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Allensworth, Allen  

Jacob Andrew Freedman

soldier, minister, and social activist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of the six children of Levi Allensworth and Phyllis (maiden name unknown), slaves of the Starbird family. The Starbirds were respected members of the community and were partners in Wilson, Starbird, and Smith, a wholesale drug company based in Louisville. Levi died when Allen was an infant. Phyllis's other five children either had been sold down the Mississippi River or had escaped to Canada. Phyllis hoped that Allen could “even if partly educated, win his freedom” (Alexander, 9). Believing that God would play a role in his redemption as well, Phyllis named Allen after Richard Allen, the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In Allen Allensworth's early years he was given to Thomas Starbird, Mrs. Starbird's son, as a companion.

When Thomas was sent to school Allensworth s ...


Da Costa, Mathieu  

William E. Burns

interpreter, was probably born in the sixteenth century in the region of West Africa under Portuguese influence. What is known of his career comes from legal cases and documents carried out in the Dutch Republic and France from 1607 to 1619. Da Costa's African Portuguese origin can be surmised from his Portuguese name, and the fact that a community of interpreters, some of African descent and some of mixed African and Portuguese descent, had formed in West Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. That Da Costa appeared to his European contemporaries as black can be shown from the use of the word naigre to refer to him. However, his particular point of origin is not certain, nor is the way in which Da Costa's skills as an interpreter transferred from the African coast to that of North America.

Da Costa first appears in the historical record in 1607 ...


Du Sable, Jean Baptiste Pointe  

Richard C. Lindberg

explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Pointe au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-race ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, Juliette Kinzie, the wife of the fur trader John Kinzie makes note of the fact that the first white man who settled here was a Negro Several of the voyageurs and commercial men who regularly traversed the shores of southern Lake Michigan in the last decade of the eighteenth century kept accurate records of their encounters in journals and ledger books One such entry describes du Sable as a ...


Duplex, Prince, Sr.  

Charles Rosenberg

one of at least 289 people of African descent who enlisted in the Connecticut Line during the American Revolutionary War, was born in Southington, Connecticut, where by the laws of that time he was the property of Samuel Riggs, a status inherited from his mother. He was baptized on 18 July 1756. Historical sketches published in 1875 mention that he had a brother named Peter, whose later life is unknown.

Prince's mother and father were later assigned as servants for Reverend Benjamin Chapman, pastor of Southington Congregational Church, who had married Riggs's daughter Abigail in 1756. When Riggs died in 1770, probate of his property listed “a negro boy Prince £50,” who presumably was part of Abigail's share of her father's estate. The young men's parents may be the Peter and Hannah initially bequeathed by Riggs to his wife The entire family eventually ...


Explorers in Africa before 1500  

Robert Fay

Outsiders have remained in contact with the peoples of Africa since the first modern humans began trickling out of the continent. Desert nomads have crossed the Sahara and coastal traders have crossed the narrow Strait of Mandeb for thousands of years. From the beginnings of history, the Mediterranean Sea facilitated continuous contact between North Africa and the peoples of Europe and the Middle East. Certainly trade connections existed between Egypt and the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa by the second millennium b.c.e and Carthaginians and Asian peoples may have been trading along the coasts of Africa more than 2 000 years ago However none of these ancient traders or explorers left written accounts that survive today so we know little about them and nothing of what they saw during their travels Our earliest surviving accounts of sub Saharan Africa come from ancient Greek authors Herodotus of Halicarnassus wrote extensively about ...



Glenn Allen Knoblock

Ohio frontier settler and slave, was likely born in Africa and brought to the American colonies by slave traders as a young boy. While details about nearly all of his life are speculative at best, Ezra was purchased at Baltimore, Maryland, by Dr. David McMahan in the years before the American Revolution. When Dr. McMahan decided to travel to the Ohio country to claim land for his own in early 1777 he brought along with him his two Negro slaves Ezra and Sam Eckert 123 Traveling overland from Fort Cumberland on the Braddock Road the three man party crossed the Monongahela River and made their way to Wheeling on the Ohio River Making their way on packhorses loaded with the provisions and supplies needed for homesteading as well as McMahan s medical gear the trip was a long and arduous one While details are lacking there can be ...


Goyens, William  

Charles Rosenberg

was the first African American and perhaps the first of any color to become a millionaire in Texas. His life reflects substantial changes in the social and legal implications of skin color from the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteeth century, distinct from, but closely related to, changes in the institution of slavery.

His father was a “free colored” man named William Goyens Sr. (or Goin), born in 1762, who enlisted in a company of the Tenth North Carolina Regiment May 1781–May 1782 for the Revolutionary War. After discharge from the militia, Goyens Sr. married an unknown woman referred to as “white,” who was the mother of the younger William Goyens. Goyens Sr. then remarried a colored woman named Elizabeth in 1793. Goyens Sr. received an invalid pension for North Carolina militia service in 1835, at the age of seventy-two (Research of Cindy Goins Hoelscher ...


Hanno, the Navigator  

Philip Kaplan

Carthaginian ruler and explorer. Almost nothing is known of his life. In classical sources, Hanno is called dux, imperator, and basileus (king) of the Carthaginians. The latter is likely a translation of the Punic sft, suffete, an executive position. The name Hanno is common among the leading families of Carthage; the explorer is sometimes identified, without justification, with the son of Hamilcar, the suffete who died in the battle of Himera in 480 BCE (e.g., in Justin’s Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus). Aside from several references in later works of classical scientists and geographers, Hanno’s journey is known primarily from a brief Greek account— Periplus, or Circumnavigation preserved in a single Byzantine manuscript Codex Palatinus Graecus 398 The text claims to be a version of an account presumably originally in Punic posted in the temple of Kronos Baʿal Hamon in Carthage A ...


Himilco, the Navigator  

Duane W. Roller

Carthaginian explorer, was sent by the Carthaginians to learn what was beyond the extremities of Europe, and thus was one of the first Mediterranean explorers to sail on the Atlantic Ocean. He lived around 500 BCE, known only because he was a contemporary of his more famous colleague Hanno, perhaps his brother. Both were members of the ruling Magonid family of Carthage and represented a vigorous attempt on the part of the Carthaginian government to learn about the world beyond the Mediterranean. Reconstruction of Himilco’s voyage is difficult because it is not documented before Roman times and then only in two sources: the Natural History of Pliny the Elder (2.169) and the strange geographical poem of Avienus, the Ora Maritima 117 29 375 89 402 13 The latter was written in the fourth century CE but probably was derived from a Hellenistic sailing manual that itself made use of ...


Ibn Battuta, Muhammad ibn Abdullah  

John Calvert

Moroccan writer and explorer, was born in Tangier, Morocco, into a well-respected Berber family of judges who adhered to the Maliki school of jurisprudence. Toward the end of his life he recounted his journeys in a book entitled A Gift to the Observers Concerning the Curiosities of Cities and the Marvels Encountered in Traveling. The work is one of the principal sources available to modern researchers for the social, economic, and political conditions of the fourteenth-century Islamic world. Although not as well known, Ibn Battuta’s travels were more extensive than the journeys of his younger European contemporary, Marco Polo. Over a period of twenty-eight years, he crossed the breadth of Africa and Asia and visited the equivalent of approximately forty-four modern countries. He combined his travels with scholarly pursuits, or with professional posts such as that of judge (qadi in cities along the way A native speaker ...


Ibn Battutah  

Barbara Worley

Like the majority of North Africans, Ibn Battutah (whose full name was Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn’Abd Allah al-Lawati at-Tanji ibn Battutah) was ethnic Berber, and his family traced its ancestry to the nomadic Luwata ethnic group originating in Cyrenaica west of the Nile Delta. Born into the Muslim religious elite in Tangier, Morocco, he would have received a classical literary education in addition to rigorous studies in Islam.

Ibn Battutah wrote poetry in addition to traveling across Africa, Arabia, Asia Minor, India, and China. Most important of his works are his descriptions of the life and culture of peoples of the Niger Basin and Central Sahara, among the earliest and by far the most detailed. After Ibn Battutah returned from his voyages he recounted his observations to Ibn Juzayy, who recorded and edited them at Fès, in Morocco.

At the age of twenty-one, Ibn Battutah set out on ...


Idrisi, al-Sharif al-  

Russell Hopley

geographer, was born in the Moroccan city of Sabta (present-day Ceuta). Al-Sharif al-Idrisi completed his early education in Cordoba and subsequently spent time in Malaga, an Andalusian city that had been ruled by the Banu Hammud, a family of Arab noblemen descended from the Prophet. Idrisi's grandfather had been the final Arab ruler of Malaga, and the family's fortunes suffered considerably following the Almoravid occupation of Islamic Spain, an event that proved central in determining the course of Idrisi's life.

Idrisi's stay in Malaga appears to have been cut short by the political turmoil that marked the final decade of Almoravid rule in Andalusia, and he next appears in Palermo, Sicily, in 1139, where he was given sanctuary at the Norman court of Roger II Idrisi would spend the following two decades at the Norman court in Sicily and it was there that he composed the monumental ...


Juba II  

Duane W. Roller

king of Mauretania, was a significant political leader and scholar of the Augustan period, who ruled a wide area of northwestern Africa as a king allied to Rome, and as “rex literatissimus (most learned king)” (Lucius Ampelius, Liber memorialis 38.1) was responsible for a large number of literary works.

He was the heir to the Numidian throne, a distinguished indigenous monarchy of North Africa (his ancestors included Massinissa and Jugurtha), but when his father Juba I committed suicide in 46 BC after defeat by Julius Caesar, as part of the Roman civil war, Juba II, who was only an infant at the time, saw his inheritance provincialized. He was brought to Rome by Caesar and entered the household of Caesar’s grand-niece Octavia, where he lived for twenty years, an intimate of the developing Roman imperial family. Eventually he became a Roman citizen.

In the 30s BCE his talents as ...



Salim Faraji

Monophysite priest sent by Theodora, empress of the Byzantine Empire and wife of Justinian I, to the kingdom of Nobadia, where he began his missionary endeavors in 543 CE. He was the first Christian missionary sent to Nubia in connection with an official Byzantine mission. Christianity had begun to encroach upon Lower Nubia as early as the middle of the fourth century, through the efforts of Coptic monks, as recorded in the hagiographical tradition. Julian was part of a Monophysite (the doctrine of Christ’s purely divine, as opposed to both divine and human, form) faction that included the Byzantine Empress Theodora, exiled Alexandrian Patriarch Theodosius, and the bishop and missionary Longinus.

Julian had been a priest under Theodosius in Egypt and was quite familiar with the ecclesiastical intrigues of his time including the theological debates between the Orthodox Chalcedonians who held that Christ s nature was dual both human and ...


Julius Maternus  

Duane W. Roller

Roman official who traveled deep into Africa, starting from Leptis Magna on the Mediterranean coast of Libya. He is only known from mention in the Geography of Ptolemy of Alexandria (1.8, 10), written toward the middle of the second century CE. Ptolemy’s source for Maternus was the work of Marinos of Tyre, now lost, but written perhaps around 100 CE. Since Maternus was not mentioned in the exhaustive Natural History of Pliny the Elder, completed by 79 CE, he must have been active in the last third of the first century CE. Nothing else is known about him beyond the sparse account of his journey.

Maternus set forth from Leptis Magna probably where he was posted and went first to Garama a journey of thirty days Ptolemy or actually Marinos implied this was a journey of official business While at Garama Maternus was persuaded by the local king to join ...


Keïta, Sunjata  

David C. Conrad

also known as Mari Djata I was credited in oral tradition with founding of the Mali Empire and acknowledged in an Arabic source as ruler of his western sudanic state Sunjata s place of birth has often been identified as the village of Niani on the Sankaran River but there are convincing arguments against this Recently presented etymological and oral evidence points to the no longer extant village of Farakoro in the chiefdom of Konfara a region of modern day northeastern Guinea near the Mali border The oral sources identify Sunjata s father by various names associated with his chieftaincy including Maghan Konfara Naré Maghan Konaté and Farako Manko Farakonkèn Oral tradition recalls Sunjata s most distant paternal ancestor as Mamadi Kani in a genealogy that continues with other ancestral names recognizable in a score of variants but it is not clear if the earliest ones represent sons of Mamadi ...



Donald B. Redford

provincial nobleman, was a resident at Elephantine in the First Township of Upper Egypt during the outgoing Old Kingdom. The biographical text from his tomb at Qubbet el-Hawa, opposite the island of Elephantine, records all that is known of him, but, taken in conjunction with the biographies of similar worthies in adjacent tombs in this necropolis, it helps to delineate a special function of the governors of the First Township. Living as they did on the southern frontier of Egypt, where Nubia begins, the local gentry were required to keep a watch on this alien southland, and to be “privy to all matters pertaining to the Deep South.” When required by the pharaoh, they were obliged to lead caravans or punitive forces south into the Sudanese wilds to trade or to punish.

Kharkhuf and those of his class were not semi independent great chiefs barons of the township but rather ...



Salim Faraji

Monophysite priest and the first ordained bishop to the Christian church in Nubia, was the successor of Julian, the first Byzantine Christian missionary sent to Nubia. Longinus was originally based in Egypt before residing in Constantinople and was appointed by the exiled Alexandrian patriarch Theodosius to serve as Nubia’s first bishop. He lived during the middle and late sixth century; his missionary activity commenced in Nobadia in 569 CE and concluded in 580 CE with his sojourn to Nubia’s southern kingdom Alwa—also known as Alodia in Greek texts. He is considered to have led the longest and most successful missions to Nubia and thereby provided the ecclesiastical foundation for the emergence of medieval Nubia.

Longinus has been characterized by scholars as being a member of the Monophysite Triumvirate of the sixth century which consisted of himself Empress Theodora of Byzantium and the Patriarch Theodosius Empress Theodora the wife of the ...



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 ...


Prince, Abijah  

Anthony Gerzina

freed black slave, New England property owner, and husband of Lucy Terry, is thought to have been born in or near Wallingford, Connecticut, near New Haven. He was the slave of the Reverend Benjamin Doolittle, and accompanied Doolittle and his wife, Lydia Todd, from Connecticut to Northfield, Massachusetts, in early 1718, when Doolittle, after graduating from Yale, was named minister of that town. Based on what is known of other nearby towns, the nature of Prince's years in Northfield can be surmised. Northfield, in the Connecticut River Valley just south of the modern Vermont border, was then a small frontier town. Originally settled in 1673, it was abandoned soon afterward, following strife with the native population during King Philip's War. Resettlement began around 1685, but in 1718 it held perhaps only a dozen households none of which owned slaves Although slaveholding ...