Queen Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande of Ndongo (Angola)

Image: Queen Nzinga of Angola (circa b: 1581 - d. Dec. 17, 1663)

A brief account of the life and times of one of the earliest recorded African warrior queens, Queen Nzinga (aka Nzinga; Dona Ana de Sousa; Ana de Souza; Zhinga; N'Zhinga; Jinga; Ngola Ana Nzinga Mbande), renowned for her strategic military tactics and political and diplomatic intelligence.
Born as Princess Nzinga among the Mbundu (Ambundu) group of the Ndongo Kingdom in the central west Africa region now known as Angola. Her father was Ngola Kilajua, the word 'Ngola' referring to the title of the ruling chief, which later developed into the national name for the region. Her mother reportedly had no blood ties to the royal family  within the landed chieftain system. Nzinga had one brother, Ngola Mbandi, and two sisters, Kifunji and Mukambu. Though she resisted Portuguese colonial occupation of central west Africa for over four decades, she officially ruled Ndongo from 1624-1626 and 1657-1663.

The earliest European record of Nzinga was a report of her inclusion in her brother's envoy to an 1622 peace conference before the Portuguese's Luanda governor João Correia de Sousa. Luanda is an Atlantic coastal city, the largest city in Angola and the country's capital. An historical account of the conference includes the famous tale of Correia de Sousa's not offering Nzinga a chair, instead placing a floor mat before her to sit. In an 1690 book, the Italian priest Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi, in attendance at the court, memorialized the scene in an engraving whereby Nzinga asserts her status by sitting on the back of a maid servant within her royal envoy during the course of the negotiations. 

Image: Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi, Istorica Descrizione de' Tre Regni Congo, Matamba, et Angola (Milan, 1690), p. 437 Cavazzi writes the Queen's name as 'Zingha'. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University) 
Though a treaty was signed with the Portuguese at this peace conference it was never honored by them. They soon hired the Imbangala (aka Mbangala) to fight against the Ndongo Kingdom as they pushed to capture slaves to further their national slave trading export interests to the so-called New World. Prior to Nzinga's birth, the Portuguese had settled along the southern part of the Congo River and began moving up the Kwanza River Valley in search of slaves and gold. According to historical reports, the Imbangala in the 17th century mostly comprised bands of pillaging warriors native to this regions, founders of the kingdom of Kasanje. They aided the Portuguese colonial campaigns as early as those of Luis Mendes de Vasconcelos in 1618. The Imbangala's historical marauding customs were reportedly abandoned by the late seventeenth century.

Map: main region of military battles between Kingdom of Ndongo and Portuguese in Angola

The Mbundu tradition prohibited women rulers, so upon Nzinga's brother's death she became regent to his son Kiza, but soon convinced the Portuguese to support her bid to the throne. In 1622, she was baptized and took the Christian name Ana, the surname of the Luanda governor de Sousa and the Portuguese title Dona. Hence Princess Nzinga became known as Dona Ana de Sousa in a political move to help secure her succession to the Ndongo Kingdom throne. 

The Portuguese began negotiating directly with Nzinga. The arrival of Fernão de Sousa in 1624 started with discussions with her, but because she was not submissive to the Portuguese ended with her ouster from Kidonga. That same year she is reported to refer to herself as "Rainha de Andongo" (Queen of Andongo). After the Portuguese ouster, Nzinga continued fighting against the Portguese while in exile. She fled east but reclaimed the island in 1627. She was again driven out by the Portuguese in 1629, the year her sister was captured by their military forces. 

By 1641, Nzinga had entered into was is noted by commentors as the first African-European alliance against another European nations when she entered into negotiations  with the Dutch. In 1646 her army defeated the Portuguese at Davanga, but her other sister was captured. By 1647 her alliance with the Dutch was fruitful in the seizure of Masangano from the Portuguese. In 1648 her army retreated to Matamba, a pre-colonial African Kingdom located in what is now the Baixa de Cassange region of Malanje Province of modern day Angola. 

Photo: Statue of Queen Nzinga in Luanda, Angola on the Kinaxixi Square

In an 1657 speech, Queen Nzinga reportedly stated to her army that an alliance with the Imbangala was then a necessary evil in the military war against the Portuguese. In the same year, however, she signed a peace treaty with the Portuguese. She had fought against the their colonial and slave raiding attacks for decades.  Queen Nzinga died on December 17, 1663 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, her death accelerated Portuguese colonial occupation, as well as their Atlanta slave trade activities in central west Africa.

Photo: modern day aerial view of Luanda, Angola

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Abd al Rahman Ibrahima Ibn Sori: From Guinea to the Mississippi Delta

Image: Abd al Rahman Ibrahima Ibn Sori (aka Abdul Rahman Ibrahim and The Prince) 
(Born: 1762 - Died: 1829)

In 1762, Abd al Rahman Ibrahima Ibn Sori was born within a royal family, son of King Sori, in the village of Timbo in what is today known as the Republic of Guinea in the region of Fouta Djallon (aka Futa Jalon, lit. "the land of the Fulbe and Jalunke"). Ibrahima was born among the Fulbe (aka Fulani, Fula, Fullah, Foulah, sing. Poulas, Peul, Pullo) of the Timbo region. The Fulbe were primarily muslim cattle herders in this West African mountainous region where the Niger river rises and runs eastward. In fact, Guinea's mountains are the source of the Niger, Gambia and Senegal rivers, with its highest point at Mount Nimba. 

Today the cool, mountainous Fouta Djallon region runs roughly 
north-south through the middle of the Republic of Guinea.

According to the book Prince Among Slaves, written by Professor Terry Alford, the non-muslim Jalunke was the majority tribal group within the region where Ibrahima was born. According to Prof. Alford, conflict within the ethnically pluralistic Fulbe-Jalunke society occurred when the Jalunke leadership announced a declaration  forbidding public prayer. Karamoko Alfa, the leading Fulbe cleric, declared jihad against the Jalunke for what was deemed a direct afront to Islam. A ceremonial slashing open of the Fulbe farmer's drums marked the beginning of this great West African war. 

From Fouta Djallon to the Mississippi Delta

By 1788, at the age of 26, Ibrahima was a military leader within the Fulbe army when he was reportedly ambushed, captured and sold to slave traders. Ibrahima was shipped to the United States where he was eventually sold to a Natchez, Mississippi slaver by the name of Thomas Foster. Ibrahima's knowledge of agriculture operations and his leadership skills made him a central figure on Foster's cotton plantation. By 1794, Ibrahima married Isabella, also enslaved on the Foster plantation and would have five sons and four daughters.  

As the story goes, one day Ibrahima was recognized by an Irish surgeon, Dr. John Cox, who had traveled to Timbo during his shipping ventures with an English ship. Cox was aided by Ibrahima's family for six months when he was stranded and fell ill in the Fouta Djallon region. Cox asked Foster to sell Ibrahima to him so that he could free him for return to his West African homeland. Mr. Foster refused. Cox petitioned vigorously on Ibrahima's behalf until his dead in 1816. 

In 1826, a letter Ibrahima wrote in Arabic addressed to his family in West Africa was picked up by Andrew Marschalk, a local newsman who sent a copy to the federal capital in Washington D.C., to the attention of U.S. Senator Thomas Reed. Reed forwarded the correspondence to the U.S. Consulate in Morocco, assuming that Ibrahima was a Moor. Though Ibrahima was not a Moroccan citizen, Sultan of Morocco Abderrahmane was touched by his story and petitioned U.S. President John Quincy Adams to release Ibrahima from the institution of slavery. 

The Prince Among Slaves Returns to West Africa

In 1828, Henry Clay, then U.S. Secretary of State, interceded on behalf of "The Prince", the name given Ibrahima by Natchez, Mississippi residents. Foster stipulated that he would grant Ibrahima's legal release from slavery only if he left without his family and returned to Africa. Despite the Ibrahimas' public speaking efforts to raise enough money to purchase freedom for their nine children before leaving for Africa, they raised only half of the money Foster required for the purchase. 

At age 66, after 40 years in slavery, Ibrahima sailed to Monrovia, Liberia in 1828. He caught a fever and died at the age of 67, never making it to his native village in the Fouta Djallon. His wife Isabella was reunited with two sons and their families whose freedom and transport was financed by the Ibrahimas' funds. The remaining family in Mississippi was inherited by Foster's heirs and scattered across the South before further efforts could be made on their behalf. To his legacy, Ibrahima left behind the narrative of his full story, a rare gem within the legacy of the early colonial history of Africans in America.

For further references:

Black History Network Mixer in Los Angeles

The 2011 Black History Network Mixer was held on February 24, 2011 at the Cicada Club, the historic 1928 art deco James Oviatt Building, an architectural design gem in downtown L.A. (entrance shown).

L.A.'s Black History Network Mixer was the co-sponsored event of the following five organizations:

During the course of the evening, the mixer drew a huge turn out among LA.'s black professionals. Attendees included Langston Bar Association President Gilda Clift Breland, Esq. The Langston Bar Association's 2011 theme under Breland's leadership is timely described as "Advocating for Citizens of the World."

Linda R. Roseborough, president of the California Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), was also in attendance at the mixer. Roseborough spread the word regarding CABL's 34th Annual Conference that will be held Thursday, April 28th through Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at the Omni Hotel in downtown L.A. Many of the attorneys in attendance were excited that this annual conference of the state's black lawyers will be hosted in Los Angeles, California. 

Professor George Wilberforce Kakoma and the Uganda National Anthem

Prof. George Wilberforce Kakoma, musical composer of Uganda's national anthem

The exact date of George Wilberforce Kakoma's birth is not clear, but it’s believed that he was born between 1923 and 1925 in the Southern District of Masaka in Uganda and is a Muganda by tribe. Kakoma is credited with composing the national anthem of the Republic of Uganda.

There is something to be said about the role of a national anthem in galvanizing the spirit of a people newly formed as a nation. This is especially true for African nations during the period of rapid European decolonization. Kakoma's work is an example of the powerful role of music in developing national traditions and creating a sense of unity among people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

From 1894 to 1962, Uganda was ruled by Britain, which means it used to hoist the British Union Jack and used to sing the British National Anthem. As the struggle for independence intensified in Uganda, it became clear that the country was going to attain independence from the British Colonial masters and would need both a national anthem or a national flag that embodied its independence.

Image of national flag of Uganda

Prior to independence, a subcommittee for the creation of national anthem was set up. It was one of the three sub-committees established to deal with Uganda’s national symbols. 

Professor Senteza Kajubi was the chairman of the committees. The sub-committee organized a country-wide publicity campaign for original compositions. Ugandans were encouraged to submit their pieces.

“The compositions had to be short, original, solemn, praising and looking forward to the future,” said Professor Kajubi.

Many people participated in the music competition but the committee was not satisfied. Prof. Kajubi decided to seek help from George Wilberforce Kakoma, then a renowned inspector of schools and a music teacher in Masaka District to “save” the committee because they did not have a national anthem.

Photo: Professor George Wilberforce Kakoma

According to Kakoma, a strange tune rang continuously in his head at night, disrupting his sleep. He decided to wake up and put pen to paper.

“I sat down and looked through what I had ciphered during the night hours. I worked on those ideas till midday.”

The events leading to the composition of the anthem were summarized in the 2008 case filed by Prof George William Kakoma, then a graduate of Trinity College of Music and professor at the Durham University in London, Prof. George W. Kakoma v. The Attorney General (Civil Suit No.197 Of 2008) [2010] UGHC 40 (30 July 2010). Kakoma sued the government of Uganda for not rewarding his efforts up to the time of the case filing and the non payment of royalties arising from the playing of the national anthem. The case in part provided the following:
  1. That early in 1962 an open competition for the composing of our National Anthem was advertised.
  2. That no conditions were attached to the would-be winning entry.
  3. That his was declared the winner.
  4. That he was given a token of Shs.2,000/= as a mark of appreciation.
  5. That a year or two later, the government realizing this was copyright material, wrote asking him to surrender his copyright to them.
  6. That he referred the matter to his lawyers who responded and wrote back to the Government demanding a fee of 5000 only before he could sign off his copyright. That the political turmoil that followed left the matter unsettled until Idi Amin’s regime came to power.
  7. That in January 1975 he went into self-exile with his family and taught at Kenyatta University until NRA government came to power in 1986, when there was the chance to have the matter raised again.
  8. That the Ministry of Justice took up the matter and presented a Cabinet Memo which was turned down on a flimsy ground that compensating him would create a precedent.
The melody was composed by Prof. Kakoma but the lyrics (or words) were composed by Peter Wyngard, Kakoma’s personal friend and a lecturer at Makerere Institute of Education.

The development and resolution of this legal case in Uganda's courts also demonstrates important developments of the application of the rule of law generally, and the recognition of intellectual property rights specifically, in Uganda.

The National Anthem of Uganda

Oh Uganda may God uphold thee,

We lay our future in thy hand,
United free for liberty
Together we’ll always stand.

Oh Uganda the land of freedom,
Our love and labour we give,
And with neighbours all,
At our country’s call
In peace and friendship we’ll live

Oh Uganda the land that feeds us,
By sun and fertile soil grown,
For our own dear land,
We shall always stand,
The pearl of Africa’s crown.
With special thanks, this post has been prepared in great part by Moses G. Byaruhanga, Esq., Advocate/Attorney at Bar, Shonubi, Musoke & Co. Advocates in Uganda.

Henri Christophe of Haiti: King of the First Black Republic in the West

Painting of Henri Christophe, First King of the Republic of Haiti 
(b. October 8, 1767 – d. October 8, 1820). 

Little is known about Henri Christophe's (English: Henry Christopher ) boyhood. A great number of commentators report that he was born on Grenada island, a small nation in the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, and was the son of a freeman. His father, also named Christophe, was reportedly transported from West African or Central West Africa to Saint Domingue, the former French colony now known as Haiti.

The Early Adult Life of Henri Christophe

In 1779, Christophe served with the Franch Forces as a drummer boy with a regiment described as gens de couleur (English: people of color or color people) in the American Revolution. The gens de couleur regiment fought at the Siege of Savannah at what is now the State of Georgia. Nine years later, in 1788, Georgia would become the fourth State admitted into the original thirteen colonies of the United States of America. France had lent troop assistance to the revolutionaries against England during the American Revolution.

After the American Revolution, Christophe returned to Saint Domingue where he is reported to have worked as a billiard-maker, mason, sailor, stable-hand and waiter. He also managed a hotel restaurant in Cap-Français, then the capital of Saint-Domingue, that served the wealthy French slave-holders from the surrounding plantations.

Enslaved Africans at Saint Domingue Defeat France’s Napoleon Bonaparte

Image of Brigadier General Henri Christophe of Haiti

By August 1791, the Africans at Saint Domingue had rebelled against their condition under France's tyranny of chattel slavery. The name they would adopt for their new nation would be "Haiti", a word translated from the language of the native inhabitants as "land of mountains". 

Christophe distinguished himself in the Haitian Revolution. While not as widely known as François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture -- the great military leader that secured native control over Saint-Domingue from the France by 1797 -- Henri Christophe had distinguished himself by 1802 to become L'Ouverture's brigadier general.

Christophe fought alongside L'Ouverture in the north against the French. This included fighting against Spanish, British and French troops, all of whom had a strong interest in suppressing an uprising on the vast slave plantations established by the European colonialist over the Americas and Caribbean.

By June 1802, L'Ouverture was captured by agents of Napoleon Bonaparte for France. He was deported from the island to France. The revolution continued, however. After 13 years of military battle between the French colony, the Africans would win their independence in the year 1804. They distinguished themselves in history as the first independent black republic in the West.

The North-South Civil War in Haiti: Alexandre Pétion and Henri Christophe

In 1806, Christophe and the Haitian general Alexandre Pétion overthrew Jean Jacques Dessalines. Subsequently, a short civil war broke out between Christophe and Pétion. By February 1807, Haiti was divided between Christophe whom had clear charge over the North, and Alexander Pétion who led the South of the new country.

Christophe was elected president and served in that capacity from 1807 to 1811. On March 26, 1811, Henri proclaimed Haiti a republic nation and himself King, securing the title of Henri I. He served as Haiti's king from 1811 to 1820.

Citadelle Laferrière: The Grand Fortress near Cap-Haïtien

Aerial Image of La Citadelle La Ferriere in Haiti. A legacy of King Henri I of Haiti.
Some pictures are worth more than a thousand words. 

Henri Christophe is noted for his policy of construction and economic development in Haiti. Christophe was charged with transforming a slave-based economy into an effective and productive economy of a nation of newly freed people. While he improved the nations' infrastructure he is noted by some of the commentators for his labor policies which involved harsh work conditions and a transfer of a great amount of the wealth being controlled by the republic.

Photo of the Palace of Sans Souci in Haiti, commissioned by Henry Christophe in 1810 and completed in 1813. 
A trained mason, Christophe is noted for the construction of Sans Souci Palace and the fortress near Cap-Haïtien called Citadelle Laferrière. He also built six notable châteaux and eight palaces in the region. The Citadelle Laferrière is described as one of the great construction wonders of the era. In 1842, a major earthquake destroyed part of the fortress.

By 1820, an insurrection had broken out in the northern region of Haiti and Christophe suffered an incapacitating stroke and reportedly shot himself.

Statue of Christophe Henri, King Henri I of Haiti, at Champs de Mars in Port-au-Prince

Today, Christophe is revered as a hero among the Haitians and many within the African diaspora. Christophe's statue was raised at Champs de Mars in Port-au-Prince.

Sojourner Truth: Slavery Abolitionist and Women's Suffragist

Image of Pamphlet Poster of a Sojourner Truth Lecture 
(aka as Isabella Baumfree, Isabella Bomefree)
(Born: cir. 1797 - Died: November 26, 1883)

The exact date of her birth was not recorded. We only know that in the year 1797, among Dutch immigrants settled in the region now known as Ulster County, New York, an African child was born on the estate of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh. One of 13 children born to Elizabeth and James Baumfree, she was given the name Isabella Baumfree. As the story goes, this name gave her no hint of her mission so years later she renamed herself Sojourner Truth. Her life was a testament to this mission as a truth-teller.

Early Life of Sojourner Truth among the Hardenberg Dutch Settlers

Sojourner Truth's parents, the Baumfrees, were African slaves on the Hardenbergh plantation in Swartekill, New York. She spoke only Dutch until age nine when she was sold from her parents care to one Englishman named John Neely. The harshness of both her Dutch and English slave-masters would be told by Truth in many of her later anti-slavery speeches across the new nation. She underwent a number of transfers between slave-owners and suffered what she described as cruelties that one dare not imagine against a young African girl child enslaved in America.

Sojourner Truth and Slave Life in New York

In 1815, Truth said she fell in love with Robert, enslaved on a different plantation. The relationship was forbidden by both slavers. The two stole away visits despite the demands that they do no see each other. Robert's slave-master, aided by his son, followed Robert on one visit to see Truth. She reported that Robert sustained "bruising and mangling [of] his head and face" and was dragged away. Truth had a daughter that she named Diane soon thereafter.

By 1817, Sojourner Truth had been sold to John Dumont of New Paltz, New York. she was forced to marry an older African named Thomas. They had four children: Peter (1822), James (who died young), Elizabeth (1825), and Sophia (1826). Truth said that she continued working for Dumont until she felt she had completed any obligation she may have had to him.

Photo of Sojourner Truth
"I did not run off, for I thought that wicked," said Sojourner Truth, describing her leaving with her youngest daughter Sophia from the Dumont plantation in New York , "but I walked off, believing that to be all right."
She soon set plans to secure her youngest son Peter who had been loaned by Dumont to another slaver who had then sold the five-year-old child to slave-owners in the State of Alabama. With the help of the anti-slavery Quakers, Truth filed a court petition in the State of New York pleading with the court to grant the return of her son. There was great anti-slavery in New York at the time, as the state legislation was passed in 1827 legally abolishing slavery.

Sojourner Truth won and her son Peter was soon returned to New York.

Sojourner Truth, Free Woman of Color in America: Abolitionist and Suffragist

Pamphlet Card with Sojourner Truth Photo

While living in the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenens, Truth had a life-changing religious experience. She started to speak in public assemblies. She became known as a gifted preacher. She joined the Progressive Friends, an organization established by the Quakers, which pressed forward the cause of abolishing slavery throughout America. Truth also became active in the Union's efforts during the Civil War. She helped enlist black troops. Her grandson James Caldwell served in the 54th Regiment, Massachusetts.

"In 1864, she worked among freed slaves at a government refugee camp on an island in Virginia and was employed by the National Freedman's Relief Association in Washington, D.C.," according to Women in History: Living vignettes of notable women from U.S. history. "In 1863, Harriet Beecher Stowe's article "The Libyan Sibyl" appeared in the Atlantic Monthly; a romanticized description of Sojourner."

At the end of the Civil War, Truth worked on behalf of the Freedman's Hospital in Washington through the Freedman's Relief Association.

In 1867, she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. While unsuccessful in her efforts, for several years she lobbyed the U.S. federal government land in the Western states for former African slaves. Illness began to reduce her speaking tours. In 1879, she spent a year in Kansas city to help settling African migrants she called "Exodusters". In addition to racial and gender equality issues, Truth campaigned against capital punishment and called for temperance.

Image of Sojourner Truth

On November 26, 1883, Sojourner Truth was surrounded by her family at her death bed. She was 86 years old when she died surrounded by her family in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, next to her grandson's gravesite. More than 200 years later, her legacy as a truth-keeper continues to ignite the imagination of the new nation for which she found herself in service. Soujourner Truth lived during times of great change.

Image of observers at the Sojourner Truth statute in
Battle Creek, Michigan, USA
(Photo: Marydell/Flickr)

Photo: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama applauds on April 28, 2009
at the unveiling of the Sojourner Truth bronze bust in Emancipation Hall in Washingtno D.C.
(Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

"I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America," said Michelle Obama at the April 28, 2009 commemorative ceremony unveiling the Sojourner Truth bronze bust by sculptor Artis Lane. "Now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them."

Sojourner Truth's Famous Oration: "Ain't I a Woman?"

In 1851, Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech before the Women's Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio. Several ministers were in attendance. Truth rose from her seat and spoke the following words before the audience:
"Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?
Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? 
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. 

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say."


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