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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

Peter Hudson

The history of black people in Canada can be dated from the early seventeenth-century expeditions of French explorer Pierre du Gua sieur de Monts Traveling with du Gua was an African man Mathieu da Costa who worked as an interpreter between the French and the indigenous Mic Mac people ...

Article

Erica Lorraine Williams

a warrior who, along with her husband Zumbi, helped to defend Palmares, a famed Maroon community (quilombo) established in the late sixteenth century in the northeastern Brazilian captaincy of Alagoas. While many scholars have estimated that Palmares was home to up to 20,000 inhabitants, James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz (1983) question such a high figure, which would have made Palmares the largest city in colonial Brazil. Nonetheless, Palmares is generally regarded as the largest and longest-lived fugitive community in Brazil. Today, Zumbi and Dandara maintain symbolic importance as Afro-Brazilians continue to struggle for racial and social equality.

While there are no public records of Dandara’s exact place or date of birth, her full name, or her parents’ names, sources say that she was most likely born in Brazil and moved to Palmares as a girl. Palmares was not a single community, but rather several mocambos ...

Article

Eric J. Morgan

Portuguese ex-plorer, was born around 1451. Details of his early life are unknown, though some scholars believe Dias may have been related to João Dias and Diniz Dias, other prominent Portuguese explorers of the fifteenth century. Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail around the southern coast of Africa, which he accomplished in 1488. Born into a prominent noble family, by his mid-thirties Dias was a member of the Portuguese royal court, in charge of the crown’s warehouse of goods, and an accomplished sailor. Dias had accompanied the nobleman Diogo de Azambuja on his expedition to the Gold Coast in 1481, where São Jorge da Mina, a Portuguese fort on the Gulf of Guinea, was constructed. On 10 October 1486 King John II of Portugal appointed Dias as the head of an expedition to sail around Africa to find a trade route to India The ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

African-born slave who became one of the first Spanish explorers of North America, was probably born somewhere in Morocco in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. No sources are available for his early life. His travel companion Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca reported that Esteban was born in the Portuguese-controlled town of Azemmour, Morocco, around 1513. He may have been bought there and brought from elsewhere in Morocco or had come from somewhere else in the north of West Africa. He may also have chosen to sell himself into slavery to improve his life, given Azemmour’s numerous economic and environmental problems. He converted to Christianity after his enslavement. In 1520 he was sold to Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, a Spanish aristocrat. When Dorantes decided to make his fortune in North America in 1527, Esteban joined him.

This expedition led by Pánfilo Narváez of five caravels left Spain ...

Article

Liliana Obregón

Born in Azemmour, Morocco, Estebanico (also known as Estevanico, Esteban, Estevanico the Moor, Black Stephen, and Esteban de Dorantes) may have been captured by Portuguese slave traders in North Africa between 1513 and 1521, and later sold in Europe. In 1528 he accompanied his owner—a Spanish explorer named Andrés de Dorantes—on an expedition led by conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez to settle unknown territory in North America. When they arrived in Florida, Narváez's group of some 300 men encountered many obstacles and were forced to split up in order to survive.

The legendary explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca headed the group that included Estebanico They traveled around the area now known as the Florida Panhandle and the Mississippi River and eventually wound up shipwrecked on what is now Galveston Island in Texas Over time almost all of the expedition s members ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, Alemtejo. He was en route to India when he became the second European to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in 1497. During the two-year voyage commissioned by King Manuelof Portugal, da Gama stopped at various points along the coast of East Africa, including present-day Mozambique, Mombasa, Malindi, and Zanzibar. During his stop in Malindi, da Gama met ibn Majid, the pilot who taught da Gama the route and navigation skills necessary to complete his journey to Calicut, India. After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a trading post in India, da Gama returned to Portugal in 1499 with many stories of East Africa.

In 1502 da Gama was again commissioned by the king to round the Cape of Good Hope this time to establish economic and political sovereignty over areas of East Africa ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Portuguese explorer who helped open up European commercial links to both western and eastern Africa, was born sometime between 1460 and 1469. He probably was born at Sines, a town on the southwestern coast of Portugal. His father was Estêvão da Gama, a knight in the court of the Duke of Viseu. Da Gama’s mother was Isabel Sodré, a woman of noble descent. It is a paradox that so little is known of da Gama’s life, given his fame as the first Portuguese sea captain to reach India. Since da Gama was a younger son, he may have entered Atlantic exploration to make up for losing out on his father’s inheritance.

At some point da Gama became an agent of King João II of Portugal who sought to promote Atlantic trade and exploration like his more famous predecessor Henry the Navigator Gama joined the Order of Santiago a brotherhood ...

Article

Robert C. Schwaller

was probably born in West Africa during the last decades of the fifteenth century. As a youth, Garrido was sold to Portuguese slave traders and taken to Lisbon, the kingdom’s capital and major trade center. In Lisbon, Garrido converted to Christianity. Around 1500, he traveled to, or was taken from, Portugal to Seville, in the kingdom of Castile. After about seven years, Garrido left Seville a free man and traveled to the Caribbean where he became a participant in Spanish conquests.

Most of the details concerning Garrido’s life are preserved in a 1538 petition in which he solicited royal favor for his participation in Spanish conquests. Unfortunately, Garrido did not make mention of his life in Portugal or Africa. Instead, he began his narrative by noting that he traveled to the Americas as a free man arriving sometime before 1510.

Even though a freed slave Garrido s life in ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

African-born conquistador, was born sometime in the late fifteenth century somewhere in Africa. Details about his origins and early life are very sparse. He claimed to have converted to Catholicism in Lisbon, Portugal, and lived in the Spanish kingdom of Castile for some time. However, it is clear that Garrido had arrived at the Santo Domingo colony (in the present-day Dominican Republic) by 1502. This settlement, established on the island of Hispaniola by the Italian sea captain Christopher Columbus, became a destination for slaves almost immediately, since Spanish and Italian seafarers had been using African slaves as servants for centuries. Garrido and other slaves also helped to provide military support against armed attacks by Native Americans. African soldiers helped Spanish leaders capture Puerto Rico in 1508 and lay claim to Cuba in 1511 and 1512 Juan Garrido later claimed to have served under the Spanish commanders Ponce de Léon ...

Article

Peter Gerhard

While the role played by the people of equatorial Africa in the colonization of Latin America is relatively well known, it is for the most part an impersonal history that emerges from the contemporary documents; the establishment of a Negro slave trade as a result of the demand for labor to replace a devastated native population; the employment of these black slaves in the more arduous tasks throughout the colonies; and, in most areas, their gradual assimilation through Miscegenation with natives and to a far lesser extent with Europeans Information about individual blacks is usually confined to a brief statement of age physical characteristics and degree of acculturation at the moment of sale or the taking of estate inventories less frequently the place of origin of a slave is indicated Only rarely do we hear about a Negro slave who achieved distinction in some way Two examples that come ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

important trader and a promoter of Portuguese ties to West Africa, was apparently born to a well-off family in Lisbon sometime in the opening decades of the fifteenth century. Little is known of his early life, personal family history, or even death. It is known, however, that Gomes apparently fought in Morocco and learned North African dances there. It is ironic that such obscurity surrounds a man who played a pivotal role in expanding Portuguese influence on the coast of West Africa.

Gomes first clearly enters the historical record in 1469. After the death in 1461 of Henry the Navigator the legendary supervisor of Portuguese maritime exploration of West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean the Portuguese crown became so distracted by its wars with the Islamic sultanate of Morocco and its Christian neighbor of Castile that efforts to develop trade with West African coastal communities slowed down King ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

known in Portugal as Infante Henrique, duke of Viseu, and a major contributor to Portuguese maritime exploration and Portugal’s ties to Africa, was born in the northern Portuguese city of Oporto on Ash Wednesday, 4 March 1394 Henrique was the third son of King John I of Portugal and his English queen Philippa of Lancaster He later became known in the English speaking world as Henry the Navigator for his promotion of naval exploration of West Africa As a prince Henrique received an extensive education in theology philosophy and the liberal arts Biographer Peter Edward Russell has argued that Henrique s English royal mother inspired him to follow in the footsteps of his Plantagenet aristocratic lineage One hint of this came from his personal motto Instead of using Portuguese Henrique picked as his maxim an Anglo French term talent de bien fere which meant in Middle French a hunger ...

Article

Jean Mutaba Rahier

Sebastián Alonso de Illescas was a ladino slave (a slave who had lived for some time in Spain, who could speak Spanish, and who had been baptized). He had taken the name of his Spanish owner after his confirmation in Seville. In 1553 he and twenty-two other slaves were embarked with merchandise on a ship going to the Peruvian port of Callao, where colonization was burgeoning. During the trip between Panama and Callao, a strong thunderstorm wrecked the ship against the reefs off the coast of the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas. The slaves killed the Spanish crew, then escaped into the forest, where they developed what some historians have called the Republic of Zambos. (A zamba[o] is a mixed-race person from both African and Native American ancestry.)

Under the group's first leader, Anton the maroons grew to dominate indigenous communities in the region The maroons took ...

Article

Chouki El Hamel

Moroccan scholar, diplomat, and traveler, was born al-Hasan b. Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Wazzan al-Fasi al-Gharnati (hereafter, al-Wazzan) in Granada, Spain, to a wealthy family (some sources place the date of his birth between 1488 and 1496). In 1492, Granada fell into the hands of the Spanish Castilians, after which Iberian Muslims were forced to migrate to North Africa. In this context, the al-Wazzan family moved to Morocco and settled in the city of Fez. They were able to preserve their socioeconomic status and participated in diplomatic and commercial activities. In his book Description of Africa al Wazzan mentions that after his family settled in the region of Fez he used to accompany his father on business trips to the Rif region and the Middle Atlas mountains to collect taxes on behalf of the Wattasi sultan He also accompanied his uncle on a diplomatic mission to Timbuktu at age ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

The son of a wealthy family, Leo Africanus was born in Spain but moved to Fès, Morocco, as a child. There he was educated and later employed by his uncle as a clerk. Africanus’s first trip to the western Sudan, around 1512, was part of a diplomatic and commercial mission to the Songhai Empire led by his uncle on behalf of the rulers of Fès. During this trip Africanus traveled extensively throughout the region and visited its major trading cities, including Tombouctou, Djenné, Gao, and Sijilmasa. He recorded his observations on all of the region’s major states: the Songhai and Mali empires, the Hausa States and Bornu, as well as the Bulala state occupying the former Kanem empire. This trip provided much of the research for his later publications.

Between 1516 and 1518 Africanus made several trips to Egypt and possibly a trip to Constantinople. In 1518 during ...

Article

Santa Arias

Iberian-born free black or mulatto, conquistador, and settler in San Juan de Puerto Rico, probably from Andalusia, best known for his supposed relationship with the Taíno female chief Yuisa (Luisa or Loaiza). Along with his parents, Anton Mexía and Violante García, he was one of the first black conquistadors to arrive in the Americas. In 1502 the new governor of Hispaniola, Nicolás de Ovando, brought with him a number of free blacks as unarmed auxiliaries who assumed military responsibilities in the defense and settlement of the territories. Francisco’s father acted as Ovando’s assistant crossbowmen (ballestero), and later received an encomienda (royal grant of indigenous laborers). Francisco decided to venture away and joined Juan Ponce de León in what became the challenging “pacification campaign” of Puerto Rico in 1508 Although writers like Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo Juan de Castellanos and Íñigo Abbad y Lasierra chronicle much of Francisco ...

Article

Selma Pantoja

was a queen and warrior of Ngola, a territory now within the borders of the present-day People’s Republic of Angola. She was also known as Ana de Sousa. There are many stories told about this queen, yet many fundamental aspects of her life are unknown. Her place of birth, the kingdom of Ndongo, was mainly occupied by the Mbundu people, who spoke Kimbundu, and bordered on various cultural and linguistic frontiers in West Central Africa. Nzinga grew up during the first attacks by the Portuguese conquerors. She was twenty years old when the Portuguese built a fort in the Ngola territory. In 1618, Nzinga aided in the construction of another fort in the heart of Ndongo, which continued for some time as an independent political entity.

After the death of her father her brother Ngola Mbandi became king The new Mbundu ruler faced devastating wars that slowed the Portuguese ...

Article

Orombo  

J. C. Winter

Mangi (king) of Keny in the southern Rombo region of Kilimanjaro (in present-day Tanzania) from c. 1800 to 1837, also known as Horombo and Rombo, was famous for having initiated a socio-military revolution and religious reformation in Chagga that brought it in line with the western world at the time, thereby ending Mamba’s rule over eastern Chagga. He unified by conquest all of eastern Chagga under his rule, then met with Mangi Rengua of Machame at the Nanga River between Mochi (Old Moshi) and Kiruwa in 1823, and they agreed that each should rule unmolested over his own half of Chagga.

When Orombo became the Mangi of Keny his realm was tiny and insignificant as for the past one hundred years Mamba succeeding Ugweno had dominated eastern Chagga Each mangidom consisted of localized patrilineal clans having noble warrior and cattle keeping lineages whose male and female youths passed ...

Article

Charles Withers

Scottish physician, botanist, and explorer, was the first European to return safely having observed the west–east course of the River Niger. His significance stems from this geographical accomplishment, from the much reprinted book of his first expedition, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, first published in 1799, and from his “heroic” failure and death in 1806, in circumstances that are still unclear, on a further Niger expedition. His second posthumously published work, published in 1815, and drawn from Park’s surviving papers and reports, began the process of Park’s biographical commemoration.

Park was born near Selkirk in Scotland on or about 11 September 1771, the seventh of thirteen children. Park was educated at home, at Selkirk Grammar School, and, from 1789, in the University of Edinburgh, where he studied medicine. In November of 1792 Park was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks by his brother ...