By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare PART I He arrived on the 4th of July, “a hell of a way to spend the independence day of the greatest country in the world”, that’s what the Defense Secretary of the United States, Franklin Benjamin said to himself while visiting a site in the United Arab Republic (U.A.R), where a […]FLAGS IN THE SAND (SHORT-STORY)
By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Osei Tutu I was born in what is modern-day Ghana in 1660. When Osei Tutu I inherited the title of Kumasihene (king of Kumasi). Tutu would use this new influence to get the other Akan city-states to unite against the regional African hegemonic power,who were also an Akan people known as the Denkyira.
Osei Tutu I and his traditional African priest Okomfo Anokye motivated many Akan city-states to unite because of a traditional African belief that the Golden Stool came form heaven and held the soul of the new Asante kingdom.
Once unified of what was the newly formed Asante kingdom, of which Osei Tutu I was now the new the Asantehene (Asante king), Tutu and his new forces would go on to defeat the the Denkyira, and then they would use the pincer formation to turn the new kingdom into a West African Empire. This was achieved by welcoming small African kingdoms who were willing to join the Asante confederation and by conquering other West African city-states who refused to submit to the power of the Asante empire. By 1701 the European powers on the coast of Ghana began take notice of the military brillance and growing power of the Asante.
Death OF THE KING
In 1717, Osei Tutu I would be killed in a war of conquest against the Akyem. He was allegedly shot by a sharpshooter who was hiding in the forest. He died crossing the River Pra.
Osei Kofi Tutu I with his loyal priest and advisor, Okomfo Anokye, united several Akan city-states to form the Asante kingdom, which later became the Asante empire.
Osei Tutu II, currently sits on the thrown of Asante (Golden Stool), and even though like the Queen of England, his role is more ceremonial than political, the Asantehene is still one of the most powerful, respected and influntial people in Ghana today. The Asante kingdom is alive and well today in the Asante region of Ghana, even thougn it has shrunk in size since the birth of modern-day Ghana, the territory of Asante is still slightly larger than the nation of Israel and it’s influence is felt all over the nation of Ghana and is respected all over the world, especially within the African diaspora .
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare At the age of maybe eight or nine years old, I learned that loving someone didn’t mean that you would not betray them. I remember the incident like it happened yesterday, even though it happened decades ago. I woke up sick one morning before school, vomiting the meatloaf my mom cooked […]REMEMBERING THE RUDE AWAKENING (SHORT-STORY)
Black History Spotlight: Toussaint Louverture
By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Toussaint Louverture is believed to of been born on the Breda Plantation at Haut de Cap in Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). The date of his birth is unknown, some say he could of been born on May 20, 1743 other accounts say he was most likeley born on November 1 (All Saints Day). Not much is known about his parents, but biographer John Beard’s historical narrative on Louverture, claims that his grandfather was a man named Gaou Guinou, who was a son of the King of the kingdom of Allada (also known as the kingdom of Ardra). It was a West African kingdom on the Coast of southern Benin. Louverture according
to some accounts was well-educated by his godfather, who was a man named Pierre Baptiste, who was a free-person-of-color (a mixed race person with African ancestry). Some historians believe that his letters reveal that he was well-versed in the languages of French and Creole, and was knowledgeable on the writings of political strategist Machiavelli and stoic philosopher Epictetus. There is also reason to believe he may of received additional education in Catholic schools, thought by Jesuit missionaries. The medical knowledge he acquired is believed to of been a combination of traditional African medicine, combined with techniques that were commonly used by Jesuit hospitals.
Later in Life
In 1782, Louverture is believed to of married a woman named Suzanne Simone Baptiste, who is believed to of been the daughter of his godfather. Reportedly, Louverture claimed he fathered 16 children, but at the time of his death only three children had outlived him.
“I was born a slave, but nature gave me the soul of a free man”
Some records indicate that Louverture probably received his freedom around 1776 and was probably around 33-years-old. Up until the start of the revolution, Louverture is believed to of been a salaried employee of the Breda Plantation and mostly performed duties such as coachman, overseer, slavedriver and looked after the plantation’s livestock. As a free man Louverture started to amass a small fortune of money and property, some accounts say he rented a small coffee plantation, and owned several of his own slaves.
A Revolutionary Life
In 1789, the Free People of Saint-Domingue, inspired by the French Revolution, desired to increase their rights in the French colony, while at the same time desiring to keep the blacks on the slave colony stripped of any such rights. On August of 1797, a vodoo ceremony at Bois Caiman officially started the slave rebellion in the north of the colony, which held the most black people in forced bondage. According to some scholars, Louverture would not join the revolution until a few weeks into it.He would first send his family to the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). He would then join the forces of Georges Biassou as a physician to Biassou’s troops. Some records reveal that Louverture was part of the group’s leadership, and was involved in strategy and negotiated with the Spanish for supplies. He would train his men in guerrilla warfare and the European style of war at the time.
On August 29 1793, he gave his famous declaration of Camp Turrel to the Blacks of St.Domingue:
Brothers and friends, I am Toussaint Louverture; perhaps my name has made itself known to you. I have undertaken vengeance. I want liberty and equality to reign in St.Domingue, I am working to make that happen. Unite yourselves to us, brothers and fight with us for the same cause.
Your very humble and obedient servant, Toussaint Louverture,
General of the armies of the king, for the public good.”
On February 4 1794, the revolutionary government of France proclaimed the abolition of slavery. This came after months of Louverture having diplomatic talks with French general Etienne Maynaud de Bizefranc de Laveaux. This decision would be one of the main reasons that convinced Louverture (who was having issues with the Spanish), to switch his allegiance from the Spanish to the French. He would rally his troops to battle with Laveaux against the Spanish. This decision would cause some of his former allies to turn against him, also now being a French commander, he was now in armed-conflict with the British empire, whose troops landed on the coast of Saint-Domingue in September of that year. In 1798, Louverture was in total command in Saint-Domingue, with the exception of a semi-independent state in the south, which was controlled by general Andre Riguad, a free man of color, who rejected the authority of Louverture. Louverture still continued to fight the British, but on April 30 1798, he signed a treaty with British general, Thomas Maitland. Exchanging withdrawal of British troops for the release and amnesty of French counter-revolutionaries in the area. On August 31, Louverture and Maitland signed another treaty which ended the British blockade on Saint-Domingue, in exchange for a promise that Louverture would not export his black revolution to the British slave colony of Jamaica (which was a major suger producer at the time). The tension between the black Louverture and his Mulatto rival, Riguad began to intensify, eventually leading to a civil war famously-known as the “War of Knives” it lasted about a year. The defeated Riguad would flee to the French overseas region of Guadeloupe.
During the Saint-Domingue civil war, Napoleon Bonaparte took power in France and passed new laws for its French colonies (which still included Saint-Domingue). Louverture thought this could mean a return of slavery, but Bonaparte let Louverture believe that wasn’t the case, but he did not want Louverture and Saint-Domingue to attack Spanish Santo Domingo, a decision that Louverture knew could place in a major defensive position from possible attackers (which could include the French). In January 1801, Louverture against the wishes of Napoleon, invaded Santo Domingo, capturing the governor, Don Garcia, bringing Santo Domingo under French law, which abolished slavey in the region. As the leader of the entire island of Hispaniola, he began to modernize Santo Domingo, which was less developed than its French speaking counter-part. On July 7 1801, he established his authority over the island by having a new constitution created, which named him Governor-General for life, with almost absolute power. Louverture still shied away from officially declaring independence form France, partly because he saw himself as a black Frenchman and partly because he didn’t want to battle France again and possibly lose and have them return slavery to the island. Nonetheless, Bonaparte would eventually send 20,000 French troops to restore French authority and if possible restore slavery. Bonaparte’s troops were under the control of his brother-in-law Charles Emmanuel Leclerc, who had orders to deport all the black officers and to recapture the entire island colony, under diplomatic means if possible. When peaceful negotiations brokedown, both sides started to shoot it out, fighting would last for a few months. Eventually, Louverture would be arrested, deported and imprisoned in France. On April 7, 1803, Louverture would die, some suggest he could of died of malnutrition and or pneumonia.
In his absence Jean-Jacques Dessalines would lead the H revolution, until it was victorious over the French in 1804 and the nation of Haiti was born.
Black History Spotlight:Biddy Mason
Biddy Mason was born into the brutal system of slavery on August 15, 1818.Her exact birthplace is unknown, some scholars believe was born in Hancock County, Georgia, and others believe her birthplace was Hancock County, Mississippi. As a youth she spent most of her time on the plantation of Robert Smithson. In her teenage-years she learned how to perform domestic work and agricultural work,she also learned midwife and herbal medicine making skills from elder slaves, who shared their knowledge that was passed-down to them from their African ancestors. In the 1940s, Mason is believed to of have been given to Rebecca Dorn and Robert Mayes Smith as a wedding gift. While on the Smith’s plantation, Mason had three children, all girls: Ellen in 1838, Ann in 1844 and Harrier in 1847. The father or fathers is unknown, but some historical researchers believe that Robert Smith was the father of a least one of her children.
Biddy’s Road to Freedom
In the late 1940s Mormon missionaries from the Church of Latter-Day Saints passed through Mississippi and proselytized the locals. Some of the locals included Biddy Mason’s slave owner Robert Smith, his wife and their children. There is currently no information on whether Mason or her fellow slaves were baptized in the Mormon faith. In 1947, the Smith household joined with a group of Mormon churchgoers from Mississippi to unite with the Mormon exodus from Nauvoo,Illinois. The group of religious travelers ventured to Pueblo, Colorado, there they would join with a group of very-ill disciples from a Mormon battalion. On the trip further westward, Mason use her healing-skills as a midwife and herbalist to help heal the sick, feed the hungry and to care for the children of the religious pilgrims, she also helped herd the cattle. In 1851, Brigham Young the leader of the Mormon church sent a group of his followers to Southern California, which was a free state at the time. Smith ignored that fact and refused to free hia slaves, once they arrived in the San Bernadino settlement. In 1856, Smith planned to move to the slave state of Texas, where he intended to sell his slaves. Smith would lie to his slaves (he told them he intended to give them their freedom in Texas)to motivate them to make the long and harsh journey to the slave state. Mason of course knew he was lying, and not wanting to be separated from her children, she with the help of some kind-hearted locals, petitioned a Los Angeles court for her freedom and the freedom of her children. On January 21, 1856 Biddy Mason and her children were given their freedom by Judge Benjamin Ignatius Hayes, after Smith failed to show-up to challenge the petition.
The Free Woman, Healer and Entrepreneur
After she gained her freedom, Mason and her daughters moved in with a man named Robert Owens,who was the father of the locally famous Los Angeles businessman Charles Owens. Mason’s daughter Ellen would eventually marry Charles Owens. While in Los Angeles, California, Mason worked as a nurse and midwife and delivered hundreds of babies, she also risked her life to use her traditional-African herbalist healing skills to care for these people with smallpox, during a smallpox epidemic that was ravaging L.A. at the time. Mason saved much of the money she earned as midwife and nurse to become a financially successful real estate Investor, in fact she became one of the first African-American women to own land in Los Angeles. Mason also used the money she earned to become a philanthropist: she gave money to the poor, fed the hungry and was part of a group that founded day care center and school for black children. In 1872, Mason and her son-in-law Charles Owens became founding members of the first African Methodist Episcopal church of Los Angeles, which was also the city’s first black church. The church would be built on land that was donated by Mason herself. Mason died on January 15,1891, a park and plaque is dedicated to her in Los Angeles, California.
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Callie House was born a slave in Rutherford, County, not too far from Nashville, Tennessee . House would get married at the young age of 22. Callie and her husband William House would have six children together, but only 5 of those children would survive. After Callie’s husband William House died, she would financially support herself and her family by being a washerwoman.
Later in life, House and a man named Isaiah H. Dickerson would travel through the former Confederate states that formerly sanctioned the ownership of them and their fellow Black people to gain support for the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association (MRB&PA).
They would have their gatherings in Black churches, because that was one of the only places Black people could somewhat safely come together without being threatened and harrassed by the White supremacist public.
The objective of the organization, which at its peak had hundreds of thousands of members was to provide compensation, mutual aid and to assist in burial costs of those Black people who were formerly enslaved.
The Federal Post Office Department, despite not having any proof would often accuse reparation organizations like the MRB&PA of committing fraud against its members in an effort to discredit the movement and sabotage their progress.
The Department of Justice would open an investigation on the MRB&PA, and they would eventually be forbidden from sending mail or money orders. In 1901, Dickerson would be found guilty of “swindling”, but the conviction would eventually be overturned. When Dickerson died in 1909, House would become the sole-leader of the MRB&PA. Despite interference and harrassment by the federal government and the Post Office Department the MRB&PA would go on for a while. Eventually though, trumped-up charges or not the Federal government would convict House in 1918, effectively ending the MRB&PA and their fight for reparations.
House would die in 1928 at the age of 66 or 67.
Years later her courage would be remembered and honored when in 2015 the African American and Diaspora Program at Vanderbilt University renamed their research center the Callie House Research Center for the Study of Black Cultures and Politics.
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