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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: THE AFRICAN SAMURAI-YASUKE

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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Origins

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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.

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ARRIVAL IN JAPAN

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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.

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BLACK SAMURAI

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.

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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT:KING OSEI TUTU I: THE FATHER OF THE ASANTE EMPIRE

OseiTutuI
By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Young King

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.

GOLDEN STOOL

golden stool pic 1

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.

Golden stool pic 2

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.

LEGACY

Asante Flag

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 on thrown

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 .

Osei II at ceremony

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Black History Spotlight:From Black American Soldier to Filipino Freedom Fighter: The Story of David Fagan

By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare


Early Life


David Fagan was born in Tampa,Florida in 1875. Fagan served in the United States 24th regiment of the United States army.


Revolutionary


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.


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BLACK HISTORY 🌍 SPOTLIGHT: MENILEK THE II-THE AFRICAN πŸ‘‘ EMPEROR WHO DEFEATED THE ITALIANS AND PREVENTED EUROPEAN COLONIZATION OF ETHIOPIA

Black History SPOTLIGHT:Ethiopian Emperor Menilek II

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

Menilek II, was born Sahle Mariam on August 17, 1844, in Ankober, Shewa, Ethiopia. His father was a man known as Haile Malakot (also spelled Melekot), he was the king (Negus) of the Shewa region of Ethiopia, which at the time was a semi-independent kingdom within the empire of Ethiopia. It is traditionally believed that his forefathers traced their royal lineage to the Solomonid line of Ethiopian emperors (Ethiopian emperors who claim they can trace their royal roots to Menilek I, the sone of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba), who ruled the Empire of Ethiopia for centuries.

Later In Life

Before his death in 1855, Negus Haile Malakot, named his son (now-called Menilek), as heir to the throne of kingdom of Shewa. However, when Malakot died, Menelik was taken into custody by Emperor Tewodros II, who had just conquered Shewa. Despite the fact that he was technically the prisoner of the Ethiopian emperor, he was treated kind of like a step-son to the Emperor and was even offered the emperor’s daughter (Al Tash Tewodros) as a wife, which he accepted. Around the same time Menilek was taken as a prisoner, his uncle was giving the titles of Shum and Meridazmach (which loosely translates to colonel) in the Shewa area. Menilek’s uncle would rebel against the emperor, and he would be replaced by a non-royal, named Bezabeh, who eventually also rebelled against the emperor’s rule and named himself Negus of Shewa. This outraged the royals of Shewa,and the ones that were imprisoned in the city of Magdala, helped Menelik escape to claim the crown of Shewa. By leaving, he was forced to leave his wife, which infuriated the emperor, who had several nobles and other hostages beaten to death. When Menelik returned to Shewa, Bezabeh attempted to raise an army to fight Menelik, but he was not successful, and the Shewan people stood in full-support of Menelik, who they saw as the rightful king of Shewa. Once back in Shewa, he still refused to lay claim to the throne of the empire of Ethiopia, because he didn’t want to make a power play for the throne,and because he didn’t want to go to war against the man who raised him like a son. In the meantime, Tewodros’ military came into armed conflict in 1866 with the British, which eventually led to Tewodros committing suicide after his defeat. Instead of making a move to take the imperial throne, Menelik decided it was much wiser to grow his powerbase. In his time away, a man named Yohannes IV was crowned emperor of Ethiopia in 1871.

The Man Who Would Become Emperor

Menelik

On March 10, 1889, emperor Yohannes IV was killed in a war in Sudan, in the Battle of Gallabat. It is claimed that in his last words, he declared his son, Dejazmach Mengesha Yohannes, to be his successor on the throne. Menelik took issue with that and declared himself emperor of Ethiopia. To gain support, he claimed that his male lineage was traced directly to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and therefore he was the rightful emperor. In the end the nobles agreed with him and his claim to the crown. On November 3, 1889, Menelik was crowned emperor of Ethiopia. Before Menelik’s reign, Ethiopia had faced generations of war within its own borders, and had large scale slavery, of which Menelik helped to end, when he unified his new empire. Prior to the reign of Menelik II, Ethiopia did not have a permanent capitol, instead it had a traveling encampment, so he founded the capitol city of Addis Ababa. The name for the new city was given by his new wife, Empress Taytu Betul, the name Addis Ababa translates to “new flower”.

Ready For War

After failure to agree to a treaty with Italy, knowing the Italians would invade to try to colonize Ethiopia, Menelik informed the nobility to prepare for war. Italian general Oreste Baratieri, believed that the Ethiopians only had about 30,000 men ready to fight; his racist beliefs also led him to believe that the Black Ethiopians were African barbarians, that would be easily defeated by the White Italians. What the Italians didn’t realize is that the Ethiopians, who had recently purchased weapons from the French, and were better armed and better trained than them. The two armies fought many skirmishes, but on March 1, 1896, the two nations met in Adwa, in a deciding battle, the Ethiopians would ultimately be victorious. The Ethiopians and the Italians would eventually sign a treaty that recognized the sovereignty of the Empire of Ethiopia.

End of His Life

On October 27, 1909, Menelik II, had a massive stroke and was unable to rule and had to abdicate the throne, he would die on December 12, 1913.

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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: TARIQ IBN ZIYAD-THE MOOR WHO CONQUERED SPAIN

By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

EARLY LIFE


Tariq Ibn-Ziyad was a Berber general from where is now Morocco in North West Africa. He was a mawla (which translate to lord or guardian) of Musa Ibn Nusayr, who was the Umayyad governor of Ifriqiya (which consisted of parts of Tunisia,Libya and Algeria) . After Tangier was conquered between 710-711, Musa Ibn Nasayr put Ibn-Ziyad in control of the Tangier area.


The Conquerer


later in 711, Ibn-Ziyad and his army (which consisted of Berbers and new coverts to the Islamic Faith), landed on the Iberian Peninsula (the region of Spain and Portugal). Ibn-Ziyad and his army disembarked at a base of a mountain that would later be known as the Rock of Gibraltar (Gibraltar translates to mountain of Tariq). Tariq Ibn-Ziyad’s army included about 7000 Berber horsemen, additional men sent by Musa Ibn Nusayr, and some locals, who were rivals of the Spanish ruler, Roderic, the Visigothic king in Hispania. On July 19, King Roderic and his men would finally be defeated at the Battle of Guadalete. After the defeat of the visigoth king, Ibn-Ziyad divided his army and they would continue to conquer cities like Cordoba, Granada, Toledo, and Guadalajara, among others. Eventually culminating with Ibn-Ziyad controlling Spain, and making him its de facto ruler, for about a year before Musa Ibn Nasayr arrived.


Later In Life


In 714 Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid the ruler of the Umayyad Caliphate (Islamic state which controlled much of North Africa and the Middle East) ordered Tariq Ibn-Ziyad and Musa Ibn Nasayr to Damascus, Syria, where they would spend the rest of their lives, some say this was because of jealousy and fear of the power that Ibn-Ziyad and Ibn Nasayr had displayed when Ibn-Ziyad conquered Spain with the assistance of Ibn Nasayr.
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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: HANNIBAL BARCA-THE AFRICAN GENERAL WHO WON MANY BATTLES AGAINST ROME!🌍✊🏿

hannibal coin

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

Hannibal Barca was born in Carthage, (modern-day Tunisia, North Africa) in 247 BC. He was the son of Hamilcar Barca, who was a highly respected Carthaginian general, and one of the leaders in the first Punic War with the Roman Republic. His brothers Hasdrubal and Mago Barca and his brother-in-law Hasdrubal The Fair, were all commanders in the Carthaginian Military.

The Warrior

Even though Carthage loss the the first Punic War, the Carthaginians and Hannibal were not a submissive people and what they may have loss in the first Punic War, they started to win back in the punic peace, when they started to reclaim their loss territory. The second Punic war started in 218 BC, when Hannibal and his army attacked Saguntum (modern-day Spain), which was an ally of Rome. Hannibal then brought the war to Rome’s Italy territory, when he marched his army and African war elephants out of Africa and into Southern Europe, by crossing the Alps. Hannibal used his brilliant military mind to out strategize his opponents and exploit their weaknesses. For the first several years of his military campaign against the Romans, he achieved many victories, including the battle of Trebia, The Battle of Cannae and the Battle of Lake Trasimene. Hannibal and his forces would eventually take control of most of Southern Italy, and would hold on to it for about a decade and a half. Unfortunately, for Hannibal, he was unable to put the final nail in the Roman Republic’s coffin because for the most part the Roman military, which was led by Fabius Maximus, refused to have a head-to-head battle with their African rivals. Instead they used what is now called the “Fabian Strategy”, which is war of attrition. While Hannibal and his men were busy occupying Southern Italy, Roman general Scipio Africanus, saw that as an opportunity to invade Northern Africa. Once Hannibal discovered their new strategy, he immediately returned to Carthage and would eventually be defeated by Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama.

Post War Life

After the Second Punic War with the Romans, Hannibal decided to run for political office and was elected “Sufet”, which in modern-day terms would be the equivalent of a chief magistrate. Hannibal would use his political power to enact financial reforms to raise money to pay war reparations to the Romans. The reforms were so unpopular with the wealthy aristocrats in Carthage and Roman, that Hannibal decided to go into self-imposed exile. One of the places he lived while in exile was the Seleucid Empire, there he became a military advisor to Antiochus III The Great, during his military campaign against Rome. When Antiochus was defeated at the battle of Magnesia, Hannibal once more was forced to go into exile. Hannibal would eventually travel to the Kingdom of Armenia, where he sought sanctuary, there he would be betrayed to the Romans. Instead of allowing himself to be a prisoner of the Romans, he committed Suicide by poisoning.

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PHARAOH PIYE: THE BLACK KING WHO RULED BOTH ANCIENT KUSH/NUBIA AND EGYPT

Pharaoh Piye: The Black King Who Ruled Both Ancient Kush/Nubia and Egypt

Pharaoh Piye

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

Piye, also known as Piankhi, was the king of the kingdom of Kush, also known as Nubia (modern-day Sudan). He ruled from about 750 BCE to around 719 BCE.

The Conquerer

Piye the conquerer

During his reign as ruler of the people of Nubia, who shared a cultural-connection to the people of Egypt, Piye knew of and took advantage of the inner-conflict of Egypt at the time. He expanded Nubia’s territory beyond Thebes, in Southern Egypt, and eventually he moved his army north and achieved military victories in Memphis and Hermopolis , just to name a few.

Nubian People

Egypt at the time was very chaotic and instead of being one unified kingdom, it consisted of several fragmented smaller states, all of which never stood a chance against the mighty and unified kingdom of Nubia, which was at it’s peak at the time. Several kings of the Delta region, including Iuput (also spelled Auput II)of Leontopolis, Nimlot of Hermopolis, and Usermaatre Osorkon IV of Tanis, all eventually submitted to the throne of Piye.

His Reign

His exact time on the throne is unknown, some reseachers suggest he ruled as Pharaoh for 24 years, others suggest it could of been upwards of 31 years.

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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE ✊🏿🌍

Black History Spotlight: Toussaint Louverture

Toussaint

By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

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

Toussaint with sword

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”

-Toussaint Louverture

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

Toussaint battling against French

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.

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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT:✊🏿🌍 DENMARK VESEY

Black History Spotlight:Denmark Vesey

Denmark Vesey

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

Denmark Vesey is believed to of been born in 1767 in St.Thomas,West Indies. He was the slave of captain Vesey,who was a slave trader and planter from Charleston, South Carolina. He spent at least two decades sailing with his slave master.

Freedom

In 1800 Vesey was able to purchase his freedom from his master, after he allegedly won a local lottery. Vesey would go into the trade of carpentry, and would become relatively successful.

Legacy

In 1818 Vesey would become a powerful speaker and preacher, he would travel to slave plantations in his local area. Vesey would preach to his fellow black people, (who were suffering horribly in forced bondage), that they would fight for and gain their liberation like the ancient Israelites of the Holy Bible. Vesey, Allegedly held meetings at his home, where he would also collect firearms and other weapons that he intended to use to arm 9000 black people in South Carolina. Unfortunately, Vesey would be betrayed like Jesus Christ, by some of his own people that he intended to free, when some black slaves fearful of white retribution, informed the white authorities. Vesey, would defend himself well in court, but would ultimately be sentenced by a white supremacist jury to be hanged to death. 35 other blacks would be sentenced to hang too, and 35 others would be sold to brutal (even by American standards) West Indian plantations. If not for the betrayal of a few black Judas’s, his rebellion would of been the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. The white fear that was caused because of the failed revolt caused harsher and more punitive laws to be passed to control and dominate black people. In Hampton Park in Charleston, South Carolina, there is a statue dedicated to the memory and legacy of the black freedom fighter.

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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: BIDDY MASON

Black History Spotlight:Biddy Mason

Biddy Mason Pic

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

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.

Biddy Mason Park

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Black History SPOTLIGHT: Dutty Boukman

Black History Spotlight: Dutty Boukman

Dutty Boukman

By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Early Life

Dutty Boukman (year unknown) born in Senegambia (now the nations of Gambia and Senegal).Before,he was captured in his homeland,he had built a reputation as a respected Muslim cleric. While in Senegambia he would eventually get kidnapped by slavers and transported to the slave colonies in the Caribbean to forcibly work as a slave. He would first be taken to Jamaica, and then to Saint-Dominque (modern-day) Haiti.

Life As A Slave

Once in Haiti, Boukman would risk his life by attempting to teach other slaves how to read, and he would also combine his Quranic knowledge and his knowledge of traditional African religion to become a Haitian vodou priest. Some historians believe the French name of Boukman, derived from his English nickname of “book man”, as in “man of the book”, a term used in many Muslim countries.

Revolutionary Leader

Boukman would eventually be sold to a French plantation owner, who would first select him to be a commadeur (slave driver), he would later transitioned to being a coach driver. According to many scholars, Boukman and a Haitian woman named Cecile Fatiman) a vodou priestess would perform a religious ceremony at Bois Caiman, in August 1791. This ceremony would led to the 1791 Haitian slave uprising, which many historians consider to be the beginning of the Haitian revolution. Boukman would use his charismatic personality and leadership skills to help lead the slave revolt in the Le Cap-Francais region in the north of the French colony. Sadly, he would be killed by French colonial troops and planters, only a few months into the slave revolt. The French would decapitate Boukman and display the fallen freedom fighter’s head in an attempt to intimidate revolters by showing them the head of their messianic leader. The tactic would ultimately, fail and Haiti would become the only successful self-liberated slave rebellion in the world, when they defeated the powerful Napoleonic French empire in 1804. Since, Haiti was a very rich colony for the French, that defeat would force the now economically-struggling French to sell its massive amounts of land to the United States, this would be known as the Louisiana purchase.

Boukman’s Prayer, which was given at the Bois Caiman ceremony:

“The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light.The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts.”

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african diaspora

BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: GARRETT MORGAN

By: Leon kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Garret Augustus Morgan, was born o March 4, 1877 in Claysville, Kentucky. His father a man named Sydney Morgan was a freed-slave, and the son of confederate colonel John H. Morgan, his mother was a slave woman named Elizabeth Reed. At the age of 14, having only a 6th grade education, he would move to Cincinnati,Ohio to look for work. Morgan would eventually gain employment as a handyman for a Cincinnati landowner. In his free-time, he would further his knowledge by studying with a tutor he hired. In 1895, Morgan would move to Cleveland, Ohio, where heee found work as a sewing machine repairman for a clothing maker. The skills he required as a repairman would ultimately send him on the journey of becoming an inventor. He would invent a belt fastener for sewiing machines, and in 1912 he would get his first patent.

when he was not working or inventing, Morgan became interested in his own Black American heritage and the plight of his fellow Black American people, in 1908, he would co-found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men, which was a group dedicated to improving the social and economic situation for Black people. The group would later merge with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Morgan would move his activities beyond entrepreneurship, inventing and activism and would become a philanthropist, giving his own money to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to help educate his people.

As a businessman, Morgan would eventually open his own sewing business. In 1909, Morgan and his wife Mary Anne expanded their small and growing business empire by opening a clothing store called Morgan’s Cut Rate Ladies Clothing Store. Where he would employee his own people and at one time his store employed 32 people.
As an inventor he would go on to invent Black hair products, the stoplight and the smokehood (a precursor to the gas mask).
He would die on July 27, 1963, in Cleveland, Ohio after living to the ripe age of 86.

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