiansborg Castle, Osu, where the mission had set up training workshops to promote technical and vocational education in order to meet the growing demand for skilled workmen along the coast. Missionary craftsmen who manned these workshops specialized in training African apprentices in carpentry, masonry, chariot-making, blacksmithing, pottery, shoemaking, hat-making, and bookbinding. In 1854 aged twelve Quarshie was apprenticed to one ...

Article

Redoshi  

also known as Sally Smith, was the second-to-last living African-born survivor of U.S. slavery. She was born in present-day Benin on the west coast of Africa. Redoshi was one of around 110 West African children and young people who comprised the human cargo of the schooner Clotilda, the last slave ship to reach the United States. The Clotilda docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama, in July 1860, fifty-two years after a federal law had been enacted that banned the importation of slaves to the country. Redoshi outlived all other known Clotilda survivors with the exception of Matilda McCrear, who died in January 1940. Another Clotilda survivor, Kossola/Cudjo Lewis, died in 1935. Little is known about Redoshi’s early life, although a newspaper article suggested that she was the daughter-in-law of a chief and that her father upheld the law in her community (Montgomery Advertiser, 31 ...

Article

Sonia Abun-Nasr

pastor of the Basel Mission in the Ga/Dangme region of the West African Gold Coast, present-day Ghana, was born on 31 May 1834 in Prampram His father Christian Hackenburg Reindorf was a trader of joint European and African descent his mother Anoa Ama was born in Accra of Ga origin Reindorf s great grandfather Augustus Frederick Hackenburg was from Denmark and had been governor at Fort Christiansborg on the Gold Coast Because of his mixed race background and his links with the Basel Missionary Society Reindorf moved throughout his life in a complex web of social relationships These linked him with Ga society in the coastal towns the Christianized Euro African business community in and around Fort Christiansborg now Osu as well as with Europeans working for the Basel Mission on the Gold Coast In his life history these different aspects of Reindorf s identity come to the surface ...

Article

Douglas Thomas

founder and leader of a branch of the Tijaniya, one of the Sufi tariqa (religious/spiritual path) in present-day Senegal, was born to a family of marabout farmers in the village of Gaya in the westernmost province of Fouta Tooro north of present-day Senegal. Fouta Tooro was a precolonial state of the Peulh people (also known as Fula or Fulbe). In 1776, an Islamic revolution overthrew the nominal Muslim Denianke rulers and established a theocratic state. Futa Tooro is also the home region of El Hajj Umar Taal, the celebrated nineteenth-century jihadist who propagated the Tijani tariqa throughout the region along with his confrontational conversion style. In the 1850s, Taal recruited for his jihad from Fouta Tooro, further destabilizing the region; in 1861, he would successfully annex Futa Tooro to his Tukuleur Empire. It was into this environment that El Hajj Malik Sy was born.

El Hajj Malik Sy ...

Article

Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian Minister of Posts, Telephones and Telegraphs, musician, singer, poet, and wit, was born in Minjar in eastern Ethiopia in 1876. He was the son of Ato Eshete Gobe, a servant of Ras Mekonnen, Emperor Menilek II’s governor of Harar, and Weyzero Woleteyes Habtu. Young Tesemma spent his early childhood in Harar, where he learned reading and writing in a church school, but upon his father’s death he moved to Addis Ababa. Later in 1908, at the age of thirty-one, he was chosen by Menilek to go to Germany with two other Ethiopians. They accompanied a departing German visitor, Arnold Holz, who in the previous year had driven to Addis Ababa in a Nache motor car, the second car to reach the Ethiopian capital—the first, a Wolseley driven by Bede Bentley, had arrived in the Ethiopian capital only a few months earlier.

While in Germany where he spent ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Beninese trader and political leader, was born in the mid-nineteenth century in the kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Benin). His father Padounou Houénou was a leading adviser to Gele, king of Dahomey from 1858 to 1887. His son eventually would follow his father’s career in trade, since Padounou’s main task was to watch over European and Afro-Brazilian traders in the southern port city of Porto-Novo, a vassal of Dahomey. Unfortunately, Tovalou-Quenum’s father backed a rival heir of Glélè to Kondo, the future king of Dahomey. Kondo (later known as Behanzin) had Padounou jailed as a result, and he died in prison in 1887 Tovalou Quenum first chose to settle in Ouidah in part to avoid the court intrigues that had brought so much adversity to his father By the late 1880s Tovalou Quenum had become one of the most wealthy and innovative businessmen in the city Later he moved ...

Article

Cyril Daddieh

Ivorian teacher, trade unionist, war veteran, deputy, mayor, spiritual leader, senator, cabinet minister, and wealthy planter/businessman, was born on 23 January 1920 in Jacqueville, not far from Abidjan. His father had served as a customs official in Abidjan. He attended primary school in Grand Bassam and then the École Normale Supérieur William Ponty in Senegal from 1937 to 1940. He taught for two years before joining the French war effort in 1942. He was deployed in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery. After his military service in the French army ended in 1946 he returned home to teach in Aboisso As an ethnic Alladian Yacé was widely recognized as the spiritual leader as well as the titular political representative of the 3A Alladian Aïzi Akouri located in the area around Abidjan between the lagoon and the sea Yet teachers ...