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.
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.
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BLACK HISTORY 🌍 SPOTLIGHT: MENILEK THE II-THE AFRICAN 👑 EMPEROR WHO DEFEATED THE ITALIANS AND PREVENTED EUROPEAN COLONIZATION OF ETHIOPIA
Black History SPOTLIGHT:Ethiopian Emperor Menilek II
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
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
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.
By:Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
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.
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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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
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.
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.