African history is the oldest human history in the World. From Ancient Egypt to the present great leaders (alive as well as those in transition) have shaped Africa and world history. This page is dedicated to studying their noble deeds, learning from their mistakes and continuing their legacy.
Without Yared, Askia, Bello, Sundiata, Imhotep, Menelik, we would have no history to celebrate. Without Garvey, Du Bois, Duse and Delany there would be no revolution. Without Elijah there would be no Malcolm, without Malcolm no African Holocaust Society. Of all of the legends/elders of Africa none of them held the total solution, they each brought different elements of perfection.
So we do not quote Diop for economics, Blyden for culture, Du Bois for health, Garvey for warfare, King for identity, or Biko for culture. Unlike them, we have the joy of hindsight and the better world they created for us to reflect on. They are remembered best by emulating the best aspects of their character.
They lived and died to give us a better platform to speak about our oppression (our Holocaust) as well as our victories. They are best honored by continuing the spirit of their mission: Orphan quotes; and an X on a cap is not how serious people honor their ancestors. Not being critical of their shortcomings is also not how a progressive people honor their ancestors. We must therefore build upon their legacy to bring about a new African future. And none of this can happen if Africa’s heroes are “cult” icons to be celebrated without critique or to be absorbed without critical thinking. Consciousness demands that we reflect on their contributions but studying them with these factors in mind.
I was born into a world that already had Malcolm and Karenga, Dubois and Biko. Hence I was fortunate not have to wonder around the cultureless deserts of humanity—‘Alik Shahadah
Akhenaton (1375-1358 B.C.)
Amenhotep IV , better known as “Akhenaton” is in some respects, the most remarkable of the Pharaohs. He is considered the the founder of the first monotheistic religion. The account of Akhenaton is not complete without the story of his beautiful wife, Nefertiti.
Some archaeologist have referred to Nefertiti as Akhenaton’s sister, some have said they were cousins. What is known is that the relationship between Akhenaton and Nefertiti was one of history’s first well-known love stories. At the prompting of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, the sculptors and the artists began to recreate life in its natural state, instead of the rigid and lifeless forms of early Egyptian art. After the death of his father, he came into full power in Egypt and took the name Akhenaton.
He produced a profound effect on Egypt and the entire world of his day. Thirteen hundred years before Christ, he preached and lived a gospel of perfect love, brotherhood, and truth. Two thousand years before Muhammed, he taught the doctrine of the “One God.” Three thousand years before Darwin, he sensed the unity that runs through all living things.
Askia The Great (1538)
Muhammad Toure (Mohammed Ben Abu Bekr) had a few variation of his name. He was governor as well as the favored general of Sunni Ali Ber. He believed that he was entitled to the throne after Sunni Ali’s death, rather than Ali’s son, Abu Kebr.
With aid from the Muslim Scholars, Muhammad Toure took power from Sunni Ali Ber’s son. Claiming that the power was his by right of achievement, Muhammad attacked the new ruler a year later and defeated him in a historically bloody battle. When one of Sunni Ali’s daughters heard the news, she cried out “Askia,” which means “forceful one.” This title was taken by Muhammad as his new name.
Askia began by consolidating his vast empire and establishing harmony among the conflicting religions and political elements. Under the leadership of Askia, the Songhay Empire flourished until it became one of the richest empires of that period.
A devout Muslim, Askia Mohammed I made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1496. One thousand infantry and a cavalry detachment of 500 horsemen accompanied him. He also took 300,000 gold pieces. In Mecca, Askia met the Caliph of Egypt. Askia requested that the Caliph appoint him as his representative in West Africa. The Caliph agreed. Askia Mohammed returned to Gao in 1497, with a new title. He was now the Caliph of the Western Sudan, spiritual ruler of all the West African Muslims.
The empire Askia inherited from the Sonni Dynasty was already massive, yet he expanded north, east and west by conquest. Ultimately it would cover an area about the same size as all of Europe. By 1514 his armies captured the Hausa Confederation of northern Nigeria. Next to capitulate was the city of Agades in Niger, and finally the regions to the far west of the empire around the Atlantic. As the kingdom grew into an empire, Askia Mohammed I came up with new methods of government, establishing a strongly centralised administration. Among the most important posts were the Minister of Treasury, the Minister of Tax Collection, the Minister of the Army and Navy, and the Minister of Trade and Industry. In some territories, the Askia allowed the regional kings to rule as they had before, just as long as they paid tribute. With his empire firmly established, Askia resumed his attack on his enemies, carrying the rule of Islam into new lands. Askia the Great, made Timbuctoo one of the world’s greatest centers of commerce and learning. With the vassal nations Songhay was about the size of the continental United States.
Askia Mohammed I went blind and was disposed by one of his sons (Askia Musa) and exiled to an island in the Niger River. He was restored by one of his later Sons later. (Askia Ishaq). There were about 8 Askia in this line of rulers.
In other territories, the Askia created a parallel post to the local governor called the mondyo (i.e. inspector), who formed the official link to the imperial Songhai government. Askia Mohammed I died in 1538 after falling off his horse and drowning in a river. Oddly the river was at its lowest level because it was not rainy season. He was buried in a Step Pyramid at Gao. He is fondly remembered as Askia the Great.
Ahmadou Bamba (1850-1927)
Ahmadou Bamba (1850-1927) (Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke in Wolof, Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Habīb Allāh in Arabic, also known as Khadīmu ‘l-Rasūl or “The Servant of the Prophet” in Arabic, and as Sëriñ Tuubaa or “Holy Man of Tuubaa” in Wolof), Muslim Sufi religious leader in Senegal, founder of the large Mouride Brotherhood (the Muridiyya).
He was born in the village of Mbacké (Mbàkke Bawol in Wolof) in the Kingdom of Baol, the son of a marabout from the Xaadir (Qadriyya) brotherhood (the oldest in Senegal).Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba was a mystic and ascetic marabout who produced a prodigious quantity of poems and tracts on meditation, rituals, work, and Qur’anic study, and made good-luck amulets for his followers.
Although he did not support the French conquest, he did not wage outright war on them as several prominent Tijaan marabouts had done.
The mission of rehabilitation of Islam
Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba is considered one of the greatest spiritual leaders in Senegal. He founded Mouridism. Mouridism advocates an aspiration to Allah the Almighty in accordance with the prophet’s (Muhammad) message. In the struggle against the colonizer, he did use peaceful ways to restore the values of an Islam no longer practiced in a good way due to the oppressor’s influence. In other words, in a period where resistance was made by weapons, Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba revolutionized the struggle by using his spiritual strength against the oppressor. The Koran and the Hadith were his weapons. His mission reveals two aspects: the aspiration to the rank of Servant privilege of the Prophet but also the rehabilitation of Islam.
Aesop (560 B.C.)
The influence of Aesop on the Western thoughts and morals is profound. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero, Julius Caesar, Shakespeare, and other great thinkers found inspiration in his words of wisdom. His writings have been translated into almost every language of the civilized world.
Aesop was a Phrygian, in Asia Minor, an African slave, flat-nosed, thick lips, Black skin from which his name was contracted (Esop being the same as Ethiop).
Aesop’s first master was Xanthus, who saw him in a market where he was for sale with two other slaves, a musician and an orator. Xanthus asked the musician what he could do? He replied “Anything.” The orator to the same question replied, “Everything.” Turning next to Aesop, “And what can you do?” “Nothing,” Aesop replied. “Nothing,” repeated Xanthus, and Aesop replied, “One of my companions says he can do anything, and the other says that he can do everything. That leaves me nothing.” This is an example of the wit of Aesop.
Amos Wilson (1941 – 1995 )
Dr. Amos Nelson Wilson (1941 – 1995) Former Social Caseworker, Psychological Counselor, Supervising Probation Officer, Training Administrator in the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, Master Teacher, Organizer, and Author. The late, Honorable Dr. Wilson was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1941. Familiarly referred to as Brother Amos, he provided the average person with an acute analysis of where we are and the things that affect us. He served as a council to energize our race and those in positions of influence as to how to carry out their leadership responsibilities. Dr. Wilson’s activities transcended academia into the fields of business, owning and operating various enterprises in the greater New York area.
Because of his understanding of consciousness (trained as a developmental psychologist/clinical psychologist), his comprehension per personality/identity/culture/socialization/pedagogy, etc., (esp., Psycho-history: how historical experiences–natural and social–shape the individual and the group), gave him another insight that many (really most) are now “catching-up” with today. He predicted and prescribed endless well-though out works as to the African American’s and to a lesser degree, the global African “collective’s,” dire reality.
He found the historical romanticism (black firsts/”Egyptian Obsession”) and contributionism (gifts to oppressive systems/”Black History Month”) in excess, reactionary and an affront to the realization of African growth, development and advancement (Pan-Africanism). This is his body of work:
- Developmental Psychology of the Black Child Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children
- Black-On-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination
- Understanding Black Adolescent Male Violence: Its Remediation and Prevention
- The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness: Euro-centric History, Psychiatry and the Politics of White Supremacy
- African-Centered Consciousness Vs. The New World Order
- Blueprint for Black Power: A Moral, Political, and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century.
- Ahmed Baba (1556-1627)
- Ahmad Baba al-Massufi al-Tinbukti, full name Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Ahmad al-Takruri Al-Massufi al-Tinbukti .
- The Songhai Empire ruled about two thirds of West Africa, including the lands now called Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Northern Nigeria and Niger. When the Empire collapsed, due to an Arab and European invasion in 1591 AD, its intelligentsia were arrested by the conquerors and dragged in chains across the Sahara. One of these scholars was Professor Ahmed Baba. The author of 60 books, Professor Baba enjoyed a very high reputation. Amongst the Songhai, he was known as “The Unique Pearl of his Time”. In a Moroccan text from the period, the praise for him was even more gushing. He is described as “the imam, the erudite, the high-minded, the eminent among scholars, Abu l-Abbas Ahmed Baba.”
- In Morocco, the Arab scholars petitioned to have him released from jail. He was released a year after his arrival on 9 May 1596. Major Dubois, a French author, narrates that: “All the believers were greatly pleased with his release, and he was conducted in triumph from his prison to the principal mosque of Marrakech. A great many of the learned men urged him to open a course of instruction. His first thought was to refuse, but overcome by their persistence he accepted a post in the Mosque of the Kerifs and taught rhetoric, law, and theology. An extraordinary number of pupils attended his lectures, and questions of the gravest importance were submitted to him by the magristracy, his decision always being treated as final.”
- Despite this adulation, Baba was careful to credit his learning to the Almighty and thus maintained his modesty. A Moroccan source tells of an audience he obtained with Al Mansur. It appears that the scholar gave the sultan something of a dressing down. Baba complained about the sultan’s lack of manners, his ill treatment received during his original arrest, the sacking of his private library of 1600 books, and the destruction of the Songhai Empire. We are told by the Moroccan author that Al Mansur “being unable to reply to [any of] this, put an end to the audience.”
- The professor was detained in Morocco for a total of 12 years. Eventually he received permission from Al Mansur’ssuccessor to return to Songhai. Just before his departure across the desert, he vowed in the presence of the leading scholars of Marrakesh who had gathered to give him a send off, “May God never bring me back to this meeting, nor make me return to this country!” He returned to a devastated Timbuktu and died there in 1627.
Abu Bakr II (c 14 Century)
Abu Bakr II ( also Mansa Abu Bakari II, or Mansa Mohammed) was the ninth mansa of the Mali Empire. He succeeded his nephew Mansa Mohammed ibn Gao and preceded Kankou Musa I. Abubakari II appears to have abdicated his throne (1311) in order to explore “the limits of the ocean”; however, his expedition never returned.
Ibn Fadlullah al-Umari (1300-1348), in his encyclopaedic work Masalik Al-Absar, relates a story obtained from the Mamluk governor of Cairo, Ibn Amir Hajib. While Mansa Musa was visiting Cairo as part of his pilgramate to Mecca, Ibn Amir Hajib asked how he had succeeded to the throne, and this is what Ibn Amir Hajib reported he was told: The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth: he wanted to reach that (end) and was determined to pursue his plan. So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, and many others full of gold, water and provisions sufficient for several years. He ordered the captain not to return until they had reached the other end of the ocean, or until he had exhausted the provisions and water. So they set out on their journey. They were absent for a long period, and, at last just one boat returned. When questioned the captain replied:
‘O Prince, we navigated for a long period, until we saw in the midst of the ocean a great river which flowing massively. My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me, and they were drowned in the great whirlpool and never came out again. I sailed back to escape this current.’ But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and his men, and one thousand more for water and provisions. Then he conferred the regency on me for the term of his absence, and departed with his men, never to return nor to give a sign of life.
Almamy Suluku (ca. 1820-1906)
|Almamy Suluku was a powerful Limba ruler who maintained his independence as long as possible through brilliant political manoeuvring. He was the son of Sankailay, chief of the Biriwa country, with its capital of Bumban, near modern Kamabai.|
As a young man, Suluku became the Kurugba, or war captain; and under his military leadership, Biriwa became one of the largest kingdoms in Sierra Leone. Suluku was crowned Gbaku (King) over a kingdom that now covered almost ten percent of the Sierra Leone hinterland.
But Suluku was not satisfied with territory alone, and he set out to make his country wealthy as well. He fostered the trade in gold, ivory, hides, and foodstuffs that passed through Bumban on the way southwest to Freetown; and he gave effective police protection to the traders in his realm. His progressive rule impressed the British administration in Freetown, which sent him annual gifts throughout the 1880s. When Samori Toure’s Mandinka forces occupied Biriwa in 1884, Suluku pretended to co-operate while sending urgent messages to the British warning of a disruption in trade if the Mandinka did not withdraw. The British accepted Suluku’s arguments, persuading the Mandinka to leave Biriwa country. Thus, while other Sierra Leonean kings suffered costly defeats in futile military resistance, Suluku managed to have his way through political strategy alone.
In the 1890s, as British power increased, Suluku pursued his own independent policy while making the British believe he was their loyal ally. He sent frequent messages of friendship to the British Governor and entertained royally every British delegation that arrived in Bumban, but did exactly as he pleased. Some lower ranking officers warned of Suluku’s deception, but Freetown was convinced of his loyalty. When the 1898 Rebellion broke out, Suluku sent warriors and weapons to Bai Bureh; but when the British complained, he sent them a letter expressing his support for their position and offering his services as mediator! After the Protectorate was established, the British wanted to break up Suluku’s kingdom into small chiefdoms, but Suluku’s subjects refused to cooperate as long as the old Gbaku was still alive. When he was very aged, a British official asked Suluku to name his successor under the new and tightly controlled colonial structure. The old Gbaku’s reply: “Suluku will never die”.
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Behanzin Hossu Bowelle “The King Shark” (1841-1906)
Behanzin Bowelle “The King Shark”, was the most powerful of the West African Kings in the last years of the 19th Century. Behanzin was the absolute master of his kingdom. A nod of his head meant life or death for his subjects. Not many were permitted to see him do even the most common things.
While marching, if he wanted a drink of water, a screen needed to be placed over his face until he finished drinking. When the water was passed to him, the soldiers would throw themselves on the ground and say “A-h-h-h”, as though they were also drinking. The saliva from Behanzin’s mouth was not allowed to touch the ground.
Behanzin’s army, with rifles supplied by the Germans, were getting too strong for neighboring French colonies. In 1890, Behanzin had defeated a French expedition and made France pay for the use of Cotonou port. He declared a treaty made with France by his father, Gli-Gli in 1868 null and void, from this war began.
In 1894, Behanzin was defeated by Colonel A.A. Dodds, a Senegalese -European, who was sent to fight against him with powerful French armed forces. Behanzin was exiled to Martinique. Behanzin died in 1906 in Algeria. In 1928, his son had his body moved to Dahomey.
Bilal ibn Rabah al-Habashi
Bilal ibn Rabah (Arabic: بلال بن رباح) or Bilal al-Habashi (580-640 CE) was an Arab companion of Islamic prophet Muhammad, born in Mecca who is considered as the first muezzin chosen by the prophet of Islam.He is notable as he is one of the most respected Sahabas of Islam. In 622, the year of the Hijra, Bilal migrated to Medina and over the next decade accompanied Muhammad on all his military expeditions, and according to Islamic tradition, a lawyer revered by Muslims for his majestically sonorous renditions of the adhan. Bilal also carried Muhammad’s spear, which was used from 624 onward to point the direction of prayer.
He fought in the Battle of Badr, in the aftermath of which he killed his former master, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, in spite of the protestation of Umayyah’s capturer and long-time friend Abdur Rahman bin Awf. Bilal was also present in all of the major events and battles, including the battles of Uhud and Battle of the Trench.
Edward Wilmot Blyden, himself an African man and former slave, wrote in 1874: The eloquent Adzan or Call to Prayer, which to this day summons at the same hours millions of the human race to their devotions, was first uttered by a Negro, Bilal by name, whom Mohammed, in obedience to a dream, appointed the first Muezzin or Crier. And it has been remarked that even Alexander the Great is in Asia an unknown personage by the side of this honoured Negro.
Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832-1912)
Edward Blyden was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on Aug. 3, 1832, of free, literate parents. A precocious youth, he early decided to become a clergyman. He went to the United States in May 1850 and sought to enter a theological college but was turned down because of his race. In January 1851 he emigrated to Liberia, an African American colony which had become independent as a republic in 1847. Blyden was the Liberian Secretary of State (1862-1864) and Minister of the Interior (1880-1882).
He continued his formal education at Alexander High School, Monrovia, whose principal he was appointed in 1858. In 1862 he was appointed professor of classics at the newly opened Liberia College, a position he held until 1871.
Although Blyden was self-taught beyond high school, he became an able and versatile linguist, classicist, theologian, historian, and sociologist. From 1864 to 1866, in addition to his professorial duties, Blyden acted as secretary of state of Liberia.
From 1871 to 1873 Blyden lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone. There he edited Negro, the first explicitly pan-African journal in West Africa. He also led two important expeditions to Fouta Djallon in the interior. Between 1874 and 1885 Blyden was again based in Liberia, holding various high academic and governmental offices. In 1885 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Liberian presidency.
After 1885 Blyden divided his time between Liberia and the British colonies of Sierra Leone and Lagos. He served Liberia again in the capacities of ambassador to Britain and France and as a professor and later president of Liberia College. In 1891 and 1894 he spent several months in Lagos and worked there in 1896-1897 as government agent for native affairs.
While in Lagos he wrote regularly for the Lagos Weekly Record, one of the earliest propagators of Nigerian and West African nationalism. In Freetown, Blyden helped to edit the Sierra Leone News, which he had assisted in founding in 1884 “to serve the interest of West Africa … and the race generally.” He also had helped found and edit the Freetown West African Reporter (1874-1882), whose declared aim was to forge a bond of unity among English-speaking West Africans. Between 1901 and 1906 Blyden was director of Moslem/Muslim education; he taught English and “Western subjects” to Muslim youths with the object of building a bridge of communication between the Muslim and Christian communities. He died in Freetown on Feb. 7, 1912.
Writings, Ideas, and Hopes Although Blyden held many important positions, it is more as a man of ideas than as a man of action that he is historically significant. He saw himself as a champion and defender of his race and in this role produced more than two dozen pamphlets and books, the most important of which are A Voice from Bleeding Africa (1856); Liberia’s Offering (1862); The Negro in Ancient History (1869); The West African University (1872); From West Africa to Palestine (1873); Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race (1887), his major work; The Jewish Question (1898); West Africa before Europe (1905); and Africa Life and Customs (1908). His writings displayed conversancy with the main current of ideas as well as originality, and he was often controversial. He was critical of African-Americans who did not associate with Africa.
Blyden sought to prove that Africa and Africans have a worthy history and culture. He rejected the prevailing notion of the inferiority of the African man but accepted the view that each major race has a special contribution to make to world civilization. He argued that Christianity has had a demoralizing effect on Africans, while Islam has had a unifying and elevating influence. Blyden’s political goals were the establishment of a major modern West African state which would protect and promote the interests of peoples of African descent everywhere. He initially saw Liberia as the nucleus of such a state and sought to extend its influence and jurisdiction by encouraging selective “repatriation” from the Americas. He hoped, also in vain, that Liberia and adjacent Sierra Leone would unite as one nation. He was ambivalent about the establishment of European colonial rule; he thought that it would eventually result in modern independent nations in tropical Africa but was concerned about its damaging psychological impact. As a cultural nationalist, he pointed out that modernization was not incompatible with respect for African customs and institutions. He favored African names and dress and championed the establishment of educational and cultural institutions specifically designed to meet African needs and circumstances.
Steve Biko (1946 – 1977)
Bantu Stephen Biko was born in Tylden in the Eastern Cape, South Africa on the 18 th December 1946, Very early in his academic program Biko showed an expansive search for knowledge that far exceeded the realm of the medical profession, ending up as one of the most prominent student leaders. In 1968, Biko and his colleagues founded the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO). He was elected the first President of the organization at its inaugural congress held at Turfloop in 1969. This organization was borne out of the frustrations Black students encountered within the liberal and multi-racial NUSAS.
In the eyes of Biko and his colleagues, NUSAS showed signs of an organization unwilling to adopt radical policy positions and comfortable with playing safe politics. The questions that triggered the formation of SASO became known as the ‘best able debate’ – are white liberals best able to define the texture and tempo of resistance?
SASO was founded therefore as a call to Black students to refrain from being spectators in a game in which they should be participant. Maintaining working relationships with other student organizations, SASO’s primary engagement was to address the inferiority complex that was the mainstay of passiveness within the ranks of Black students. It was not long before it became the most formidable political force spreading to campuses across the country and beyond. After serving as the organizations President Biko was elected Publications Director for SASO where he wrote prolifically under the pseudonym, Frank Talk. With the seeds of African Consciousness having been sown outside of student campuses, Biko and his colleagues argued for a broader based black political organization in the country. Opinion was canvassed and finally, in July 1972, the Black People’s Convention (BPC) was founded and inaugurated in December of the same year. Inspired by Biko’s growing legacy the youth of the country at high school level mobilized themselves in a movement that became known as the South African Students Movement (SASM). This movement played a pivotal role in the 1976 Soweto Uprisings, which accelerated the course of the liberation struggle.
The National Association of Youth Organizations was also formed in order to cater for the youth more generally. Biko was instrumental in the development and formation of a core SASO project – the Black Worker’s Project (BWP), which was co-sponsored by the Black Community Programs (BCP) for which Biko worked at the time. The BCP addressed the problems of Black workers whose unions were not yet recognized by the law. After being expelled from Medical School in 1972 Biko joined the BCP at their Durban offices. The BCP engaged in a number of community-based projects and published a yearly called the Black Review, which provided an analysis of political trends in the country. In March of 1973 Biko was banned and restricted to King William’s Town. There he set up a BCP office where he stood as Branch Executive. It was not long before his banning order was amended to restrict him from any association with the BCP. Despite this the office that he had established did well managing amongst other achievements to build the Zanempilo Clinic and a crèche, both of which were very popular with the people. As an example of his resolve and indestructible black pride Biko was also instrumental in the founding of the Zimele Trust Fund in 1975, which was set up to assist political prisoners and their families. This he achieved in spite of the inconveniences and restrictions placed on him by his own banning order. He continued his hard work by setting up the Ginsberg Educational Trust to assist African students. In January 1997 the BCP unanimously elected Biko Honorary President in recognition of his momentous contribution to the liberation struggle. In his short but remarkable life Biko was frequently harassed and detained under the country’s notorious security legislation. This interrogation culminated in his arrest, together with his colleague and comrade Peter Cyril Jones, at a Police roadblock outside of King William’s Town on the 18 th August 1977. Biko and Jones had in fact been to Cape Town, despite the banning order, to lend their weight to efforts to get all political organizations fighting for liberation to agree on a broader program of co-operation. Both were detained under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act. Biko’s quest for black unity would eventually cost him his life. During their detention Biko and Jones were tortured at the headquarters of the Security Division housed in what was then known as the Sanlam building in Port Elizabeth. It was during this period that Biko sustained massive brain haemorrhage. On the 11 th of September 1977 Biko was transported to Pretoria central prison – a twelve-hour journey, naked, without medical escort, in the back of a police Land Rover. Biko died on the floor of an empty cell in Pretoria Central Prison on the 12 th of September. It was in this way that South Africa was robbed of one of its foremost political thinkers.
Muhammed Bello (1815-1837)
Muhammed Bello (reigned 1815 – 1837) (Arabic: محمد بيلو) was the son and aide of Usman dan Fodio. He became the second Sultan of Sokoto following his father’s 1815 retirement from the throne. Bello faced early challenges from dissident leaders such as ‘Abd al-Salam, and rivalries between the key families of his father’s jihad. Bello soon consolidated his rule by granting land and power to these leading Fulani families.
Cetewayo “Zulu King” (d. 1884)
Cetewayo, King of the Zulu’s, was a hero in a war with the British, causing the most crushing defeat the English ever experienced from any Africans in modern history. His victory at Isandlhwana was one of the most terrifying slaughters in history. In 1879, the British invaded Zululand. Cetewayo defeated the British, and killed Prince Napoleon, heir to the French throne.
A missionary, trying to frighten Cetewayo into accepting Christianity, told him of hell fire. “Hell fire?” Cetewayo laughed. Do you think I’m afraid of hell fire? My soldiers would put it out. He commanded his officers to have his warriors to eat a grass fire burning on a nearby hillside. His men immediately began to eat up the fire, not regarding their personal injuries. Cetewayo replied “I eat hell fire.” He was a strict military disciplinarian. The army knew they must conquer or die. Certain death always awaited a defeated army.
Cetewayo banished the missionaries from the Zulu territory for plotting against him and meddling in his national affairs. It was then suggested to the governor of the Cape that the Zulu nation should be annihilated in order to secure South Africa.
Having conquered many more British, Cetewayo was soon captured and imprisoned. Three years later, Cetewayo was granted a request to present his case to Queen Victoria. The British found him to be a courteous, friendly, gentleman, not the man-eating savage depicted. He was honored as a hero and promised restoration of his power.
The whites of South Africa never kept the promise of the Queen. When Cetewayo returned home, he again went to war with the enemy. Cetewayo died in February, 1844. Never having surrendered his principles for freedom for his people, the Zulus.
Fredrick Douglass (1818-1895)
People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”
― Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass, arguably the most important African American leader of the 19th century, was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, in Talbot County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1818. The son of a slave woman and, presumably, her white master. When Douglass escaped from slavery at the age of 20, he adopted a new surname from the hero of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. Douglass’ life, captured in self-published autobiographies, established some of the greatest contributions to southern culture on written record. Etched as straightforward abolitionist propaganda and individual disclosure, they are commonly respected as supreme models of the slave narrative tradition and as archetypal American autobiography.
These works; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave , were published in 1845. In 1855, My Bondage and My Freedom was released; and after the Civil War, he drafted and published Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in 1881, which he revised in 1892.
Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will Frederick Douglass
Douglass’s public life spanned from his work as an abolitionist in the early 1840s to his condemnation of Jim Crow segregation in the 1890s. Douglass spent most of his activist life in Rochester, N.Y., where he edited some of the most influential Negro newspapers of the 19th century; namely The North Star (1847-51), Frederick Douglass’ Paper (1851-58), and The Douglass Monthly (1859-63). Douglass realized international notoriety as an orator and writer, and attained widespread acclaim that few contemporaries could match. Douglass delivered powerful rhetoric that administered necessary and revolutionary amplification of the anti-slavery movement, while providing an unconquerable voice of hope for his people. In delivering his ideals on America’s participation in and perpetration and expansion of the slavery paradigm, Douglass relished the opportunity to struggle against and overcome systemic mechanisms whereby Africans were oppressed and castigated from the family of man.
The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery Frederick Douglass
In 1861, during the Civil War, Douglass represented the finest example of morality, and served as the anchor of the struggle to stamp out the inhumanity of slavery. Douglass contributed key components to the cerebral conventions of military nationalism, due to the position that many Americans, from The North and South, interpreted Civil War rationale. Reconstruction saw Douglass’s leadership wane as he traveled and lectured extensively on racial issues, after which he moved to Washington, D.C., where he edited the newspaper The New National Era and became president of the short-lived Freedmen’s Bank.
A tenacious Republican, Douglass was appointed marshall (1877-81) and recorder of deeds (1881-86) for the District of Columbia, and chargé d’affaires for Santo Domingo and minister to Haiti (1889-91). Douglass fathered five children by his first wife Anna Murray, a free woman from Baltimore who followed him from out of slavery in 1838. After Anna’s death in 1882, the 63-year-old Douglass married Helen Pitts, his white former secretary. Through the racial taunts from both Negro and White collectives, Helen devoted the last years of her life to planning and establishing the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. Her efforts were dedicated to maintaining Cedar Hill as a lasting memorial to the memory of Frederick Douglass and his work.
Douglass’s name and labors represent the resolute anti-slavery banners of his age, and remain uniquely American icons. His life will always speak profoundly to the dilemma of African life in America. Frederick Douglass died of heart failure in February of 1895, but not before blossoming into a warrior for social justice and universal equality.
Dusé Mohamed Ali
Date of Birth: 21 November 1866, Alexandria, Egypt.
Date of Death: 26 February 1946, Lagos, Nigeria.
Dusé Mohamed Ali was an influential Pan-Africanist, a supporter of Islam, mentor to Marcus Garvey ( This Islamic influence can be seen in Marcus Garvey‘s motto “One God, One Aim, One Destiny”. ) He traveled widely throughout the African Diaspora. He founded the African Times and Orient Review in 1911, which spread the call for African nationalism, and later founded The Comet in Lagos, Nigeria. He created the Universal Islamic Society in Detroit, Michigan (which in turn influenced the creation of the Nation of Islam by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in 1930).
Colour prejudice is at the root of most of the “Oriental incapacity” which bulks so largely in English literature … Anglo-Saxon educational achievement is accounted erudition, while Oriental educational attainments are indiscriminately labelled “educational veneer”, or “a veneer of Western culture”; and this applies not only to Orientals, but to all the coloured races of the world– Dusé Mohamed Ali
Mohamed Ali was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on 21 November 1866 to an Egyptian father, Abdul Salem Ali (who was an army officer), and a Sudanese mother. Ali was sent to England for schooling in 1876 and lost contact with his family — they could not afford for him to return to Egypt (as a result he lost his knowledge of Arabic). Ali’s father was killed in the nationalist uprising of 1882 (at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir — fighting against the British with the rebellious Egyptian army). His father’s death required Ali to return to Egypt to put his family’s affairs in order. It was at this point that he adopted the name Dusé, to distinguish himself from the common Egyptian name Mohamed Ali. He returned to Britain impoverished and unable to continue his education.
Dusé Mohamed Ali began a career as an actor and playwright — although his plays failed to achieve critical acclaim. He began working for Wilson Barrett’s theatrical company (although he is said to have worked with more famous acting companies over the years) and between 1885 and 1909 he played at venues around the UK, and toured in India, the Caribbean, and the length of the Americas.
Ali quit the touring company in the US and began work as a ‘penny-a-line’ journalist. He returned to Britain in 1898 to resume acting and to begin writing for the British press. By 1909 Ali was contributing to the liberal weekly paper New Age, in which he highlighted the plight of Black peoples around the world and pushed for Egyptian nationalism.
In 1911 Dusé Mohamed Ali responded to comments about Britain’s role in Egypt made by Theodore Roosevelt (during a public speech at the Guildhall, London, 30 May 1910). Roosevelt had urged Britain to use ‘violence and injustice‘ against the ‘fanatical‘ Egyptians and their ‘farcical‘ attempts at self-government1. The result was a book: Land of the Pharaohs, published both in London and New York. It was widely acclaimed, but it was soon revealed that Ali had plagiarized earlier works. Ali apologized, and his continued stalwart stance against British imperialism (and the treatment of Africans in the US) produced much acclaim amongst the African Diaspora.
Ali was invited to attend the Universal Races Congress in 1911, at the University of London. Although a thousand people attended, only a small proportion were from the African Diaspora. Ali did, however, meet WEB Du Bois and John Eldred Taylor (an entrepreneur from Sierra Leone).
In 1912 Taylor and Ali launched the African Times and Orient Review (AT&OR), but their relationship soon floundered and financing the paper switched to a consortium including JE Casely Hayford. Ali noted in the inaugural issue that it would be “a Pan-Oriental, Pan African journal at the seat of the British Empire which would lay the aims, desires and intentions of the Black, Brown, and Yellow Races — within and without the Empire — at the throne of Caesar” and that it would present “the truth about the African and Oriental condition that is rarely stated with precision and accuracy in the columns of the European press“. The paper advocated Pan-African and Pan-Asian nationalism, and became a forum for African activists and intellectuals. Marcus Garvey worked on the paper between 1912 and 1913 and was heavily influenced by Ali. (It is reported, however, that Ali dismissed Garvey for laziness.) The AT&OR suffered a hiatus during the Great War (World War I) and was re-launched as the African and Orient Review in October 1918. It continued in publication until 1920.
The British government had by now determined Ali to be a ‘notorious disseminator of sedition‘ and the AT&OR was banned in India and Africa, and Ali was refused ‘safe conduct’ to visit West Africa. However, in 1920 he finally received a permit to travel abroad, and he departed for Africa in July that year, never to return to Britain. He stopped for several months in Lagos, Ibadan, and at ports along the Gold Coast. At the end of 1920 Ali became a director of the Inter-Colonial Corporation and traveled on its behalf to New York. In his biography, Ali’s Gold Coast business partners cheated him out of funds, leaving him destitute in New York. Whilst attempting to earn money by giving lectures, Ali’s other business venture, the American African Oriental Trading Company, also collapsed. In desperation he turned to his pan-African contacts, including Marcus Garvey.
Despite Ali’s relationship with Garvey being strained, they both profited: Ali contributed articles on African issues to Garvey’s Negro World, headed a department on African affairs, and worked for Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey gained access to Ali’s Pan-Islamic connections and the subscription list for AT&OR. But by 1924 Ali and Garvey had separated once more.
In 1926 Ali established the Universal Islamic Society in Detroit, Michigan (which in turn influenced the creation of the Nation of Islam by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in 1930).
In 1931 Ali returned to West Africa acting as an agent for a New York cocoa buyer. He was refused entry to the Gold Coast, and eventually landed at Lagos. His business plans, which included finding financing for West African farmers directly from African Americans, once again failed. Ali started working as a journalist on the Nigerian Daily Times, became editor of the Nigerian Daily Telegraph in 1932, and in 1933 founded (and edited/managed) The Comet. It was soon Nigeria’s largest weekly, selling around 4,000 issues per week.
Ali serialized both his novel Ere Roosevelt Came (which described his experiences in the US) and his autobiography Leaves from an Active Life in The Comet in 1934 and 1937 respectivley. In 1943 he retired as managing director. Dusé Mohamed Ali died in Lagos on 26 February 1946.
“In attempting to write a history, I am quite aware of the difficulties which beset my path, inasmuch as there are so many “histories” of Egypt. Many of these histories are wise, and not a few, otherwise; but each and every one for the most part is prejudicial to Home Rule in Egypt, and is wanting in that chief historical element — impartiality … That I am qualified to deal adequately with the period under consideration, there need be little doubt. In the first place, I am a native Egyptian with a full knowledge of the aims of my fellow-countrymen, and consequently in sympathy with their sufferings socially and politically … I have no “axe to grind”, nor am I identified with any political party; the reader may therefore count upon an honest and impartial statement of facts.” From chapter 1 of In the land of the pharaohs: a short history of Egypt from the fall of Ismail to the assassination of Boutros Pasha by Duse Mohamed, published by Stanley Paul and Co., 1911.
W.E.B Du Bois (1868-1963)
Among the greatest scholars in American history stands Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. A towering figure, a brilliant scholar and a prolific writer, and Pan-Africanist. In 1890 he graduated cum laude from Harvard University and attended the University of Berlin in 1892. In 1896 DuBois became the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Wilberforce University in Ohio and the University of Pennsylvania, he went on to establish the first department of sociology in the United States at Atlanta University.
Du Bois rose to national prominence when he opposed Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta compromise, an agreement in which Southern blacks would work meekly and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic education and due process in law.
Du Bois insisted on civil rights and increased political representation, which he felt would be brought about by the African-American intellectual elite – the Talented Tenth. He also later clashed with Garvey in what could only be described as lest about ideology and more about natural competition and ego. Both Garvey and Du Bois unfortunately engaged in incivilities towards each other. Du Bois praised certain concepts such as “Africa for the African” but added the caveat that it should not be run by African-Americans.
A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills—Du Bois
Dr. Du Bois was the author of scores of significant books, including three major autobiographies. Among his most important works were The Philadelphia Negro in 1896, Souls of Black Folk in 1903, John Brown in 1909, Black Reconstruction in 1935, and Black Folk, Then and Now in 1939. His book, The Negro (first published in 1915), significantly influenced the lives of such pioneer Africanist scholars as Drusilla Dunjee Houston and William Leo Hansberry. In 1940 DuBois founded Phylon–a magazine published out of Atlanta University. Dr. Du Bois also authored The World and Africa: An Inquiry Into the Part that Africa has Played in World History, a very important work first published in 1946. In 1945 he played a major role at the historic Fifth Pan-African Conference held in Manchester, England. In addition to his literary activities and profound scholarship, at one time or another during the course of his long life, Du Bois could be characterized politically as an integrationist, Pan-Africanist, Socialist and Communist. He was a founding member of both the Niagara Movement and the NAACP, and editor of the Crisis–the NAACP literary organ. In 1961, during the twilight of his life, DuBois was honored by an invitation from President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana to head a secretariat for an Encyclopedia Africana. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois died in Accra, Ghana August 27, 1963 as a Ghanaian citizen.
Cheikh Anta Diop
Diop was born to an aristocratic Muslim Wolof family in Senegal where he was educated in a traditional Islamic school. Diop’s family was part of the Mouride sect. He studied Qur’an at a young age, which is believed to have contributed to his disciplined studious abilities.
Cheikh Anta Diop, a modern champion of African identity, was born in Diourbel, Senegal on December 29, 1923. At the age of twenty-three, he journeyed to Paris, France to continue advanced studies in physics. Within a very short time, however, he was drawn deeper and deeper into studies relating to the African origins of humanity and civilization.
Becoming more and more active in the African student movements, then demanding the independence of French colonial possessions, he became convinced that only by reexamining and restoring Africa’s distorted, maligned and obscured place in world history, could the physical and psychological shackles of colonialism be lifted from our Motherland and from African people dispersed globally. His initial doctoral dissertation submitted at the University of Paris, Sorbonne in 1951, based on the premise that Egypt of the pharaohs was an African civilization–was rejected. Regardless, this dissertation was published by Presence Africaine under the title Nations Negres et Culture in 1955 and won him international acclaim. Two additional attempts to have his doctorate granted were turned back until 1960 when he entered his defense session with an array of sociologists, anthropologists and historians and successfully carried his argument. After nearly a decade of titanic and herculean effort, Diop had finally won his Docteur es Lettres! In that same year, 1960, were published two of his other works–the Cultural Unity of Black Africa and and Precolonial Black Africa.
During his student days, Cheikh Anta Diop was an avid political activist. From 1950 to 1953 he was the Secretary-General of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA) and helped establish the first Pan-African Student Congress in Paris in 1951. He also participated in the First World Congress of Black Writers and Artists held in Paris in 1956 and the second such Congress held in Rome in 1959. Upon returning to Senegal in 1960, Dr. Diop continued his research and established a radiocarbon laboratory in Dakar. In 1966, the First World Black Festival of Arts and Culture held in Dakar, Senegal honored Dr. Diop and Dr. W.E.B. DuBois as the scholars who exerted the greatest influence on African thought in twentieth century. In 1974, a milestone occurred in the English-speaking world when the African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality was finally published. It was also in 1974 that Diop and Theophile Obenga collectively and soundly reaffirmed the African origin of pharaonic Egyptian civilization at a UNESCO sponsored symposium in Cairo, Egypt. In 1981, Diop’s last major work, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology was published.
Dr. Diop was the Director of Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) at the University of Dakar. He sat on numerous international scientific committees and achieved recognition as one of the leading historians, Egyptologists, linguists and anthropologists in the world. He traveled widely, lectured incessantly and was cited and quoted voluminously. He was regarded by many as the modern `pharoah’ of African studies. Cheikh Anta Diop died quietly in sleep in Dakar, Senegal on February 7, 1986.
The Dohemian Female Army (1841)
Dohomey was a wealthy West African empire. The elements of Dohomey’s success were its trade and its powerful army, whose soldiers were considered invincible.
The fierce and mighty Behanzin Bowelle was the king of this great empire. His army contained 25,000 warriors, 5,000 of which were women. These women were thoroughly trained and kept trim by a system of gymnastics developed by the Dohomians themselves. Recruited from among the healthiest and strongest virgins in Dohomey, these females were sworn to chastity.
The king sometimes picked his wives from among them or gave them to his bravest warriors. The training of these women was very rigorous. One of their drills was charging three times barefoot into a construction of thorns, nude to their waist.
The Amazon army corps, made up of female warriors, is said to have been established by King Agadja (1708-1740). His father, King Houégbadja, had already created a detachment of “elephant huntresses” who were also bodyguards. But Agadja made them into real warriors.
- Chaudoin in “Three months in captivity in Dahomey”describes them as follows in 1891:
“There they are, 4,000 warriors, the 4,000 virgins of Dahomey, the monarch’s bodyguard, motionless in their war garments, with gun and knife in hand, ready to leap forward at the master’s signal. Old or young, ugly or beautiful, they are wonderful to look at. They are as well built as the male warriors and their attitude is just as disciplined and correct, lined up as though against a rope”.
According to A. Djivo, in “Guézo, the renovation of Dahomey”, some of the women enrolled voluntarily whilst others who had difficult marriages and whose husbands had complained to the king were enrolled forcibly. Military service disciplined them and the strength of character they had shown in marriage could be expressed through military action.
They protected the king on the battlefield and took an active part in the fighting, giving up their life if necessary. Guézo said to them: “When you go to war and if you are taken prisoner you will be sacrificed and your bodies will become food for vultures and hyenas”.
They, could neither marry nor have children as long as they were in the army. They were trained for war and, in principle, were dedicated to it for life.
“We are men not women. Those coming back from war without having conquered must die. If we beat a retreat our life is at the king’s mercy. Whatever town is to be attacked we must overcome it or we bury ourselves in its ruins. Guézo is the king of kings. As long as he lives we have nothing to fear”.
“Guézo has given birth to us again. We are his wives, his daughters, his soldiers. War is our pastime, it clothes and feeds us”.
In 1894, at the beginning of the war between the troops of General Dodds and the kingdom of Abomey, the army contained about 4,000 amazons divided into three brigades.“They are armed with double-bladed knives and Winchester rifles. These amazons perform wonders of bravery; they come to within 50 feet of our positions to be killed…”(Captain Jouvelet, 1894).
Ezana of Aksum (also spelled Aezana ), was ruler of the Aksum ite Kingdom (c. 330 – c. 356 ) located in present-day Eritrea , northern Ethiopia and Yemen ; he himself employed the style “king of Saba and Salhen , Himyar and Dhu-Raydan .” 1 . Tradition states that Ezana succeeded his father Ella Amida while still a child and his mother, Sofya served as regent.
He was the first monarch of Aksum to embrace Christianity , and the first after Zoskales to be mentioned by contemporary historians, a situation that led S. C. Munro-Hay to comment that he was “the most famous of the Aksumite kings before Kaleb.” 2 He appointed his childhood tutor, the Syrian Christian Frumentius , head of the Ethiopian Church . A surviving letter from the Arian Roman Emperor Constantius II is addressed to Ezana and his brother Sazanas, and requests that Frumentius be sent to Alexandria to be examined for doctrinal errors; Munro-Hay assumes that Ezana either refused or ignored this request.
Ezana also launched several military campaigns, which he recorded in his inscriptions. A pair of inscriptions in Ge’ez have been found at Meroe , which is understood as evidence of a campaign in the fourth century, either during Ezana’s reign, or by a predecessor like Ousanas . While some authorities interpret these inscriptions as proof that the Aksum ites destroyed the Kingdom of Kush , others note that archeological evidence points to an economic and political decline in Meroe around 300 .
On some of the coins minted in his reign appear the motto in Greek TOYTOAPECHTHXWPA — “May this please the people”. Munro-Hay comments that this motto is “a rather attractive peculiarity of Aksumite coinage, giving a feeling of royal concern and responsibility towards the people’s wishes and contentment”. 5 A number of coins minted bearing his name were found in the late 1990s at archeological sites in India , indicating trade contacts in that country. 6 A remarkable feature of the coins is a shift from a pagan motif with disc and crescent to a design with a cross. Ezana is also credited for erecting several structures and obelisks.
Elijah Muhammad (October 7, 1897 — February 25, 1975)
The Influential leader of Nation of Islam. He was a mentor to Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali; and his son Warith Deen Mohammed. He is perhaps one of the most influential Muslim religious leaders in recent times, responsible for the rise of Islam among the African-Diaspora. A pioneer of self-determination and do for self (Black empowerment). Elijah was a living example of separation and racial independence in America. Elijah took broken people and gave them back pride in their race, morality, discipline. No other Diaspora leader has created such economic and social transformation since. By the 1970s, the Nation of Islam owned bakeries, barber shops, coffee shops, grocery stores, laundromats, a printing plant, retail stores, numerous real estate holdings, and a fleet of tractor trailers, plus farmland in Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia. In 1972 the Nation of Islam took controlling interest in a bank, the Guaranty Bank and Trust Co. Nation of Islam-owned schools expanded until, by 1974, the group had established schools in 47 cities throughout the United States. In 1972, Muhammad told followers that the Nation of Islam had a net worth of $75 million.
Thirty-four years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was born on or about Oct. 7, 1897 in Sandersville, Georgia. The exact date of his birth remains unknown because record keeping in rural Georgia for the descendants of slaves was not kept current, according to historians and family members. Nevertheless, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said his birth took place some time in the first or second week of October in 1897 and set forth Oct. 7th as the anniversary date of his birth.
Just before the roaring twenties came in, Elijah Poole married the former Clara Evans, also of Georgia. They had eight children, Emmanuel, Ethel, Lottie, Nathaniel, Herbert, Elijah, Jr., Wallace and Akbar.
In April 1923, Elijah Poole moved his young family from Macon, Georgia, where he worked for the Southern Railroad Company and the Cherokee Brick Company to Detroit, Mich. Black families, like the Pooles, were leaving the south, at that time, in search of better economic and social circumstances. Detroit was a bustling upwardly mobile city with its burgeoning auto industry.
The stock market crash in 1929 was the gateway to economic misery that sparked the fuel of the “Great Depression” of the 1930s. Moreover, America’s racial situation continued its downward spiral. Lynchings, race riots and other forms of terrorism against Blacks continued unabated. But Detroit, with its huge population of 1.5 million people including 250,000 thousand Blacks, was beginning to see changes in its social scene.
On July 4, 1930, the long awaited “Saviour” of the Black man and woman, Master W. Fard Muhammad, appeared in this city. He announced and preached that God is One, and it is now time for Blacks to return to the religion of their ancestors, Islam. News spread all over the city of Detroit of the preachings of this great man from the East. Elijah Poole’s wife first learned of the Temple of Islam and wanted to attend to see what the commotion was all about, but instead, her husband advised her that he would go and see for himself.
Hence, in 1931, after hearing his first lecture at the Temple of Islam, Elijah Poole was overwhelmed by the message and immediately accepted it. Soon thereafter, Elijah Poole invited and convinced his entire family to accept the religion of Islam.
The Founder of the Nation of Islam gave him the name “Karriem” and made him a minister. Later he was promoted to the position of “Supreme Minister” and his name was changed to Muhammad. “The name ‘Poole’ was never my name,” he would later write, “nor was it my father’s name. It was the name the white slave-master of my grandfather after the so-called freedom of my fathers.”
Mr. Muhammad quickly became an integral part of the Temple of Islam. For the next three and one-half years, Mr. Muhammad was personally taught by his Teacher non-stop. The Muslim community, in addition to establishing religious centers of worship, began to start businesses under the aegis of economic development that focuses on buying and selling between and among Black companies. Mr. Muhammad establishes a newspaper, “The Final Call to Islam,” in 1934. This would be the first of many publications he would produce.
Meanwhile, Mr. Muhammad helped establish schools for the proper education of his children and the community. Indeed, the Muslim parents felt that the educational system of the State of Michigan was wholely inadequate for their children, and they established their own schools. By 1934, the Michigan State Board of Education disagreed with the Muslim’s right to pursue their own educational agenda, and the Muslim Teachers and Temple Secretary were jailed on the false charge of contributing to the delinquency of minors. Mr Muhammad said he committed himself to jail after learning what had happened.
Ultimately, the charges were later dropped, and the officials were freed and Mr. Muhammad received six months’ probation to take the Muslim children out of the Islamic school and put them under white Christian teachers. “This I did not do,” he said. He moved to the city of Chicago in September of that same year. His Teacher, Master W. Fard Muhammad, was also harassed by the police and was forced out of Detroit and moved to Chicago where he continued to face imprisonment and harassment by the police. In 1934 Master W. Fard Muhammad departed the scene and left the Honorable Elijah Muhammad with the mission of resurrecting the Black man and woman.
By 1935, Mr. Muhammad faced many new challenges. His teacher had instructed him to go to Washington, D.C. to visit the Library of Congress in order to research 104 books on the religion of Islam, among other subjects. Also, after assuming the leadership of the Temple of Islam by the order of the Founder of the Nation of Islam, Mr. Muhammad faced a death plot at the hands of a few disgruntled members. Mr. Muhammad avoided their evil plan and went to Washington, D.C. to study and build a mosque there. He was known under many names, “Mr. Evans,” his wife’s maiden name, “Ghulam Bogans,” “Muhammad Rassoull,” “Elijah Karriem” and “Muhammad of ‘U’ Street.”
Fasilides (Alam Sagad) (1632-1667 C.E)
(From wikipedia) Fasilides (Ge’ez ፋሲልደስ Fāsīladas, modern Fāsīledes; throne name ʿAlam Sagad, Ge’ez ዓለም ሰገድ ʿĀlam Sagad, modern ʿĀlem Seged, “to whom the world bows”; 1603 – 18 October 1667) was nəgusä nägäst (1632 – October 18, 1667) of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was the son of Susenyos and Empress Sultana Mogassa, born at Magazaz in Shewa before 10 November 1603.
Fasilides was proclaimed Emperor in 1630 during a revolt led by Sarsa Krestos, but did not actually reach the throne until his father abdicated in 1632. Once he became Emperor, Fasilides immediately restored the official status of the traditional Ethiopian Orthodox Church. He sent for a new abuna from the Patriarch of Alexandria, restoring the ancient relationship that had been allowed to lapse. He confiscated the lands of the Jesuits at Dankaz and elsewhere in the empire, relegating them to Fremona. When he heard that the Portuguese bombarded Mombasa, Fasilides assumed that Afonso Mendes, the Roman Catholic prelate, was behind the act, and banished the remaining Jesuits from his lands. Mendes and most of his followers made their way back to Goa, being robbed or imprisoned several times on the way. In 1665, he ordered the “Books of the Franks” — the remaining religious writings of the Catholics—burnt.
He is commonly credited with founding the city of Gondar in 1636, establishing it as Ethiopia’s capital. Whether or not a community existed here before he made it his capital is unknown. Amongst the buildings he had constructed there are the beginnings of the complex later known as Fasil Ghebbi, as well as some of the earliest of Gondar’s fabled 44 churches: Adababay Iyasus, Adababay Tekle Haymanot, Atatami Mikael, Gimjabet Maryam, Fit Mikael, and Fit Abbo. He is also credited with building seven stone bridges in Ethiopia; as a result all old bridges in Ethiopia are often commonly believed to be his work.
The rebellion of the Agaw in Lasta, which had begun under his father, continued into his reign and for the rest of his reign he made regular punitive expeditions into Lasta. The first, in 1637 went badly, for at the Battle of Libo his men panicked before the Agaw assault and their leader, Melka Kristos, entered Fasilides’ palace and took the throne for himself. Fasilides quickly recovered and sent for help to Qegnazmach Dimmo, governor of Semien, and his brother Gelawdewos, governor of Begemder. These marched on Melka Kristos, who was still at Libo, where he was killed and his men defeated. The next year Fasilides marched into Lasta; according to James Bruce, the Agaw retreated to their mountain strongholds, and “almost the whole army perished amidst the mountains; great part from famine, but a greater still from cold, a very remarkable circumstance in these latitudes.”
Fasilides dispatched an embassy to India in 1664-5 to congratulate Aurangzeb upon his accession to the throne of the Mughal Empire.
In 1666, after his son Dawit rebelled, Fasilides had incarcerated at Wehni, reviving the ancient practice of confining troublesome members of the Imperial family to a mountaintop, as they had once been confined at Amba Geshen. Fasilides died at Azazo, five miles south of Gondar, and his body was interred at St. Stephen’s, a monastery on Daga Island in Lake Tana. When Nathaniel T. Kenney was shown Fasilides’ remains, he saw a smaller mummy also shared the coffin. A monk told Kenney that it was Fasilides’ seven-year-old son Isur, who had been smothered in a crush of people who had come to pay the new king homage.
Mohammed Abdullah Hassan(1856, – 1920)
Sayyīd Muhammad `Abd Allāh al-Hasan (Somali: Sayid Maxamed Cabdille Xasan, Arabic: محمّد عبد اللّه حسن) (April 7, 1856, in Buuhoodle, northern Somalia – December 21, 1920 in Imi, Ogaden) was a Somali religious and patriotic leader. He established the Dervish State in Somalia that fought the 20 year Somaliland Campaign against British, Italian and Ethiopian forces. When the British arrived in Somaliland in the early 1880s, they were not impressed. Strategically negligible with limited marketable resources, the region became used primarily as a meat supplier for the colonial outpost across the gulf, and promptly acquired the nickname, ‘Aden’s Butcher Shop’.
So disinterested were the Foreign Office that Britain opted against trying to form infrastructure inland, as the Italians had been doing further south, and based themselves exclusively by the coast to avoid unwanted hassle. While this policy was undoubtedly considered the safe option, the British were not able to avoid commotion altogether thanks to the actions of one man.
Mohammed Abdullah Hassan was born in central Somaliland in 1856. Eldest son of an Ogaden Somali Sheikh, Hassan was groomed for leadership at a young age, and before he reached his teens had become a ‘haifz’, a term for those who have memorized the Quran in its entirety. After teaching Islamic thought for a number of years, he left the Sa’Madeeq Valley and travelled to religious centres across the Horn of Africa before leaving the continent in 1894 to perform a hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
It was only following an incident shortly after his return to Berbera Province in 1895, that Hassan turned his attention towards the British. Eight years previously in 1888, the British had signed a number of treaties with local sultans designating the region as a protectorate, giving the Crown jurisdiction over what became known as ‘British Somaliland’. Hassan was shocked by the pluralism of religion in the region. While he disapproved of the khat-munching members of the Qadiri Sufi order, it was the presence of Christianity, a European import, that shocked him to the core. In 1899, Hassan bought a gun from some British soldiers, who later accused him of stealing it. Being scammed by foreign infidels proved to be the final straw, and was pivotal in his establishment of the Dervish Movement.
The Dervish Movement
The group recruited Sunni fighters from across the Horn of Africa, gathered weapons from Sudan and the Ottomans and even military intelligence from a spy in Yemen. Hassan was fighting a war on two fronts – in 1900, the Ethiopians had launched an offensive against the Dervish army, and following Hassan’s reciprocal attacks, Menelik II of Ethiopia joined forces with British Lieutenant Colonel Swanye later that year. Between 1901 and 1904, Hassan’s Dervish soldiers fought the Ethiopians, British and even Italians, who had been struggling to maintain control in their Southern Somali colony since its establishment in 1889. On January 9, 1904, British Field Marshal Sir Charles Comyn Egerton’s forces killed around seven thousand Dervish fighters at the Jidballi Plain. This battle proved critical, and over the next few years Hassan lost yet more followers to desertion.
In 1913, he moved south and established a capital in Taleh in Somaliland’s Sool Region. From his newly constructed fortress, Hassan launched a number of offensives against the British, most famously the Battle of Dul Madoba (August 9, 1913), in which a Dervish force of around 2,750 butchered a British Somali Camel Constabulary unit of 110 members. This angered the British, but with the eruption of the First World War (July 28, 1914), military attention shifted towards Europe and the Dervish army continued to raid strategic positions without facing serious resistance.
Following the end of World War One in 1918, the British returned focus to the region with the aim of finishing Hassan, who had acquired the nickname, ‘The Mad Mullah’. The war in Europe had dried out British resources significantly, and a full-scale military invasion of East Africa would have been far too costly. Instead, the newly formed Royal Air Force (RAF) undertook a bombing campaign in January 1920. Hassan fled with just four followers to the Ogaden Plateau, and unable to muster sufficient forces to fight back against the RAF, he resigned himself to his writing. Hassan died later that year of influenza at the age of sixty-four.
Memories of the ‘Mad Mullah’
Hassan is remembered as a patriot, soldier, religious leader and poet in the Horn of Africa, and as an immense irritation in Europe. His twenty-year campaign against the imperialist invaders proved costly, perturbing and humiliating for both the Italians and the British, European colonial powers unable to quash a North African teacher from a clan of pastoral farmers. Indeed, confusion as to his burial grounds have heightened his status as a legend, with some claiming his tomb to be as far as Imay in Ethiopia. Wherever his remains may be now, his origins are traceable and should not be forgotten. While his statue stands tall in Mogadishu and his poetry is relished across the Arab world, Mohammed Abdullah Hassan should primarily be remembered as an anti-imperialist patriot of his country, Somaliland. (source)
Queen Hatshepsut (1500B.C.)
About 1500 years before the birth of Christ, one finds the beginning of Hatshepsut’s reign as one of the brightest in Egyptian history, proving that a woman can be a strong and effective ruler. She was according to Egyptologist, James Henry Breasted, “The first great woman in history of whom we are informed.”
Her father, Thothmes I, was highly impressed with the efficiency of his daughter, and appointed her manager, and co-ruler of his kingdom. Before the King died, he married Hatshepsut to her half-brother, Thothmes II. His reign lasted only thirteen years. After his death, Hatshepsut was to rule only in the name of Thothmes III, until he was old enough to rule alone. Hatshepsut was not satisfied to rule in the name of Thothmes III.
Hatshepsut dressed herself in the most sacred of the Pharaoh’s clothing, mounted the throne, and proclaimed herself Pharaoh of Egypt. She ruled Egypt for twenty-one years. She also moved to strengthen the position of Egypt within Africa by making peace with the peoples of Kush (or Nubia) and sending missions to the nations along the East African coast, as far south as Punt (present day Somalia). One of Hatshepsut’s crowning achievements was dispatching a mission to a kingdom in Asia (now India).
Hatshepsut died suddenly and mysteriously. Some historians say that Thothmes III, had her murdered. After her death, Thothmes III, tried unsuccessfully to destroy all memory of Hatshepsut in Egypt. Her temple still remains in the Valley of the Kings, once the ancient city of Thebes, known today as Deir el Bahri, and Hatshepsut comes down to us as one of the most outstanding women of all time.
Hannibal of Carthage (247-183 B.C.)
Hannibal is said to be the greatest military leader and strategist of all time. Hannibal was born in 247 B.C., when Carthage, then the maritime power, was beginning to decline. The Carthaginians civilization was a mix of African and Phoenicians, who were great merchants. They traded with India and the people of the Mediterranean, and the Sicily Isles.
When very young, Hannibal accompanied Hamilclar, his father in a battle with the Romans. Seventeen years later, he succeeded his father and became supreme commander of the peninsula.
Hannibal had 80,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and 40 African war elephants. He conquered major portions of Spain and France, and all of Italy, except for Rome.
Hannibal marched his army and war elephants through the Alps to surprise and conquer his enemies. In one battle, the Romans put 80,000 men on the field to defeat Hannibal, led by Scipio. When Scipio attacked with his entire army, Hannibal had so studied the grounds and arranged his men so that they surrounded the Romans. He then turned his armored war elephants loose and trampled them. Behind them, he sent his African swordsmen to complete the slaughter.
In another battle, Rome sent 90,000 men led by Varro and Emilius. With only 50,000 men, knowing he could not win by using his main force, Hannibal placed the weakest part of his army in the center, contrary to the best military rules. With his veterans and cavalry on both wings, the Romans struck them in full center as Hannibal had anticipated. When they were sure of victory by overcoming the center, Hannibal’s flank closed in and killed 70,000 men, 80 senators and Emilius.
Hannibal later went on to become a statesman of Carthage, and later took his own life, rather than surrender to Rome.
Imhotep (2980 B.C.)
Imhotep, called “God of Medicine,” “Prince of Peace,” and a “Type of Christ.” Imhotep was worshipped as a god and healer from approximately 2850 B.C. to 525 B.C., and as a full deity from 525 B.C. to 550 A.D. Even kings and queens bowed at his throne. Imhotep lived during the Third Dynasty at the court of King Zoser. Imhotep was a known scribe, chief lector, priest, architect, astronomer and magician (medicine and magic were used together.) For 3000 years he was worshipped as a god in Greece and Rome. Early Christians worshipped him as the “Prince of Peace.”
Imhotep was also a poet and philosopher. He urged contentment and preached cheerfulness. His proverbs contained a “philosophy of life.” Imhotep coined the saying “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die.”
When the Egyptians crossed the Mediterranean, becoming the foundation of the Greek culture, Imhotep’s teachings were absorbed there. Yet, as the Greeks were determined to assert that they were the originators of everything, Imhotep was forgotten for thousands of years and a legendary figure, Hippocrates, who came 2000 years after him became known as the Father of Medicine.
It is Imhotep says Sir William Osler, who was the real Father of Medicine. “The first figure of a physician to stand out clearly from the mists of antiquity.” Imhotep diagnosed and treated over 200 diseases, 15 diseases of the abdomen, 11 of the bladder, 10 of the rectum, 29 of the eyes, and 18 of the skin, hair, nails and tongue. Imhotep treated tuberculosis, gallstones, appendicitis, gout and arthritis. He also performed surgery and practiced some dentistry. Imhotep extracted medicine from plants. He also knew the position and function of the vital organs and circulation of the blood system. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “The evidence afforded by Egyptian and Greek texts support the view that Imhotep’s reputation was very respected in early times…His prestige increased with the lapse of centuries and his temples in Greek times were the centers of medical teachings.”
James Henry Breasted says of Imhotep: In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs; in medicine and architecture; this remarkable figure of Zoser’s reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten. He was the patron spirit of the later scribes, to whom they regularly poured out a libation from the water-jug of their writing outfit before beginning their work. The people sang of his proverbs centuries later, and 2500 years after his death, he had become a god of medicine in whom Greeks, who call him Imouthes, recognized their own Asklepios. A temple was erected to him near the Serapeum at Memphis, and at the present day, every museum possesses a bronze statue or two of the apotheosized wise man, the proverb maker, physician, and architect of Zoser.
King Ibrahim Njoya (1860-1933)
Njoya’s family’s dynastic rule began in the 14th century. The son of king Nsangu, Ibrahim was due to become king of his people – the Bamum of West Cameroon. However, as he wasn’t yet of age his mother Njapdunke acted as regent. Even upon reaching maturity his official rule couldn’t commence because his slain father’s head was in enemy hands, and according to Bamum tradition ancestors’ heads or skulls are of ceremonial importance. This meant he had to wait until he’d recovered his father’s head, for which he enlisted German aid and was thus granted relative independence.
This meant he subsequently maintained good relations with the Germans, even going so far as to discard resistance proposals from Rudolf Duala Manga Bell (a fellow Cameroonian king who, though raised to respect African & European customs and usually compliant with colonial powers, was vehemently opposed to the German Reichstag’s policy to have his people the Duala moved inland to make way for 100% European riverside settlements) after being asked for assistance. This seemed to have been borne out of a belief that opposing German powers would be unhelpful for the Bamum.
Upon retrieval of his father’s head, Njoya’s official rule began in 1886/7, thereby making him the 17th king of Bamum. Early on in his reign he thought he tried to work European influences into his society by dressing his soldiers in a uniform that resembled those of the Hungarian Hussars and training them in a similar manner. This experiment didn’t sit well with Europeans as they found it insulting and intimidating. Ibrahim was known to be intelligent, having invented a manual corn-grinding mill and a palace built for him. He is also known to have converted to Christianity and Islam, abandoning idolatry, royal excesses and polygamy. Later he used the Islamic and Christian influences in his life, blended them with traditional Bamum religion and effectively formed his own religion
His invention of the Bamum’s very first alphabet – A-ka-u-ku – enabled his people’s history and culture to be more accurately preserved. Prior to this, recording of history was done by intergenerational oral transmission, the way used in much of Africa at the time (known as the African griot tradition). As Njoya duly noted, oral transmission risked corruption via memory lapses, mishearing or deliberate falsification, hence he ensured all levels of his government and schools learned his script. This meant that for the 1st time ever, the Bamum people read about their customs and country’s history.
Symbols and pictograms were developed to depict certain syllables. His intellectuals aided him in simplifying it as it initially had around 500 characters. When it was finalised the A-ka-u-ku alphabet had around 70 letters. Just like the English alphabet it is read from left to right.
However, his relationship with French turned sour and in 1931 the French government had him deposed and exiled. He died 2 years later at the age of 73. Soon after his exile the French banned A-ka-u-ku in the school system, so now most Bamum have forgotten it. subsequently Ibrahim Njoya’s grandson Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya (current Cameroonian sultan) turned his grandfather’s palace into a school for children to re-learn the alphabet.
* Submited by Mohammad Baseer
Mulai Ismael (1647-1727)
Mulai Ismael is considered the most remarkable ruler of the 18th Century. Mulai’s father was Mulai Sherif, King of Tafilalet, who was captured by Omar, King of Sillec, and thrown into prison. While Mulai Sherif was in prison, he requested feminine company. He was sent the ugliest slave found. From this, Mulai Ismael and his brother Rachid were born.
Mulai Ismael’s road to the throne was not easy. He was forced to fight many family members, including his brother Rachid and his nephew Achmet.
Defeating enemy after enemy, Mulai devoted himself to internal affairs.
He started by increasing the number of the Bokhura, a corp of fighting men which he founded earlier in his reign, made up of Africans from the Sudan. These Africans, 150,000 strong lived with their wives in gorgeous villages built by Mulai Ismael. Later 10,000 European Christian warriors were added to the force.
Mulai Ismael dreamed of restoring the ancient glories of Morocco. She had once been the world’s leading empire and had dominated Southwestern Europe. Moroccan art, science, architecture, literature, and leather-work’s were famous. Because of Mulai Ismael’s activity in building projects, and his long reign of fifty years, he is frequently called the “Moroccan Louis XIV.”
Mulai had many wives and children of all races, no less than 500 wives and as many as 4,000 and 867 children. Mulai Ismael died in 1727, at the age of eighty. His dynasty still occupies the throne of Morocco.
Al Jahiz ( 781 – 868 )
Abu Uthman Amr ibn Bahr al-Kinani al-Fuqaimi al-Basri was an Arabic prose writer and author of works on Arabic literature, biology, zoology, history, early Islamic philosophy, Islamic psychology, Mu’tazili theology, and politico-religious polemics. Al-Jahiz continued his studies and over a span twenty-five years, he acquired great knowledge about Arabic poetry, Arabic philology, history of the Arabs and Persians before Islam and he studied the Qur’an and the Hadith. He also read translated books on Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, especially that of Greek philosopher Aristotle.
Al-Jahiz attended Basra’s schools, studying under some of the most eminent scholars of Islam. One of the most important aspects about the period of Al-Jahiz’s intellectual development and his life was that books were readily accessible. Though paper had been introduced into the Islamic world only shortly before al-Jahiz’s birth, it had, by the time he was in his 30’s, virtually replaced parchment, and launched an intellectual revolution.
“We (Ethiopians in this case) have conquered the country of the Arabs as far as Mecca and have governed them. We defeated Dhu Nowas (Jewish King of Yemen) and killed all the Himyarite princes, but you, White people, have never conquered our country. Our people, the Zenghs (Blacks of Africa’s East Coast) revolted forty times in the Euphrates, driving the inhabitants from their homes and making Oballah a bath of blood. […] Blacks are physically stronger than no matter what other people. A single one of them can lift stones of greater weight and carry burdens such as several Whites could not lift nor carry between them. […] They are brave, strong, and generous as witness their nobility and general lack of wickedness. […] The Blacks say to the Arabs, ‘A sign of your barbarity is that when you were pagans you considered us your equals as regards the women of your race. After your conversion to Islam, however, you thought otherwise. Despite this the deserts swarm with the number of our men who married your women and who became chiefs and defended you against your enemies’.”
The availability of a cheap writing material was accompanied by another social phenomenon –the rise of a reading public. For the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire, the cities of the Middle East contained a large number of literate people – many of humble origins.
Al-Jahiz and his parents, for example, were poor themselves; as a young man of 20 he sold fish along one of the Basran canals. Nevertheless, al-Jahiz learned to read and write at an early age, indicating the opportunities for “upward mobility” in eighth-century Iraq. Al-Jahiz tells the story of how his mother presented him with a tray of paper notebooks, and told him that it would be by means of these that he would earn his living.
Al-Jahiz began his career as a writer – a precarious profession both then and now- while still in Basra. He wrote an essay on the institution of the caliphate – which met with approval from the court in Baghdad – and from then on seems to have supported himself entirely by his pen, if we except a single three-day stint as a government clerk. The fact that he never held an official position allowed him an intellectual freedom impossible to someone connected to the court – though he did dedicate a number of his works to viziers and other powerful functionaries. In turn, he often received gifts of appreciation for these “dedications”. He received 5,000 gold dinars from the official to whom he dedicated his Book of Animals.
Al-Jahiz wrote over two hundred works, of which only thirty have survived. His work included zoology, Arabic grammar, poetry, rhetoric and lexicography. He is considered one of the few Muslim scientists who wrote on scientific and complex subjects for the layman and commoner. His writings contain many anecdotes, regardless of the subject he is discussing, that make his point and bring out both sides of the argument. Some of his books are: The Art of Keeping One’s Mouth Shut, Against Civil Servants, Arab Food, In Praise of Merchants, and Levity and Seriousness. On the style of writing, al-Jahiz stated that:
The best style is the clearest, the style that needs no explication and no notes, that conforms to the subject expressed, neither exceeding it nor falling short.
The most important of Al-Jahiz’s works, however, is the Book of Animals – Kitab al-Hayawan – which, even incomplete, totals seven fat volumes in the printed edition. It contains important scientific information and anticipates a number of concepts that were not fully developed until the first half of the twentieth century. In the book, al-Jahiz discusses animal mimicry – noting that certain parasites adapt to the color of their host – and writes at length on the influences of climate and diet on men, and plants and animals of different geographical regions. He discusses animal communication, psychology and the degree of intelligence of insect and animal species. He also gives a detailed account of the social organization of ants, including from his own observation, a description of how they store grain in their nests so that it does not spoil during the rainy season. He even knew that some insects are responsive to light – and used this information to suggest a clever way of ridding a room of mosquitoes and flies.
Centuries before Darwin Al-Jahiz wrote:
“Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring.”
An early exponent of the zoological and anthropological sciences, al-Jahiz discovered and recognized the effect of environmental factors on animal life; and he also observed the transformation of animal species under different factors. Furthermore, in several passages of his book, he also described the concept, usually attributed to Charles Darwin, of natural selection.
Al-Jahiz’s concept of natural selection was something new in the history of science. Although Greek philosophers like Empedocles and Aristotle spoke of change in plants and animals, they never made the first steps towards developing a comprehensive theory. To them change, was only a concept of simple change and motion and nothing more than that.
Eighty-seven folios of the Book of Animals (about one-tenth of the original text by al-Jahiz) are preserved in the Ambrosiana Library in Milan. This collection (a copy of the original) dates from the 14th century and bears the name of the last owner, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Maghribi, and the year 1615. These folios of the Book of Animalscontain more than 30 illustrations in miniature.
Al-Jahiz returned to Basra after spending more than fifty years in Baghdad. He died in Basra in 868 as a result of an accident in which he was crushed to death by a collapsing pile of books in his private library. A fitting death for a writer. (source Islamonline.net)
Joel Augustus Rogers (1880-1966)
Joel Augustus Rogers (September 6, 1880 – March 26, 1966) was a Jamaican-American author, journalist, and historian who contributed to the history of Africa and the African diaspora, especially the history of African Americans in the United States. His research spanned the academic fields of history, sociology and anthropology. He challenged prevailing ideas about race, demonstrated the connections between civilizations, and traced African achievements. He was one of the greatest popularizers of African history in the 20th century
Kaleb (520 C.E)
Kaleb (c. 520) is perhaps the best-documented, if not best-known, king of Axum situated in modern day Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Procopius of Caesarea calls him “Hellestheaeus”, a variant of his throne name Ella Atsbeha or Ella Asbeha(Histories, 1.20). Variants of his name are Hellesthaeus, Ellestheaeus, Eleshaah, Ella Atsbeha, Ellesboas, and Elesboam, all from the Greek Ελεσβόάς, for “The one who brought about the morning” or “The one who collected tribute.”
At Aksum, in inscription RIE 191, his name is rendered in unvocalized Gə‘əz as KLB ’L ’ṢBḤ WLD TZN (Kaleb ʾElla ʾAṣbeḥa son of Tazena). In vocalized Gə‘əz, it is ካሌብ እለ አጽብሐ (Kaleb ʾƎllä ʾAṣbəḥa).
Kaleb, a name derived from the Biblical character Caleb, is his given Christian name; ʾOn both his coins and inscriptions he left at Axum, as well as Ethiopian hagiographical sources and king lists, he refers to himself as the son of Tazena. He may be the “Atsbeha” or “Asbeha” of the Ethiopian legends of Abreha and Asbeha, the other possibility being Ezana’s brother Saizana.
Makeda “The Queen of Sheba” (960 B.C.)
In 960 B.C., the nation that is now called Ethiopia, came back upon the center of the stage of history. Ethiopia was then represented by a queen, who in some books is referred to as “Makeda” or “Belkis.” She is better known to the world as the Queen of Sheba. In his book, “World’s Great Men of Color,” J.A. Rogers , gives this description: “Out of the mists of three thousand years, emerges this beautiful story of an African Queen who, attracted by the fame of a Judean monarch, made a long journey to see him.”
The Queen of Sheba is said to have undertaken a long and difficult journey to Jerusalem, in order to learn of the wisdom of the great King Solomon. Makeda and King Solomon were equally impressed with each other. Out of their relationship was born a son, Menelik I. This Queen is said to have reigned over Sheba and Arabia as well as Ethiopia. The queen of Sheba’s capital was Debra Makeda, which the Queen built for herself.
In Ethiopia’s church of Aksum , there is a copy of what is said to be one of the Tables of Law that Solomon gave to Menelik I. The story of the Queen of Sheba is deeply cherished in Ethiopia, as part of the national heritage. This African Queen is mentioned in two holy books, the Bible and the Qur’an (Koran).
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He died El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, and went into history as one of the most influential minds of the African world. Who underwent three amazing transformations in his short life. From Little to X, to Shabazz. His mother, Louis Norton Little, was a homemaker occupied with the family’s eight children. His father, Earl Little, was an outspoken Baptist minister and avid supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
Earl’s civil rights activism prompted death threats from the white supremacist organization Black Legion, forcing the family to relocate twice before Malcolm’s fourth birthday. Regardless of the Little’s efforts to elude the Legion, in 1929 their Lansing, Michigan home was burned to the ground, and two years later Earl’s mutilated body was found lying across the town’s trolley tracks.
His legacy has become eternal in the foundational paradigms of progressive African thinking and Pan-Africanism. He is an icon beyond race and an influential figure in the social movement and a hero of Islam. Post-Hajj, his journey broadened into a more nuanced and global understanding of the interconnection of oppressed people. He identified what the West was doing as a crime against humanity. And we believe it was this massive connection on behalf of all oppressed people lead to his execution by the US government, using confused elements in the NOI as proxy agents.
Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods, or tactics, or strategy—Malcolm X
Police ruled both accidents, but the Little’s were certain that members of the Black Legion were responsible. Louise had an emotional breakdown several years after the death of her husband and was committed to a mental institution. Her children were split up amongst various foster homes and orphanages.
Malcolm was a smart, focused student and graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger,” Malcolm lost interest in school. He dropped out, spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts working various odd jobs, and then traveled to Harlem, New York where he committed petty crimes. By 1942 Malcolm was coordinating various narcotic, prostitution and gambling rings.
Eventually Malcolm and his buddy, Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis, moved back to Boston, where they were arrested and convicted on burglary charges in 1946. Malcolm placated himself by using the seven-year prison sentence to further his education. It was during this period of self-enlightenment that Malcolm’s brother Reginald visited and discussed his recent conversion to the Muslim religious organization the Nation of Islam. Intrigued, Malcolm studied the teachings of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the Nation of Islam fought for a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. By the time he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower with the new surname “X.” He considered “Little” a slave name and chose the “X” to signify his lost tribal name.
Intelligent and articulate, Malcolm was appointed a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad also charged him with establishing new mosques in cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Harlem, New York. Malcolm utilized newspaper columns, radio and television to communicate the Nation of Islam’s message across the United States. His charisma, drive and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members. Malcolm was largely credited with increasing membership in the Nation of Islam from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.
The crowds and controversy surrounding Malcolm made him a media magnet. He was featured in a week-long television special with Mike Wallace in 1959, The Hate That Hate Produced, that explored fundamentals of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm’s emergence as one of its most important leaders. After the special, Malcolm was faced with the uncomfortable reality that his fame had eclipsed that of his mentor Elijah Muhammad.
Racial tensions ran increasingly high during the early 1960s. In addition to the media, Malcolm’s vivid personality had captured the government’s attention. As membership in the Nation of Islam continued to grow, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents infiltrated the organization (one even acted at Malcolm’s bodyguard) and secretly placed bugs, wiretaps and cameras surveillance equipment to monitor the group’s activities.
Malcolm’s faith was dealt a crushing blow at the height of the civil rights movement in 1963. He learned that Elijah Muhammad was secretly having relations with as many as six women in the Nation of Islam, some of which had resulted in children. Since his conversion Malcolm had strictly adhered to the teachings of Muhammad, including remaining celibate until his marriage to Betty Shabazz in 1958. Malcolm refused Muhammad’s request to keep the matter quiet. He was deeply hurt by the deception of Muhammad, whom he had considered a prophet, and felt guilty about the masses he had lead into what he now felt was a fraudulent organization.
When Malcolm received criticism after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for saying, “[Kennedy] never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon,” Muhammad “silenced” him for 90 days. Malcolm suspected he was silenced for another reason. In March 1964 he terminated his relationship with the Nation of Islam and founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc.
That same year, Malcolm went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The trip proved life altering, as Malcolm met “blonde-haired, blued-eyed men I could call my brothers.” He returned to the United States with a new outlook on integration. This time, instead of just preaching to African-Americans, he had a message for all races.
Relations between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam had become volatile after he renounced Elijah Muhammad. Informants working in the Nation of Islam warned that Malcolm had been marked for assassination (one man had even been ordered to help plant a bomb in his car). After repeated attempts on his life, Malcolm rarely traveled anywhere without bodyguards. On February 14, 1965 the home where Malcolm, Betty and their four daughters lived in East Elmhurst, New York was firebombed (the family escaped physical injury).
At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965 three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage and shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolm’s funeral in Harlem at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ on February 27, 1965. After the ceremony, friends took the shovels from the gravediggers and buried Malcolm themselves. Later that year, Betty gave birth to their twin daughters.
Malcolm’s assassins, Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were convicted of first-degree murder in March 1966. The three men were all members of the Nation of Islam.
On February 21st 1965 as Malcolm X stood to address a meeting in the Audubon Ball Room in New York City, he was shot in the chest with bullet from a sawn-off shot gun. No evidence directly linked the death of the revolutionary Afro-American Muslim leader to the CIA, but suspicions still persist. Malcolm’s opened condemnation of the CIA and US involvement in the. The day before he was schedule to address a summit conference of African Prime Ministers in Cairo, he collapsed with sever stomach pains after eating a meal at his hotel. He now suspected that the agency was out to get him, but still continued his campaign. As rumours of the agency’s intentions spread, Malcolm was refused entry into France. A few days before he was shot his home in Queens was “fire bombed”: A warning sign of what was to come. It was assumed that Malcolm’s death was the result of sectarian revenge.
Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today—Malcolm X
A year earlier Malcolm had split from Elijah Mohammed’s Nation of Islam to set up his own group; the Organization of Afro-American unity. The view held by many prominent blacks however was that Malcolm’s killing was a political act with international implications. Malcolm’s successor Leon Ameer, determined to expose the agency, scheduled a press conference during which he was to present evidence pointing to Malcolm’s real killers. The next morning Ameer was found dead in Boston’s Sherry Biltmore Hotel. The police report stated that he had died of an epileptic fit; ironically he had no medical history of epilepsy. Malcolm X had been on the CIA watch list for sometime. The timing of his assassination coincided with numerous events namely his acceptance of orthodox Islam. And more over his extension of his initial localized policy to one that would call for global unity of African nations enlisted the help of many notable Muslim leaders in their respective countries. Malcolm X had grown from a local menace to an international voice for the oppressed Blackman. His power was on the rise and in a pre-emptive action; he was silence and his blood placed completely on the hands of the nation of Islam.
Malcolm X is buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of the greatest leaders African people have produced, was born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, and spent his entire life in the service of his people–African people. He was bold; he was uncompromising and he was one of the most powerful orators on record. See more
He could literally bring his audiences to a state of mass hysteria. Garvey emphasized racial pride. His goal was nothing less that the total and complete redemption and liberation of African people around the planet. His dream was the galvanization of Black people into an unrelenting steamroller that could never be defeated.
As a young man of fourteen, Garvey left school and worked as a printer’s apprentice. He participated in Jamaica’s earliest nationalist organizations, traveled throughout Central America, and spent time in London, England, where he worked with the Sudanese-Egyptian nationalist Duse Mohamed Ali. In 1916 Garvey was invited by Booker T. Washington to come to the United States in the hopes of establishing an industrial training school, but arrived just after Washington died. In March 1916, shortly after landing in America, Garvey embarked upon an extended period of travel. When he finally settled down, he organized a chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. The UNIA & ACL had been formed in Jamaica in 1914. Its motto was “One God, One Aim, One Destiny,” and pledged itself to the redemption of Africa and the uplift of African people everywhere. It aimed at race pride, self-reliance and economic independence.
Within a few years Garvey had become the best-known and most dynamic African leader in the Western Hemisphere and perhaps the entire world. In 1919 Mr. Garvey created an international shipping company called the Black Star Line. By 1920 the UNIA had hundreds of divisions. It hosted elaborate international conventions and published a weekly newspaper entitled the Negro World.
No other organization in modern times has had the prestige and the impact as the UNIA & ACL. During the 1920s UNIA divisions existed throughout North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Australia.
|uhammad Ali January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016) was an African American professional boxer, regarded as the most significant heavyweight in the history of the sport. Early in his career, Ali was known for being an inspiring, controversial and polarizing figure both inside and outside the boxing ring. He is one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC. He converted Nation of Islam in 64 and then converted to Sunni Islam in 1975. One thing that made Ali very notable was he could have chosen fame, like most people, but he chose conscience. He embraced Islam, despite the hatred America had for Muslims, especially African- American Muslims. He went against the Vietnam war in a time when such actions were seen as un-patriotic. It is good and well in hindsight to celebrate his courage but at the time he was hated by the same who call him great today..|
We think this statement sums him up better than any text could. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” “No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end.” “I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here.” “I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.” “If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow.” “I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”
Muhammed Bello (1815-1837)
Muhammed Bello (reigned 1815 – 1837) (Arabic: محمد بيلو) was the son and aide of Usman dan Fodio. He became the second Sultan of Sokoto following his father’s 1815 retirement from the throne. Bello faced early challenges from dissident leaders such as ‘Abd al-Salam, and rivalries between the key families of his father’s jihad. Bello soon consolidated his rule by granting land and power to these leading Fulani families.
Mansa Musa was an important Malian king from 1312 to 1337 expanding the Mali influence over the Niger city-states of Timbuktu, Gao, and Djenne. Mansa Musa ( Mansa meaning emperor or sultan and Musa meaning Moses), the grandson of one of Sundiata’s sisters. Timbuktu became one of the major cultural centers not just of Africa but of the world. Vast libraries, madrasas (Islamic universities) and magnificent mosques were built. Timbuktu became a meeting place of poets, scholars and artists of Africa and the Middle East. Even after Mali declined, Timbuktu remained the major Islamic center of Africa (Hooker 1996). Mansa Musa maintained a huge army that kept peace and policed the trade routes.
His armies pushed the borders of Mali from the Atlantic coast in the west beyond the cities of Timbuktu and Gao in the east — and from the salt mines of Taghaza in the north to the gold mines of Wangar in the south (Jeffries & Moss 1997).
By the fourteenth century, Muslim traders were established in the town of Djenne, located in the inland delta of the Niger. The most impressive monument of intercultural borrowing is the Friday Mosque at Djenne. There, salt from the Sahara, goods from northern Africa and fine silks were exchanged for gold, and ivory. The monumental mosque was constructed around 1320 (the present building was reconstructed on the foundation of the original mosque in 1907).
The rectangular, flat roofed building had walls supported by plaster-like buttresses topped by finials. The massive rectangular towers reflect the Islamic model while the building materials echo an older Mande architectural style. The toron (horns) projections from the walls are a feature of local architecture serving as scaffolding when the facade is periodically re-plastered with clay. The African societies shaped and molded the religion with traditional beliefs, values and sensibilities, as well.
The Islamization of the Malian Court, in the late thirteenth century, is recorded both in oral traditions of the Mande people and written accounts by Arab historians and travelers. Ibn Khaldun described the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) of Mansa Musa in 1324 which carried so much gold that it altered the economies of every nation it traveled through (Hakim Quick). From the Hajj he brought back the best experts on science, astrology, architecture, and education and enriched his nation.
Emperor Menelik II (1844 – 1913)
Emperor Menelik II (Ge’ez ምኒልክ)baptized as Sahle Maryam (August 17, 1844 – December 12, 1913), was nəgusä nägäst of Ethiopiafrom 1889 to his death.His life as ruler of Shewa
The son of Negus Haile Melekot of Shewa, prince Sahle Maryam was born in Ankober, Shewa. On the death of his father in 1855 he, just named as his successor as king of Shewa by his father, was taken prisoner by Emperor Tewodros II, a former minor noble originally named Kassa of Qwara, who had usurped the Imperial throne from the last Emperor of the elder Gondar branch of the Solomonic dynasty, Emperor Yohannes III or from emperor Sahle Dengel.
Young Sahle Maryam of Shewa was imprisoned on Tewodros’ mountain stronghold of Magdala, but was treated well by the Emperor, even marrying Tewodros’s daughter Alitash. Upon his imprisonment, his uncle, Haile Mikael had been made ruler of Shewa by Emperor Tewodros II with the title of Merid Azmatch. However, Merid Asmatch Haile Mikael rebelled against Tewodros, resulting in his being replaced by the non-royal Ato Bezabih as governor of Shewa. Ato Bezabih also promptly rebelled against the Emperor and proclaimed himself King of Shewa. Although the Shewan royals imprisoned at Magdalla by Emperor Tewodros had been largely complacent as long as a member of their family ruled over Shewa, this usurpation by a commoner was not palatable to them. They plotted the escape of Sahle Maryam from Magdala, and he eventually succeeded at escaping from Magdala and abandoned his wife, returning to Shewa. Upon his return Bezabih’s attempt to raise an army against the Prince failed miserably when thousands of Shewans rallied to the flag of the son of Haile Melekot and even Bezabih’s own soldiers deserted him for the returning Prince. Sahle Maryam entered Ankober and proclaimed himself Nigus (King) with the name of Menelek.
Not only did he reclaim his ancestral crown, but at once claimed the Imperial throne for himself as well as a direct male line descendant of Emperor Libne Dengil. He launched several attacks against Emperor Tewodros II, particularly against the citadel of Magdala. These campaigns were unsuccessful, and he turned his arms to the west, east and south, and annexed much territory to his kingdom, still, however, maintaining his claims to the Imperial Crown of Ethiopia in addition to the royal one of Shewa.
In 1883, Negus Menelik married Taytu Betul, a noblewoman of Imperial blood, and a member of the leading families of the regions of Semien, Yejju in modern Wollo, and Begemder. Her paternal uncle Dejazmatch Wube Haile Maryam of Semien had been the ruler of Tigray and much of northern Ethiopia. She had been married four times previously and exercised considerable influence. Menelik and Taytu would have no children. Menelik had, previous to this marriage, sired not only Zauditu (eventually Empress of Ethiopia), but also another daughter, Shoaregga (who married Ras Mikael of Wollo), and a son Prince Wossen Seged who died in childhood.
After the suicide of Tewodros II in 1868 following his defeat at the hands of the British at Magdalla, Menelek continued to struggle against the various other claimants to the Imperial throne. The eventual successor, the Emperor Yohannes IV was able to better exert his claims with the large number of weapons left to him by the British, whom he had aided against Tewodros. Being again unsuccessful, Menelek resolved to await a more propitious occasion; so, acknowledging the supremacy of Yohannes. In 1886 Menelik married his daughter Zauditu to the Emperor’s son, the Ras Araya Selassie. Ras Araya Selassie died in May 1888 without any issue by Zauditu of Shewa, and the Emperor Yohannis IV was killed in a war against the dervishes at the battle of Gallabat (Matemma) on May 10, 1889. The succession now lay between the late emperor’s natural son, Ras Mengesha, and Menelik of Shewa, but the latter was able to obtain the allegiance of a large majority of the nobility on November 4, and consecrated and crowned as Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia shortly afterwards. Menelek argued that while the family of Yohannes IV claimed descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba through females of the dynasty, his own claim was based on uninterrupted direct male lineage which made the claims of the House of Shewa equal to those of the elder Gondar line of the dynasty.
His reign as emperor
In 1889, at the time when he was claiming the throne against Mengesha, Menelek signed at Wuchale in Wollo province (Uccialli in Italian), a treaty with Italy acknowledging the establishment of the new Italian Colony of Eritrea with its seat at Asmara. This colony had previously been part of the northern Tigrayan territories from which ras Mangasha had generated support, and the establishment of the Italian colony weakened the Ras. However, it was soon found that the Italian version of one of the articles of the treaty placed the Ethiopian Empire under an Italian protectorate, while the Amharic version did not. Menelek denounced it, and after negotiations failed, abrogated it, leading Italy to declare war and invade from Eritrea. After defeating the Italians at Amba Alagi and Mekele, he inflicted an even greater defeat on them, in the Battle of Adowa on March 1, 1896, forcing them to capitulate. A treaty was signed recognizing the absolute independence of Ethiopia.
Menelek II’s French sympathies were shown in a reported official offer of treasure towards payment of the indemnity at the close of the Franco-Prussian War, and in February 1897 he concluded a commercial treaty with France on very favorable terms. He also gave assistance to French officers who sought to reach the upper Nile from Ethiopia, there to join forces with the Marchand Mission; and Ethiopian armies were sent towards the Nile, but withdrew when the Fashoda Crisis between France and the United Kingdom cooled off. A British mission under Sir Rennell Rodd in May 1897, however, was cordially received, and Menelek agreed to a settlement of the Somali boundaries, to keep open to British commerce the caravan route between Zaila and Harrar, and to prevent the transit of munitions of war to the Mahdists, whom he proclaimed enemies of Ethiopia.
In the following year the Sudan was reconquered by an Anglo-Egyptian army and thereafter cordial relations between Menelek and the British authorities were established. In 1889 and subsequent years, Menelek sent forces to co-operate with the British troops engaged against a Somali leader, Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan.
Menelek had in 1898 crushed a rebellion by Ras Mangasha (who died in 1906) and he directed his efforts henceforth to the consolidation of his authority, and in a certain degree, to the opening up of his country to western civilization. Menelek’s clemency to Ras Mangasha, whom he compelled to submit and then made hereditary Prince of his native Tigray, was ill repaid by a long series of revolts by that prince. Menelek focused much of his energy on development and modernization of his country after this threat to his throne was firmly ended. He had granted in 1894 a concession for the building of a railway to his capital from the French port of Djibouti, but, alarmed by a claim made by France in 1902 to the control of the line in Ethiopian territory, he stopped for four years the extension of the railway beyond Dire Dawa. When in 1906 France, the United Kingdom and Italy came to an agreement on the subject, granting control to a joint venture corporation, Menelek officially reiterated his full sovereign rights over the whole of his empire.
In May 1909 the emperor’s grandson Lij Iyasu (later Iyasu V) by his late daughter Shoaregga, then a lad of thirteen, was married to Romanework Mangasha (b. 1902), granddaughter of the Emperor Yohannes IV by his natural son Ras Mangasha, and was also the niece of Empress Taytu. Two days later Iyasu was publicly proclaimed at Addis Ababa as Menelek’s successor. At that time the emperor was seriously ill and as his ill-health continued, a council of regency — from which the empress was excluded — was formed in March 1910. Lij Iyasu’s marriage to Romanework Mangasha was dissolved, and he married Seble Wongel Hailu, daughter of Ras Hailu, and granddaughter of Negus Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam. Emperor Menelik believed that he could cure sick people by eating pages from the bible. It was to prove his downfall. On December 12, 1913 Emperor Menelek II died of a stroke.
Saint Maurice(3rd – 287)
Saint Maurice (also Moritz, Morris, or Mauritius) was the leader of the legendary Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century, and one of the favorite and most widely venerated saints of that group. He was the patron saint of several professions, locales, and kingdoms. He is also a highly revered saint in the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Because of his name and native land, St. Maurice had been portrayed as black ever since the 12th century. The insignia of the black head, in a great many instances, was probably meant to represent this soldier saint since a majority of the arms awarded were knightly or military.
With 6,666 of his African compatriots, St. Maurice had chosen martyrdom rather than deny his allegiance to his Lord and Saviour, thereby creating for the Christian world an image of the Church Militant that was as impressive numerically as it was colourwise.
The Africanized image of Maurice reached its apogee during the years 1490 to 1530. Images of the saint died out in the mid-sixteenth century, undermined by the developing African slave trade. Despite mass conversions of Africans to Christianity, Eurocentric Christianity did not want to reinforce any positive image of African inclusion in Christian history nor did they want to add nobility to African identity. The process of Christianity was to better control Africans not promote a sense of ownership in Christian history.
Here, no doubt, is a major reason why St. Maurice would become the champion of the old Roman church and an opposition symbol to the growing influence of Luther and Calvin. The fact that he was of the same race as the Ethiopian baptized by St. Philip in Acts of the Apostles was undoubtedly an important element to his significance as well. Since this figure from the New Testament was read as a personification of the Gentile world in its entirety, the complexion of St. Maurice and his Theban Legion (the number of which signified an infinite contingent) was also understood as a representation of the Church’s universality – a dogmatic ideal no longer tolerated by the Reformation’s nationalism. Furthermore, it cannot be coincidental that the most powerful of the German princes to remain within the Catholic fold, the archbishop Albrecht von Brandenburg, not only dedicated practically all the major institutions under his jurisdiction to St. Maurice but in what is today one of the most important paintings of the Renaissance, had himself portrayed in Sacred Conversation with him. Even more blatant was the action taken by Emanual Philibert, Duke of Savoy. In 1572 he organized the order of St. Maurice. The papal promulgation published at its institution declared quite unequivocally that the sole purpose for this knighthood was to combat the heresy of the Reformation. It still exists although it is now combined with the Order of St. Lazarus. The white trefoiled cross is the black Saint’s.
King Mutato (1440)
In 1440, the empire of Monomotapa was under the leadership of the fierce and awesome King Mutato, or “Mutato the Great.” His vast empire had been developed by Vakarang immigrants who were invaders. The Monomotapa Empire covered what is known today as Zimbabwe, Kalahara, Mozambique, and into Transvaal in South Africa.
King Mutato established effective political rule, and promoted economic development and prosperity. The Monomotapa used iron technology and allied crafts, long before the Christian era. With over 4000 active mines, and gold being the leading export commodity, iron work was still highly regarded. The drive for excellence in everything produced was reflected in the artistic work throughout the empire.
The building of the temples and beautiful stone structures, rivaled the construction associated with the great pyramids in Egypt. The Monomotapa were great stonemasons and architects. According to records in stone, a highly developed civilization existed in South Africa, at the same time of the great Egyptian and Ethiopian era, in the North.
King Mutato mastered a plan to unite the Africans throughout the entire Monomotapa Empire. Their enemies knew that if they could keep the Africans fighting amongst themselves, they would be a divided people, lacking in power, and the enemy would have access to their wealth.
Mutato moved quickly to recruit, develop, and train armies, under the supervision of capable generals. Additional strategic leadership by Matope, Mutato’s son, who came into power after Mutato’s death, strengthened and unified Monomotapa. However, after Matope’s death, Monomotapa swiftly declined, and the empire began to break up.
King Moshoeshoe (in progress)
King Moshoeshoe of the Sotho who expanded the empire of the Sotho during the Mfecane wars in what is presently South Africa. King Sibutwane descedant of Moshoeshoe, the wise benevolent King who also created a vast nation state of the Barotse. Sibutwane his brother established the vast Barotse kingdom – expanding the Sotho nation further north. King Lewanika – a descendant there of, another benevolent of this lineage. He was great – diplomat and negotiator, he managed to wrangle a deal to turn Barotse into a British Protectorate to avoid becoming a vassal of the Portuguese and Dutch. Among the deals he demanded from the British to ensure the education of population and created the first schools in the area.
Maulana Karenga (1941)
Maulana Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett on July 14, 1941, also known as Maulana Ron Karenga, Ron Karenga and as M. Ron Karenga) is an African-American professor of Africana Studies, scholar/activist, author and best known
as the creator of the pan-African and African American holiday of Kwanzaa. Karenga was a major figure in the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s and co-founded with Hakim Jamal the black nationalist and social change organization US which means “Us Black people”
If ever there was a living African-American philosopher on par with all those in antiquity it would be Dr. Maulana Karenga. Such an influential figure in Africanizing the descendants of the enslaved Diaspora, he is considered a human cultural landmark. And all great men are controversial but that does not diminish his contributions to – as he would put it – “the forward flow of human civilization.”
In the African-American struggle the legacy of Malcolm X was realized by moving what was a “black struggle” to an African-American struggle and with this a connection to the Pan-African world. Malcolm continued the legacy of Garvey when he made the profound declaration of crimes against humanity. But since Malcolm, most have been concerned with a local revolutionary outlook; disconnected from the broader Pan-Africanism. However, for much of Karenga’s career as a public intellectual he has carried forward the virtues of Malcolm’s mission culturally and politically. And when we reflect on the core of the conflicts with the Black Panther party and the disagreements with the late Hakim Jamal it was linked to the African cultural argument. While most were content for a better sized crumb Karenga wanted a complete cultural paradigm change: a profound move for a person born into the harsher side of the American racist system. So no loner would we look to the ideology of Europe, but to Africa. No longer will we model our humanity on Greece, but back to Ancient Egypt. No longer would English be our lingua franca, but Swahili. No longer would our culture be located in America, but in Africa. And on all of these issue history has vindicated Karenga while he is still with us as an elder.
We are not cultural orphans of White America only struggling for a better share of the American pie. Our journey must, if to be meaningful, take us back to our African path and the continuation of our cultural journey in modernity. Africa is our reference and Karenga has always articulated this reconnected us not to 50 years ago, or to “black identity” created in a 1960’s reactionary vacuum but right back to the Nile Valley civilization. Karenga has from this solid ethical rock formulated viable solutions for Africans everywhere. We are forever indebted to his wisdom and his dedication to creating real ethical institutions to carry on our African culture uninterrupted.
Maba Diakhou Bâ (1809-1867)
(also Ma Ba Diakhu, Ma Ba Diakho Ba, Ma Ba Jaaxu, Màbba Jaxu Ba) (born 1809 at Tavacaltou – July 1867) was a marabout from Rip, and a disciple of the Tijaniyya sufi brotherhood. He became leader (Almamy) of Saloum. A descendant of the Fulani dynasty of Dényankobé, from the branch of the Bâ family in the region of Badibou, Maba Diakhou Bâ combined political and religious goals in an attempt to reform or overthrow previous animist monarchies, and resist French encroachment. He is in a tradition of Fulani jihad leaders who revolutionized the states of West Africa at the time of colonialism.
Maba Diakhou Bâ mounted a fierce resistance to the French colonial invasions of Senegal. Under governor Faidherbe French forces had carried out a scorched earth policy against resistance to their expansion in the Senegambia, with villages razed and populations removed after each victory. Throughout the founding of an Islamic state, Maba Diakhou Bâ tried to unify the area north of the Gambia, while leading a war of conversion against the traditional states. After meeting Umar Tall around 1850, Maba Diakhou Bâ launched his jihad into Serer territory from his state of Rip in 1861. While he eventually succeeded in overtaking the dynasty of Saloum, his movement never succeeded in Sine, and much of Serer territory remained animist until the 20th century. There is much to suggest that Sine resistance was as much nationalist as religious, with Muslims and animists fighting on both sides of these struggles against the colonial forces.
Kwame Nkrumah (1941)
Kwame Nkrumah became the first prime and later president of Ghana. He is an icon of Pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism in Africa. He was born on September 21, 1909, at Nkroful in what was then the British-ruled Gold Coast, the son of a goldsmith. Trained as a teacher, he went to the United States in 1935 for advanced studies and continued his schooling in England, where he helped organize the Pan-African Congress in 1945. He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People’s party (CPP).
After his ‘positive action’ campaign created disturbances in 1950, Nkrumah was jailed, but when the CPP swept the 1951 elections, he was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence as Ghana in 1957. A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. As head of government, he was less successful however, and as time passed he was accused of forming a dictatorship. In 1964 he formed a one-party state, with himself as president for life, and was accused of actively promoting a cult of his own personality. Overthrown by the military in 1966, with the help of western backing, he spent his last years in exile, dying in Bucharest, Romania, on April 27, 1972. His legacy and dream of a “United States of African” still remains a goal among many.
Nkrumah was the motivating force behind the movement for independence of Ghana, then British West Africa, and its first president when it became independent in 1957. His numerous writings address Africa’s political destiny.
Nat Turner (1800 – 1831)
Nathaniel Turner (October 2, 1800 – November 11, 1831), commonly referred to as Nat Turner, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, and was an American Slave. He is described as being singularly intelligent in that he learned to read and write at a young age. As a young child he was overheard describing events that happened before he was born, and throughout his life he frequently received visions which he interpreted as messages from God. Turner often conducted Baptist services, and preached the Bible to his fellow slaves. This, along with his keen intelligence, and other signs marked him in the eyes of his people as a prophet “intended for some great purpose.” He was often seen praying and fasting and deeply engaged in reading stories from the bible.
Turners’ visions greatly influenced his life. For example, one vision in particular convinced him that God had given him the task of slaying all of his enemies with their own weapons. This vision prompted the Slave Rebellion which took place in Southampton County, VA during August 1831. Nat called on his group (the rebels ultimately included more than 50 enslaved and free Africans) to “kill all whites”. As a result, slaves in the rebellion killed approximately 60 white people before the rebellion was put down a few days later, but leader Nat Turner remained in hiding for several months afterwards.
On October 30, 1831 Turner was discovered hiding in a hole covered with fence rails and then taken to court. On November 5, 1831, Nat was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He was hung on November 11 in Jerusalem, Virginia, now known as Courtland, Virginia. His body was then flayed, beheaded and quartered.
Ann Nzinga “Queen of Ndongo” (1582-1663)
In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese stake in the slave trade was threatened by England and France. This caused the Portuguese to transfer their slave-trading activities southward to the Congo and South West Africa. Their most stubborn opposition, as they entered the final phase of the conquest of Angola, came from a queen who was a great head of state, and a military leader with few peers in her time.
The important facts about her life are outlined by Professor Glasgow of Bowie, Maryland:
“Her extraordinary story begins about 1582, the year of her birth. She is referred to as Nzingha, or Jinga, but is better known as Ann Nzingha. She was the sister of the then-reigning King of Ndongo, Ngoli Bbondi, whose country was later called Angola. Nzingha was from an ethnic group called the Jagas. The Jagas were an extremely militant group who formed a human shield against the Portuguese slave traders. Nzingha never accepted the Portuguese conquest of Angola, and was always on the military offensive. As part of her strategy against the invaders, she formed an alliance with the Dutch, who she intended to use to defeat the Portuguese slave traders.”
In 1623, at the age of forty-one, Nzingha became Queen of Ndongo. She forbade her subjects to call her Queen, She preferred to be called King, and when leading an army in battle, dressed in men’s clothing.
In 1659, at the age of seventy-five, she signed a treaty with the Portuguese, bringing her no feeling of triumph. Nzingha had resisted the Portuguese most of her adult life. African bravery, however, was no match for gun powder. This great African woman died in 1663, which was followed by the massive expansion of the Portuguese slave trade.
Prince Rogers Nelson (1956-2016)
Prince one of the greatest musicians icons to ever live. Hands down a talent beyond measure. Prince by all standards was one of the most naturally gifted artists of all time, and also one of the most mysterious. Iconic not only in music but fashion, setting trends in music business and downright creativity. (like changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, and spelling words with numbers 4U).
Prince was a guitar virtuoso influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix (Purple Rain from Purple Haze), James Brown, Sly, Little Richard, even the Beetles. But as he was influenced and greater than the sum total of his influences he influenced music across genres and race( D’Angelo, Meshell Ndegeocello, Lenny Kravitz, Timberlake, Pharrell Williams). He penned songs (or been covered by) for the likes of Bangles, Chaka Khana, Living Color, Madonna, The Time, Sinead O’Connor, Sheila E, Cyndi Lauper, Alicia Keys, Vanity, etc.
Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prince’s early music career saw the release of Prince, Dirty Mind and Controversy—all of which created controversy due to their fusion of religious and sexual themes. He then released the albums 1999 and Purple Rain, cementing his superstar status with No. 1 hits like “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” A seven-time Grammy winner, Prince had a prodigious output that included later albums like Diamonds and Pearls, The Gold Experience and Musicology. He died mysteriously on April 21, 2016
Prince was forever reinventing himself. Whether he was called the Purple One, “the artist formerly known as Prince,” his Royal Badness, his many monikers tracked his multiple facets as he pushed boundaries when it came to gender, sexuality, and the limits of fashion and music.
And while Prince was at times associated with highly sexualized music he also had a conscious side. Pop Life, America, Family Name (where he discusses why African Americans can be angry because they do not know their family names and how the cloud of slavery still hangs over our heads), Sign O the Times, 7, songs about Katrina, songs about Cinnamon Girl, etc. Prince performed a number of concerts to promote social justice causes, including one in Baltimore in honor of Freddie Gray, a man shot to death by Baltimore police. But unlike many celebrities kept decades of philanthropy secretive.
Piankhi and Taharqa (715-656 B.C.)
Piankhi and Taharqa, led Ethiopia in an effort to regain control of Upper Egypt. With Thebes and most of Egypt under Asian control, a plan was launched by Piankhi and the Ethiopian generals to recover Thebes and once again, establish it as the capital.
Twenty-three centuries before Piankhi and Taharqa, King Menes founded the first Egyptian dynasty, becoming the first Pharaoh of the world, uniting Upper and Lower Egypt under his leadership, and establishing Memphis as the first all-African capital city, Thebes being the capital city of the North, or Upper Egypt.
The time period is 715 B.C., Piankhi and Taharqa have made strategic plans, quite similar to those used by Menes in 3100 B.C., to defeat the enemy. This Twenty-Fifth Dynasty, should be of special importance to the African world, since it marked the end of an all-out effort by Blacks to reclaim Egypt.
After reclaiming Egypt, Taharqa led his armies against the intruding Assyrians, defending Israel who was his ally. He is therefore in the Bible in two places, 2 Kings 19:9, and Isaiah 37:9.
Taharqa reigned for approximately 25 years. He dominated the largest empire in African Antiquity, covering more than 1500 miles, including all of the Sudan.
Even though Taharqa was in an endless battle, he started construction projects, so grand, and with such splendor and magnificence, none of which could be matched.
Piankhi and Taharqa left a legacy for the African world, “to recapture that which has been wrongfully taken away.”
Paul Robeson (1898 – 1965)
Paul Robeson, a great American acivist, singer and actor, spent much of his life actively agitating for equality and fair treatment for all of America’s citizens as well as citizens of the world. Robeson brought to his audiences not only a melodious baritone voice and a grand presence, but magnificent performances on stage and screen. Although his outspokenness often caused him difficulties in his career and personal life, he unswervingly pursued and supported issues that only someone in his position could effect on a grand scale. His career flourished in the 1940s as he performed in America and numerous countries around the world. He was one of the most celebrated persons of his time.Paul Leroy Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, on April 9, 1898, the fifth and last child of Maria Louisa Bustill and William Drew Robeson.
During these early years the Robeson’s experienced both family and financial losses. At the age of six Paul and his siblings, William, Reeve, Ben and Marian suffered the death of their mother in a household fire. This was followed a few years later with their father’s loss of his Princeton pastorate. After moving first to Westfield, the family finally settled in Somerville, New Jersey, in 1909, where William Robeson was appointed pastor of St. Thomas AME Zion Church.
Acting and Singing Career
Robeson’s acting career started to take off in 1928 when he accepted the role of Joe in a London production of Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. It was his singing of “Ol’ Man River” that received the most acclaim regarding the show and earned him a great degree of attention from British socialites. Robeson gave concerts in London at Albert Hall and Sunday afternoon concerts at Drury Lane. In spite of all this attention, Robeson still had to deal with racism. In 1929 he was refused admission to a London hotel. Because of the protest raised by Robeson, major hotels in London said they would no longer refuse service to African-Americans.
Much attention was given to Robeson’s acting and singing and he was embraced by the media. The New Yorker magazine in an article by Mildred Gilman referred to Robeson as “the promise of his race,” “King of Harlem,” and “Idol of his people.” Robeson returned briefly to America in 1929 to perform at a packed Carnegie Hall. In May of 1930, after establishing a permanent residence in England, Robeson accepted the lead role in Shakespeare’s Othello. This London production at the Savoy Theatre was the first time since the performance of the great black actor Ira Aldridge in 1860 that a major production company cast a black man in the part of the Moor. Robeson was a tall, strikingly handsome man with a deep, rich, baritone voice and a shy, almost boyish manner. The audience was so mesmerized by his performance in Othello that the production had 20 curtain calls.
Accolades for outstanding acting and singing performances were prevalent during the 1930s in Robeson’s career, but his personal and home life were surrounded by difficulties. His wife Eslanda “Essie,” who had published a book on Robeson, Paul Robeson, Negro (1930), sued for divorce in 1932. Her actions were encouraged by the fact that Robeson had fallen in love and planned to marry Yolande Jackson, a white Englishwoman. Jackson, whom Robeson called the love of his life, had originally accepted his proposal but later called the marriage off. It was thought by some who knew the Jackson family well that she was strongly influenced by her father, Tiger Jackson, who was less than tolerant of Robeson and people of color in general. With his marriage plans cancelled, Robeson and his wife came to an understanding regarding their relationship, and the divorce proceedings were cancelled.
Robeson returned to New York briefly in 1933 to star in the film version of Emperor Jones before turning his attention to the study of singing and languages. His stay in the United States was a short one due to his treatment by the racist American film industries and because of criticism by blacks regarding his role as a corrupt emperor. Upon returning to England, Robeson eagerly immersed himself in his studies and mastered several languages. Robeson along with Essie became an honorary members of the West African Students’ Union, becoming acquainted with African students Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, future presidents of Ghana and Kenya, respectively. It is also during this time that Robeson played at a benefit for Jewish refugees which marked the beginning of his political awareness and activism.
Robeson’s inclination to aid the less fortunate and the oppressed in their fight for freedom and equality was firmly rooted in his own family history. His father William Drew Robeson was an escaped slave who eventually graduated from Lincoln College in 1878, and his maternal grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, was a slave who was freed by his second owner in 1769 and went on to become an active member of the African Free Society. Recognizing the heritage that brought him so many opportunities, Robeson, between 1934 and 1937 performed in several films that presented blacks in other than stereotypical ways. He acted in such films as Sanders of the River (1935), King Solomon’s Mines(1937) and Song of Freedom (1937).
On a trip to the Soviet Union in 1934 to discuss the making of the film Black Majesty, Robeson not only had discussions with the Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein during his trip but was so impressed regarding the education against racism for schoolchildren that he began to study Marxism and Socialist systems in the Soviet Union. He also decided to send his son, nine-year-old Paul Jr., to school in the Soviet Union so that he would not have to contend with the racism and discrimination Robeson confronted in both Europe and America.
Robeson continued acting in films confronting stereotypes of African-Americans while receiving rave reviews for his success in singing “Ol’ Man River” in the 1936 film production of Show Boat. He also embarked on a more active role in fighting the injustices he found throughout the world. Robeson co-founded the Council on African Affairs to aid in African liberation, sang and spoke at benefit concerts for Basque refugees, supported the Spanish Republican cause, and sang at rallies to support a democratic Spain along with numerous other causes. At a benefit in Albert Hall in London, Robeson is quoted in Philip Foner’s Paul Robeson Speaks as saying “The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.” This statement echoed a clear and focused direction of Robeson’s personal and professional life.
In 1939 Robeson stated his intentions to retire from commercial entertainment and returned to America. He gave his first recital in the United States at Mother AME Zion Church Harlem where his brother Benjamin was pastor. Later on in the same year Robeson premiered the patriotic song “Ballad for Americans” on CBS radio as a preview of a play by the same name. The song was so well received that studio audiences cheered for 20 minutes after the performance while the listening audience exceeded the response even for Orson Welles’s famous Martian scare program. Robeson’s popularity in the United states soared and he remained the most celebrated person in the country well into the 1940s. He was awarded the esteemed NAACP Spingarn Medal (1945) as well as numerous other awards and recognitions from civic and professional groups. In the American production of Othello (1943), Robeson’s performance placed him among the ranks of great Shakespearean actors. The production ran for 296 performances–over ten months–and toured both the United States and Canada.
Robeson’s political commitments became foremost in his life as he championed causes from South African famine relief to support of an anti-lynching law; in September 1946 he was among the delegation that spoke with President Harry S Truman about anti-lynching legislation. The meeting was a stormy one as Robeson adamantly urged Truman to act, all the while defending the Soviet Union and denouncing United States’ allies. In October of the same year when called before the California Legislative Committee on Un-American activities, Robeson declared himself not a member of the Communist Party but praised their fight for equality and democracy. This attempt at branding him as un-American was successful in causing many to distrust his political commitments. Regardless of these events, Robeson decided to retire from concert work and devote himself to gatherings that promoted the causes to which he had dedicated himself.
In 1949 Robeson embarked on a European tour and in doing so spoke out against the discrimination and injustices that blacks in American had to confront. His statements were distorted as they were dispatched back to the United States. Although Robeson got mixed responses from the black community, the backlash from whites culminated in riot before a scheduled concert in Peekskill, New York, on August 27, 1949; a demonstration by veteran organizations turned into a full-blown riot. Robeson was advised of this and returned to New York. He did agree to do a second concert on September 4 in Peekskill for the people who truly wanted to hear him. The concert did take place but afterwards a riot broke out which lasted into the night leaving over 140 persons seriously injured. With such violence surrounding Robeson’s concerts, many groups and sponsors no longer supported him.
By 1950 Robeson had received by so much negative press that he made plans for a European tour. His plans were abruptly halted because the United States government refused to allow him to travel unless he agreed not to make any speeches. With no passport and denied his freedom of speech abroad, Robeson continued to speak out in public forums and through his own monthly newspaper, Freedom. Barred from all other forms of media, his own newspaper became his primary platform from 1950 to 1955. His remaining supporters encompassed the National Negro Labor Council, Council on African Affairs, and the Civil Rights Congress. The NAACP openly attacked Robeson while other black organization shunned him in fear of reprisals. Undaunted by these negative responses, Robeson traveled the United States encouraging groups to fight for their rights and for equal treatment. Even though he suffered from health as well as financial difficulties, Robeson held firm to his convictions and published in 1958 his autobiography Here I Stand through a London publishing house.
On May 10, 1958, Robeson gave his first New York concert in ten years to a packed Carnegie Hall. When the concert was over, he informed the audience that the passport battle had been won. From 1958 to 1963 Robeson traveled to England, the Soviet Union, Austria, and New Zealand. He was showered with awards and played to packed houses throughout his travels. After being hospitalized several times throughout his trip due to a disease of the circulatory system, Robeson returned to the United States. Much had changed since the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and school integration were in full enactment. Robeson was welcomed on his return by Freedomways, a quarterly review which saw him as a powerful fighter for freedom. A salute to Robeson was given in 1965 which was chaired by actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee along with writer James Baldwin and many other admirers.
Eslanda “Essie” Robeson died of cancer in 1965 at the age of 68 and Robeson went to live with his sister Marian in Philadelphia. He remained in seclusion until he died there on January 23, 1976; on his 75th birthday four days later a “Salute to Paul Robeson” was held in Carnegie Hall. Paul Leroy Robeson’s funeral was held at Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem before a crowd of 5,000.
On February 24, 1998, Robeson received a posthumous Grammy lifetime achievement award. His honors are numerous, as Robeson’s life is being depicted through exhibits, film festivals, and lectures. Upon the centennial of his birth on April 9, 1998, at least 25 U.S. states and several countries worldwide hosted celebrations of his life and work in every conceivable manner.
Paul Robeson was truly a man who saw a commitment to the oppressed, and particularly African people, as a much more profound calling than the accolades he received for his astonishing talents. His extraordinary voice and engaging acting abilities would have undoubtedly brought him more fame, fortune, and approval than the activist role he pursed instead. It is because of this clear vision of justice that he is remembered as a great American and a great citizen of the world.
Biography Resource Center
Sarki Abdullah Burja of Kano (ruled 1438-1452 AD)
Abdullah Burja, the eighteenth ruler of the Hausa city-state of Kano, was the architect of great prosperity in the northern Nigeria region. In 1438 AD he was crowned Sarki (i.e. King) of Kano. Within a few years, he became the most powerful sarkuna (i.e. king-but plural) within in the Hausa Confederation. His general led military campaigns for seven years in the regions to the south. The campaigns attempted to open the trade route to Gwanja on the edge of the forest belt. The Kano cavalry, typical of the time, were equipped with plumed iron helmets and chainmail. Their horses were protected with lifidi – a thick quilted armour made of cloth. Burja’s raids proved successful.
Twenty one thousand prisoners were captured. The General dispatched the captives to twenty-one settlements in Kano City. From Gwanja, through this newly opened trade route, kola nuts and gold dust flowed into Kano. Meanwhile, serious diplomatic problems had emerged with the neighbouring state of Borno to the east (roughly modern Chad and Niger). The Kano Chronicle, the chief Hausa history, attempts to put a brave face on it but admits that after the conflict “many towns were given to Borno.” This indicates that Burja was defeated in whatever-it-was the authors of the Chronicle were trying to conceal. The city of Kano remained independent and surprisingly, direct trade was established with Borno despite the conflict. Moreover, the Sarki sent gifts to the ruler of Borno, acknowledging the Bono King’s supremacy as an Islamic leader. This started a tradition that continued late into the eighteenth century.
Of the Hausa rulers, Abdullah Burja was the first to encourage the use of camels as beasts of burden. Previously, Kano businessmen and traders waited on camel caravans controlled by the Tuaregs to arrive from the north. Under Burja’s new policy, Kano merchants could transport their own goods across the desert. In the footsteps of these merchants followed the Hausa language and culture. Hausa became the biggest indigenous language spoken in Africa after Swahili. In reputation, Hausa merchants came to rival the legendary Wangaran merchants of Guinea, the economic powerhouse behind Mali. It is worth remembering that the BBC in the Millennium series described Mali as the richest empire in the fourteenth century world. In Kano Burja established the Kurmi Market. A veritable magnet, it attracted goods from all over the world.
Sunni Ali Ber (1464-1492)
Sunni Ali, whose real name was Ali Kolon, began as a common soldier in the army of KanKan Musa, Mandingo ruler of the Mellistine Empire, into which he had been forcibly enlisted, after the defeat and enslavement of his people, the Songhays.
Forced even to fight his own people, Sunni Ali was overcome with rage at the cruelties of the Mellestine emperor and swore that one day, he would take up arms to free his people. As for the empire of KanKan Musa, it exceeded in wealth and magnificence, anything he had ever imagined, and yet, common soldier that we was, Sunni Ali dared to believe that some day it should be his.
Sunni Ali, together with his brother Selmar Nar, laid careful plans for escape. Rallying his people around him, Sunni Ali attacked Jenne, and captured it by storm on January 30, 1468. He took city after city, until the forces of KanKan Musa had been entirely driven out of Songhay territory.
His first notable achievement was the capture of the Malian city of Timbuktu in 1469, with its world famous University of Sankore Mosque. Djenné was the next city to fall after a siege lasting over seven years. An even bigger prize, it had international trading links, a university, and also the most brilliant architecture in the region. He took it in around 1473. To the south, lay the kingdoms of the Mossi, an enemy of the Songhai. In 1480 they launched a raid on the Songhai city of Walata. They besieged the city for a month leading Walata to capitulate. The victorious Mossi seized people and booty. In 1483 Sonni Ali’s army successfully drove this menace from the kingdom. Sonni Ali established the Songhai state as the third great West African Empire in this region, after Ancient Ghana and Mali.
It appears that Sunni Ali, ruled his entire kingdom from horseback. On November 6, 1493, Sunni Ali’s horse slipped and fell into the Koni River, Ali and his horse were swept over the falls and drowned. The legacy of his greatness still exist today and is noted as a key Muslim in West African history.
Sundiata of Mali (ruled 1230-1255 AD)
In 1224 King Sumanguru led the Sosso in a devastating raid on the Malian capital of Djeriba. They razed the city and killed most of the ruling family. Eleven princes were put to death in the massacre, but Sumanguru spared one of them, a crippled boy called Sundiata. Six years later, Sundiata triumphed over his disability and became the ruler of the Malians. He surrounded himself with a private guard made up of the thuggish element of the kingdom, and began a guerrilla campaign against Sosso dominance. Sundiata’s first strike, however, was against Sangaran, a neighbouring kingdom. After this conquest, he campaigned against Labe and also the Niger Region.
During these conquests he gathered an army recruited from among the defeated peoples to fight the Sosso. In 1235 he challenged the power of the Sosso at the Battle of Kirina. His armies defeated Sumanguru and destroyed the fortified and well-garrisoned capital of the Sosso. Five years later, Sundiata seized the city of Ghana and destroyed it. After these military actions, he returned to the ruins of his capital city, Djeriba, and received the sworn loyalty of the rulers of the conquered people at a triumphant and impressive ceremony. He allowed the Emperor of Ghana to retain the title of king. All the other former rulers were given new titles.
Sundiata never again took to the battlefield. Devoting his time to economic and social development of the empire, he turned his armies into farmers and encouraged a programme of agricultural expansion. The soldiers grew cotton, peanuts and grains, and were also encouraged to raise poultry and cattle. He founded a new capital city called Niani. It was located on the confluence of the Upper Niger and Sankarini rivers. There were other military actions, however, but Sundiata’s generals led them. They marched as far as the Atlantic, seized lands way to the east, subjugated the southern forest belt, and overpowered the desert regions of the north. These actions led to Malian control of the gold-fields of Wangara and created the trade route from there to the new capital of Niani.
Sundiata was a Muslim, (Niane), and while some historians say it was only symbolic (nominal Muslim) the only evidence of this is based on his tendency to syncretize Islam with native beliefs. This however is a Eurocentric or Arabized understanding since Africa has its own Islamic Orthodoxies that absorb African cultures. And it is no different to what many Muslims do in other parts of the world. Much of this understanding is part of the racist bias which continues to view anything Africa as on the fringes of being a serious part of the Islamic world. (See David Robinson) Furthermore, while Islam has a high threshold of inclusion in the definition of “Muslim or not.” Many Muslims neglect or contradict the Islamic ideal , but that does not invalidate their Islamic belief. 
Samory Toure “Napoleon of the Sudan” (1830-1900)
Samory Toure, who was a conqueror from West Africa, fought the French from taking possession of his homeland for over 18 years. He fought with such mastery, that the French military leaders referred to him as “The Black Napoleon.” He frustrated the Europeans to the degree that they suffered large losses of manpower and money. Samory’s expert military strategy and tactics caused even greater insecurity for the French. Samory was born of humble means, the son of a poor merchant and a Senegalese female slave.
Samory had become an idol of the other soldiers. Being provoked by jealousy, the king demanded Samory be removed from the army and sent back to his homeland, Bissandugu, where he became king. Samory’s homeland was attacked by the neighboring King Sori Bourama. His mother was captured during this raid. Samory was unable to pay his mother’s ransom, so he freed her by taking her place. Samory, always desiring to be a free man, became a favorite of the king because of his splendid physique, his ability to throw a spear, and his knowledge of the Arabic language.
Soon he became a bodyguard for the king, and later advanced to counselor of the people.Samory defied all of his opponents and even conquered his former capturer, King Sori Bourama. Samory expanded his empire to an area of over 100,000 sq. miles or more, making him the most powerful native ruler in West Africa. On September 29, 1898, while Samory was on his knees, outside of his tent praying. A French sergeant, and a French scout, crept upon him from behind, captured and exiled him to an island for life.
Haile Selassie (1892-1975)
Emperor Haile Selassie I (Ge’ez: ኃይለ፡ ሥላሴ, “Power of the Trinity,” full title “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings and Elect of God,” Ge’ez ግርማዊ፡ ቀዳማዊ፡ አፄ፡ ኃይለ፡ ሥላሴ፡ ሞዓ፡ አንበሳ፡ ዘእምነገደ፡ ይሁዳ፡ ንጉሠ፡ ነገሥት፡ ዘኢትዮጵያ፡ ሰዩመ፡ እግዚአብሔር girmāwī ḳadāmāwī ‘aṣē ḫāyllē śillāsē, mō’ā ‘anbassā za’imnaggada yīhūda nigūsa nagast za’ītyōṗṗyā, siyūma ‘igzī’a’bihēr) (born Lij Tafari Makonnen Ge’ez ልጅ፡ ተፈሪ፡ መኮንን, Amh. pronunciation lij teferī mekōnnin, and also Jahnoy July 23, 1892 – August 27, 1975) was de jure Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974 and de facto from 1916 to 1936 and 1941 to 1974 and is known as the religious symbol for God incarnate among the Rastafari movement.
Haile Selassie I was born Tafari Makonnen on July 23, 1892, in the village of Ejersa Goro, in the Harar province of Ethiopia, as Lij (literally “child”, usually bestowed upon nobility). His father was Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, the governor of Harar, and his mother was Weyziro (Lady) Yeshimebet Ali Abajifar. He inherited his imperial blood through his paternal grandmother, Princess Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, who was an aunt of Emperor Menelik II, and as such, claimed to be a direct descendant of Makeda, the queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of ancient Israel. Emperor Haile Selassie had an elder half-brother, Dejazmach Yilma Makonnen, who preceded him as governor of Harar, but died not long after taking office.
Tafari became Dejazmach at age thirteen. Shortly thereafter, his father Ras Makonnen died at Kulibi. Although it seems that his father had wanted him to inherit his position of governor of Harar, Emperor Menelik found it imprudent to appoint such a young boy to such an important position. Dejazmach Tafari’s older half-brother, Dejazmach Yilma Makonnen was made governor of Harar instead.
Governor of Harar
Tafari was given the titular governorship of Sellale, although he did not administer the district directly. In 1907, he was appointed governor over part of the province of Sidamo. Following the death of his brother Dejazmach Yilma, Harar was granted to Menelik’s loyal general, Dejazmach Balcha Saffo. However, the Dejazmach’s time in Harar was not successful, and so during the last illness of Menelik II, and the brief tenure in power of Empress Taitu Bitul, Tafari Makonnen was made governor of Harar, and entered the city 11 April 1911. On 3 August of that year, he married Menen Asfaw of Ambassel, the niece of the heir to the throne, Lij Iyasu.
Although Dejazmach Tafari played only a minor role in the movement that deposed Lij Iyasu on 27 September 1916, he was its ultimate beneficiary. The primary powers behind the move were the conservatives led by Fitawrari Habte Giorgis Dinagde, Menelik II’s long time war minister. Dejazmach Tafari was included in order to get the progressive elements of the nobility behind the movement, as Lij Iyasu was no longer regarded as the progressives’ best hope for change. However, Iyasu’s increasing flirtation with Islam, his disrespectful attitude to the nobles of his grandfather Menelik II, as well as his scandalous behavior in general, not only outraged the conservative power-brokers of the Empire, but alienated the progressive elements as well. This led to the deposition of Iyasu on grounds of conversion to Islam, and the proclamation of Menelik II’s daughter (Iyasu’s aunt) as Empress Zewditu. Dejazmach Tafari Makonnen was elevated to the rank of Ras, and was made heir apparent. In the power arrangement that followed, Tafari accepted the role of Regent (Inderase), and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire.
As regent, the new Crown Prince developed the policy of careful modernisation initiated by Menelik II, securing Ethiopia’s admission to the League of Nations in 1923, abolishing slavery in the empire in 1924. He engaged in a tour of Europe that same year, inspecting schools, hospitals, factories, and churches; this left such an impression on the future emperor that he devoted over forty pages of his autobiography to the details of his European journey. Also on this trip, while visiting the Armenian monastery in Jerusalem, the Crown Prince met 40 Armenian orphans (አርባ ልጆች Arba Lijoch, “forty children”) who had escaped from the Armenian genocide in Turkey. They impressed him so much that he received permission from the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem to adopt and bring them to Ethiopia, where he arranged for them to receive musical instruction, and they formed the Imperial brass band. The 40 teenagers arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, and along with their bandleader Kevork Nalbandian became the first official orchestra of the nation. Nalbandian composed the music for the Imperial National Anthem, Marsh Teferi (words by Yoftahé Negusé), which was official in Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974.
King and Emperor
Empress Zewditu crowned him as negus (“king”, in Amharic) in 1928, under pressure from the progressive party, following a failed attempt to remove him from power by the conservative elements. The crowning of Tafari Makonnen was very controversial, as he occupied the same immediate territory as the Empress, rather than going off to one of the regional areas traditionally known as Kingdoms within the Empire. Two monarchs, even with one being the vassal and the other the Emperor (in this case Empress), had never occupied the same location as their seat in Ethiopian history. Attempts to redress this “insult” to the dignity of the Empress’ crown were attempted by conservatives including Dejazmach Balcha and others. The rebellion of Ras Gugsa Wele, husband of the Empress, was also in this spirit. He marched from his governorate at Gondar towards Addis Ababa but was defeated and killed at the Battle of Anchiem on March 31, 1930. News of Ras Gugsa’s defeat and death had hardly spread through Addis Ababa, when the Empress died suddenly on April 2, 1930. Although it was long rumored that the Empress was poisoned upon the defeat of her husband, or alternately, that she collapsed upon hearing of his death and died herself, it has since been documented that the Empress had succumbed to an intense flu-like fever and complications from diabetes.
Following the Empress Zewditu’s sudden death, Tafari Makonnen was made Emperor and proclaimed Neguse Negest ze-‘Ityopp’ya (“King of Kings of Ethiopia”). He was crowned on November 2 as Emperor Haile Selassie I at Addis Ababa’s Cathedral of St. George, in front of representatives from 12 countries. (Haile Selassie had been the baptismal name given to Tafari at his christening as an infant meaning “Power of the Holy Trinity.”) The representatives included Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (son of British King George V, and brother to Kings Edward VIII, and George VI), Marshal Franchet d’Esperey of France, and the Prince of Udine representing Italy.
Upon his coronation as emperor and in keeping with the traditions of the Solomonic dynasty that had reigned in highland Ethiopia since 1297, Haile Selassie’s throne name and title were joined to the imperial motto, so that all court documents and seals bore the inscription: “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered! Haile Selassie I, Elect of God King of Kings of Ethiopia“. The use of this formula dates to the dynasty’s Solomonic origins, as well as to the Christianized throne from the period of Ezana; all monarchs being required to trace their lineage back to Menelik I, who in the Ethiopian tradition was the offspring of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
By Empress Menen, the Emperor had six children: Princess Tenagnework, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen, Princess Tsehai, Princess Zenebework, Prince Makonnen and Prince Sahle Selassie.
Emperor Haile Selassie I also had an older daughter, Princess Romanework Haile Selassie, who was born from an earlier alleged union to Woizero Altayech. Little is known about his relationship with Altayech beyond that it allegedly occurred when the Emperor was in his late teens. Because His Majesty never once mentioned any previous marriage, either in his Autobiography or in any other writings, the possibility has been raised that the Princess was adopted. The Princess is listed among the Emperor’s children in the official Imperial Family Tree published after his coronation, and in every version since. She was granted the title of Princess and given the dignity of “Imperial Highness” upon the Emperor’s coronation along with his other children, not something that would have been granted an illegitimate child.
The Emperor introduced Ethiopia‘s first written constitution on July 16, 1931, providing for an appointed bicameral legislature. It was the first time that non-noble subjects had any role in official government policy. However, the League’s failure to stop Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 led him to five years in exile. The constitution also limited the succession to the throne to the descendants of Emperor Haile Selassie — a detail that caused considerable unhappiness with other dynastic princes, such as the princes of Tigrai, and even his loyal cousin Ras Kassa Hailu.
Haile Selassie in 1942, following the 1936 Italian invasion of Ethiopia from its colonies in Eritrea and Somalia, Emperor Haile Selassie I made an attempt at fighting back the invaders personally. He joined the northern front by setting up headquarters at Desse in Wollo province. The Italians had the advantage of much better and a larger number of modern weapons, including a large airforce. The Italians also extensively used chemical warfare and bombed Red Cross tent hospitals, in violation of the Geneva Convention. Following the defeat of the northern armies of Ras Seyoum Mengesha and Ras Imru Haile Selassie I in Tigray, the Emperor made a stand against them himself at Maychew in southern Tigray. Although giving Italian pilots quite a scare, his army was defeated and retreated in disarray, and he found himself being attacked by rebellious Raya and Azebu people’s men as well.
The Emperor made a solitary pilgrimage to the churches at Lalibela, at considerable risk of capture, before returning to his capital. After a stormy session of the council of state, it was agreed that because Addis Ababa could not be defended, the government would relocate to the southern town of Gore, and that in the interests of preserving the Imperial house, the Empress and the Imperial family should leave immediately by train for Djibouti and from there to Jerusalem. After further debate over whether the Emperor would also go to Gore or he should take his family into exile, it was agreed that the Emperor should leave Ethiopia with his family, and present the case of Ethiopia to the League of Nations at Geneva. The decision was not unanimous, and several participants angrily objected to the idea that an Ethiopian monarch should flee before an invading force. Some, like the progressive noble, Blatta Takele, an erstwhile ally of the Emperor, were to permanently hold a grudge against him for agreeing to leave the country. The Emperor appointed his cousin Ras Imru Haile Selassie as Prince Regent in his absence, departing with his family for Djibouti on May 2, 1936.
Marshal Pietro Badoglio led the Italian troops into Addis Ababa on May 5, and Mussolini declared King Victor Emanuel III Emperor of Ethiopia and Ethiopia an Italian province. On this occasion Marshal Pietro Badoglio (declared the first Viceroy of Ethiopia and made “Duke of Addis Ababa”) returned to Rome and took with him Haile Selassie’s throne as a “war trophy”, converting it as his dog’s couch. At Djibouti the Emperor boarded a British ship bound for Palestine. The Imperial family disembarked at Haifa, and then went on to Jerusalem where the Emperor and his officials prepared their presentation at Geneva.
Emperor Haile Selassie I was the only head of state to address the General Assembly of the League of Nations. When he entered the hall, and the President of the Assembly announced “Sa Majesté Imperiale, l’Empereur d’Ethiopie,” the large number of Italian journalists in the galleries erupted in loud shouts, whistles and catcalls, stamping their feet and clapping their hands. As it turned out, they had earlier been issued whistles by the Italian foreign minister (and Mussolini’s son-in-law) Count Galeazzo Ciano. The Emperor stood in quiet dignity while the Romanian President of the League, Nicolae Titulescu, remarked to the President of the Assembly, M. van Zeeland: “For the sake of justice, silence these beasts!”
The Emperor waited quietly for security to clear the Italian press out of the gallery, before commencing his speech. Although fluent in French, the working language of the League, the Emperor chose to deliver his historic speech in his native Amharic. The Emperor asked the League to live up to its promise of collective security. He spoke eloquently of the need to protect weak nations against the strong. He detailed the death and destruction rained down upon his people by the use of chemical agents. He reminded the League that “God and History would remember (their) judgement.” He pleaded for help and asked “What answer am I to take back to my people?” . His eloquent address moved all who heard it, and turned him into an instant world celebrity. He became Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” and an icon for anti-Fascists around the world. He failed, however, in getting what he needed to help his people fight the invasion: the League agreed to only partial and ineffective sanctions on Italy, and several members recognized the Italian conquest.
See also: Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Emperor Haile Selassie I spent his five years of exile (1936–1941) mainly in Bath, United Kingdom, in Fairfield House, which he bought. After his return to Ethiopia, he donated it to the city of Bath as a residence for the aged, and it remains so to this day. There are numerous accounts of “Haile Selassie was my next-door neighbour” among people who were children in the Bath area during his residence, and he attended Holy Trinity Church in Malvern (with the same dedication as Trinity Cathedral back in Ethiopia). The Emperor also spent extended periods in Jerusalem.
During this period, Emperor Haile Selassie I suffered several personal tragedies. His two sons-in-law, Ras Desta Damtew and Dejazmach Beyene Merid, were both executed by the Italians. His daughter Princess Romanework, along with her children, was taken in captivity to Italy, where she died in 1941. His grandson Lij Amha Desta died in Britain just before the restoration, and his daughter Princess Tsehai died shortly after.
1940s and 1950s
Haile Selassie I returned to Ethiopia in 1941, after Italy’s defeat in Ethiopia by United Kingdom and Ethiopian patriot forces (see East African Campaign). After the war, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations (UN). In 1951, after a lengthy fact-finding inquiry by the allied powers and then the UN, the former Italian colony of Eritrea was federated to Ethiopia as a compromise between the sizable factions that wanted complete Union with the Empire, and those who wanted complete independence from it.
Despite his centralization policies that had been made before WWII, he still found himself unable to push for all the programs he wanted. In 1942, Haile Selassie attempted to institute a progressive tax scheme, but this failed due to opposition from the nobility, and only a flat tax was passed; in 1951 he agreed to reduce this as well. In addition, the land tax was generally passed by the land owners to the peasants. Despite his wishes, the tax burden remained primarily on the peasants.
Between 1948 and 1956, Haile Selassie took steps to widen the influence of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This was accomplished by obtaining permission from the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria to appoint the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, instead of the traditional system, where the head could only be appointed by the patriarch of Alexandria. The Ethiopian Church remained affiliated with the Alexandrian Church, however. He also created enough new bishoprics so that Ethiopians could elect their own patriarch. In addition to this, he changed the Ethiopian church-state relationship by introducing taxation of church lands, and by taking away the privilege of clergy to be tried in their own courts for civil offences.
In keeping with his cherished principle of collective security, for which he was an outspoken proponent, he sent a contingent under General Bully, known as the Kagnew Battalion, to take part in the UN Conflict in Korea where they fought valiantly against Communist forces in the defence of democratic South Korea.[neutrality disputed]
During the celebrations of his Silver Jubilee in November 1955, Haile Selassie I introduced a revised constitution,  whereby he retained effective power, while extending political participation to the people by allowing the lower house of parliament to become an elected body. Party politics were not provided for. Modern educational methods were more widely spread throughout the Empire, and the country embarked on a development scheme and plans for modernization, tempered by Ethiopian traditions, and within the framework of the ancient monarchical structure of the state.
Haile Selassie compromised when practical with the traditionalists in the nobility and church. He also tried to improve relations between the state and ethnic groups, and granted autonomy to Afar lands that were difficult to control. Still, his reforms to end feudalism were slow and weakened by the compromises he made with the entrenched aristocracy. This would be a key factor in the downfall of his regime.
On December 13, 1960, while the emperor was on a state visit to Brazil, his Imperial Guard forces staged an unsuccessful coup attempt, briefly proclaiming Haile Selassie I’s eldest son Asfa Wossen as the new Emperor. The coup d’etat was crushed by the regular Army and police forces. The coup attempt (although lacking wide popular support, denounced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and crushed by the Army, Air and Police forces), gained support among students of the University and elements of the young educated technocrats in the country. It marked the beginning of an increased radicalization of Ethiopia’s student population, and the University was in an almost constant state of protest against the regime for the next decade.
After the coup, Haile Selassie attempted to increase reform, especially in the form of land grants to military and police officials, however there was little organization to this effort.
Following this, he continued to be a staunch ally of the West, while pursuing a firm policy of decolonisation in Africa, which was still largely under European colonial rule at this time.
In 1962, he placed Eritrea under the Ethiopian Constitution. He had already governed the former Italian colony since 1950 by mandate, under a separate Constitution that had been written by the UN. This act of complete Union aggravated a struggle with the Eritrean independence movement that would continue long past his reign. This seccession movement also would polarize the Muslim and Christian communities, as would the seccession movement in the Ogaden as well as war with Somalia over the region.
In 1963 the Emperor presided over the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, with the new organisation setting up its headquarters in Addis Ababa. As more and more African states won their independence, he played a pivotal role as a Panafricanist, and along with Modibo Keïta of Mali, was successful in negotiating the Bamako Accords, which brought an end to a border conflict between Morocco and Algeria.
In 1966, the Emperor attempted to create a more modern progressive tax that included registration of land that would significantly weaken the nobility. Even with alterations this law led to a revolt in Gojam which was repressed although enforcement of the tax was abandoned. This encouraged other landowners to defy the emperor, though on a lesser scale.
As in other countries, the increasingly radical student movement took hold in Haile Selassie University and high school campuses in the late 60s and early 70s, and student unrest became a regular feature of Ethiopian life. Marxism took root in large segments of the Ethiopian intelligentsia, particularly among those who had studied abroad and had been exposed to radical and left-wing sentiments that were becoming fashionable in other parts of the globe. Resistance by conservative elements at the Imperial Court and Parliament, in addition to within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, made the Emperor’s proposals of widespread land reform policies difficult to implement, and also damaged the standing of the government. This bred resentment among the peasant population. Efforts to weaken unions also hurt his image. As these issues began to pile up, Haile Selassie left much of domestic governance to his Prime Minister, Aklilu Habte Wold, and concentrated more on foreign affairs.
Outside of Ethiopia, however, the Emperor continued to enjoy enormous prestige and respect. As the longest serving Head of State then in power, the Emperor was usually given precedence over all other leaders at most international state events, such as the celebration of the 2500 years of the Persian Empire, the summits of the Non-aligned movement, and the state funerals of John F. Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle. His frequent travels around the world raised Ethiopia’s international image.
A devastating drought in the Province of Wollo in 1972–73 caused a large famine which was covered up by local officials and kept from Haile Selassie I, who was celebrating his 80th birthday amidst much pomp and ceremony. When a BBC documentary exposed the existence and scope of the famine, the government was seriously undermined, and the Emperor’s once unassailable personal popularity fell. Simultaneously, economic hardship caused by high oil prices and widespread military mutinies in the country further weakened him. Enlisted men began to seize their senior officers and held them hostage, demanding higher pay, better living conditions, and investigation of alleged widespread corruption in the higher ranks of the military. The Derg, a committee of low ranking military officers and enlisted men, set up to investigate the military’s demands, took advantage of the government’s disarray to depose Emperor Haile Selassie I on September 12, 1974. The Emperor was placed under house arrest briefly at the 4th Army Division in Addis Ababa, while most of his family were detained at the late Duke of Harrar’s residence in the north of the capital. The Emperor was then moved to a house on the grounds of the old Imperial Palace where the new government set up its headquarters. Later, most of the Imperial family were imprisoned in the Central prison in Addis Ababa known as “Alem Bekagn”, or “I am finished with the world”.
On August 28, 1975, the state media reported that the “ex-monarch” Haile Selassie I had died on August 27, following complications from a prostate operation. His doctor, Professor Asrat Woldeyes denied that complications had occurred and rejected the government version of his death. Some believe that he was suffocated in his sleep. Witnesses came forward after the fall of the Marxist government in 1991, to reveal that the Emperor’s remains had been buried beneath the president’s personal office. On November 5, 2000 Emperor Haile Selassie I was given an Imperial funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The current post-communist government refused to give it the status of a state funeral. Although such prominent Rastafari figures such as Rita Marley and others participated in the grand funeral, most Rastafari rejected the event, and refused to accept that the bones unearthed from under Mengistu Haile Mariam’s office were the remains of the Emperor.
Among many followers of the Rastafari movement, which emerged in Jamaica during the 1930s under the influence of Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” movement, Haile Selassie I is seen as God incarnate, the African Messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. His official titles, King of kings, Lord of lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and Root of David, are seen to be the titles of the returned Messiah in the New Testament Book of Revelation. The faith in the incarnate divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie I began after news reports of his coronation reached Jamaica, particularly via the two Time magazine articles about the coronation the week before and the week after the event. He is considered to be the King and God before whom no other shall stand. Selassie’s own spiritual teachings permeate the philosophy of the movement.
When Haile Selassie I visited Jamaica on April 21, 1966, somewhere between one and two hundred thousand Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, having heard that the man whom they considered to be God was coming to visit them. Ganja was widely and openly smoked. When Haile Selassie I arrived at the airport he refused to get off the aeroplane for an hour until Mortimer Planner, a well known Rasta, persuaded him that it was safe to do so. From then on the visit was a success. Rita Marley, Bob Marley’s wife, converted to the Rastafarian faith after seeing Haile Selassie I. She claimed, in interviews, that she saw scars on the palms of Selassie’s hands (as he waved to the crowd) that resembled the envisioned markings on Christ’s hands from being nailed to the cross- a claim that was never supported by other sources, but nonetheless, a claim that was used as evidence for her and other Rastafarians to suggest that Selassie I was indeed their Messiah.
Haile Selassie I’s attitude to the Rastafarians
Haile Selassie I had no role in organising or promoting the Rastafari movement which for many Rastas is seen as proof of his divinity in that he was no false prophet claiming to be God in order to enjoy the benefits of being a cult leader. He was a devout member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as demanded by his political role in Ethiopia, and it was his role as Emperor of Ethiopia that he devoted his life to. His publicly known views towards the Rastafarians varied from sympathy to polite interest.
Yet in his speeches and writings there is substantial material about the spiritual life, and he addressed his audience in the tone of a spiritual teacher. For instance, he wrote “Knowing that material and spiritual progress are essential to man, we must work ceaselessly for the attainment of both…No one should question the faith of others, for no human can judge the ways of God”. During the Emperor’s visit to Jamaica, he told Rastafari community leaders that they should not emigrate to Ethiopia until they had liberated the people of Jamaica. On another occasion Selassie said “We have been a child, a boy, a youth, an adult, and finally an old man. Like everyone else. Our Lord the Creator made us like everyone else,” (in an interview with Oriana Fallaci, Chicago Tribune, June 24, 1973) and the Rastafarians do see Selassie as man incarnate. On numerous occasions Selassie expressed his belief in his faith, stating that one is doomed apart from faith in Christ, who in the Tewahido faith is considered both man and God: “A rudderless ship is at the mercy of the waves and the wind, drifts wherever they take it and if there arises a whirlwind it is smashed against the rocks and becomes as if it has never existed. It is our firm belief that a soul without Christ is bound to meet with no better fate.” (One Race, One Gospel, One Task, address to the World Evangelical Congress, Berlin, October 28, 1966). He also encouraged religious freedom and tolerance. “Since nobody can interfere in the realm of God we should tolerate and live side by side with those of other faiths… We wish to recall here the spirit of tolerance shown by Our Lord Jesus Christ when He gave forgiveness to all including those that crucified Him.” (op. cit.).
In order to help the Rastas and their aspirations of returning to Africa the Emperor donated a piece of land at Shashamane, 250 km south of Addis Ababa, for the use of Jamaican Rastafarians and there is a community there to this day.
Malick Sy (1855- 1922)
El-Hadji Malick Sy (Wolof: Allaaji Maalig Si, 1855-1922) was a Senegalese religious leader and teacher in the Tijaniyya Sufi brotherhood. He was one of the key figures for the renewal of Islam and spread of the Tariqa Tijaniyya in Senegal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Along with contemporaries Ahmadu Bamba and al-Hajj Abdoulaye Niasse, al-Hajj Malik played an important role in preserving and adapting the transmission of the traditional Islamic sciences in Senegal in the aftermath of French conquest. His followers are today found mostly in northern Senegal, although important communities exist from the Gambia to the Futa region of southern Mauritania.
Born in Gaya (in northern Senegal) to a Fulani family, El-Hadji Malick Sy traveled to Mauritania, then to Saint-Louis, Senegal in 1884 as a religious student. He traveled to Mecca, then returned to teach at Louga and Pire before etablishing a zāwiya (religious center) at Tivaouane in 1902 at the invitation of local leader Djibril Guèye, which became a center for Islamic education and culture under his leadership.
Many of his poems in praise of the Prophet have attained great renown and are still recited by his followers, especially during the Mawlid season. Some twenty of his Arabic works were published, most of them in Tunis. Aside from poetry, his writings included treatises on theology, law, Sufism and biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
In Senegal’s Wolof country, especially the northern regions of Kajoor and Jolof, the Tijānī Order was spread primarily by El-Hajj Malick Sy. Legacy After his death on 27 June 1922, Malick Sy was succeeded by his son Seydi Ababacar Sy as the khalife général des Tidjanes from 1922 to 1957. The family line has continued to hold the title, with El-Hadji Abdou Aziz Sy from 1957 – 1997, to the current khalife, Serigne Mansour Sy “Borom daaraji”. The Gàmmu (Mawlid in Arabic, the celebration of the birth of Muḥammad) of Tivaouane gathers many followers each year.
Thomas Sankara (1949-1997)
Captain Thomas Sankara was the leader of the Burkinabe Revolution. In the former Upper Volta known today as Burkina Faso, a group of men decided to launch a revolution that would enable the country “to accept the responsibility of its reality and its destiny with human dignity”. Thomas Sankara belongs to the group of African leaders who wanted to give the continent in general and their countries in particular a new sociopolitical dimension. He was the hope of the African youth before being coldly murdered by his best friend Blaise Compaore. He is remembered also for his humility and lived in the same economic conditions of his people. He despised the flaunting of wealth and downgraded the government fleet of cars. He is an example which few African leaders today follow.
Born in Yako, Upper Volta now Burkina Faso, on December 21, 1949 Thomas Sankara was a charismatic left-leaning leader in West Africa. He was sometimes nicknamed “Tom Sank” and was considered by some to be an “African Che Guevara”.
A captain in the Upper Volta Air Force, he was trained as a pilot. He was a very popular figure in the capital of Ouagadougou. The fact that was he was a decent guitarist and liked motorbikes may have contributed to his charisma.
Sankara was appointed Secretary of State for Information in 1981 and became Prime minister in 1983. He was jailed the same year after a visit by Jean-Christophe Mitterrand; this caused a popular uprising.
A coup d’Etat organized by Blaise Compaore made Sankara President on August 4, 1983, at the age of 33. The coup d’Etat was supported by Libya which was, at the time, on the verge of war with France in Chad. Sankara saw himself as a revolutionary and was inspired by Cuba and Ghana’s military leader, Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings. As president, he promoted the “Democratic and Popular Revolution” (RDP Revolution Democratique et Populaire).
His government included large number of women. His policy was oriented toward fighting corruption, reforestation, averting famine, and making education and health real priorities. Improving women’s status was one of Sankara’s explicit goals, that was unprecedented in West Africa. His government banned female circumcision, condemned polygamy, and promoted contraception.
The Burkinabe government was also the first African government to claim that AIDS was a major threat for Africa. In 1984, on the first anniversary of his accession, he renamed the country Burkina Faso, meaning “the land of upright people” in Mossi and Dyula, the two major languages of the country. He also gave it a new flag and wrote a new national anthem.
On October 15, 1987 Sankara was killed in a coup d’Etat organized by his former colleague Blaise Compaore. It’s thought that Compaoré may have had the support of France, which had been irritated for sometime by Sankara and his anti-imperialistic slogans. His replacement, Compaoré, proved to be a much more flexible partner.
Thomas Sankara has come to be a symbol of resistance, and one which speaks particularly to the imagination of young Africans. As a hero of the revolution, leader of the opposition to the colonial West – to many Africans Sankara enjoys the same status as that of Che Guevara in Latin America.
Umar Tal (1864-1538)
Umar Tal, Umar Taal “Umar Futi”, al-Hajj Umar ibn Sa’id Tal, or el-Hadj Omar ibn Sa’id Tal
The third major western African jihad of the 19th century was that of al-Hajj ‘Umar Tal (c. 1797–1864), a Tukulor cleric from the Fouta-Toro. As a young man, ‘Umar went on the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca (hence the honorific al-Hajj), and in all spent some 20 years away from his homeland. Twelve of these were spent at Sokoto, where he married a daughter of Bello’s.
In 1848, El Hajj Umar Tall’s Toucouleur army, equipped with European light arms, invaded several neighboring, non-Muslim, Malinké regions and met with immediate success. Umar Tall pressed on into what is today the region of Kayes in Mali, conquering a number of cities and building a tata (fortification) near the city of Kayes that is today a popular tourist destination.
In April of 1857, Umar Tall declared war on the Khasso kingdom and besieged the French colonial army at Medina Fort. The siege failed on July 18 of the same year when Louis Faidherbe, French governor of Senegal, arrived with relief forces.
Conqueror of the Bambara
After his failure to defeat the French, El Hadj Umar Tall launched a series of assaults on the Bambara kingdoms of Kaarta and Ségou. The Kaarta capital of Nioro du Sahel fell quickly to Umar Tall’s mujahideen, followed by Ségou on March 10, 1861.
While Umar Tall’s wars thus far had been against the animist Bambara or the Christian French, he now turned his attention to the smaller Islamic states of the region. Installing his son Ahmadu Tall as imam of Ségou, Umar Tall marched down the Niger, on the Massina imamate of Hamdullahi. More than 70,000 died in the three battles that followed until the final fall and destruction of Hamdullahi on March 16, 1862.
Death and legacy
Now controlling the entire Middle Niger, Umar Tall moved against Timbuktu, only to be repulsed in 1863 by combined forces of the Tuaregs, Moors, and Fulani peoples. Meanwhile, a rebellion broke out in Hamdullahi under Balobo, brother of executed Massina monarch Amadu Amadu; in 1864, Balobo’s combined force of Peuls (Fulani) and Kountas drove Umar Tall’s army from the city and into Bandiagara, where Umar Tall died in an explosion of his gunpowder reserves on February 12. His nephew Tidiani Tall succeeded him as the Toucouleur emperor, though his son Ahmadu Seku did much of the work to keep the empire intact from Ségou. However, the French continued to advance, finally entering Ségou itself in 1890.
El Hadj Umar Tall remains a legendary figure in Senegal, Guinea, and Mali, though his legacy varies by country. Where the Senegalese tend to remember him as a hero of anti-French resistance, Malian sources tend to describe him as an invader who prepared the way for the French by weakening West Africa. Umar Tall also figures prominently in Maryse Condé’s historical novel Segu.
Emperor Tewodros II(1818 – April 13, 1868)
Tewodros II (Ge’ez ቴዎድሮስ, baptized as Sahle Dingil, and often referred to in the west by the english equivalent Theodore II) (c. 1818 – April 13, 1868) was the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1855 until his death. He was born Kassa Haile Giorgis, but was more regularly referred to as Kassa Hailu (Ge’ez ካሳ ኃይሉ — meaning “restitution” and “His [or the] power”). His rule is often placed as the beginning of modern Ethiopia, ending the decentralized Zemene Mesafint (Era of the Princes).During the Zemene Mesafint (Age of the Princes) period, there were few avenues of respectable occupation for young men of the noble class. One could inherit a district from one’s family and rule it, but Kassa had been dispossesed of his inheritance, which was part of the domains of his relative Dejazmatch Marru.
These lands were known as Ye Marru Kammas (“that which has been tasted by Marru”), and following the death of that nobleman, it had been taken over by Empress Mennen Liben, wife of the puppet Emperor Yohannis III, and mother of Ras Ali II, the Re-ese Mekwanint and Enderase (Chief of the Nobles and Regent), so that avenue was closed to him. Another avenue was to go to court and ingratiate himself to the Re-ese Mekwanint, Ras Ali, and to his mother the Empress, and hope that they appointed him to some military or administrative post. There were other alternatives, such as entering the service of other Ethiopian princelings, like Goshu of Gojjam, or Wube of Simien and Tigre, or the King of Shewa. Kassa was not one who served under anyone easily, and although he did try to serve in Goshu’s army, it did not work. The other option was to become a bandit warlord (shifta) and sieze property and power, and it was in this endevor that Kassa excelled. As a warlord, Kassa Hailu lived very differently than other lords of banditry. He shunned pomp and circumstance, living a frugal and simple life. He was accessible to his men, and lived like them. He robbed and pillaged the property of his wealthy enemies, and kept a portion, but distributed a considerable ammount to the poor, and devided what he kept among his men equally. He soon aquired legendary status, and men began to flock to his banner. He became a larger and larger force to be reconned with. As the numbers of his followers grew, Kassa of Kwara began to display more and more confidence.
Tewodros sought to unify and modernise Ethiopia. However, since he was nearly always away on campaign during his tenure as emperor, disloyal leaders frequently tried to dislodge him whilst he was away fighting. Within a few short years, he had forcibly brought back under direct Imperial rule the Kingdom of Shewa and the province of Gojjam. He crushed the many warlords of Wollo and Tigray and brought recalcitrant regions of Begemder and Simien under his direct rule.
He moved the capital city of the Empire from Gondar, first to Debre Tabor, and later to Magdala. Tewodros ended the division of Ethiopia among the various regional warlords and princes that had vied among each other for power for almost two centuries. He forcibly re-incorporated the regions of Gojjam, Shewa and Wollo under the direct administration of the Imperial throne after having been ruled by local branches of the Imperial dynasty (in Gojjam and Shewa) or other warlords (Wollo). With all of his rivals apparently subdued, he imprisoned them and their relatives comfortably at Magdala. Among the royal and aristocratic prisoners at Magdala was the young Prince of Shewa, Sahle Mariam, the future Emperor Menelik II. Tewodros doted on the young prince, and in fact married him to his own daughter Alitash Tewodros. Menelik would eventually escape from Magdala, and abandon his wife, offending Tewodros deeply.
The Cross of Emperor Tewodros II.
The death of his beloved wife, Empress Tewabech, marked a deterioration in Tewodros II’s behavior. Increasingly erratic and vengeful, he gave full rein to some of his more brutal tendencies now that the calming influence of his wife was absent. Tewodros II remarried, this time to the daughter of his imprisoned enemy Dejazmatch Wube. The new Empress, Tiruwork Wube was a haughty and proud woman, who disdained her husband for having been of a socially inferior origin than that of her own aristocratic family which traced its lineage to the Imperial dynasty itself. The marriage was not a happy one, and was extremely stormy. They did manage to produce a son, Dejazmatch Alemayehu Tewodros whom the Emperor adored and whom he regarded as his heir.
Tewodros, fearful of northerly Muslim powers, wrote a letter to a fellow Christian monarch, Queen Victoria asking for British assistance in the region. Tewodros asked the British Consul in Ethiopia, Captain Charles Duncan Cameron, to carry a letter to Queen Victoria requesting skilled workers to come to teach his subjects how to produce firearms, and other technical skills. Cameron traveled to the coast with the letter, but when he informed the Foreign Office of the letter and its contents, the Foreign Office instructed him simply to send the letter to London rather than bring it himself, and to proceed to the Sudan where he was to make inquiries about the slave trade there. After doing this, Cameron returned to Ethiopia. On Cameron’s return, the Emperor became enraged when he found out that Cameron had not taken the letter to London personally, had not brought a response from the Queen, and most of all, had spent time traveling through enemy Egyptian and Turkish territories. Cameron tried to appease the Emperor saying that a reply to the letter would arrive shortly.
Unfortunately, the Foreign Office in London did not pass the letter to Queen Victoria, but simply filed it under Pending. There the letter stayed for a year. Then the Foreign Office sent the letter to India, because Abyssinia came under the Raj’s remit. It is alleged that when the letter arrived in India, officials filed it under Not Even Pending.
After two years had passed and Tewodros had not received a reply, he imprisoned Cameron, together with all the British subjects in Ethiopia at the time and various other Europeans, in an attempt to get Victoria’s attention. Among the Europeans he imprisoned was a missionary by the name of Mr. Stern, who had previously published a book in Europe describing Tewodros as a barbaric, cruel, unstable usurper, who was born a mere son of a poor kosso seller. When Tewodros saw this book he became violently angry, pulling a gun on Stern, and had to be restrained from killing the missionary. Tewodros also received reports from abroad that foreign papers had quoted these European residents of Ethiopia as having said many negative things about him and his reign.
The British sent a mission under an Assyrian born British subject named Hormuzd Rassam, who bore a letter from the Queen, but brought with him no skilled workers as Tewodros had requested. Deeply insulted by the British failure to do exactly as they were told, Tewodros imprisoned the members of the Rassam mission as well. This last breach of diplomatic immunity led to the 1868 Expedition to Abyssiniaunder Robert Napier,who came from India, the then colony of the British, with more than 30,000 personnel which consisted of not only soldiers but also other personnels such as engineers. Tewodros had become increasingly unpopular over the years due to his harsh methods, and many regional figures had rebelled against him. Several readily came to the assistance of the British by providing guides and food as the expeditionary force marched towards Magdala, where the Emperor had fortified the mountaintop.
When the two sides met at Arogye, in the plain facing Magdala, on April 10, 1868, the British defeated the Ethiopian army. With his army so decisively defeated, many of his men began to desert and was only left with 4,000 soldiers. Tewodros freed the prisoners and sent them to Napier along with a gift of cattle to be slaughtered for the Easter holiday that was to take place on Sunday, April 12, that year. However, when Napier sent a message thanking him for this peace offering and stating that he would treat the Emperor and his family with every dignity, Tewodros II furiously stated that he would never be taken prisoner. The British then proceeded to shell Magdala itself, killing most of Tewodros II’s remaining loyal men. Emperor Tewodros II committed suicide on Easter Monday, April 13, 1868, as the British troops stormed the citadel of Magdala. Ironically he used a pistol that Queen Victoria had sent him as a gift. Tewodros II was buried by the British troops at Magdala’s Medhane Alem (Savior of the World) Orthodox Church under the name of Theodore II.
After his suicide, the British burned the fortress of Magdala, and departed from Ethiopia. They looted a vast amount of treasure from the citadel, including Tewodros II’s crowns, a huge number of both royal and ecclesiastic robes, vestments, crosses, chalices, swords and shields, many embroidered or decorated with gold or silver, numerous tabots, the great Imperial silver negarit war drum, and a huge number of valuable manuscripts. Today one may see many of these in various museums and libraries in Europe, as well as in private collections. In burning the mountaintop fortress, they also torched the two churches and town as well. With the Church of Medhane Alem burned, Tewodros II’s family would later move the Emperor’s remains to the Mahedere Selassie Monastery in his native Qwara where they remain.
Thothmes III (1504-1450 B.C.)
King Thothmes III, mightiest conqueror of Far Antiquity. He was the son of Thothmes I, and a slave woman named Isis. Nevertheless, he forged ahead of those nobler born and won supreme power not only in Egypt, but in all the known world.
Thothmes III’s, early quest for power failed in the long struggle for the throne with his sister, Hatshepsut, for whom he was no match. After her death, he emerged from the background to reign in an even more dazzling manner than her.
Once seated on the throne, he continued the conquests begun by his mighty ancestor, Aahmes. Thothmes III, brought back to Egypt, the Kings of other nations to grace his triumphs, and such wealth of golden thrones, royal chariots, gold, jewels, and cattle as had never fallen to Egypt. Utterly fearless, he once attacked an elephant in battle, single-handed.
Unlike most conquerors of antiquity, Thothmes III, it seems was merciful, and spared the conquered instead of putting the old and decrepit to the sword.
Thothmes III, built many temples. He died at the age of eighty-two, after a magnificent reign.
Queen Tiye (1415-1340 B.C.)
This celebrated Nubian queen was the beloved and honored wife of Amen-Hetep III , who was one of the world’s mightiest Pharaohs and conquerors.
King Amen-Hetep III, had a very deep and unusual affection for Queen Tiye. In addition to the usual titles of a King’s wife, Tiye is described as “Royal” daughter and “Royal” sister, when she was neither the daughter or the sister of a king, but of parents who were not of royal lineage.
The full queenly titles which Tiye held in common with the great heiress princesses of Egypt, were bestowed on her by Amen-Hetep III, and were honorary.
Although Tiye was a girl of common birth, she was a person of very strong character. Evident from records, she was a beautiful young African queen. A woman of great intellect, ability, and a powerful influence. Queen Tiye had such an important part in the affairs of Egypt, that foreign diplomats often appealed directly to her in matters affecting certain international relations.
Queen Tiye was a full-blooded African. Her son, Akhenaton and his wife, Nefertiti are the parents of King Tutankhamen , who is also known as “King Tut.”
As a symbol of the love Amen-Hetep III, had for Queen Tiye, he declared that so she was treated in life as his equal, she would be depicted in death. At the time of her death, she was given a full “Royal” burial.
Toussaint L’Ouverture (20 May 1743 – 8 April 1803)
The remarkable leader of this slave revolt was Toussaint Breda (later called Toussaint L’Ouverture, and sometimes the “black Napoleon”). Slave revolts from this time normally ended in executions and failure – this story is the exception. It began in 1791 in the French colony of Saint Dominique (later Haiti). Though born a slave in Saint Dominique, Toussaint learned of Africa from his father, who had been born a free man there.
Napoleon was one of the greatest generals who ever lived. But at the end of the 18th century a self-educated slave with no military training drove Napoleon out of Haiti and led his country to independence.
He learnt that he was more than a slave, that he was a man with brains and dignity. He was fortunate in having a liberal master who had him trained as a house servant and allowed him to learn to read and write. Toussaint took full advantage of this, reading every book he could get his hands on. He particularly admired the writings of the French Enlightenment philosophers, who spoke of individual rights and equality.
In 1789 the French Revolution rocked France. The sugar plantations of Saint Dominique, though far away, would never be the same. Spurred on by such Enlightenment thinkers as Jean–Jacques Rousseau, the early moderate revolutionaries considered seriously the question of slavery. Those moderate revolutionaries were not willing to end slavery but they did apply the “Rights of Man” to all Frenchmen, including free blacks and mulattoes (those of mixed race). Plantation owners in the colonies were furious and fought the measure. Finally the revolutionaries gave in and retracted the measure in 1791.
The news of this betrayal triggered mass slave revolts in Saint Dominique, and Toussaint became the leader of the slave rebellion. He became known as Toussaint L’Ouverture (the one who finds an opening) and brilliantly led his rag-tag slave army. He successfully fought the French (who helped by succumbing to yellow fever in large numbers) as well as invading Spanish and British.
By 1793, the revolution in France was in the hands of the Jacobins, the most radical of the revolutionary groups. This group, led by Maximilian Robespierre, was responsible for the Reign of Terror, a campaign to rid France of “enemies of the revolution.” Though the Jacobins brought indiscriminate death to France, they were also idealists who wanted to take the revolution as far as it could go. So they again considered the issue of “equality” and voted to end slavery in the French colonies, including what was now known as Haiti.
There was jubilation among the Africans in Haiti, and Toussaint agreed to help the French army eject the British and Spanish. Toussaint proved to be a brilliant general, winning 7 battles in 7 days. He became a defacto governor of the colony.
In France the Jacobins lost power. People finally tired of blood flowing in the streets and sent Maximilian Robespierre, the leader of the Jacobins, to the guillotine, ending the Reign of Terror. A reaction set in. The French people wanted to get back to business. More moderate leaders came and went, eventually replaced by Napoleon, who ruled France with dictatorial powers. He responded to the pleas of the plantation owners by reinstating slavery in the French colonies, once again plunging Haiti into war.
By 1803 Napoleon was ready to get Haiti off his back: he and Toussaint agreed to terms of peace. Napoleon agreed to recognize Haitian independence and Toussaint agreed to retire from public life. A few months later, the French invited Toussaint to come to a negotiating meeting will full safe conduct. When he arrived, the French (at Napoleon’s orders) betrayed the safe conduct and arrested him, putting him on a ship headed for France. Napoleon ordered that Toussaint be placed in a prison dungeon in the mountains, and murdered by means of cold, starvation, and neglect. Toussaint died in prison, but others carried on the fight for freedom.
Six months later, Napoleon decided to give up his possessions in the New World. He was busy in Europe and these far-away possessions were more trouble than they were worth. He abandoned Haiti to independence and sold the French territory in North America to the United States (the Louisiana purchase).
Years later, in exile at St. Helena, when asked about his dishonorable treatment of Toussaint, Napoleon merely remarked, “What could the death of one wretched Negro mean to me?”
See Black Jacobians — C.L.R. James
Shehu Usman Dan Fodio (Fodiwa)
Conscience is an open wound; only truth can heal it–Uthman Dan Fodio
Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye set up the Yantaru educational system for women, which was the most advanced educational system for women in the whole of the African continent. And because it still exists, it remains the oldest! Jean Boyd and Beverly Mack have done seminal research in that area. There were two men who brought about social reform when it comes to women their education and rights – they were Uthman Dan Fuduye and Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi. In Northern Nigeria and in Sudan there are women institutions which go back to there era in an unbroken line of transmission!
Shaihu Usman dan Fodio (Arabic: عثمان بن فودي ، عثمان دان فوديو) (also referred to as Shaikh Usman Ibn Fodio or Shehu Usman dan Fodio, 1754 – 1817) was a writer and Islamic reformer. Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic Fulani living in the Hausa city-states in what is today northern Nigeria. He lived in the city-state of Gobir. He is considered an Islamic revivalist; he encouraged the education of women in religious matters, and several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers. (African And Islamic Revival, John Hundwick)
Dan Fodio was well-educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy and theology and became a revered religious thinker. His teacher, Jibril ibn ‘Umar argued that it was the duty and within the power of religious movements to establish the ideal society, free from oppression and vice. Dan Fodio used his influence to secure approval to create a religious community in his hometown of Degel that would, dan Fodio hoped, be a model town.
However, in 1802, the ruler of Gobir and one of dan Fodio’s students, Yunfa turned against him, revoking Degel’s autonomy and attempting to assassinate dan Fodio. Dan Fodio and his followers fled into the western grasslands where they turned to help from the local Fulani nomads. Yunfa turned for aid to the other leaders of the Hausa states, warning them that dan Fodio could trigger a widespread Jihad.
Yunfa proved right and dan Fodio was proclaimed Amir al-Muminin or Leader of the Faithful. This, in effect made him political as well as religious leader, giving him the authority to declare and pursue a Jihad, raising an army and becoming its commander. A widespread uprising began in Hausaland. This uprising was largely composed of the Fulani, who held a powerful military advantage with their cavalry. It was also widely supported by the Hausa peasantry who felt over-taxed and oppressed by their rulers.
After only a few short years of the Fulani War, dan Fodio found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government, one grounded in Islamic law. Already aged at the beginning of the war, dan Fodio retired in 1815 passing the title of Sultan of Sokoto to his son Muhammed Bello.
Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio was a follower of the Maliki school in law and the Qadiri order in Sufism.
Dan Fodio’s uprising inspired a number of later West African jihads, including those of Massina Empire founder Seku Amadu, Toucouleur Empire founder El Hadj Umar Tall (who married one of dan Fodio’s granddaughters), Wassoulou Empire founder Samori Ture, and Adamawa Emirate founder Modibo Adama.
Shaka “Zulu King Shaka “Zulu King and Warrior” (1786-1828)
Shaka was born in 1786, the son of Senzangakona, Zulu Chief and his mother Nandi. Shaka predates the Zulu nation we see today, he is called today Shaka Zulu posthumous. Shaka’s parents were blood relatives which was a crime, punishable by death. However, Shaka’s father was not killed because he was a Chief.
As a young boy, Shaka was a very difficult child. On many occasions, he had confrontations with people in his village. He was also the victim of terrible cruelties. One time, hot porridge was poured on his hands, and burning hot meat forced down his throat. Those who inflicted evil on Shaka would live to regret it.
When Shaka was twenty-six, his father died and left the throne to a son, Sijuana. Shaka ambushed and killed Sijuana, taking leadership of the Zulus. He came to power around 1820. Shaka revolutionized military tactics. He chose the most superior and graceful soldiers. Chaka was the first to group regiments by age, and to train his men to use modern weapons and special tactics. He developed a short stabbing spear. He marched his regiments in tight formation using large shields to fend off the enemy. Shaka’s troops were feared by enemies, they would flee at the sight of them. Shaka caused over two million people to die. Shaka’s motto was “Death or Victory.”
Shaka built the Zulu people into a powerful nation (Mfecane) of more than one million, and united all peoples in South Africa against the colonial invaders. Mfecane means “Crushing”, it was a social-political revolution which started in the South and spread as far North as modern Tanzania. It destroyed many homelands and made slavery and colonialism easier for the encroaching Whites. He has been called a military genius for his reforms and innovations, and condemned for the brutality of his reign. 
Robert Sobukwe (1924-1978)
The African nationalist leader Robert Sobukwe was born in Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Born to farmer/ part-time woodcutter Hubert and housewife/ hospital cook Angelina Sobukwe on 5th December 1924, he was the youngest of five sons and one daughter. Thanks to a bursary from the Department of Education and a loan from the Bantu Welfare Trust, he later attended Fort Hare University, a public university in Eastern Cape. This university between 1916 and 1959 was instrumental in creating an African political elite as it was attended by students from all over Sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that he became a member of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), the youth wing of the African National Congress whose purpose was to secure indigenous African leadership.
In 1952 in the ANCYL, he and Nelson Mandela together became leaders of the Defiance Campaign. However, soon enough he found himself at odds with the ANC’s leaders as they were willing to accept multiracial (i.e. non-African) leadership due to their ongoing participation in the Native Representative Council which was compelled to contain white officials.
Sobukwe himself fervently demonstrated a belief in “Africa for the Africans”, rejecting any type of system that allowed non-Africans to aid in African progress. His beliefs inspired many anti-apartheid movements, especially the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). After the ANCYL, he went on to become the founder and 1st President of the Pan-African Congress (PAC) whose purpose was to oppose the apartheid regime which was in force at the time (1948-1994). He was known to have said in his inauguration speech:
“…(M)ulti-racialism is in fact a pandering to European bigotry and arrogance. It is a method of safeguarding white interests, implying as it does, proportional representation irrespective of population figures.
…We guarantee no minority rights, because we think in terms of individuals, not groups.”
In 1954 he became a lecturer of African studies at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he became known as “the Prof”, and from 1957 onward was editor of The Africanist paper.
When it came to 21 March 1960 Robert was heading a national protest against the Pass Law, a law mandating all black South Africans to carry a pass book to allow them to visit only certain areas of the country. When he took the march to a police station in Soweto, he was found guilty of breaking this law. Meanwhile, officers in Sharpeville police station opened fire on PAC supporters which resulted in 69 of them dead and 180 injured. This is known as the Sharpeville Massacre. This also resulted in Robert’s arrest (which the white authorities had lusted after for so long); he was sentenced to 3 years and then kept in solitary confinement on Robben Island for an additional 6 years due to the General Law Amendment Act, a law that allowed the Minister of Justice to annually renew Sobukwe’s sentence indefinitely.
After his release in 1969 he and his family were put under house arrest in Galeshewe, Kimberley, Northern Cape. This was deemed a sufficiently isolated place for him to be safe, which of course really meant for him to be kept out of sight and out of mind from the white South Africans. He was forbidden from resuming political activity and overseas travel, which meant he could no longer accept several prospective teaching positions in American universities. After finishing a law degree with help from a local lawyer and opening a law practice in Kimberley in 1975, he fell ill and in 1977 was in hospital where it was discovered that he had lung cancer. Though doctors requested the authorities to allow him freedom of movement on humanitarian grounds, this request was ignored outright. He had to be shunted around to different hospitals to receive appropriate treatments – which he ultimately didn’t get because of restrictions compelling him to report to the police every time he left Kimberley and Cape Town. In other words, the white authorities and police deliberately tried to stop his treatments while fully conscious that his cancer was getting worse.
Sobukwe finally died on 27th February 1978 from pulmonary complications. Today he is still celebrated as a man who strived for a democratic South Africa.
Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history. These are the words of Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, distinguished Black author, editor, publisher, and historian (December 1875 – April 1950). Carter G. Woodson believed that Blacks should know their past in order to participate intelligently in the affairs in their country. He strongly believed that Black history – which others have tried so diligently to erase – is a firm foundation for young African Americans to build on in order to become productive citizens of society.
Known as the “Father of Black History,” Carter G. Woodson holds an outstanding position in early 20th century American history.
Woodson authored numerous scholarly books on the positive contributions of Blacks to the development of America. He also published many magazine articles analyzing the contributions and role of African Americans. He reached out to schools and the general public through the establishment of several key organizations and founded Negro History Week (precursor to Black History Month). His message was that Africans should be proud of their heritage and that other Americans should also understand it.
Carter G. Woodson was born in New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia, to former slaves Anne Eliza (Riddle) and James Henry Woodson. Although his parents could neither read nor write, Carter G. Woodson credits his father for influencing the course of his life. His father, he later wrote, insisted that “learning to accept insult, to compromise on principle, to mislead your fellow man, or to betray your people, is to lose your soul.”
His father supported the family on his earnings as a carpenter. As one of a large and poor family, young Carter G. Woodson was brought up without the “ordinary comforts of life.” He was not able to attend school during much of its five-month term because helping on the farm took priority over a formal education. Determined not to be defeated by this setback, Carter was able “largely by self-instruction to master the fundamentals of common school subjects by the time he was seventeen.” Ambitious for more education, Carter and his brother Robert Henry moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where they hoped to attend the Douglass High School. However, Carter was forced to earn his living as a miner in Fayette County coal fields and was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895, a twenty-year-old Carter entered Douglass High School, where he received his diploma in less than two years.
From 1897 to 1900, Carter G. Woodson began teaching in Winona, Fayette County. In 1900, he returned to Huntington to become the principal of Douglass H.S.; he finally received his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College, Kentucky. From 1903 to 1907, he was a school supervisor in the Philippines. Later he traveled throughout Europe and Asia and studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1908, he received his M.A. from the University of Chicago, and in 1912, he received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.
Woodson’s work endures in the institutions and activities he founded and promoted. In 1915, he and several friends in Chicago established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The following year, the Journal of Negro History appeared, one of the oldest learned journals in the United States. In 1926, he developed Negro History Week and in 1937 published the first issue of the Negro History Bulletin.
Dr. Woodson often said that he hoped the time would come when Negro History Week would be unnecessary; when all Americans would willingly recognize the contributions of Black Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country. Dr. Woodson’s outstanding historical research influenced others to carry on his work. Among these have been such noted historians as John Hope Franklin, Charles Wesley, and Benjamin Quarles. Whether it’s called Black history, Negro history, Afro-American history, or African American history, his philosophy has made the study of Black history a legitimate and acceptable area of intellectual inquiry. Dr. Woodson’s concept has given a profound sense of dignity to all Black Americans.
CHRONOLOGY of DR. WOODSON’S LIFE
|1875, Dec. 19||Birth, New Canton, Virginia|
|1892||Left home to work on the railroad and then in the mines|
|1893||Family moved to Huntington, West Virginia|
|1895-1896||Attended Douglass High School, Huntington, West Virginia|
|1896-1897||Attended Berea College, Kentucky|
|1897, Sept.-Dec||Attended Lincoln University, Pennsylvania|
|1898-1900||Taught, Winona, West Virginia|
|1900-1903||Principal, Douglass High School, Huntington, West Virginia|
|June 18, 1902-Dec. 1903||Attended University of Chicago|
|1903||Bachelor of Literature from Berea College|
|1903-1907||Taught in the Philippines|
|1907||Traveled in Europe and Asia; attended the Sorbonne, Paris, France|
|1907, Oct.-Dec.||Attended University of Chicago|
|1908, Jan.-Aug.||Attended Graduate School, University of Chicago; received B.A. in March; M.A. in August|
|1908-1909||Attended Harvard University|
|1909-1918||Taught, M Street (Dunbar) High School, Washington, D.C.|
|1912||Ph.D. in History from Harvard University|
|1913 or 1914-1921||Member of the American Negro Academy|
|1915, Apr.||The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 published|
|1915, Sept.||Established the Association for the Study of Negro Life & History|
|1917, Aug.29||First Biennial meeting of ASNLH|
|1918||A Century of Negro Migration published|
|1918-1919||Principal, Armstrong Manual Training School, Washington, D.C.|
|1919-1920||Dean, School of Liberal Arts, Howard University|
|1920-1922||Dean, West Virginia Collegiate Institute (West Virginia State College); Established Associated Publishers|
|1921||Received grant from the Carnegie Institution; The History of the Negro Church published|
|1922||The Negro in Our History published|
|1924||Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the U.S. in 1830: Together with Absentee Ownership of Slaves in the U.S. in 1830 published|
|1925||Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830 published|
|1926||Negro Orators and Their Orations published; The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis, 1800-1860published; established Negro History Week; received Spingarn Medal|
|1927||Appointed to Advisory Committee, Interracial Relations Committee on Problems and Policy Social Science Research Council; appointed staff contributor Dictionary of American Biography|
|1928||Negro Makers of History published; African Myths: Together with Proverbs published|
|1928||Attended summer meeting of Social Science Research Council, Dartmouth College|
|1929||The Negro as a Businessman, with John H. Harmon, Jr. and Arnett G. Lindsay published|
|1929-1933, 1938||Established Woodson Collection at the Library of Congress|
|1930||The Negro Wage Earner, with Lorenzo Greene published; The Rural Negro published|
|1932||The encyclopedia controversy|
|1932-1935||Summers in Europe|
|1933||The Mis-Education of the Negro published|
|1934||The Negro Professional Man and the Community, with Special Emphasis on the Physician and the Lawyer published|
|1935||The Story of the Negro Retold published|
|1936||The African Background Outlined published|
|1937||Began publication of the Negro History Bulletin|
|1939||African Heroes and Heroinespublished|
|1941||Doctor of Laws from West Virginia State College|
|1950, April 3||Died suddenly|
|1958||Elected to the Ebony Hall of Fame|
Books By Dr. Woodson
- THE EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO PRIOR TO 1861: A HISTORY OF THE EDUCATION OF THE COLORED PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES FROM THE BEGINNING OF SLAVERY TO THE CIVIL WAR. New York: Putnam’s, 1915. Repr. Ayer Co., 1968 LC2741.W7
- A CENTURY OF NEGRO MIGRATION. Washington, D.C.: ASNLH., 1918. Repr. Russell, 1969. E185.9.W89
- THE HISTORY OF THE NEGRO CHURCH. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1921. BR563.N9W6
- THE NEGRO IN OUR HISTORY. Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1922. E185.9 .W89 1970
- FREE NEGRO OWNERS OF SLAVES IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1830: TOGETHER WITH ABSENTEE OWNERSHIP OF SLAVES IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1830, ed. Washington: ASNLH., 1924; Repr. Negro Univ. Press. E185.W8873
- FREE NEGRO HEADS OF FAMILIES IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1830: TOGETHER WITH BRIEF TREATMENT OF THE FREE NEGRO. Washington: ASNLH., 1925. F185.W887125
- NEGRO ORATORS AND THEIR ORATIONS, ed. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1926. Repr. Russell, 1969. PS663.N4.W6
- THE MIND OF THE NEGRO AS REFLECTED IN LETTERS WRITTEN DURING THE CRISIS, 1800-1860, ed. Washington: ASNLH., 1926. Repr. E185.W8877 1969b
- NEGRO MAKERS OF HISTORY. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1928. E185.W85
- AFRICAN MYTHS TOGETHER WITH PROVERBS: A SUPPLEMENTARY READER COMPOSED OF FOLK TALES FROM VARIOUS PARTS OF AFRICA. Adapted to use of children in the public schools. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1928. PE1127.G4 W7
- THE NEGRO AS A BUSINESSMAN, joint author with John H. Harmon, Jr. and Arnett G. Lindsay. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1929. E185.8.H251
- THE NEGRO WAGE EARNER, joint author with Lorenzo J. Greene. Washington: ASNLH., 1930. Repr. AMS Press. E185.G79
- THE RURAL NEGRO. Washington: ASNLH., 1930. Repr. Russell, 1969. E185.86.W896
- THE MIS-EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1933. Repr. AMS Press, 1972. LC2801.W6 1977
- THE NEGRO PROFESSIONAL MAN AND THE COMMUNITY: WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON THE PHYSICIAN AND THE LAWYER. Washington: ASNLH., 1934 Repr. Negro University Press, 1969. Johnson Reprints E185.82.W88
- THE STORY OF THE NEGRO RETOLD. Washington: Association Publishers, 1935. E185.W898
- THE AFRICAN BACKGROUND OUTLINED. Washington: ASNLH., 1936. DT351.W89
- AFRICAN HEROES AND HEROINES. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1939. DT3525.W66
Yaa Asantewa “Queen Mother of Ejisu” (1900)
Near the end of the 19th century, the British exiled King Prempeh from the hinterlands of the gold coast (present day Ghana), in an attempt to take over. By 1900, still not gaining control, the British sent a governor to the city of Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti, to demand the Golden Stool, the Ark of the covenant of the Ashanti people.
The Golden Stool was the supreme symbol of the sovereignty and the independence of the Ashanti, a fierce and warlike people who inhabit dense rain forests of what is now the Central portion of Ghana. The Governor in no way understood the sacred significance of the Stool, which according to tradition, contained the soul of the Ashanti.
Yaa Asantewa was present at the meeting with the governor and chiefs. When the meeting ended, and she was alone with the Ashanti Chiefs, she said, “Now I have seen that some of you fear to fight for our King. If it were in the brave days of old, the days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anoyke and Opulu Ware, Ashanti Chiefs would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared speak to Ashanti Chiefs in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning.”
Yaa Asantewa’s speech stirred up the men, she said “If you men will not go forward, then we the women will. I will call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men until the last of us falls in the battlefields. The Ashantis, led by Yaa Asantewa, fought very bravely.
The British sent 1400 soldiers with guns to Kumasi, capturing Yaa Asantewa and other leaders and sent them into exile. The war with the British started in 1805 and ended some 100 years later. Yaa Asantewa’s War was the last major war led by an African woman.
Yakub Al-Mansur (1149-1199)
Yakub Ibn Yusuk, better known as Al-Mansur, was the most powerful of the Moorish rulers who dominated Spain for five hundred years. His surname, Al-Mansur, means “The Invincible.” He defeated all of his enemies, never having lost a battle.
Al-Mansur’s father was African and Arab, but his mother was a pure African slave, believed to have been from Timbuctoo or Senegal.
Al-Mansur, came to the throne after his father was killed in Portugal in 1184. He promised revenge for his father’s death, but fighting with the Almohads, who were ousted from the throne, delayed him in Africa. After defeating the Almohads again, he sent out for Spain to avenge his father’s death. Landing in Spain, defeating and capturing all major cities, Al-Mansur, returned to Africa with three thousand Christian captives, young women and children.
When the Christians in Spain, most of whom were white, and of German descent, heard of Al-Mansur’s absence to Africa, revolted, capturing many of the Moorish cities, including Silves, Vera, and Beja. When Al-Mansur heard this news, he returned to Spain, and defeated the Christians again. This time, many were taken in chained groups of fifty each, and later sold in Africa as slaves.
Again, while Al-Mansur was away in Africa, the Christians mounted the largest army of that time period of over 300,000 men to defeat Al- Mansur. Immediately upon hearing this, Mansur returned to Spain and defeated Alphonso’s army, killing 150,000, taking money, valuables and other goods beyond calculation.
In addition to being one of the greatest military leaders in history. Al-Mansur was a lover of the arts. His reign is responsible for the building of the famous Mosque at Granada and Cordova, which still stands today.
Yohannes IV of Ethiopia (1831-1889)
Emperor Yohannes IV (or Yohannis IV Ge’ez ዮሓንስ Yōḥānnis, Amh. Yōhānnis, “John,” c.1831 – March 10, 1889), also known as “Johannes IV” or “John IV,” born Dejazmach Kassay (ካሳይ “my restitution”) or Ras Kassa, was Nəgusä Nägäst of Ethiopia (1872 – 1889). Born the son of Mercha the Shum of Tembien, and his wife Woizero Silass Dimtsu (Amata Selassie) of Inderta, Dejazmatch Kassai could claim Solomonic blood through the line of his paternal grandmother Woizero Workewoha KaleKristoss of the Adwa family,herself the granddaughter of Ras Mikael Sehul of Adwa, a Prince of Tigray, and his wife Aster Eyasu, daughter of Empress Mantuab and her lover Melmal Eyasu.
Melmal Eyasu was a Solomonic prince, and nephew of the widowed Empress Mentuab’s husband Emperor Bakaffa. Kassai could also claim Solomonic descent more distantly through his father’s Tembien family, also through a female link to the dynasty. Amata Selassie’s father Dimtsu of Endarta belonged to the family which in late 1700s and early 1800s had held overlordship of Tigray, and her mother descended from dynasty of Shum of Agame. Mercha’s mother the lady consort of Tembien was also a granddaughter of Suhul Mikael, whose family held Tigray’s overlordship in throughout 18th century. Tigray in those days included most of what is today the modern state of Eritrea in addition to the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
Rise to power
A European sketch of Yohannes IV. Dejazmach Kassai was a sworn enemy of Emperor Tewodros II, and gave logistical and political support to the British forces who arrived to defeat Emperor Tewodros in 1868. In gratitude, the British gave Dejazmatch Kassai a large number of modern firearms as they withdrew following their victory at Magdala. This helped him to control the province of Tigray, and he became one of the three most powerful princes in Ethiopia (the others being Wagshum Gobeze of Lasta and Wag.
In 1868, Wagshum Gobeze proclaimed himself Emperor Tekle Giyorgis II of Ethiopia at Soqota in his district of Wag. Due to the fact that the Abuna of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had died shortly before, there was no one to crown the new Emperor. In an effort to get Kassai to recognize this title, Tekle Giyorgis gave his brother-in-law the title of Reese Masafint, “Re-ese Mekwanint”, or “first among the nobles”, premier duke. Dejazmach Kassai promptly started using the title, but still did not recognize Tekle Giyorgis’ claim to the throne and refused to pay homage to him.
Tekle Giyorgis made the first move, crossing the Takazze River in 1871 in a campaign against Kassai. Relying on the training the British adventurer John Kirkham had given his troops, Dejazmach Kassai met the erst-while Emperor near Adwa on July 11 of that year, capturing and deposing his attacker; Tekle Giyorgis died in captivity the next year.
Kassai had long prepared for this day, and had gathered the funds to pay the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria to appoint a new Archbishop over the Ethiopian Church. However this time, instead of a single Archbishop, he requested that the Patriarch send 4 to serve the large number of Christians in Ethiopia and the far flung regions of the Empire. The new bishops arrived arrived in June 1869. They were led by Abune Atnatewos as Archbishop, Abune Matewos for Shewa, and Abune Petros for Gojjam and Abune Markos for Gondar (Abune Markos died shortly after arriving, so his diocese was included with that of Abune Atnatewos]]. It was the first time that the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria had appointed four Bishops for Ethiopia. Atnatewos then crowned Kassai emperor January 12, 1872 at Aksum . He took the name and title of Emperor Yohannes IV, King of Zion and King of Kings of Ethiopia, becoming the first emperor crowned in that historic city since Fasilides in 1632. Ras Adal of Gojjam soon after submitted to Yohannes and recognized him as Emperor, and was rewarded with the title of Negus of Gojjam, and the new name of Tekle Haymanot.
War with Egypt
Throughout his reign, Yohannes was embroiled in military struggles on his northern frontiers. First was from Khedive Isma’il Pasha of Egypt, who sought to bring the entire Nile River Basin under his rule. The Egyptians flirted with encouraging Menelik of Shewa against the Emperor, but earned Menelik’s enmity by marching from the port of Zeila and occupied the city-state of Harrar on October 11, 1875. Both Menelik and Yohannes had regarded Harrar as a renegade province of Ethiopia, and Egyptian seizure of the Emirate was not welcome to either of them. The Egyptians then marched into northern Ethiopia from their coastal possessions around the port of Massawa. Yohannes pleaded with the British to stop their Egyptian allies, and even withdrew from his own territory in order to show the Europeans that he was the wronged party and that the Khedive was the aggressor. However, Yohannes soon realized that the Europeans would not stop the Khedive of Egypt and so he gathered up his armies and marched to meet the Egyptian force.
The two armies met at Gundat (also called Guda-gude) on the morning of November 16, 1875. The Egyptians were tricked into marching into a narrow and steep valley and were wiped out by Ethiopian gunners surrounding the valley from the surrounding mountains. Virtually the entire Egyptian force, along with its many officers of European and North American background, was killed. News of this huge defeat was suppressed in Egypt for fear that it would undermine the government of the Khedive. A new Egyptian force was assembled and sent to avenge the defeat at Gundat. The Egyptians were defeated again at the battle of Gura (March 7-9, 1876), where the Ethiopians were led again by the Emperor, and his loyal general, the capable (future) Ras Alula. This victory was followed by Menelik’s submission to Yohannes March 20, 1878, and in return Yohannes recognized Menelik’s hereditary right to the title of king of Shewa, and re-crowned him on March 26. Yohannes took this opportunity to try to tie the Shewan King more closely to him by arranging for Menelik’s daughter Zewditu (future Empress of Ethiopia in her own right), to his own son and heir, Ras Araya Selassie. He also arranged for a general council of the Ethiopian Church in which various heresies were stamped out in Gojjam and Shewa. Yohannes also ordered the Moslems of Wollo to convert to Christianity within six months or face forfeiture of their properties. Ras Ali of Wollo became Ras (later King) Michael of Wollo, and the Emperor stood as his Godfather at his baptism. He was given Menelik of Shewa’s other daughter, Shewarega Menelik, as his wife.
War with Sudan
When Muhammad Ahmad proclaimed himself the Mahdi, and incited Sudan into a long and violent revolt, his followers successfully either drove the Egyptian garrisons out of Sudan, or isolated them at Suakin and at various posts in the south. Yohannes agreed to British requests to allow these Egyptian soldiers to evacuate through his lands, with the understanding that the British Empire would then support his claims on important ports like Massawa on the Red Sea to import weapons and ammunition, in the event that Egypt was forced to withdraw from them. This was formalized in a treaty signed with the British at Adwa known as the Hewit treaty. The immediate result was that the wrath of the Mahdiyah fell upon Ethiopia: Ras Alula defeated an invading Mahdist army at the Battle of Kufit on September 23, 1885. About the same time, Italy took control of the port of Massawa, frustrating Ethiopian hopes and angering Yohannis. Yohannes attempted to work out some kind of understanding with the Italians, so he could turn his attention to the more pressing problem of the Mahdists, although Ras Alula took it upon himself to attack Italian units that were on both sides of the ill-defined frontier between the two powers. Domestic problems increased when the Kings of both Gojjam and Shewa rebelled against Yohannis, and the Emperor had to turn his attention from the encroaching Italians to deal with his rebellious vassal kings. Yohannes brutally crushed the Gojjame rebellion, but before he could turn his attention to Shewa news arrived that the Mahdist forces had sacked Gondar and burned its holy Churches. He marched north from Gojjam to confront the armies of the Mahdi.
Death and legacy
Yohannes’ life came to an end while he was dealing with another invasion by the followers of Muhammad Ahmad’s successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, at the Battle of Metemma on March 9, 1889. Mortally wounded by a sniper during the battle, he had been carried to his tent, where he announced that his nephew Ras Mengesha was actually his natural son, and named him his heir (his elder son Ras Araya Selassie had died a few years earlier). He died hours later. Although the Ethiopian army had almost annihilated their opponents in this battle, hearing that their ruler had been slain shattered their morale and allowed the Mahdists to counterattack, scattering their enemy and capturing the body of the emperor. It was brought back to their capital at Omdurman, where the head was put on a pike and displayed. (Muslims see this as justice for his injustices against the Islamic faith)
Although a group of Tigrean nobles led by Ras Alula attempted to promote the claim of Yohannes’ son, Ras Mengesha Yohannes, as emperor, many of the dead monarch’s other relatives on both the Enderta and Tembien sides of his family objected and went into open rebellion against Mengesha. Tigray was torn assunder by the rebellions of various members of the Emperor’s family against Mengesha and each other. Menelik of Shewa took advantage of Tigrean disorder, and after allowing the Italians to occupy Hamasien, Serai and Akale Guzai, districts loyal to Yohannes IV, he was proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia as Menelik II. Yohannes IV’s death reduced the influence of Tigrayans in the Ethiopian government, and opened way to Italians to occupy more districts, a seizure that later resulted in the creation of the colony of Eritrea, and the later defeat of Italy at the Battle of Adowa at the hands of Emperor Menelik II. The Tigrean nobility retained influence at the Imperial court of Menelik and his successors, although not at the level they enjoyed under Yohannes IV. Yohannes’ descendants ruled over Tigray as hereditary Princes until the Ethiopian Revolution and the fall of the monarchy in 1974 ended their rule. There are two lines of descent from Yohannes IV, one through his elder son Ras Araya Selassie by way of his son Ras Gugsa Araya, and the second through Ras Mengesha Yohannes. Yohannes IV is still remembered in Ethiopia mostly as a great patriot and martyr for his country and his faith. He is surprisingly also remembered in Eritrea, and as such, an airport Yohannes IV Airport was made in his name. He is regarded with less sympathy by Muslims who remember him as intolerant of their faith, and oppressive of their rights with his harsh requirements that they convert.
Note: sources give both 1821 and 1831 as his year of birth.
i.e the future Emperor Tekle Giyorgis II, and Sahle Maryam King of Shewa i.e the future Emperor Menelek II), each of whom vied to become sole ruler, and who could claim to be descended from the Solomonic kings. Dejazmach Kassai’s rivalry with the Wagshum was further complicated by the fact that Dejazmatch Kassai’s sister, Dinqinesh Mercha, was married to Wagshum Gobeze. Only five years earlier, Wagshum Gobeze had played the decisive military role in ensuring that Dejazmatch Kassai defeated his rivals as the pre-eminent figure in Tigray. Their new rivalry was therefore awkward for both of them on a personal level.