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Darshell Silva

oral historian and centenarian, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents who were slaves brought to the United States from Barbados. She was moved to Dunk's Ferry in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when she was ten years old to be with her master, of whom no information is available. There Alice lived as a slave, collecting ferry fares for forty years of her life.

Alice was a spirited and intelligent woman. She loved to hear the Bible read to her, but like most other enslaved people she could not read or write. She also held the truth in high esteem and was considered trustworthy. Her reliable memory served her well throughout her long life.

Many notable people of the time are said to have made her acquaintance like Thomas Story founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane which was the precursor to ...

Article

Diyab,  

Allen J. Fromherz

the Aeneas of North African Arabs, was a semilegendary Arab chief and a primary character in the most important medieval Arab epic, the Sira al-Hilaliyya. The Sira al-Hilaliyya glorifies the story of the great “western march” of Arabs from their original homelands to Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The Sira tells of the odyssey of the Arab migrants who journeyed from Yemen and Arabia to the more verdant lands of North Africa. It relates the resistance they encountered from Berber peoples as they spread across the continent in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The arrival of the Arabs irrevocably changed the cultural and linguistic landscape of the Maghreb.

The first part of the Sira takes place in Arabia and details long struggles between warring factions and the eventual displacement of one tribe the Banu Hilal to the land of Jaziya in North Africa Driven from Arabia by famine ...

Article

The religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians were the dominating influence in the development of their culture, although a true religion, in the sense of a unified theological system, never existed among them. The Egyptian faith was based on an unorganized collection of ancient myths, nature worship, and innumerable deities. In the most influential and famous of these myths a divine hierarchy is developed and the creation of the earth is explained.

Article

Steven J. Niven

, blacksmith and hero of the 1811 Richmond Theatre fire, was born a slave at the Piping Tavern near the Pamunkey River in King William County, Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown, though his mother appears to have been a slave of the keeper of the Piping Tavern. What little is known of Hunt's life comes from a brief biographical sketch published in Richmond, Virginia, on the eve of the Civil War by Philip Barrett, a white journalist. A transcription of Hunt's reminiscences accounts for much of this sketch of the “meritorious old negro” (5), in which Barrett urges his fellow, predominantly white citizens of Richmond to be profoundly grateful for Hunt's long years of service to the community. Hunt, in Barrett's view, was a man of “high integrity” whose bearing and words betrayed his “true, generous-hearted, disinterestedness” (4).

Hunt arrived in Richmond in the first decade ...

Article

The art of the early Ife kingdom, sometimes known as Ile-Ife, is unusual because unlike most other precolonial African sculpture, which was made of wood, early Ife art was made from metal, terra-cotta (baked clay), and other durable materials. The use of these materials means that today there is a strong historical record of the artistic traditions of Ife, which are among the most famous in West Africa.

Ife was an ancient city-state and capital of the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria. The ancient town still stands in southwestern Nigeria today, and it remains an important artistic and cultural center in the region, as it was from the eleventh to the fifteenth century c.e. When Leo Frobenius a German traveler first visited Ife in the early twentieth century he was so impressed with the sophistication of the kingdom s artworks that he claimed to have discovered the mythic lost Atlantis ...

Article

Before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean islands in 1492, several indigenous peoples lived in the region. Although there is some disagreement as to how and when they settled in the islands, most scholars agree that evidence exists of an indigenous presence that dates back more than 20,000 years. The two largest groups were the Taino and Carib. They shared similar cultural practices, and both groups spoke a Native American language called Arawak.

The arrival of Europeans in the late 1400s dramatically altered the lives of these indigenous communities. Many died of diseases that were carried across the Atlantic by European sailors. Others were killed in violent disputes with European settlers. The fate of these indigenous communities provides a lens through which we can view the long history of domination and exploitation by European powers in the region.

Article

David C. Conrad

ruler of the West African Soso Empire in present-day Mali, was a central iconic figure in the Sunjata epic. In this story, Kanté is described as a “sorcerer king” and is credited with the acquisition of Mande musical instruments and conquest of pre-Malian Mande chiefdoms. His sister Kosiya Kanté was the mother of Fakoli Koroma, who is claimed as an ancestor by most Mande endogamous blacksmith lineages.

Our knowledge of Sumanguru also known as Sumaworo Sumamuru Sumawolo and other similar names comes almost entirely from oral tradition although his ephemeral kingdom is historical and it is reasonable to assume the existence of the ruler on which this legendary character is based Moreover in the Mande worldview Sumanguru plays a pivotal role in events affecting key historical ancestors and leading up to the founding of the Mali Empire The existence of Sumanguru s kingdom is acknowledged in the Arabic sources including ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Kimera  

Holly Hanson

semimythical king of Buganda in what is now southern Uganda is said to have been born in the palace of Winyi I ruler of Bunyoro a neighboring kingdom to the north His mother was Wannyana the chief wife of King Winyi According to the dynastic history of Buganda Kimera s father was Kalemeera son of Kabaka King Chwa and grandson of Kabaka Kintu the founder of the Buganda kingdom Kalemeera was invited by King Winyi to sleep in the house occupied by his wife and found her irresistible Kalemeera died as he journeyed south after fathering Kimera The newborn Kimera was thrown into a clay pit but Mulegeya a royal potter retrieved the baby and raised him in his own household supported with gifts of cattle from Wannyana When Ganda chiefs learned of Kimera s existence they called him to come and rule Buganda In the Nyoro version of the ...

Article

Kimani Njogu

, legendary Swahili leader (also referred to as Liongo Fumo), was born in Siu. One of the most remarkable figures in Swahili oral traditions, Liyongo’s praises are found in Utendi wa Fumo Liyongo (The Epic of Liyongo), composed in 1913 by Muhamadi bin Abubakar bin Omari al-Bakry, popularly known as Muhammad Kijumwa. The epic is derived from the oral tradition of the Swahili as the most authoritative source on Liyongo.

It is not clear when Liyongo lived. Some scholars have suggested that he lived in the ninth century, while others have dated him between 1160 and –1204, or circa 1600. It is likely that Fumo Liyongo lived around the thirteenth century around Pate on the northern Kenyan coast. In Tarekhe ya Pate The History of Pate reference is made to a ruler in the region of Ozi by the name of Fumo Liyongo who lived at the time ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

was a North African female saint from the Shadhili Sufi order. Her exact birth and death dates are difficult to decipher. The tomb of the saint, or Sayyida, ʿAʾisha al-Manubiyya in Manuba outside of Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, has long been a focus of devotion, especially for Sufi women.

According to the scholar Scott Kugle, the most important source for the life of Sayyida ʿAʾisha is a hagiography written about her entitled The Heroic Virtue of the Righteous Woman Saint, the Spiritual Master, Sayyida ʿAʾisha al Manubiyya. The hagiography was not intended as an accurate depiction of her life, but rather as a guide for spiritual living aimed especially at female devotees. Kugle and other scholars have recently deciphered the text and have provided a useful summary of how she performed miraculous acts from a very early age.

The miracles began while ʿAʾisha was still in ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

king (r. 205–148 BCE) of Numidia, the territory south and west of Carthage, who brought his kingdom from a Carthaginian-allied principality to one of the major powers of the era and began the romanization of North Africa. The sources for his long career are Polybius 14, Livy 25–42, and Appian, Libyka.

Massinissa was educated at Carthage a protégé of the famous Hasdrubal He fell in love with Hasdrubal s daughter Sophoniba who was married to Syphax a rival for the throne of Numidia When the Romans invaded the region in the Second Punic War Massinissa gave Sophoniba poison so that she would not be captured alive He fought for Carthage in the early years of the war commanding a group of cavalry that went as far west as Tingis modern Tangier and then crossed into Spain and was responsible for killing the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio the Elder ...

Article

Menes,  

Jacco Dieleman

legendary Egyptian pharaoh. According to Egyptian tradition, Menes was the first human to rule Egypt as king after the succession of gods and heroes, and he is considered the founder of the pharaonic state for having united Upper and Lower Egypt into one political and cultural unity. As a cultural hero, he is not a historical figure but the product of historical imagination and cultural memory.

No written records contemporary with the period of Egyptian state formation c 3300 3000 BCE mention Menes s name In fact his name is not attested in writing before the Ramesside period c 1302 1198 BCE when his name occurs in king lists the Abydos King List the Turin Canon and the Min Festival reliefs in the Ramesseum However earlier annals are fragmentary and may have contained his name The king lists place him at the head of royal succession but give no biographical ...

Article

Romain  

Richard J. Bell

a slave whose death was the subject of the first graphic illustration of slave suicide in American literature, was likely born into slavery in the French Caribbean. By the time of his adolescence he was the property of a plantation owner in the French colony of St. Domingue. During the early 1790s Romain was brought by his master, M. Salaignac, to Trenton, New Jersey, when Salaignac fled the slave insurrection in St. Domingue. By 1800 Romain had married another “French negro,” Marie Naval, and fathered two children, Anna and Garcin, one of whom was sent to live-as a house slave in Philadelphia,-Pennsylvania. In 1803 Salaignac received news that the revolution's leader, Toussaint Louverture, had been captured and that Napoleon's army was restoring order and many expected slavery to St Domingue Salaignac made preparations to return to the island a decision that would return Romain and ...

Article

Eric Gardner

fortune-teller and author, does not appear in public records until 1820, at which time she is listed in the federal census, and nothing definitive is known about her parentage or childhood. A purportedly autobiographical text that introduces one extant copy of Russel's The Complete Fortune Teller and Dream Book claims that she was born in 1745 in the “Fuller nation” three hundred miles southwest of Sierre Leone, taken into slavery, and sold to Virginia planter George Russel after experiencing the horrors of the Middle Passage. In Virginia, the narrative asserts, after great torment, she gained the power of divination and then great fame as a seer, was freed, and raised money to free other slaves.

Though the veracity of this narrative is doubtful for several reasons—for example, the birthplace it gives is in the Atlantic Ocean—it is clear that the title-page attribution of The Complete Fortune Teller ...

Article

Suʾda  

Allen J. Fromherz

semi-historical Berber princess, was a main character in the Sira al Hilaliyya, the epic saga of the great Arab migration into North Africa in the eleventh century. Coming from the drought-stricken Arabian Peninsula and known for their warrior prowess on camelback, these Hilali Arabs were sent to Tunisia as a punishment for the Berbers breaking away from the Fatimid Caliphate in Cairo. One of the great classics of the Sira al Hilaliyya is a poignant portrait of the clash of two cultures, Berber and Arab, even as it insists on moments of reconciliation and the possibilities of peace through the theme of love transcending duty to one’s family, tribe, and people. At times Berber characters, especially women such as Suʾda were portrayed as even more noble than the Arab heroes themselves. Most closely analogous to the Dido character in the Roman epic The Aeneid Suʾda was the ...