Malik Ambar was born in 1546 in Ethiopia, where he was subsequently sold to an Arab slave merchant by his parents. He worked for the merchant in Baghdad before he was sold to a merchant in Deccan. He was sold again to a prominent noble at the courts of the Nizam Shahs of Ahmednagar. (Ahmednagar is a city of Ahmednagar District in the state of Maharashtra, India) In 1600 the Mughals overthrew the ruling powers of Ahmendnagar but Amber was able to escape free. He led a small following and took control of the countryside. Jahangir of the Mughals’ forces held siege around the area where Ambar and his following resided. War was declared between Amber and the Mughal’s. As the power of Ambar grew, the power of the Mughals steadily declined.
Ambar trained his followers in the art of Guerrilla warfare. Using this strategy he captured the young Scion of the Ahmendnagar dynasty, Mustaza II, grandson of Nizam Shah. He married him to his own daughter, and placed Mustaza II on the throne of Ahmendnagar, naming himself regent of the State. With power in hand Amber launched great architectural projects, constructing or strengthening fortifications at vulnerable spots. He had a Church built for the Christians, raised monuments at Khirki, and gave the town a sophisticated water supply system. Also seven years after appointing Mustaza II to ruler, he disposed of him and became ruler himself.
In a long bitter war with the Mughals neither Ambar nor Jahangir could gain the upper hand on each other. Jahangir also used literature as a means to defeat Ambar. In his writing’s he was often found calling Ambar a “black-faced wretch”. One clash between the two forces found Ambar’s force of 10,000 defeating Jahangir’s force of 40,000. He also seized the ships of the Mughals and forced the city of Bijapur to pay him tribute. Golconda, a city whose name was once synonymous all over the world with wealth, also met Ambar’s wrath. In 1628 the English arrived in India with intentions of using the Land as a base for commerce, but Ambar rejected their advance and also rejected their bribery. The English also tried to oust Ambar by conspiracy; he retaliated by seizing one of their caravans worth 200,000 Rupees. The English in turn took one of his ships and demanded their money; Ambar reminded them that they had one of his ships, so there was no deal. Later in 1628, Ambar faced off with Abdullah one of Jahangir’s allies. Armed with cannons, rockets, and Elephants, Ambar defeated Abdullah giving Jahangir a feeling of hopelessness. The tide turned when Ambar died at the age of eighty, giving Jahangir the upper hand in the battle.
Despite being placed into slavery as a child Ambar became the first general, politician and financier of his time. Under his rule his country thrived, it was immaculately cultivated and the citizens were very happy. Ambar founded the city of Aurangabad and beautified it with a palace, gardens, and bodies of water lined with stone. Indian Historian Motamid Khan spoke these words about Ambar; “This Ambar was a slave, but an able man. In warfare, in command, in sound judgment, in administration, he had no rival or equal. He well understood that predatory warfare which in the language of the Deccan is called bargi-giru. He kept down the turbulent tribes and maintained his exalted position to the end of his life and closed his career in honor. History records no other instance of an Abyssinian slave at such eminence.” Malik Ambar we stand on your shoulders.
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Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6th, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi. The daughter of sharecroppers; her attention went to helping her family earn money to survive at the age of six. At the age of twelve she dropped out of school to work full-time with her family. In 1944 Miss. Hamer would marry Mr. Perry “Pap” Hamer, and the couple worked as sharecroppers on a cotton plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi. They never had children because Miss. Hamer was having surgery to remove a tumor and the doctor gave her a hysterectomy as well. This act was against her will and a violation of her human rights.
The summer of 1962 would change her life forever. She attended a meeting where blacks were protesting the poll tax used to keep them from voting. After attending the meeting she decided to dedicate herself to helping end the oppression. In 1962 she traveled with 17 others to Indianola, Mississippi to the courthouse to oppose the poll tax. They were met with resistance by the local law enforcement officers. As a result of fighting against the poll tax, Miss. Hamer was fired from her job and kicked off the plantation where she lived for 20 years. Those actions did not deter her one bit, she spoke about the incident stating; “They kicked me off the plantation, they set me free. It’s the best thing that could happen. Now I can work for my people.”
The rest of Miss. Hamer’s life was dedicated to the Civil Rights movement. Her next step was working with The Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They often joined together to fight racial segregation against the local whites of the towns they were working. During her fight for justice, she was beaten, arrested, threatened and shot at; but Ms. Hamer pressed on. In 1963 she was severely injured while in custody in a Winona County, Jail. Fannie and others were beaten while in police custody. She suffered kidney damage as a result of the brutality. Despite the constant violence Miss. Hamer still pushed on. She helped to fund the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964, which opposed an all-white delegation. During a televised convention session, Miss. Hamer brought national attention to the plight of the blacks in Mississippi. In 1954 she would run for congress but was unsuccessful in her efforts.
Miss. Hamer and other black organizations worked to create business opportunities and child care for the black families in Mississippi. In 1971 she helped create the National Women’s Political Caucus to help organize her people politically. In 1976 she was diagnosed with breast cancer but never stopped fighting for her rights. Miss. Hamer died in 1977 leaving behind a legacy as a hero, a champion and an inspiration to us all. She stood toe to toe with oppression and cancer but never backed down. She refused to live and think like a slave; she was a proud free black woman. She stood for our rights then, so we can stand for our rights now. Miss. Fannie Lou Hamer, we stand on your shoulders.
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On June 29, 1941, Stokley Carmichael was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. His parents migrated to the United States when he was just an infant. He would live with his grandparent’s until the age of 11 when he joined his parents in the United States. His mother worked as a stewardess on a steamship, and his father was a carpenter and a cab driver. Carmichael believed his father worked himself to death chasing the American dream. His father was a hard-working man who died in his 40’s. In 1954 Carmichael gained his American citizenship at the age of 13; around that same time his family moved to the Morris Park neighborhood in the Bronx, New York.
1956 was the year he begin attending the all-white, liberal, elite, Bronx High School of Science. Attending this high school was the first time Carmichael found himself surrounded by an all-white elite. As an adult he realized that those white kids did not fully accept him because he was black. That statement was a wake-up call for him; he was a popular figure amongst his peers. Even though he befriended a mostly white crowd he still was conscious about the racial struggles in America. As a high school senior Carmichael witnessed a sit-in on television which compelled him to join the civil rights movement. “When I first heard about the Negroes sitting in at lunch counters down South,” he later recalled, “I thought they were just a bunch of publicity hounds. But one night when I saw those young kids on TV, getting back up on the lunch counter stools after being knocked off them, sugar in their eyes, ketchup in their hair—well, something happened to me. Suddenly I was burning.”
His next step was to join the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They were picketing stores in New York and joining sit-ins in Virginia and South Carolina. In 1960 he graduated high school and attended Howard University where he majored in philosophy. He studied the works of Camus and Santayana, and used their philosophies to help face civil rights issues. Carmichael participated in a freedom ride in 1961 through the south challenging the segregation of interstate travel. He was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for entering the “whites only” section of the bus, and jailed for 49 days. Despite his jailing he continued his fight against oppression in America. He participated in another freedom ride in Maryland, a demonstration in Georgia, and a hospital worker’s strike in New York. Carmichael accomplished these feats all before he graduated from Howard University in 1964.
After graduation Carmichael joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the “summer of freedom”, of 1964. They were focused on raising the number of black registered voters in the south. In Lowndes County, Alabama Carmichael was able to use his brilliance to help raise the number of black registered voters from 70 to 2,600. Because of the negative backlash he received from the political parties for his voter registration efforts he started his own party, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. The logo he used for his political party was a Black Panther, which was the inspiration behind the Black Panther Party’s logo. Carmichael agreed with Dr. King’s idea of non-violence at this time; but those ideas would soon begin to change. Many of the young activists grew tired of the constant brutality by the police and white hate groups.
In 1966 Carmichael became the national chairman of SNCC and he would change the direction of the organization. White members were no longer welcome into the organization and Carmichael was becoming focused more on change. James Meredith embarked on the “Walk of Fear” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. When Meredith was shot 20 miles into Mississippi, Carmichael decided SNCC would continue the walk in place of Meredith. On June 16th, 1966 Carmichael spoke passionately in Greenwood, Mississippi where he was forever remembered for saying; “We been saying ‘freedom’ for six years, what we are going to start saying now is ‘Black Power.’ The term “black power” became the slogan for empowerment for Africans around the globe. Carmichael explained that black power is a call for black people to unite and build a sense of community. The black power movement was also Carmichael’s way of saying the non-violent movement and integration into white America was over. The ideas of the movement were not well received by whites or blacks who supported Dr. King.
In 1967 Carmichael became prime minister of the Black Panther Party. He would use this time to help spread the idea of Pan-Africanism which he would spend the rest of his life pursuing. In 1969 Carmichael would leave the Black Panthers and move to Guinea where he changed his name to Kwame Ture. His name change was in honor of Kwame Nkrumah and Sékou Touré. In 1985 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer which he would later succumb to in 1998. He was a brilliant orator, author, leader and human being. He was a visionary with no fear. He was brave enough to challenge Dr. King’s ideas of non-violence because he wanted to see his people safe. Mr. Stokely Carmichael aka Kwame Ture, we stand proudly stand on your shoulders. And one more thing, black power.
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Yaa Asantewaa was born in 1840 in the Ejisu-Juaben Municipal District, Ghana. She is widely known for leading the Ashante Rebellion against British colonialism. Yaa was appointed Queen Mother by her brother Nana Akwasi the ruler of Ejisu, an ethnic group in present day Ghana. Akwasi died after a civil war in Ghana in 1888, after his death Yaa Asantewaa used her influence to nominate her grandson as the ruler of Ejisu. In 1896, her grandson as well as the King of the Ashante (Premph I) were exiled to Seychelles by the British.
The British often used this tactic to weaken the people they wanted to dominate. They repeatedly looted the lands of the exiled Kings, this lead to the discoveries of a lot of Africa’s valued arts and crafts in the British Museums. To this day Africa has been unable to recover its stolen art. To add insult to injury the arrogant British Governor-General of Ghana Fredrick Hodgson, demanded the sacred Golden Stool of the Ashante. That Stool is an important symbol of the Ashante Nation; this prompted a meeting of the elders of Ejisu. At this meeting the Chiefs were discussing going to war with the British, forcing them to bring back the Ashanteehene King (Nana) Premhp I. Yaa noticed that a great number of the chiefs were afraid, some rejected the idea of war, they proposed going to the Governor and begging him to bring back the King.
With the greatest passion Yaa Asantewaa stood and spoke; “Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were in the brave days Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to chief of the Ashante in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. Is it true that the bravery of the Ashante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
Inspired by her speech the men were fueled for battle. In 1900 the famous uprising broke out and for months they fought bravely and kept the British at bay in their fort. Outnumbered by British troops numbering 1,400 soldiers at Kumasi, Yaa was captured and sent into exile along with the other leaders. Yaa eventually died in exile on October 17th, 1921. Her uprising against the British was Africa’s last major revolt led by a woman. Her body was later returned to Ghana and given a proper burial; to this day she is still honored. The Yaa Asantewaa Girl’s Secondary School was constructed in her name. She was the epitome of a leader, a great symbol of strength and womanhood. She gave herself to free her people and fought in the face of oppression, even when the men around her were afraid. Yaa Asantewaa, we stand on your shoulders.
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