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Article

David L. Weeks

military leader, enslaved and later repatriated to Africa, was born in Timbuktu, the son of Ibrahima Sori (d. c.1788), a West African Fulbe king (also called Fulah, Fulani, Peuls), and one of his four wives. ʿAbd al-Rahman's grandfather, a Moor (a North African Muslim), had been king of Timbuktu.

As the son of an almami (Muslim theocratic ruler), ʿAbd al-Rahman was surrounded by wealth and power. He was raised in Futa Jallon, the lush highlands of modern Guinea, in the city of Timbo. After learning to read, write, and recite the Qur’an, Ibrahima went to Jenne and Timbuktu to study with Islamic clerics. At age seventeen, he joined his father's army. His military prowess soon resulted in significant leadership positions. In 1786 Ibrahima married and had a son (al-Husayn).

Fulbe tribesmen traded with Europeans along the African coast 150 miles 240 kilometers away Taking wares ...

Article

Adhuu  

Trevor Hall

who was one of the first West Africans enslaved by the Portuguese in 1441, and transported by ship to Europe. He lived in Rio de Oro (modern-day Western Sahara). Information about his parents and marital status is not known; however, Adhuu was captured with a youth who may have been his relative. His reason for renown is that after he was enslaved in Portugal, he negotiated his freedom with Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460). Adhuu probably spoke Berber or Arabic, and communicated with Portuguese translators.

The Portuguese royal chronicler Gomes Eannes da Azurara witnessed Adhuu’s arrival in Portugal in 1441 Azurara said that Prince Henry had ordered Captain Antam Goncalves to sail from Portugal to West Africa and capture the first persons he found and transport them back to him Captain Goncalves sailed to Rio de Oro where he spotted human and camel tracks along the ...

Article

Yesenia Barragan

enslaved rebel in the province of Chocó in New Granada modern day Colombia was born in the late eighteenth century Agustina lived in the small town of Pueblo Viejo present day Tadó located south of Quibdó where she was the slave of Miguel Gómez Agustina was admired for her tremendous physical beauty and like all female slaves faced the danger of sexual assault by her master especially common among slaves who lived and worked in close quarters This was the case for Agustina who worked as a cook in addition to performing other household tasks Sometime in the late eighteenth century Agustina was raped and impregnated by Gómez Upon discovering her pregnancy Gómez demanded that Agustina abort the child immediately to avoid public scandal but she refused Abortion infanticide and refusal to abort were common forms of resistance employed by enslaved women to control their bodies and livelihoods Consequently Gómez ...

Article

Juan Navarrete

black slave of the Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro, who led an expedition to Chile, was reportedly born in 1498. Her place of birth is unknown, but the first archival notices of her date from 1523 when Antón Palma, a resident of Seville, purchased a pregnant slave woman named Malgarida for 12,000 maravedies from the artisan Juan Fiuco. In Seville in 1526, Francisco Díaz Sahagún committed to paying twelve gold ducats to a Genoese traveler to transport this slave woman to the Indies, where Malgarida was acquired by Diego de Almagro, probably in Panama, for the purpose of caring for his son, Diego.

Twenty years younger than her master, Malgarida was known to be profoundly beautiful, and she and Almagro reportedly became lovers. He brought her with him to Peru, and from there to Chile in 1535 as part of the first European expedition to the region ...

Article

Bernard Gainot

representative in the French Directory government (1795–1799), was born a slave around the year 1758 in Cap-Français, now Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. His master, Pierre Antoine, a free black man from Le Cap, who was an entrepreneur and mason, took Jean-Louis along with him as an aide-de-camp to the Savannah expedition in 1779 during the American War of Independence. More than five hundred free men of color, many of them from Le Cap, fought as allies of the Americans against the British. Upon his return, Jean-Louis was freed for an amount of £300, according to the notarial deed dated 3 May 1783, as a reward for his faithful service to Antoine.

The slave Jean Louis then became Jean Louis Annecy a surname probably originating from the designation of a house often found on the plains of the Cape and frequently spelled Ansy He may have been the owner of ...

Article

Marcelo Ahumada

enslaved woman in Santiago del Estero, a province in northeastern Argentina, accused and condemned together with her mother, Simona, and one of her sisters for practicing witchcraft. María, another of her sisters, managed to evade legal prosecution. Antonia was, along with the rest of her family, a slave of Don Antonio de Luna y Cárdenas. She was freed after his death, at some point before March 1725, when a judicial proceeding was initiated against her for homicide resulting from enchantment and witchcraft. Within a short period, Antonia’s sister was burned to death for these alleged crimes, while their mother, Simona, managed to escape. Though Antonia was condemned to death on six charges of murder, evidence suggests that she managed to avoid the punishment, and her ultimate fate remains unknown.

The judge in the case López Caballero made statements that noted his prior familiarity with Antonia and the alleged infamy ...

Article

Dave Gosse

was possibly raised in The Bahamas. Historical data depicts him as “a man of colour” with one ear and one eye, which was covered with a piratical scarf.

Additional biographical details surrounding the early to adult life of Moses Baker are tenuous as he dates his origin to New York. Baker describes himself as a freed African and a barber by profession; he was married on 4 September 1778 to Susannah Ashton, a freedwoman and dressmaker of New York. His association with the British army eventually led to his evacuation from New York to Jamaica in 1783.

The mere fact that he left with the British for Jamaica suggests that his freedom was most likely gained by fighting with the British and as such would have been questionable if he remained in the United States after the Revolutionary War This best explains his exodus to the British colony of ...

Article

John Gilmore

Domestic servant to Samuel Johnson. He was born a slave in Jamaica, but his date of birth and original name are unknown. He was brought to England by Richard Bathurst, formerly a planter in Jamaica, who had him baptized and who gave him the name by which he is known. Bathurst sent him for some time to a school at Barton in Teesdale in Yorkshire, and his will (dated 1754) left Barber his freedom and £12.

By this date, probably in 1752, Barber had entered the service of Samuel Johnson, who was a friend of Bathurst's son (also Richard). The exact date, and how old Barber was at the time, are uncertain, but he was probably still a young boy. In 1756 he ran away and worked for about two years for a London apothecary though he returned to visit Johnson regularly during ...

Article

Vincent Carretta

servant to Samuel Johnson, was the son of an unidentified enslaved woman in Jamaica. His father may have been his owner, Richard Bathurst, a colonel in the Jamaica militia. Barber’s slave name, Quashey, suggests that his mother may have come from the Akan-speaking area of Africa that is now Ghana. Quashey was one of only four slaves Colonel Bathurst kept when he sold his 2,600-acre sugar plantation and 140 slaves in Jamaica in 1749. Barber later recalled having been 7 or 8 years old when Colonel Bathurst brought him to London, England, in 1750 to live with his son, Dr. Richard Bathurst, a close friend of Samuel Johnson. Johnson was soon to become the most eminent man of letters in the British Empire.

Colonel Bathurst had Quashey baptized and renamed Francis Barber in London The date and place of his baptism are unknown He sent Barber to Yorkshire for ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Born in Jamaica around 1745, Francis Barber was baptized, educated and brought to England by a West Indian slave owner, Colonel Bathurst, in 1752. Bathurst died shortly after their arrival, but not before freeing Barber. Bathurst's son found Barber work with the British author Samuel Johnson, who opposed the slave trade. At a time when black pages in their twenties were commonly deported because it was unfashionable to employ them after adolescence, it was particularly unusual that Johnson and Barber sustained a long and affectionate relationship.

Johnson, who had no children of his own, treated Barber as a son. From 1767 to 1772 he sent Barber to school where he proved himself bright and articulate Barber served Johnson for nearly thirty years acting as Johnson s manservant and receiving and answering Johnson s letters Barber left the Johnson household only twice once to work for a ...

Article

Eduardo R. Palermo

was born in Africa in the mid-eighteenth century and brought to the River Plate region as a slave at an unknown date. After she was freed and purchased her own land, Barberá donated her property for the establishment of Tacuarembó, a city in northern Uruguay, in 1832. The donation represents the only documented case of a person of African descent contributing land for the subsequent founding of a town or city.

The existing historical record refers to Barberá as a freedwoman or “morena libre.” Until the late 1790s, she is registered as residing in rural northern Uruguay, with the respective landowner’s permission. She settled at the intersection of the Tranqueras and Tacuarembó Chico rivers, a site that became known among locals as “el rincón de Tía Ana” (Aunt Ana’s Corner). In July 1804 in Montevideo Barberá signed a commitment to officially purchase the plot of land with an ...

Article

Robinson A. Herrera

who lived in Trujillo, Honduras, an important Caribbean port during the colonial period, which is today an area with a substantial population of Garifuna people, the descendants of Africans and indigenous peoples from St. Vincent. Juan’s origins are unknown, as no documents indicate where he was born. He was married and was the father of several children, but the names of his family members are also unknown. In accordance with the Spanish pattern of naming African slaves, Bardales likely received his surname from a former owner. Juan’s origins and years of birth and death remain unclear, although the evidence indicates that he was likely born in the early sixteenth century and lived past 1565.

In 1544 and again in 1565, Bardales sought a royal reward for his services to the Spanish Crown. As a necessary step in requesting royal favors, Bardales had a probanza de méritos proof ...

Article

an African woman enslaved in Bermuda in the sixteenth century, was the grandmother of a young woman named Beck, who was enslaved by Thomas and Sarah Foster. Bassett was convicted of attempting to kill both the Fosters and their enslaved domestic woman Nancy (spelled by some sources as Nancey), by poison, in June 1730. Her story significantly chronicles how African communities, and black women in particular, resisted slavery in Bermuda and the wider Americas. In 2008, Bermuda’s Progressive Labour Party government erected a monument, “The Spirit of Freedom,” to honor Bassett’s fight against slavery. This launched a racially polarized debate about race and the memory of slavery in Bermuda.

During her trial it was claimed that Bassett gave Beck several types of poison including ratsbane white toad and manchineel root along with specific instructions on how to apply them one as a powdered inhalant the other to be ...

Article

Belinda  

Jeremy Rich

author of the first known slave narrative by an African woman in the United States, and successful petitioner for reparations for her enslavement, was born around 1713. Some historians have argued that she was brought to the US from Ghana, because her petition noted that she had lived on the “Ria da Valta River,” which they viewed as a reference to the Volta River. However, she recalled praying in a sacred grove “to the great Orisa who made all things” as a child. Orisa deities are associated with spiritual traditions among Yoruba-speaking communities in southwestern Nigeria and parts of Benin.

Regardless of the exact location of her original home in her narrative she recalled her childhood as a happy one This peaceful world of groves gave way to the hardships of the Middle Passage European raiders came into her village when she was about twelve years of age whose ...

Article

Philippe Girard

also known as Jean-Baptiste Mars or Timbaze, was a slave, freedman, officer, and deputy from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). He was the first black deputy in the French Parliament and introduced the 1794 law that abolished slavery in the French colonies.

Belley’s origins are uncertain. By his own account, he was born on Gorée Island near present-day Senegal around 1747 and transported to Cap-Français (Cap-Haïtien) around the age of 2, presumably as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Another document, however, lists his birthplace as Léogane in 1755 Saint-Domingue. After obtaining his manumission, Belley, like many free people of color, acquired slaves. As a member of a Dominguan mixed-race unit, he may also have taken part in the 1779 siege of Savannah in support of the American Revolution, where he allegedly gained the warlike nickname of “Mars.”

Belley’s role during the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1789 ...

Article

Leyla Keough

Benedetto, or as he became known, Saint Benedict the Moor, was born in San Fratello, on the Italian island of Sicily, to Christopher and Diane Manasseri. His parents had been transported as slaves from Africa to Sicily, where they converted to Christianity. Benedetto worked on a farm until he gained his freedom as a teen.

Benedetto continued to work as a laborer. Sharing his wages with the poor and healing the sick, he became known as “the black saint.” He joined a group of hermits who chose Benedetto as their leader. In 1562 he became a lay brother. Stories began to circulate about his saintliness and miraculous deeds; he is said to have resurrected a young boy. Church accounts report that people of all classes in Sicily sought his prayers and his counsel. In 1578 though he was neither a priest nor literate he was chosen to lead a ...

Article

Philip Herbert

Alias of Thomas Wiggins (1849–1908), famous slave pianist, described by Mark Twain as a musical prodigy. He was born in May 1849 in Columbus, Georgia, being blind, and in today's terms an ‘autistic savant’. The renowned lawyer James N. Bethune bought Wiggins's parents as slaves. Recognizing that Wiggins was a musical genius capable of imitating noises, improvising, and composing at 6, Bethune's daughter Mary taught him to play the piano.

In 1857 Bethune paraded Wiggins's talent across Georgia, meeting rapturous responses. Consequently, Bethune had tours organized by Perry Oliver (concert promoter) earning them $100,000 a year. Wiggins would play European classical music, improvisations, popular ballads, and his own compositions, examples of the last being ‘The Rainstorm’ (1865) and ‘Cyclone Gallop’ (1887).

The Bethune family forced him to tour the South performing to raise funds during the Civil War for the confederacy and its army ...

Article

Ángela Lucía Agudelo González

and possible founder of San Basilio de Palenque, the first free black town in the Western Hemisphere, was born in West Africa on the island of Bissagos in Guinea-Bissau. In 1596 he was captured by the Portuguese slave trader Pedro Goméz Reynel and was sold later on to a Spaniard by the name of Alfonso del Campo at Cartagena de Indias, a major slave-trading port on the Caribbean coast of the New Kingdom of Granada. Campo baptized him with the Christian name Domingo Biohó and employed him as a rower on a boat on the Magdalena River.

After trying various times to escape from his master, in 1599 Benkos managed to escape with a group of other slaves, his wife, and his children. Together they fled the city of Cartagena and installed themselves in swampy, difficult-to-access lands. It was there that they founded the continent’s first palenque maroon community ...

Article

David Buisseret

Maroon leader in seventeenth-century Jamaica, was also known as Lobolo, Luyola, Don Wall Bolo, and Boulo. Nothing is known of his early life.

After the English invading army occupied Jamaica in 1655, Juan de Bolas, a former slave of the Spaniards, took to the hills and led a center of resistance. When this pelinco, or settlement, was discovered and raided by the English in 1660, Juan de Bolas came over to the side of the new colonizers, waging war on the other key areas of guerrilla resistance, with him and his men absorbed into the English military hierarchy. Three years later he was ambushed and killed by one of his former comrades-in-arms.

In 1655 after the English conquest of Jamaica some of the Spaniards and their former slaves formed various centers of resistance in the mountainous interior of the island One of these was located in ...

Article

Matthew Restall

African-born slave who was later freed and lived his adult life in several Spanish American colonies. He appears in the historical record largely as a result of the colonial authorities’ Inquisition, which prosecuted him for bigamy. He was also known as Felis Manuel Bolio and Manuel de Lara, after the surnames of his owners in Yucatán, Mexico.

His African name is unknown, but Bolio was likely born in the 1730s in West Central Africa, probably in the kingdom of Kongo (he claimed to be a “native of Kongo”). Caught up in the transatlantic slave trade as a boy or teenager, by about 1750 he had been sold to a Spaniard living in Campeche a small port town on the Gulf of Mexico coast of Yucatán He was then sold to a Spaniard named don Manuel Bolio who had the young African baptized as Felis Manuel Bolio in the predominantly ...