by:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
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.
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Phillis Wheatley is believed to of been born in 1753, in West Africa, most likely in Senegal or Gambia. At around the age of 7 or 8, some historians say she was likely sold by a local African chief to a slave trader, who brought her to the British colony of Massachusetts. She was eventually resold to John Wheatley, who was a successful businessman, who bought her to be a servant girl for his wife, Sussana. The Wheatley family gave her their surname of Wheatley (which was common during the time-period if the slave was given a surname), and then the now-Wheatley was given the name Phillis by her new owners. For the very racist time-period, the Wheatley’s were very progressive for thar era, especially the family patriarch, John, who instructed his children Mary and Nathaniel to give her an education in reading and writing. At the age of 12, Phillis Wheatley was able to read the bible, classical Latin and Greek literature.
The Published Poet
At the age of 14-years-old, Phillis Wheatley was so gifted in her writings that her slave owner’s the Wheatley family decided that that she should focus on her writing, instead of domestic work, which they left to the other slaves. Her first poem was “To the University of Cambridge, in New England”. In 1773, she traveled to London, England with the Wheatley’s son, Nathaniel, because the Wheatleys believed she would have a far-better chance of getting her book of poetry published in the United Kingdom (than she would have in America). While in England, Phillis Wheatley met several members of Britain’s high society, which included the Lord Mayor of London. One of the people interested in the works of Phillis Wheatley, was Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon. She used her influence to help Phillis Wheatley get her volume of poetry published, and she served as a patron of Phillis Wheatley’s written works.
Wheatley’s Poem on Slavery, and her relationship with her former masters who raised, educated and treated her relatively well:
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic dye.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
Later In Life
In November of 1773, after her book of poetry was published, the Wheatley family gave Phillis her freedom. As a now free Black woman, she would go on to marry a free Black man named John Peters, who was a grocer. The new couple suffered through a lot of unfortunate heartache and misery, which included poverty and living in extremely harsh conditions, and most devastating, the death of two babies. In 1775, Wheatley sent a copy of one of her poems to the then-general George Washington. The poem was titled “To His Excellency, George Washington”. Washington was so impressed that he invited Wheatley to meet him at his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Wheatley would take him up on his offer, and met him on March in 1776. Later in that year, the political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary, Thomas Paine, republished the poem in the Pennsylvania Gazette. In 1779, Wheatley submitted her proposal for a second volume poetry, but because of her financial situation and the loss of her former supporters since emancipation, she was unable to get a full book of poetry published. However, she was able to get several of the poems that were intended for her second book, published in several pamphlets and newspapers. In 1784, financial struggles would cause her husband to be arrested and placed in debtors prison. To make ends meet, Wheatley worked as a scullery maid, so that she could take care of herself and her ill-infant son. On December 5, 1784, Wheatley died at the very young age of 31, her sickly son would die a little while afterwards.
Post Death Honors And Legacy
In 2002, Temple University professor and author Molefi Kete Asante placed Wheatley on his list of 100 greatest African-Americans. In 2003, Wheatley along with Abigail Adams and Lucy Stone were featured in a sculpture on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2012, a new building for the school of Communications and Information Sciences at Robert Morris University was named in her honor.
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Yasuke is believed by some scholars to of come from the Yao people of modern-day Mozambique. Therefore some believe his name Yasuke derived from “Yao-Suke”, suke being a Japanese suffix added to a male name, so Yasuke most likely meant a man of Yao origin. There are varying accounts saying he could of been Ethiopian, or Sudanses, but no one knows for sure.
ARRIVAL IN JAPAN
It is documented that when Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579, he was in the service of an Italian Jesuit Missionary named, Alessandro Valignano, who was appointed by the society of Jesus (Jesuits), to inspect their missions in East Africa, South and East Asia. For the Japanese who encountered him, it would of been their first time seeing a Black man. The Jesuits later reported when Yauke was taken to Oda Nobunaga, head of the powerful Oda clan (a man some scholars of Japanese history credit as being one of the first unifers of Japan), the Daimyo (feudal lord) thought that Yasuke had been painted with black ink and ordered Yasuke to remove his clothes from the waist up and demanded he scrub his skin to attempt to remove what he assumed was black ink painted on his skin. Reportedly when Nobunaga realized that Yasuke was not wearing ink, but instead was a Black man, he became fascinted with the African, and praised him for his strength and demeanor. It has been written that Nobunaga’s nephew gave Yasuke some money after their first meeting to help him on his journey.
On May 1581, Yasuke left for a trip with some other Christians to go to the Echizen province. There they would meet with regional warlords Shibata Katsuie,Hashiba Hidekatsu and Hashiba Hidekatsu. When Yasuke and his fellow Christian missionaries returned to Kyoto (the former capitol of Japan) on May 30, at some point afterwards Yasuke entered into the service of Nobunaga. Nobunaga would also give Yasuke his own residence , a ceremonial katana and would make him his weapons bearer. In the Battle of Tenmokuzan, Nobunaga led his forces (which included Yasuke) into armed conflict and ultimately victory against the Takeda clan. On June 1582, Nobunaga was attacked by the army of Akechi Mitsuhide. Yasuke was present at the time of the attack and he fought with valor against Akechi’s forces, but ultimately Nobunaga forces would be overwhelmed and Nobunaga would be forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide). After the death of Nobunaga, Yasuke visited Nobunaga’s son and heir apparent Oda Nobutada, who at the time was in the process of rallying forces at Nijo castle. Yasuke fought bravely alongside Nobutada’s forces, but was ulimately captured. When Yasuke was brought to Akechi, the warlord reportedly made racist comments about Yasuke being an animal and not Japanese, therefore he stated that Yasuke shouldn’t be killed, but rather taken to the Christian church in Kyoto. His ultimate fate is unkown and there is no more written about him after this time. Some people believe he may of returned to working for the Catholic Church, or contracted his services to other warlords.
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 .
Black History Spotlight:From Black American Soldier to Filipino Freedom Fighter: The Story of David Fagan
By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
David Fagan was born in Tampa,Florida in 1875. Fagan served in the United States 24th regiment of the United States army.
However on the 17th of November 1899, Fagan would leave the United States army and joined the Filipino liberation army. No one is quite sure why Fagan and some other black soldiers defected to the Filipino resistance. Some people speculate that being born only about a decade after the the Civil War and seeing White America’s mistreatment not of only Black civilians, but also Black soldiers, combined with the cruel, inhumane and racist abuse the White America soldiers inflicted on thr Filipino freedom fighters; he may of have seen more of a commonality with the cause of the dark skin Filipino freedom fighters, than he did with the white soldiers of the American imperialist war machine, some of whom were probably the children of former slave owners. Fagan would become an extremely successful guerrilla war leader and he would awarded the rank of captain in the Philippine Revolutionary army.
After The Philippine-American War
After the war was over, the United States gave amnesty to most of their opponents on the Filipino side, however Fagan did not receive amnesty and was considered by the U.S.A to be a traitor. A reward was offered for his capture, it was claimed when someone brought in a decomposed head and claimed that it belonged to Fagan. There are conflicting stories that say that the head did not belong to Fagan and claim that he lived out his life with his wife in the tranquil Filipino mountains.
Check out this short-biographic video on David Fagan
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