Sunni Ali (sometimes spelled Sonni Ali), was born in Ali Kolon. Ali’s regal reign would last about 28 years (1464-1492). Ali was the 15th ruler of the medieval West African Sunni dynasty and the first ruler of the Songhai empire.
Under the command of emperor Sunni Ali, a plethora of regions and cities were conquered and then fortified, like Timbuktu, and Djenne. The newly captured territories would be subjected to Ali’s repressive policies. Timbuktu had their scholars targeted and in some cases, they were expelled from the city, particularly those scholars associated with the Taureg people (an ethnic Berber people) from the Sankore region. Under his authority a massive naval fleet that traveled through the Niger River was organized. Ali’s fleet was sucessful in winning him territories that formerly belonged to the Mali Empire and the Empire of Ghana.
According to some researchers Ali died on November 6, 1492. Some Muslim scholars believed Ali drowned while crossing the Niger River, while others believe that he was killed by his sister’s son, Askia Muhammad Ture. Ali’s son, Sunni Baru would take the throne formerly held by his imperial minded father. However, Baru would be successful challenged for the throne by, Askia, because Baru was not believed to of been a devoted Muslim, therefore not a moral leader of a predominantly Muslim country.
Bilal Ibn Rabah was born in the holy city of Mecca (In Saudi Arabia), in the year of 580. According to the Islamic scholars he was the son of an Arab man and an Abyssinian (Ethiopian) woman.His father Rabah was a man in servitude to the Banu Jumah clan, while is mother Hamamah is believed to of been a former princess of Abyssinia, who was captured and put into slavery after The Year Of The Elephant (570-71 CE). Because Bilal was the son of two slaves, he was also a slave, His master was a man named Umayyah Ibn Khalaf, who was a local Arab leader in Mecca at the time. Bilal hard work ethic would gain him a reputation as a good slave, but due to the social and political racism and discrimination towards Black people in Arabian culture during his time, his potential for growth was limited in that society.
CONVERSION TO ISLAM
Soon after Muhammad announced that he was God’s (Allah’s) new prophet,and began preaching the word of Islam, his gospel began to resonate with Bilal, who became one of the earliest people to convert to the Muslim religion. When Bilal’s slave master, Umayyah Ibn Khalaf discovered his conversion, he was incensed and had Bilal tortured and several brutalized, with the goal of Bilal renouncing his new faith; which he never did, no matter how bad he was beaten.
Stories of how Bilal was beaten and whipped because of his devotion to the Islamic religion reached the ears of the prophet Muhammad. After hearing the news of the torture of his new disciple, prophet Muhammad sent his close companion Abu Bakr to negotiate the emancipation of Bilal, which was granted.
BILAL IN MADINA
While in the newly formed Islamic state of Madina, Bilal continued to contribute to the Muslim society. Bilal would be chosen by the prophet Muhammad to be the first Mu’azzin, the man who recites the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer). As Bilal continued his growth in society, he would be appointed by the prophet to be the minister of Bayal-Mal (which roughly translates to the treasury). In this role he would be responsible for distributing funds to help orphans, widows, journeyers and other people who could not properly take care of themselves.
Bilal took part in the Battle of Badr, which is also known as the Day of Criterion in the Qur’an. The name derives from the Muslims who went to battle on Tuesday, March 13th of 624 CE, near the present-day city of Badr, Al Madinah province in Saudia Arabia. The battle marked the beginning of a six-year war between the prophet Muhammad and his tribe for control of their territory.
AFTER THE PROPHET’S DEATH
After the death of the Islamic prophet, Bilal traveled with several Muslim battlions under the command of Said Ibn Aamir al-Jumah, to Syria.
DEATH AND LEGACY
There is some dispute on rather Bilal died in 17 or even 21 AH of the Muslim calendar. Some believe he died in Damascus at the age of 60, others actually believe he died in Medina. After his death, it is believed that his descendants migrated to his ancestral homeland of Ethiopia, East Africa. The Royal Family of Mali in West Africa also claimed to be his descendants.
Yanga also known as Nyanga is believed to have been born in the year of 1545, on the 14th of May.Some researchers say he came from the Bran people of the coastal central African nation of Gabon, and was a member of its royal family. He was eventually captured and sold into slavery in Mexico (then called New Spain, which had the 5th largest slave population in the Americas at the time). There he would be given the name “Gaspar” Yanga.
In 1570, Yanga led a slave exodus into the highlands of Mexico, near the state of Veracruz. There, Yanga and his fugitive slave followers would build a maroon colony. Due to its isolation and mountainous location, the colony was well-protected for about 30 years. They survived by living off the land and by raiding caravans, and taking their goods.
A Form Of Freedom
In 1609 the colonial Spanish government, who were angry about the continued conflict with the Maroons decided to go to war with the fugitive slave colony,and to regain control of the territory. The Spanish would send over 500 troops to invade the disputed area, the Maroons had about 500 fighters, armed with various weapons including guns, stones, machetes, and bows and arrows. Because Yanga was an elderly man at this time in history, the Maroon army was led by a man named, Francisco de la Matosa, who was of Angolan descent. Yanga did however, assist his troops by sharing his experience and knowledge of the incredibly harsh terrain. Their objective was to frustrate the Spaniards and force them to negotiate. Once the Spanish army arrived in the Maroon colony, Yanga sent a captured Spaniard to speak with the Spanish troops with his terms of peace. The terms included an area of self-rule, like the colonial Spanish government had previously made with Native Mexican tribes. Part of the treaty would require the Maroons to pay them tribute, and to support the Spanish in any armed conflicts. The last neccessary concession required the Maroons to return any future runaways to the Spanish colonists. The Spanish inevitably would decide to refuse to sign the treaty with the Maroons, and instead decided to go to war against the Black freedom fighters. The Spanish with their superior weapons eventually advanced into the Maroon colony and burnt it to the ground. The Maroons would flee into the surrounding territory, which they knew extremely well, denying the the Spanish troops a final victory. The two sides would go on to battle each other for years, resulting in various stalemates.
In 1618 a treaty was eventually signed, Yanga and his family would be granted the right of rule in the Maroon colony.
Decades after the Independence of Mexico, Gaspar Yanga was designated a national hero of Mexico and El Primer Libertador de las Americas.