The great Mansa Musa I is said to be born around 1280 AD within the empire of Mali. The Malian Empire was established by Sundiata Keita who is also the great uncle of Mansa Musa. Emperor Abu Bakari II ruled Mali before Musa began his reign, Musa was appointed the Deputy of Mali before Abu Bakari II was never seen again after taking a voyage to find the Atlantic Ocean. In 1312, Musa was given the title of Mansa Musa and control over an empire with unmatched wealth. Mali controlled gold and slat mines as well as other natural resources they used to generate wealth. Mansa Musa was a very wise ruler who embraced Islam and the expansion of his empire, under his rule the Empire of Mali stretched from the Atlantic coast, through Timbuktu, over to the edge of the Sahara Desert. The empire was thriving under the rulership of Mansa Musa; the emperor’s reputation for his faith and wealth was about to become legendary.
Musa was a devout Muslim and his Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca was a very important event for him, little did he know his travels would change the world. It took several years for him to prepare for his journey; in 1324, Mansa Musa became the first West African ruler to make the Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca. The journey was over four thousand miles but he was well prepared. It is estimated that he was accompanied by 60,000 men, 12,000 servants, messengers wearing expensive silks, over 80 camels, and all of his fellow travelers carried riches and materials worth millions. One of the greatest aspects of this story is that Mansa Musa gave out money, gold and other riches to the poor and organizations as he journeyed to and from Mecca. Mansa Musa singlehandedly disrupted the economy of Egypt by giving out so much gold during his time in Cairo. It literally took Egypt over a decade for their economy to recover from Mansa Musa visiting their country. During his stay in Egypt Mansa Musa would meet the sultan of Egypt al-Malik al-Nasir, but their interactions was not very favorable initially. Musa was expected to greet al-Nasir and humble himself as a subordinate, Musa did not see himself as a subordinate of al-Nasir and was not initially interested in al-Nasir’s company or hospitality. Eventually Musa obliged al-Nasir’s hospitality and made the best of his brief stay in Cairo.
The expansion of the empire of Mali was always a goal of Mansa Musa, during his Hajj he was able to acquire Songhi’s city of Gao which became the site of a Mosque Musa built after returning from Mecca. Upon his return from Mecca he brought back aspects of the different cultures he thought could enhance his empire. Architects, scholars, government officials and others returned to Mali with the emperor. An architect named Ishaq El Teudjin is said to have taught the Malian architects techniques that were used to build the great mosque of Timbuktu, the mosque of Gao, the emperors chamber at Niani, and the Madagou palace for Musa. He was able to increase the lore and fascination of Mali, he made Timbuktu a leading educational and Islamic center throughout the world, and the wealth of his empire continued to grow as the reputation of the emperor grew. Mali was literally recognized as a global empire, and was included in the maps that Europe and other nations produced when mapping out the world.
Mali was a true world power that consisted of over four hundred cities under its rule. Under the rulership of Mansa Musa not only was Timbuktu made a leading Islamic and educational center, it became the home of the great Djinguereber Mosque which is still standing to this day. Mansa Musa was able to thrive as the emperor of Mali in a time before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade ravished the African continent. Stories of rulers such as Mansa Musa were hidden from the children of Africa so white supremacy could reign. This particular story was hidden in my opinion, because white supremacist didn’t want us to know that the wealthiest man ever was an African Emperor who ruled Mali. From the time of Sundiata to the time of Mansa Musa, Mali became one of the most powerful and wealthiest empires the world has ever seen. To the great Mansa Musa I of Mali, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
The legendary warrior Samori Toure was born in 1830 in the village of Manyambaladugu, located in the southeast region of Guinea. His father was a trader so Toure also became a trader until the age of twenty. West Africa was being influenced heavily by European culture due to colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In 1848, Toure’s mother was kidnapped during a slave raid by King Sori Birama (also pronounced Séré-Burlay); to free his mother Toure became a soldier in the king’s army. During his time in the army he developed himself into one of the best warriors in the Guinea. After serving his time in King Birama’s army Toure left the army with his mother, he then sought refuge with the Bérété army for two years. He mastered fire arms and improved is military skills by leading the Bérété army into battle. Toure left the Bérété army and reunited with his own people the Malinke of Guinea armed with an empowering vision to help his people.
Using the military skills and education he gained over the years, Toure systematically organized his people and the surrounding kingdoms into a single army with a single focus. The goals of the Malinke were to protect themselves from rival tribes, Europeans and expand their territory. Toure’s army was legendary; a well-oiled machine consisting of over 65,000 men with a cavalry and infantry. Both the cavalry and the infantry were individually organized to function singularly and as a unit of the entire army. Toure would declare himself the Monarch of the empire he was building; his territory expanded from as far north as the borders of Sierra Leone to Liberia in the south; from the Ivory Coast in the west to the Sudan in the East. It is said that Toure’s empire reached its apex between 1883 and 1887; during this time Toure became the Almami, or the religious leader of his empire. Islam was the dominant religion of Toure’s empire.
Toure would be the founder of the Wassoulou Empire, which is also referred to as the Mandinka/Melenke Empire. The Wassoulou Empire was solidified around 1878 with Toure as its leader and founder. He was also gaining a name for himself by standing strong against European colonialism. The French declared war on Toure because he would not allow them to steal land and monopolize the trading of goods at the Kenyeran market center. The Wassoulou and the French were at war from 1882 to 1885, the warring led to the signing of peace treaties between the French and the Wassoulou in 1886 and 1887. The Berlin Conference occurred in 1884, which basically was Europe dividing Africa between the countries and taking the land. As expected, the French did not honor the peace treaty and the Wassoulou waged war against the French in 1888 to defend their lands. Because his army was able to deny the French, Toure and his army’s reputation grew. The final peace treaty between the Wassoulou and the French was signed in 1889. In 1890, Toure was able to reinforce his army by obtaining arms from the British and implementing guerrilla warfare tactics to fight the French. Unfortunately, in 1891, the French was able to overpower Toure’s army forcing him to move his capital eastward to Dabakala, cote d’ivoire. Toure was able to rebuild his empire despite the advances from French colonizers, his new capital city was Kong and he used the landscape along with the guerrilla tactics to fight off the relentless pursuit of the French forces. Toure’s army was invaded by the French in 1898, during the invasion Toure was captured and eventually forced into exiled in Gambon.
Toure would die two years into his exile in 1900 as the warrior king who fearlessly fought off French colonization. During the years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade African people were constantly being kidnapped and taken into slavery. Fortunately for Toure when his mother was captured she was not sold to the Europeans, this allowed the legend of Samori Toure to begin. He was able to hone his military skills and develop himself mentally as a leader. Toure is revered for his fortitude, strategy, leadership, loyalty and victories. Even though the French were able to eventually overtake Toure, they were never able to kill his movement, his spirit and his legendary status. Legendary Warrior Emperor Samori Toure, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Wangari Muta Maathai was born on April 1st, 1940 in the village of Ihithe in the Nyeri District of Kenya. Around 1943 her family moved to a White-owned farm where her father had found work, she lived there until 1947 when her mother returned to Ihithe so 2 of her brothers could attend school (there was no schooling on the farm). At the age of 8 she joined her brothers in Primary school and at the age of 11 she moved to St. Cecilia’s Intermediate Primary School, which was a catholic boarding school in Nyeri. She spent four years at the school becoming fluent in English and converting to Catholicism. While at Cecilia’s she was protected from the Mau Mau Uprising that caused her mother to move to an emergency village. She graduated first in her class and was admitted to Loreto High School in Limuru, the only Catholic High School for Girls in Kenya. As colonialism ended in East Africa Kenyan Politicians began to look for ways to make education in Western Nations available, and with the help of Senator John Kennedy, the Kennedy Airlift Program was created. Maathai was one of roughly 300 kenyans selected to study in the United States in September of 1960.
She received a scholarship to Mount St. Scholastica College (what is now Benedictine College) where she majored in biology and minored in chemistry and German receiving her degree in 1964. She then went on to the University of Pittsburgh to receive her master’s degree in biology, she also had her first experience with environmental restoration working with local environmentalist pushing for air pollution control in the city. After graduating from Mount St. Scholstica College in 1966 she was appointed to research assistant to a professor of zoology at the University College of Nairobi. However, she returned to Kenya only to find that her position had been given to someone else, a move that she believed was caused by her gender and her tribe. After months of searching she was finally given another job as a research assistant in the microanatomy section of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy, in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University College of Nairobi. That same year she meet and marry Mwangi Maathai (a Kenyan who had also studied in America), rent a small shop to start a general store, and employed her sisters. In 1967 she traveled to Germany to pursue her doctorate, but returned to Nairobi in May of 1969 married, later that same year became pregnant with her first child while her husband campaigned for a seat in Parliament. In 1971 she received her PhD in Veterinary Anatomy becoming the first Eastern African Woman to do so; she also had her second child.
By 1975, Maathai became a senior lecturer in anatomy at Nairobi; she would also become the chair of the department of Veterinary Anatomy in 1976, associate professor in 1977, and was the first woman to hold any of these titles. She was also campaigning for equal benefits for women as she worked on the staff of the university, she even made the attempt to convert the Academic Staff Association into a union but was denied by the courts; but many of her demands were met. She also became involved in a lot of off campus organizations in the early 1970’s. She became the director of the Kenya Red Cross Society in 1973, member of the Kenya Association of University Women, and she would eventually become the board chair of the Environment Liaison Centre to name a few. Through her work it became clear to her that most of Kenya’s problems could be attributed to environmental degradation.
In 1974, she would give birth to her third child. During this time her husband campaigned for Parliament and won on the promise of finding jobs. This caused her to connect her activism with employment options and led to the creation of Envirocare Ltd., which was a business centered around getting ordinary people to plant trees. The project failed with numerous problems mostly centered on funding but it made her important connections. During a speech to the National Council of Women of Kenya she proposed further tree planting, and on June 5th 1977 marking World Environment Day, the NCWK marched from Kenyatta International Conference Centre to Kamukunji Park, there they planted 7 trees in honor of historical Community leaders. This marked the first Green Belt known at the time as the Save the Land Harambee. She encouraged many women to plant trees by searching the forest for seeds native to the region and replanting them; she agreed to pay the women a stipend for each seedling they planted.
In 1979 after a 2 year separation, she was divorced and her husband cited that she was cruel and an adulteress. It is believed that he thought she was too strong willed for a woman and uncontrollable. In an interview after the trial she accused the judge of being incompetent and corrupt, which landed her in jail with a 6 month sentence for contempt of court, however she only served 3 days. Her husband also sent her a letter demanding that she drop his surname however she chose to add an extra “a” instead of dropping the name. Facing financial hardships she accepted a job with the Economic Commission for Africa, because of the travel it required she had to send her children to live with her ex-husband.
After the divorce she decided to run for chairperson of the National Council of Women of Kenya, however the president of Kenya wanted to limit the power of people from her Kikuyu Ethnicity, he did not support her bid and she ended up losing by 3 votes, and eventually accepted the position of vice-chairman. The following year she ran for chairman again but won the election, the organization soon found all of its funding dried up and began facing bankruptcy. The NCWK survived through her leadership and she remained chairwoman until she retired in 1987.
In 1982 she ran for Parliament which required her to quit her job at the university. She was declared ineligible after filing an appeal which she lost, she would attempt to get her job back but was denied, she was eventually evicted from her home because she lived in staff housing and was no longer on the staff. During this time she moved into a home she purchased years before and began working on the Green Belt Movement. After linking with a Norwegian Forestry Society and receiving funding from the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Women, she had the capital to refine her operation, hire staff, and continue paying the women for the planting of trees, along with the husbands and sons that were tracking the plantings.
Maathai found herself again in a hot seat when she along with her organization began to take democratic stances that conflicted with the government. She publicly denounced the government as carrying out electoral frauds to remain in power. She also engaged in a very public battle to prevent the construction of a 60 story Kenya Times Media Trust Complex in Uhuru Park. In addition to being the new home for the Kenyan News outlets, the complex was also intended to house shopping malls, auditoriums, and a large statue of the president of Kenya. During this feud she wrote letters of protest to the president’s office and anyone else that had a mailbox, including Sir John Johnson and the British High Commissioner in Nairobi. The government did not respond to her letters but attacked her in the media labeling her as a crazy woman. The government also attacked her for writing to the foreign nations, it called the Green Belt Movement a bogus organization suggesting that if she was so comfortable writing to Europeans then she should go live in Europe. The project was eventually cancelled because of international pressure largely centered on Maathai.
The movement continued to grow becoming an international force, although Maathai and her movement continued to be at odds with the Kenyan Government. In 1999 she found herself and her organization at the center of an international protest to prevent the Kenyan government from giving public land to political supporters. Her movement won the day regarding that specific incident; in 2002 after many years of trying, she finally managed to unite opposing parties to the ruling party under one roof, and won a seat on Parliament with 98% of the vote. In 2004, Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight to gain sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was later appointed Assistant Minister in the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources. She was also responsible for planting over 35 million trees, founding the Mazingira Green Party, and continuing to fight for what she believed in, until she died from complications regarding ovarian cancer in 2011. Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, we proudly stand on your Shoulders.
Between 1840 and 1863 in Mashonaland which is present day northern Zimbabwe, was born a woman who would help change the course of history in Zimbabwe. At the time of her birth Charwe Nyakasikana was considered to be a medium between the spirit and physical realms. Nyaksikana was the daughter of Nyatsimba Mutota the first ruler of the state of Monomotapa, and was given the title of Nehanda at her birth. The spirit of Nehanda is regarded as an ancestral spirit within the cultures of Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is said that Mutota had a son Matope who was the half-brother of Nehanda Nyakasikana and his successor. Mutota wanted his son to become very powerful so he ordered his son to commit royal incest with Nehanda Nyakasikana; she was considered the physical embodiment of the Nehanda. There are 500 years of stories of the Nehanda spirit being found in various mediums throughout Zimbabwe and South Africa.
In the early 1890’s European settlers began to encroach upon the areas of Mashonaland, during this time Nehanda Nyakasikana was optimistic about the character of the Europeans, she was unaware of their true intentions. She promoted building relationships with the Europeans, ordered her people to not fear them and offer them nourishment. In return for the kindness of the Shona-speaking people the Europeans enforced a “Hut Tax”, labor camps and forced the people off of their lands. In 1896 the Ndebele and Shona led a revolt which became the First Chimurenga (war of liberation) initiated by a spirit medium named Mukwati who was considered the spirit husband of Nehanda; Mukwati was later joined by Nehanda and Kaguvi a third spirit medium. These three figures were seen as essential to the rebellion, Nehanda and Kaguvi used their voices to rally the people against the whites.
In 1897 Nehanda Nyakasikana was captured by the Europeans after escaping their grasp for a year. In 1898 she was put on trial for the “murder” of Native Commissioner Pollard. According to a witness Pollrd was captured, brought to Nehanda, then he was ordered by her to be killed after she had a brief conversation with him. Nehanda and Kaguvi were sentenced to death by hanging for their roles in the killing of those who supported white supremacy. Stories suggest that during the hanging of Nehanda she used her powers to delay her hanging, they had to hang her three times before she died. Once her tobacco pouch was removed she succumbed to the hanging. Before she took her last breath she uttered the words, “My bones will rise again,” indicating that their fight will continue and the Nehanda spirit will never die. Before she was hung the European Catholic Priest tried relentlessly to convert Nehanda Nyakasikana to Catholicism but she held true to her culture and traditions, even in the face of death. She used her powers to help her people and protect her people. Once she learned the true intentions of the Europeans her attention turned to ensuring the freedom of her people at all cost. Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
According to the Turin King-List gods and goddesses rued upper and lower Kemet before the uniting of the lands by the first human ruler, Pharaoh Menes. He was the first ruler of the first dynasty of Kemet which is said to have begun between 3200 – 3000 B.C. and he ruled around sixty years. During the unification of upper and lower Kemet Menes founded the city of Men-nofre which served as the first capital of Kemet, and was located on the Nile Delta. Menes or Narmar is said to have inherited the ruler ship of Kemet from Heru the Falcon headed God. The name Narmar is associated with Menes because of the archeological findings of a seal that displays the name Narmar followed by the letters MN; MN is often thought to identify the Pharaoh Menes. The ruler of upper and lower Kemet wore a crown that was a combination of the red crown which was wore by the ruler of lower Kemet, and the white crown which was wore by the ruler of upper Kemet. Menes is identified as the first ruler to wear the Hedjet or the double crown.
Kemet was unified when Menes led his army to victory over the army of lower Kemet, and it is also stated that Menes married one of the women of importance of lower Kemet; these actions allowed Menes to become the sole ruler of the land. The City of Memphis was originally named Men-nofre which means “the home of the soul of Ptah.” Men-nofre or Memphis was located in the center of the White Kingdom on the West side of the Nile River, it was built within the flood plains of the Nile; Menes built a dam to redirect the flow of the flood waters away from the city. The locations of the city allowed it to take advantage of the fertile soil caused by the annual flooding of the Nile. A story that is widely considered a myth states that Menes was attacked by his dog while in his boat hunting, he fell into the Nile and was saved by a crocodile, and this led to the founding of the city corcodilopolis. Menes and other nobles of Kemet were buried in mastaba tombs located at Saqqara, an ancient Kemetian burial ground. Menes or Narmar was able to create a dynastic period of Kemet that would last from around 3200 BC until around 332 BC. Even tough every dynasty of Kemet was not an African led dynasty; Menes helped to create a culture that would literally give civilization, technology, mathematics, astronomy, the medical field and so much more to the world. Pharaoh Menes, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Information suggests that Abu al-Misk Kafur was born in Ethiopia around 905 AD. He is described as a dark skinned boy who was very intelligent and was also a eunuch. He was brought as a slave in 923 AD by Mohammad ibn Tughj al-Ikshid the founder of the Ikhshidid dynasty of Egypt. Kafur was said to be loyal and always completed his duties with vigor. Because of his positive attributes Kafur was given the title of the supervisor of princely education, this made him the primary educator of the children of Mohammad ibn Tughj. Kafur excelled in his role as an educator and was rewarded with a second promotion to a military officer. As an officer Kafur participated in and lead military expeditions to Syria and the Hejaz, a region on the Western boarder of Saudi Arabia known as the “Western Provence.” His intelligence would often be on display during diplomatic negotiations between the Ikhsidid ruled Egypt and the caliph of Baghdad.
Kafur became a high ranking political advisor to Mohammad ibn Tughj before becoming the ruler of Egypt after the death of Mohammad ibn Tughj in 946 AD. Even though ibn Tughj had son’s Kafur was placed in charge of the boys, therefore he held seniority over them as it pertains to ascending to the throne of Egypt. Kafur’s rise to the throne was viewed as a rags to riches story, he was viewed as a capable and steady ruler by his peers. At this time in Islamic history it was rare for an African slave to rise to the position of a ruler. It was common for African slaves to become a part of the military or even military leaders, but Kafur was one of the first to help break the mold.
He ruled Egypt under the name of the Ikhshidid until 966 AD after the death of ibn Tughj’s youngest son Ali. Kafur defended his crown against the Ghalbūn rebellion from 947 to 948. He survived a coup d’état and negative propaganda from his enemies. Kafur’s army and mystique was powerful enough to suppress the Fatmid expansion into Egypt. He maintained economic stability along with displaying his love for the arts. The poet al-Mutanabbi praised Kafur in his writings, until Kafur refused to reward the poet with a high ranking office; ai-Mutanabbi then used his poetry to discredit the ruler of Egypt. Kafur is one of our lesser known figures in history, his influence in the Islamic world is barley spoken of in the world history classrooms across the United States. Kafur, like many other African heroes have helped to change the world, but their stories are almost lost within the pages of history. He was able to become the de facto ruler of Egypt despite being made a eunuch and enslaved as a child. The Ikhshidid were invaders ruling Egypt but his ascension returned an African born ruler the throne. Abu al-Misk Kafur, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
JaJa was born in 1821 in Igboland Nigeria, information suggests that his birth name is Mbanaso Okwaraozurumbaa, and at the age of twelve he was sold to the slave trader Chief Allison of the city of Bonny, Nigeria. Jaja’s name was changed from his birth name to Jubo Jubogha by Chief Allison. He would be sold again to Chief Madu, the head of the Poubo Annie Pepple Royal House; because he was an imported slave he was regarded as a lower class slave. Jaja was the name the British gave him and it is also the name that would stick with him to longest. The slave systems of Bonny were classified as socio-political institutions where a person can be a slave and work their way to becoming the head of state; this slave system was vastly different from the chattel slave systems of North America. Jaja began working as a peddler on the trade canoes of Chief Madu, he would also show how knowledgeable he was about business and trade. Chief Madu was so impressed that he promoted Jaja from a peddler on the trade canoe to an actual successful tradesman.
Jaja was well versed in politics and trade but at this time he focused more on trading to build a solid financial foundation. With the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 palm oil became the number one item for trade in the Bonny region. Jaja was able to amass a small fortune for himself that would set him up for his next move. Chief Madu would die and was succeeded by his son Chief Alali who would die in 1863 leaving a $10,000 debt to Europe and a no leader for the people of Bonny. All of the Chiefs who were eligible to become the head of state of Bonny declined because they did not want to inherit any the debt. Jaja stepped to the plate and became the next head of the Poubo Annie Pepple Royal House in Bonny. Jaja was able to reorganize the finances of his house and clear all debt to Europe within two years; the former slave was able to create wealth within his city-state. He was doing such a wonderful job revitalizing his house that other competing houses decided to merge with his Annie Pepple Royal House. Jaja was also able to extend and increase his houses operations within Bonny and he also decreased the number of European trading contacts. Infighting ensued within the Annie Pepple Royal House, Jaja would leave the house to create his own house which became Opobo; he was now recognized as King Jaja of Opobo. Bonny and Opobo were now two independent houses but Jaja maintained control of the trade and politics in the area. Because of Jaja’s control fourteen of the eighteen houses of Bonny became houses of Opobo.
Jaja was able to monopolize the palm oil trade and began trading directly with the city of Liverpool, England; his power and influence was beginning to be seen as a threat by the Europeans. He was quickly offered a “treaty of protection” by his fellow chiefs in return for their complete sovereignty; he denied the treaty and continued his business as usual. With his power increasing steadily over time Jaja was able to directly deny trade in the area until a single British firm paid their dues. The British wanted the cessation of trade to stop by threating Jaja, but he continued with his plans. Unbeknownst to Jaja and many African people, European countries divided Africa into regions they were going to conquer which was called the “scrable for Africa”. The area of Opobo was designated for the British and they were armed with one of the most powerful Navy’s in the world. Jaja was asked to meet with the British leadership upon one of their warships, this meeting was a trap for Jaja where he was arrested, tried and convicted of treaty breaking and blacking highways of trade. He was exiled and shipped to live on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean for four years. After his time in exile he was on a ship returning to Nigeria but he would die before his return. The death of Jaja would expose the true intentions of the British which were to only monopolize and control the resources in the area. King Jaja was able to turn a life of misfortune to a life of success and abundance despite him being sold into slavery. King Jaja of Opobo, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Ahmose Nefetari was the Granddaughter Pharaoh Senakhtenre and Queen Tetisheri, and the Daughter of Pharaoh Tao the Brave and Queen Mother Ahhotep I. It is said that she was born in Thebes around the end of the seventeenth dynasty of Kemet between 1562 BC and 1570 BC when her Grandfather Senankhtenre was Pharaoh. During the reign of her father Pharaoh Tao the Brave Kemet was invaded by the Hyksos and Pharaoh Tao was killed in battle. Tao was succeeded by Pharaoh Kamose who was also killed defending Kemet against the Hyksos, Ahmose I would then ascended to the throne of Kemet, because of his young age Queen Mother Ahhotep I would become Regent of Kemet. When Ahmose I became of age he was crowned Pharaoh of Kemet, founder of the 18th Dynasty, and he would take Ahmose Nefetari as his wife. She was a queen of many titles and was highly revered throughout the history of Kemet, her many titles included but were not limited to hereditary princess, great of grace, great of praises, king’s mother, great king’s wife, god’s wife, united with the white crown, king’s daughter, king’s sister, and “Goddess of Resurrection”.
Ahmose I used his power and influence to purchase the Office of the Second Profit of Amun for his beloved Ahmose Nefetari, this position gave her control of the administration staff, workshops, the family estate, royal property and treasures; she was also bestowed with the title of Divine Adoratrix which reinforced her responsibilities and power as Queen of Kemet. Ahmose I and Ahmose Nefetari would have three sons from their union Ahmose-Ankh, Saimun and Amenhotep I, it is said that Ahmose Nefetari also had daughters Ahmose-Meritamun and Ahmose-Sitamun; it is speculation that she may be the mother of the wife of Thutmose I. After the death of Ahmose I, Amenhotep I would rise to the throne of Kemet but he was too young to rule, Ahmose Nefetari became the regent of Kemet until Amenhotep I was old enough to rule.
Ahmose Nefetari’s life and influence would be extended through the time of the rule of Thutmose I, it is recorded that she died around 1495 BC and was recorded on the stela of a wab-priest named Nefer. Her burial place was located at Dra Abu el-Naga before her body was removed from her tomb. She was depicted as a beautiful woman with very dark skin and believed that she was a descendent of the Nubian’s. She was also the first queen of Kemet to be considered the wife of the God Amun. She stood at her husband’s side as he ruled Kemet and defended his land against the Hyksos, after the death of her husband the wife of god was able to help keep her kingdom from falling apart and from falling to the Hyksos. Queen Ahmose Nefetari the “Wife of God”, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
1849 was the birth year of a great leader who would help to change the future for her people in Seirra Leone. Madame Yoko’s birth name was Soma and she was a member of the Mendeland Gbo Chiefdom of Sierra Leone. Soma would officially change her name to Yoko during her Sande or initiation ceremony within her culture; she would also become known as a one of the most graceful dancers amongst her people. Madame Yoko would marry a man named Gongoima but would eventually leave the marriage. She would next marry Gbenjei Chief of Taiama; despite Madame Yoko not barring any children for Chief Gbenjei she was named his great wife and this title gave Madame Yoko Economic power. Sadly Gbenjei would die and Madame Yoko would take a third husband Gbanya Lango a powerful Chief of Mendeland. In 1875 Gbanya was incarcerated by British Colonial officials, Madame Yoko immediately appealed to Governor Rowe for the release of her husband. Governor Rowe was impressed with Yoko’s appeal and ruled to have Gbanya flogged then released.
Because of Madame Yoko’s noble actions Gbanya made her his head wife and begin involving her within the local governmental issues. Madame Yoko managed to gain economic power, political power and become a great influence upon the Mende society. She would become the leader of the women’s secret society, as the leader she made political alliances by marrying the younger women of the society into the families of the Aristocrats and persons of influence. In 1878 Chief Gbanya died and Madame Yoko would become the Chief of Mendeland. Using all of the political power she collected she was able to negotiate with the British to help protect and defeat her rival Kamanda. With the death of Kamanda Madame Yoko officially became Queen of Senegun. One of her first acts was to expand her territories as well as helped to suppress the Hut Tax Insurrection of 1898. The Hut Tax Insurrection was the fellow Chiefs of Mendeland opposing the taxes imposed on them by the British. Madame Yoko used the British government to help gain her position of power while suppressing the influence of Western missionaries and Christianity. She was able to remain in power until her death in 1906; many sources state that Yoko committed suicide to escape the reality of old age. This is a story of a woman who used her political intelligence to secure her lands and defeat her enemies. She became the ruler of her lands and helped to change the history of Sierra Leone forever. Madame Yoko, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Information is lost about the birth and early years of Sonni Ali, but we do know he was the man who is the founder of the Songhai Empire, which he ruled for 28 years. Before Songhai became a mighty empire it was a small kingdom under the control of the Mali Empire. Around the end of the 14th century Sonni Sulaiman Mar an ancestor of Sonni Ali was able to regain control of Songhai from the Mali Empire. In 1464, Sonni Ali Ber became the ruler of the Songhai Empire. Before he became the ruler Ali was well trained in political and military science. He understood the importance of retaining the empires capital city of Gao. As the 15th ruler of Songhai, one of his first acts was to defeat the Mossi and the Dogon to help expand his empire. His next victory was the conquest of the historic city of Timbuktu. The Mali Empire reached out to Ali for help against nomadic invaders called the Tuareg, after defeating the Tuareg he also captured the city of Timbuktu.
At this point Ali held control of the cities of Gao and Timbuktu, now had his eyes set on the trading city of Jenne. With a Navy of over 400 ships Ali laid siege upon the city of Jenne for 7 years until he gained control of the city. Now Ali’s Sudanic Empire held control of the Niger River and its many natural resources, as well as control of the 3 main cities that were a part of the Trans-Saharan Trade routes. The Trans-Saharan Trade routes connected people and resources from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River. Ali controlled the Niger River area from Timbuktu to the Great Lakes region by the year 1476; he was also able to maintain peace among the collective Kingdoms and became a foremost producer of grain.
As a military commander, Ali took advantage of the landscape and constructed a mighty Cavalry which was used to defeat the nomadic Taureg. He also used his Cavalry and Navy to defeat the mighty Mossi at the Watala region, and the Fulani of Dendi. 1492 was the year that Sonni Ali died; some stories state that he drowned returning home from a victory against the Fulani, other stories state that he was poisoned by one of his commanders Mohammad Ture. We do know that the story of Sonni Ali is told from two viewpoints; traditional Songhai oral tradition and Islamic historians. The Songhai tradition is said to praises him as a great and just ruler, the builder of the mighty Songhai Empire. The Islamic tradition is said to regard him as an oppressor and who disrespects traditional Islamic customs. Ali incorporated Islamic religion, customs and culture into the traditional African culture he was raised with. I see a man who was able to build an Empire that was able to thrive under his rule for 28 years. He took a small kingdom with only one major city and expanded his kingdom into an Empire history will never forget. Emperor Sonni Ali Ber, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Queen Amina was said to be born around the year 1533, in the Zazzau province of modern day Nigeria. She was the daughter of Queen Bakwa the Habe (Ruler) of the Zazzau kingdom, after the reign of Amina’s Grandfather Habe Zazzau Nohir. She would begin learning how to rule a kingdom as a toddler attending state meetings with her grandfather learning all she could. By the time Amina was sixteen her mother became the Queen of Zazzau and she began learning the responsibilities of a queen from her mother. Many people expected Amina to become her mother’s successor. She would participate in the daily governmental affairs with the kingdom’s seasoned luminaries; in addition to honing her political skills she also mastered military science.
In 1566 Queen Bakwa died and Amina’s younger brother Karama became the new Habe of the Zazzau Kingdom. During the reign of Karama Amina was becoming a legend in the Zazzau military, she became a wealthy warrior and the leader of the Zazzau Calvary. In 1576, Habe Karama died and Amina would become the 24th Habe of the Zazzau Kingdom. During her reign one of her goals was to expand the trade routes of the Zazzau Kingdom to ensure safe trading grounds for her people. She was able to strengthen and expand the borders of the Zazzau Kingdom down to the Atlantic coast. As a military leader she would lead armies of 20,000 soldiers and more into battle against her enemies to expand the trade routes. The results of her victories would often be the founding of new cities that became a part of her kingdom. It is even said that after battles Amina would take a lover for the night from the nation she defeated. After her night with the solider she would have him killed. It is also said that she never married for fear of losing power.
Amina was able to expand her kingdom and her legend by soundly defeating her enemies and establishing new cities and territories for her people. She was able to acquire the largest amount of territory of any ruler in that area, before or after her reign. Amina ruled for 34 years, during that time she became one of history’s greatest military commanders. As she captured new territories during her campaigns she would build walls around the encampments to help protect her territories; some of the “Walls of Amina” can still be seen today in areas of Nigeria. In 1610 Amina died but she was never forgotten, she is remembered today in Nigeria as Amina, daughter of Nikatau, woman as capable as a man. The Zazzau Kingdom came to power after the fall of the Songhai Empire; although Amina was the 24th Habe of the Zazzau Kingdom she is the one who helped the kingdom reached its apex. Queen Amina of Zazzau, we proudly stand on your Shoulders.
Amina of Zazzau Quiz:
1. What was Queen Amina’s main purpose for expanding the Zazzau trade routes?
2. What was the name of the empire that ruled the area of Nigeria prior to the Zazzau Kingdom?
3. At what age did Queen Amina began learning to become a queen?
4. True or False: Queen Amina would attend state meeting with her uncle as a toddler?
5. True or False: Amina could not become the leader of the Calvary because she was a woman?
Miriam “Zenzi” Makeba was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1932 to parents Caswell and Christina makeba. During the time of her birth the country was facing an economic depression and apartheid. At the age of 18 days Miriam and her mother were imprisoned for illegally brewing beer; her mother was only trying to make sure her children had food to eat. In 1948 South African Prime Minister Daniel Malan made segregation legal, which was oppressive to the South Africans in their own land. Makeba’s father moved their family to Prospect Township which is located just outside of Johannesburg. The Township was rundown without electricity and mostly populated with poor people.
Makeba’s father died and she began working to help her mother support the family; shortly after she was sent to live with her grandmother in Riverside, Pretoria. Music was Makeba’s love from a young age, singing is what she used to escape her harsh living conditions; music was also her ticket out of poverty forever. She was first known for singing at the Methodist Training school in Pretoria. Makeba and other children her age were slated to sing for King George VI of the United Kingdom. It is said that King George VI drove by the children standing in the rain causing them to miss their chance to sing.
In 1950 at the age of seventeen Makeba gave birth to her only child, a little girl name Bongi with her first husband James Kubay. Shortly after becoming a mother Makeba was diagnosed with breast cancer and her husband left her. She survived the cancer diagnosis through treatment from her mother, and later that year her life would change forever. Het musical career began as a singer with the Cuban Brothers, and in 1954 she began singing with the Manhattan Brothers, a popular jazz group in South Africa. She also appeared on a poster for the first time in her career which helped to boost her popularity. She later began singing with an all-female group called the Skylarks and recorded over one hundred songs with the group. 1956 was the year Makeba released her song “Pata Pata” which became a hit and made her a household name.
In 1957 Makeba embarked on an 18 month tour as a solo artist throughout Africa and in 1959 she married South African singer Sonny Pillay. That same year she made a cameo in the South African anti-apartheid documentary film Come Back, Africa, which was directed by independent film maker Lionel Rogosin. The film made its debut at the Venice Film Festival in Italy and won the Critics Award. The film and the award helped Makeba not only become a star in South Africa, but she was becoming an international star. Later that year she would gain the lead role in the musical King Kong, and she made her American debut on The Steve Allen Show.
Makeba traveled to London to work with Harry Belafonte who mentored her early in her solo career. Belafonte helped Makeba enter into the United States and become successful singer. In 1960 Makeba returned to South Africa to attend her mother’s funeral, she also learned that her passport was no longer valid and she was placed in exile. Later in 1960 Makeba released her first studio album Miriam Makeba, two years later she and Harry Belafonte sang for President John Kennedy at his birthday party in Madison Square Garden. In 1963 she released her second studio album The World of Miriam Makeba which reached number eighty-six on the Billboard top 200 chart. Later in 1960 Makeba testified in front of the United Nations against apartheid in South Africa. To show that they disapproved of her actions the South African Government revoked Makeba’s citizenship from her homeland. Guinea, Belgium and Ghana quickly offered Makeba international passports along with seven other countries, where she became a citizen of those countries.
In 1966 Makeba and Harry Belafonte received a Grammy Award for their socially conscious anti-apartheid album An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. She was known for not wearing makeup and wearing her hair “natural” which would make her one of the celebrity predecessor of the “natural or the afro look.” In 1967 her song “Pata Pata” became a hit in the United States ten years after its release in South Africa. She married former Black Panther and Civil Rights leader Stokley Carmichael in 1968, this caused much controversy with Makeba’s record labels in the U.S. Record deals and tour dates were cancelled; this was her record labels showing her they disapproved of her marriage. They moved to Guinea where Makeba would live for the next fifteen years and was appointed Guinea’s delegate to the nations; she also received the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986.
In 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison for his 70th birthday and South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk reversed the ban on the National African Congress. Mandela would convince Makeba to return to using her French passport. She would later record her album Eyes on Tomorrow with Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie and Masakela. Gillespie and Makeba traveled the world promoting the album. Makeba appeared on The Cosby Show, “Olivia Comes Out of the Closet”, as well as the movie Sarafina! In 1999 Makeba was nominated for the Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 2000 her album Homeland was nominated for a Grammy Award. She also worked with Graça Machel-Mandela South Africa’s first lady, to combat HIV/AIDS, child soldiers and to advocate for the physically handicapped. In 2008 after a performance in Italy, Makeba suffered a heart attack and never recovered. In 2009 singer and songwriter Angélique Kidjo honored her with a show titled “Hommage à Miriam Makeba. From the time she was a little girl she left her mark on anyone she came into contact with. She used her platform to help fight apartheid and injustice against the people in South Africa. Miriam Makeba aka “Mama Africa,” we proudly stand on your shoulders.
In 690 BC Taharqa was born in Nubia as a member of the Royal family of the kingdom of Kush. He was the fifth ruler of the 25th Dynasty which was an African lead dynasty. Taharqa is regarded as the last pharaoh to unite the lands of Nubia; he is also regarded as the pharaoh to lose the lands to the Assyrians. Taharqa was the son of Pharaoh Piankhi and Abar the Queen of The Sudan. For twenty six years he ruled Egypt. His reign started in 668 BC after the death of his brother Shabakta. After becoming Pharaoh he spent a considerable amount of time rebuilding Egypt and venerating the God Amon. He then moved his throne to the Delta of Tanis; this move helped him keep an eye on his Asian neighbors. As the new Pharaoh, Taharqa faced a well-oiled machine in the Assyrian Army, led by Esarhaddon at the Sinai Desert, and was defeated in 671 BC. Taharqa lost control of Memphis and Lower Egypt; the Pharaoh fled to Upper Egypt with what was left of his army. In 673 BC Taharqa returned to Lower Egypt with a rebuilt army and defeated Esarhaddon, regaining control of the Delta area. Shortly after Esarhaddon’s successor faced Taharqa and defeated his army, which never again tried to regain Lower Egypt.
Taharqa, as the second to last male Pharaoh of Egypt’s 25th Dynasty helped Egypt maintain its rich African culture for nearly 1,000 years. Taharqa built a plethora of temples in Cush, along with monuments at Karnak, Thebes, and Tanis. For at least eight of his twenty six year reign as Pharaoh, Taharqa fought off the oppression of the Assyrians, and promoted the beauty of the culture of his people. Egypt flourished under his reign, he is very important because of his ability to maintain Egypt’s culture. Their culture was able to be passed on to his nephew and lastly Cleopatra. The 25th Dynasty is the last of the African ruled dynasties. Taharqa helped black Egypt survive and became a formidable foe to the Assyrians. He is also famous because of his mention in the Holy Bible; Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9. Taharqa fought hard for freedom of his people. He loved his people and their land dearly. Pharaoh Taharqa, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
A member of the Theban royal line and the son of Pharaoh Tao II, Ahmose I became the founder of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt which is often referred to as the greatest of the Egyptian dynasties. At the age of 7 Ahmose’s father was killed, and at the age of ten his brother having only ruled for three years, died of unknown causes. Afterwards, Ahmose assumed the throne and gained the title of Neb-Pehty-Re, meaning “the lord of strength is Re”. During his reign, Ahmose I was able to expel the Hyksos which was something that his father and grandfather were not able to accomplish. This success allowed for the 18th Dynasty to become an all-African ruled dynasty.
Ahmose I restored the Theban rule, Egyptian culture and politics, and reasserted Egyptian power in its former territories of Nubia and Canaan. He also reopened quarries, mines and trade routes. Massive construction projects began to take place which allowed for the building of the last pyramid built by native Egyptians. Ahmose I was a visionary, a brave nationalist and a lover of his people and his culture, his bravery opened the doors for an African centered Egypt until the fall of the 18th dynasty. Ahmose I stood for justice and freedom which he displayed by removing the foreign invaders known as the Hyksos. He showed pride and courage to free his people from oppression and inspired his people to live free and be proud to be African. Ahmose I, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
When we study history and the great people who contributed to our world, our women warriors and rulers are often overlooked. From the third century BCE to the second century CE, the Empire of Kush (Ethiopia) was ruled by a line of independent female rulers called the Candace’s or in the traditional language of Kush, Kentake. Amanerinas, Amanishakhete, Nawidemak and Maleqereabar were the four Queens, well known as the Candace’s. Different from their Egyptian counterparts, the Candace’s had absolute rule, instead of the power coming from their husbands.
During the period known as the Meroitic period, Kush thrived, and it was often thought of as a nation never ruled by a male. The word Kentake means “queen mother”, so the title was not taken lightly. If a woman was a Candace, she was able to influence the line of succession and consolidate her power. The Candace often played a role in the coronation of a new King. The Candace’s are well known for refusing Alexander’s entry into Kush, and deterring him on one of his military campaigns causing him to overtake a weaker Egypt. The strength of the Candace rulers also appeared in history as they were able to thwart the roman conquest of Kush. Using brilliant battle tactics, Amanerinas attacked Petronius during Rome’s punitive invasions of Napata. They waited until most of his troops were gone off to battle, then Amanerinas attacked the army. When Petronius returned he found his “mighty” army in a standoff with a Nation they considered weaker. The standoff lasted until Augustus Caesar and Amanerinas were able to settle on signing a peace treaty.
Over a period of 1250 years, the kingdom of Kush was amazing and certainly one of the greatest, if not the greatest, civilization of its time and all time. The title of Candace lasted for 500 years, allowing Kush to become the great civilization it was under female rule. The Candace’s set a standard for excellence and stability. A female dominated society with a female warrior class is not talked about much in the pages of history, especially a purely African civilization. The Candace’s were brave, brilliant and influential; they were an example of how a strong spirit will not be held back by sexism and male domination. Women, no matter their race or creed, can learn a lot from the Candace’s– women who successfully ruled a kingdom and inspired Egyptian culture and prestige. To all of the Candace’s, and all the female rulers of Kush, thank you for your brilliance and courage which helped create greatness in the form of a Kingdom. These women are an example of the greatness of the female spirit. To all the Candace’s, we stand on your shoulders.
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Born in 370 AD as the daughter of Theon, a mathematician and Philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria is the first woman in history to make a substantial contribution to mathematics. Throughout her childhood, Hypatia was taught mathematics by her father who worked at a distinguished museum used for higher education which also housed the Library of Alexandria. Upon finishing her formal education she left for Athens and Italy to further her studies. After completion, she returned to Alexandria and began teaching mathematics and philosophy. In 400 AD Hypatia became the leader of the Neo-Platonists school, which was the last of its kind dedicated to the Greek Philosophy of Plato. Because of Hypatia’s grand reputation of being regarded as an authority figure on Platonic Philosophy, she attracted a great number of students desiring to learn from her.
Hypatia was the first woman known to write on the subject of math, including the conic section (The intersection of a plane and a cone). She also wrote several papers on philosophy and astronomy. However, only fragments of those writings still exist today. Hypatia was said to have refined the algebraic equations of the early Egyptian mathematician Diophantus. She is given credit for the creation of the astrolabe, which is an instrument used to measure star positions relative to earth as well as to purify water.
In 415 AD Hypatia was tortured to death by an angry mob of religious zealots following the new Christian patriarch Cyril of Alexander. The assassination was thought to be linked to her association with a non-Christian prefect. Hypatia became a martyr after her death, and it was said that her death caused other scholars to leave the School in Alexandria. Her loss was also regarded as the fall of the influences of the Greek philosophers. Hypatia gave the world wisdom in the form of science, mathematics and philosophy, and she paved the way for female educators by setting a standard of greatness to follow. Hypatia, we stand on your shoulders.
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Hannibal Barca was born in 247 BCE as a son of the Empire of Carthage, which encompassed all of North Africa and Southern Spain. Hannibal was the son of the great Carthaginian military leader Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar lead the Carthaginian army in the First Punic War against Rome. Carthage suffered an embarrassing loss to the Romans which included loss of control the city of Sicily. It is widely stated that as a youth Hannibal’s father instilled within him an unrelenting hatred for Rome. When Hannibal was 17 Carthage was able to conquer Hispania which is now the modern day Iberian Peninsula. During the conquest Hamilcar drowned and Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal the Fair became the commander of the army. This victory was able to expand the Carthaginian Empire which remained a formidable opponent for Rome. Hasdrubal further strengthened the numbers of Carthage by intermarrying the Carthaginians with the conquered Iberians.
In 221 BCE Hasdrubal was murdered and Hannibal was elected to assume command of the army at the age of twenty-six. His first campaign was the capturing of the city of Salamanca in 220 BCE. Carthage’s next conquest was of Saguntum which was a close ally of Rome’s. Hannibal’s attack on Saguntum was considered to be a violation of a peace treaty signed between Hasdrubal and Rome. They demanded that Carthage expel Hannibal from the empire. As Hannibal’s fate was being decided, he continued to conquer territories expanding Carthage as far as he could. Hannibal’s brother was appointed as a military commander on the Iberian Peninsula. This move helped the forces of Carthage conquer the peninsula as a whole. Hannibal was determined to bring war to Rome; he remembered what his father told him about the Romans so he launched a military campaign. His conquest of the Iberian Peninsula was an example of his advancement towards conquering the Roman Empire.
Because Hannibal conquered the Iberian Peninsula the Roman government declared war against Carthage. This declaration was the beginning of the Second Punic War. Hannibal and his forces invaded Italy in a surprise attack on the Romans, who expected an attack at Sicily. His next move was to cross the Pyrenees Mountains. Before he could cross, his army had to defeat the tribes who dwelled along the foothills of the mountains. His army crossed the Pyrenees and reached the river Rhone. Along the way he managed to pacify the Chiefs of the Gaul’s. This strategic move helped to stall Roman advancement against Carthage. It is said that Hannibal’s army consisted of 50,000 infantry men, 9,000 cavalry and 37 war elephants. Next, Hannibal led his army across the treacherous Alps which took a toll on his army. He lost a number of his solders and some of his war elephants.
It is said that he led 38,000 soldiers into the town of Turin, Italy. The Romans became aware of the alliance between the Gaul’s and Carthage, and sent troops of 80,000 to defeat Carthage and the Gaul’s. Their plans were spoiled because Hannibal was able to defeat the forces. This victory gave the Gaul’s confidence in Hannibal so they volunteered the join his army. The Gaul’s were able to add the strength to the army that Hannibal lost crossing the Alps. His army was able to defeat the Romans a second time in a battle at the river Trebbia. In 217 BCE Hannibal and his army crossed the Apennines Mountains and conquered modern day Tuscany. During these battles he lost of one of his eyes but not his hatred for Rome. The Romans retaliated with their own attack against Carthage but was defeated once again at the Trasimene Lake. As Hannibal’s army crossed the Apennines for a second time, Roman forces attacked Iberia and cut off his access to his allies and supplies. In the city of Cannae 80,000 Roman solders attacked Hannibal’s army. Despite being outnumbered, Hannibal’s forces were able to once again gain a victory over Rome. This victory caused Roman allies to pledge their allegiance with Hannibal. The Italian city of Capua became Hannibal’s new military base. In 214 BCE the city of Syracuse became a city of Carthage. 215 BCE King Philip V of Macedonia pledged his allegiance with Carthage.
The Romans managed to secure a decisive victory against Carthage. Hannibal was not able to capture the port cities of Cumae and Puteoli. His army was not able to receive reinforcements or supplies. Carthage was losing resources and allies fast. The cities of Syracuse and Capua were regained by the Romans, further weakening Hannibal’s forces. The four year campaign in Italy was taking a toll on his solders. Hannibal sent for his brother located in Iberia to help him fight. Unfortunately Hannibal’s’ brother was defeated crossing the Alps. Rome was able to reclaim Iberia as well as again an ally in the King of Namibia. Aligned with Rome, Namibia attacked Carthage forcing Hannibal to bring his troops home to defend his land. A final battle was fought between Rome and Carthage at Zama in 202 BCE. The Carthaginian forces were weakened from the Punic War and they fell in defeat to Rome. A peace treaty was signed in 201 BCE which forced Carthage to compensate Rome for the damages its forces caused. Also the treaty forced Hannibal to resign as the leader of the Carthaginian army.
The mighty Hannibal was able to instill terror into the Roman empire. Rome was the world power at the time and Carthage was a thorn in their side. The size and arrogance of Rome caused them to underestimate the brilliance of Hannibal. He is considered one of the most brilliant military leaders in history. His crossing of the Alps was a feat many may have envisioned but never attempted. Hannibal was determined to keep his promise to his father and annihilate Rome. Though he did not reach his ultimate goal he accomplished more than many military leaders can only dream of. His Empire covered North Africa, Spain and parts of Italy. Hannibal was a true African warrior and a skilled politician. He will never be forgotten within the pages of history. Hannibal was able to show Rome the full potential of his African might. Hannibal Barca the Great, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was born October 15, 1938 in Abeokuta, Nigeria to parents Funmilayo and Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti. Fela was blessed with greatness in his genes; his father was a Protestant Preacher and School Principle, his mother was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement; she was said to be the inspiration behind Fela’s political activism. In 1958 Fela was sent to Trinity College in London, England to study medicine, but made the decision to study music instead. In College he formed his first band Koola Lobitos, a band that played a fusion of jazz and highlife. In 1963 Kuti moved back to Nigeria and reformed his band, he also trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1967 Kuti traveled to Ghana and developed Afrobeat.
Afrobeat is a complex fusion of Jazz, Funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian High Life, psychedelic rock, and traditional West African chants and rhythms. Kuti’s music also incorporated call and response, and he was also known for making songs that could last up to forty five minutes. Fela developed a reputation for being a showman, his concerts were very extravagant, and he called his stage act Underground Spiritual Game. In 1969 Fela Kuti arrived in the United States to engage in some recording sessions, while recording in Los Angeles authorities were tipped off by a sour promoter that the band was recording without a permit. The band recorded the sessions in a hurry and later released the sessions as “The ’69 Los Angeles Sessions”.
When Kuti returned to Nigeria he renamed his band the Africa ’70, he also changed his lyrics from music about love to music about political issues. He formed the Kalakuta Republic, a place where he housed a commune, a recording studio, and a home for many that connected to the band that later declared independent from the Nigerian State. Kuti became very popular through his music; he made the decision to sing in Pidgin English so his music reached a large number of people. With fame came problems, he was often raided by the ruling Government labeled as a problem.
In 1977 Kuti released the album “Zombie”, an attack on Nigerian soldiers using zombie as a metaphor for methods the military used. The album was a smash hit, and an insult to the Nigerian Government. The Government retaliated with an attack on the Kalakuta Republic, during the attack one thousand soldiers attacked the commune, Kuti was severely beaten and his mother thrown from a window causing fatal injuries. Kuti’s studio was destroyed and burned down; they lost all their music and the masters to their recordings. In response to his mother’s death Kuti delivered his mother’s coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos, Nigeria, General Olusegun Obasanjo’s residence. He wrote two songs in addition to delivering his mother’s coffin, “Coffin for head of state” and “Unknown Soldier”.
In 1978 Kuti married 27 women to mark the attack on the Kalakuta Republic, later he adopted a rotation system, keeping only 12 wives at a time. He also had two notorious concerts because of riots; one led to him being banned from Ghana, the other in Berlin the Jazz Festival where his musicians deserted him because of rumors about money. Despite setbacks Kuti pushed forward, he formed his political party which he called “Movement of the people”. Kuti put himself forward for President in Nigeria’s first elections, but was refused. He used his time to create a new band Egypt ’80, and further infuriated the Government by dropping names of ITT Corporation vice-president Moshood Abiola, and then General Olusegun Obasanjo. In 1984, Muhammad Buhari’s government, Kuti’s opponent jailed him on a charge of smuggling currency.
His case was taken up by human-rights groups, and after 20 months, he was released from prison by General Ibrahim Babangida. A condition of his release was him divorcing his remaining twelve wives. Kuti continued to release albums with Egypt ’80; he performed in Giants Stadium at the Conspiracy of Hope concert with Bono, Carlo Santana, and The Neville Brothers. In 1989, Kuti released the anti-apartheid “Beast of a nation” album, depicting Ronald Regan, Margret Thatcher and Pieter Willem Botha on the album cover. Album output slowed then stopped in the 90’s, and he and four members of his organization were arrested for murder. His battle against military corruption took its toll, it was said that he was suffering from illnesses but refused treatment. Fela died August 7, 1997; more than a million people attended his funeral. Fela left a legacy of servant hood, activism and relentlessness. He was a, musical genius, who used his talents to uplift his people, Fela Kuti we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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The third king of Dahomey, King Houegbadja ruled from 1645 to 1685, and is created with creating the legendary all-woman Fon of Dahomey. The original purpose of this all female regime was to become ‘gbeto’, or elephant hunters for the king. Around the early 1700’s during the reign of King Agadja, the women were trained to become a unit of guards for the king. They were also called The Mino, which means ‘Our Mothers’ in the native Fon language of Benin. The legend of the Mino began to grow during the battle at Savi in 1727. The women showed their impressive skills which helped the Fon people gain a victory over their opponents. Their presence increased the size and the intimidation factor of the kings Army.
Great emphasis was placed on developing the Mino warriors during the reign of King Ghezo from 1818 to 1858. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade posed a great threat to the Dahomian way of life; the king was set on protecting his people. King Ghezo increased the military budget to develop a well-trained and equipped army. By the mid 1900’s the size of the Mino army grew to 6,000 women who were both free women and prisoners of war. The women had to sacrifice marriage and parent-hood while serving in the army; ironically they were considered the wives of the king. Their training regimen was rigorous and designed to hone any aggressive behavior the women held. They learned survival skills, discipline, pain tolerance and proper execution of their enemies. Much prestige was given to the women because of their service and their bravery. They can be compared to our modern day celebrities.
The Mino were more than warriors they were also involved in the Grand Council of the Dahomey people. They were involved in talking peace with neighboring nations and the trade of palm oil with England. As the threat of the slave trade moved closer to Dahomey, war broke out between Dahomey and France in 1890. Despite the size and fierceness of the Mino women and the Dahomian Army, they were defeated by the French and their superior weaponry. This resulted in Dahomey becoming a French colony, drastically changing the life of the people. This defeat was also the point of dismemberment of the legendary Mino warriors. The last surviving Mino warrior named Mawi died in 1979.
The Mino of Dahomey was considered the women Spartans of Benin. Their skill, size, and intimidation factor gained them victories before they stepped on the battle field. They crushed the idea of women being the weaker sex. They took roles that were traditionally held for men and became legends. The Mino were more intimidating than their male counterparts. These women were the special forces of the Dahomian army. Often compared to the mythical Amazonian women, The Mino were actual historical figures. The legendary Mino Warriors of Dahomey, we stand your shoulders.
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Born in present day Algeria, Tariq Ibn Ziyad was one of the most important military figures in the history of the Iberian Peninsula. In 711 AD as a deputy under the command of Ibn Musa Nusair, Tariq led an army into Iberia as the first attack on present day Spain and Portugal. A nobleman named Julian the commander of a Visigothic outpost in Cueta, became unlikely allies with Tariq. Julian sent his daughter to the court of the King of Spain to receive an education. Instead Julian’s daughter was raped by Roderick the King. Enraged by the incident, Julian partnered with Tariq to bring down Julian’s kingdom.
In April of 711 AD, Tariq led his army to what is now known as Gibraltar. The name “Rock of Gibraltar” derived from the Arabic name Jabal al Tariq; meaning rock of Tariq. The “Straights of Gibraltar” were also named after Tariq, the Moore who conquered Spain. Tariq’s army consisted of 12,000 soldiers and they met the Army of Roderick containing 100,000 soldiers at the Battle of Guadelete.
Before battle Tariq gathered his troops and delivered one of history’s most motivating and soul stirring sermons; The Breath of Perfume. “If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you.”
Tariq’s army defeated Roderick and his army killing Roderick during battle. Julian advised Tariq to split his army into several divisions. This strategy allowed them to capture cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Toledo and Guadalajara. After Tariq and his allies captured Spain he became the Governor of Hispaniola. He would govern the land until the arrival of Musa Nusair. In 714 AD both Tariq and Musa were ordered to return to Damascus where they lived until their final days. Tariq was a man who said to have been a slave that rose to conquer Iberia. Tariq conquering Iberia was the beginning of the 700 year Moorish rule of Spain. The Moors did not just conquer Spain they revitalized Europe out of the dark ages. A historical figure we never learned about in our history lesson lives on in the essence of history. Europe owes Tariq and the Moors for giving it life once again. Tariq Ibn Ziyad, We stand on your shoulders.
J. A. Ward.
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The fifth Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty and regarded as the greatest pharaoh of the 18th dynasty; Hatshepsut reigned longer than any woman of any of the Indigenous Kemetian (Egypt) Dynasties. Born of royal lineage in 1508 BC in Ancient Kemet the daughter of Tuthmose I and Aahmes; Hatshepsut was destined to become great. With the death of her two brothers and the death of her father, Hatshepsut was favored to become Pharaoh, but Tuthmose II ascended to the throne after his father. Tuthmose II only served for three years after dying because of a skin disease. Hatshepsut became Queen Dowager; although Tuthmose III was in line to become Pharaoh he was too young.
After gaining control of the reigns in Kemet, Hatshepsut had to be smart enough to keep her control. Her Nephew Tuthmose III was becoming older and wanted to rule; Hatshepsut used propaganda ad keen political skills to remain in power. To decrease fear among her people Hatshepsut made herself Pharaoh in all statuary and relief during her twenty year reign. Dressing as a Pharaoh she even wore the beard the Pharaohs wear; she also gave the people of Kemet fifteen years of no war. Hatshepsut was widely known for her expeditions to the land of Punt in search of Ivory, animals, spices, gold and aromatic trees. With no war she was able to expand the kingdoms economic power and restored the Monuments of Kemet and Nubia.
During her reign the 18th dynasty prospered as great as any other dynasty. Hatshepsut as a female ruler boosted Kemet’s reputation as an Economic power in the ancient world. Upon dying in 1458 BC Hatshepsut’s memory was being erased by Tuthmose III, which was believed to be spurred by his grudge he held for her. Despite the destruction to the memory of the great female Pharaoh, her memory lives today because of her great reign as a Pharaoh which caused Kemet to prosper for twenty peaceful years. Hatshepsut was the blueprint for female power and dignity; she gave the female ruler prestige and respect. Pharaoh Hatshepsut we stand on your shoulders.
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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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On December 31st, 1918, Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan was born in a Falasha community in Ethiopia to an Afro-Puerto Rican mother and an Ethiopian father. He received his education in various countries such as Puerto Rico, Brazil, Cuba, and Spain. Dr. Ben-Jochannan received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico in 1938. In 1939 he received his Master’s degree from the University of Havana, Cuba in Architectural Engineering. He also received his doctoral degrees from the Universities of Havana, Cuba, and Barcelona, Spain, in Cultural Anthropology and Moorish History.
Dr. Ben-Jochannan traveled to the United States in the early 1940’s. While living in the U.S., he continued his schooling despite the fact that he was working as a draftsman to make a living. In 1945 he was appointed the chairman of the African American studies department at UNESCO; a position he held until 1970. Dr. Ben-Jochannan would later begin teaching Egyptology at Malcolm King College and City College in New York, City, in 1950. The Dr.’s next move was becoming an adjunct professor at Cornell University. He gained notoriety for his authorship of 49 books mostly on the subject of the Nile Valley civilizations. His findings showed that the Nile Valley civilizations had a significant influence on Western cultures. He also affirms that the original Jews were black Africans from Ethiopia, and white Jews took their culture. Since 1957 Dr. Ben-Jochannan has coordinated regular tours to the Nile Valley showing people the truth of the African civilizations.
Dr. Ben-Jochannan moved to Harlem, New York in 1945 and was a student of the great George G.M. James the author of Stolen Legacy. Despite his busy schedule and many accomplishments, the great doctor still found time to become a trained lawyer. He also has made several appearances on Gil Noble’s television series Like It Is. In 2002 he donated his personal library of 35,000 volumes, manuscripts and ancient scrolls to the Nation of Islam.
Dr. Ben-Jochannan is often criticized for promoting black supremacy; but I say he promotes black consciousness. He has dedicated his life to uplifting and empowering the black man across the globe. The information he has presented challenged the more commonly accepted versions of history. These historical stories have conveniently left out the contributions of the African to the civilization of mankind. Because of heroes like Dr. Ben-Jochannan generations of African people around the globe have a stronger sense of pride and history. He’s taught us that the African has made a significant contribution to mankind and civilization. Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, we stand on your shoulders.
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Stephen Bantu Biko was born in King William’s Town, Eastern Cape, South Africa, in 1946. As a child he showed interest and became active in the anti-apartheid movement. He was expelled from Lovedale High School because of his activism, he was said to have anti-establishment behavior. He would later enroll into St. Francis College in KwaZulu-Natal to further his education. After Biko graduated from St. Francis College he attended the University of Natal’s Medical School. While attending medical school, Biko became an active member of the National Union of South African Students, an organization that was dedicated to the restoration of black rights. The union was comprised of many white liberal students and Biko found that the union did not meet the needs of the black students. Biko resigned from the union in 1969 and started his own organization to serve black students, the South African Students’ Organization. Biko along with the members of the SASO provided black students and citizens with legal aid, medical care, and also helped develop a cottage industry.
The SASO became the leaders of the black consciousness movement in South Africa under the presidency of Stephen Biko. In 1972 Biko was expelled from St. Francis College; once again his activism for his people compromised his educational aspirations. In 1972 the Black Peoples Convention was co-founded by Stephen Biko and his colleagues; this organization became the new lead organization of the black consciousness movement. They were able to bring together and organize 70 different black conscious groups to help liberate black people. In 1973 as president of the Black Peoples Convention, Biko’s activism was banned by the apartheid supporting government. His banishment included restricting him to his birth city only, he could not release any writings or speeches publicly, and he could not support the Black Peoples Convention. Despite facing governmental pressure and resistance, Biko created the Zimele Trust Fund to help aid the families of political prisoners.
Between 1975 and 1976 Biko was arrested four times by the Apartheid supporting government. During his detention in 1977 Biko received a massive head injury during an interrogation session by a corrupt law enforcement officer. Medical Doctors purposely over looked the seriousness of Biko’s injuries which caused him to remain semi-conscious until his death. September 12th, 1977 Stephen Biko was found dead and naked on a prison floor in the Pretoria Central Prison. The untreated injury he received to his head caused his death. No one was charged in the death of Biko even though five former guards confessed to killing Biko 20 years later. Biko became an international symbol of freedom and courage. All black conscious groups that were associated with Biko were banned, until the United Nations Security Council imposed arms against South Africa. Biko should be remembered throughout the times for his bravery and love for his people. Even as a child he could recognize the injustices around him; but he not only recognized injustice he oppose injustice. Mr. Stephen Bantu Biko, we stand on your shoulders.
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Beatrice Kimpa Vita was born in 1684 in the Kingdom of the Kongo to a family of nobility after the death of King António I. As a young child she was said to have the gift of vision and the ability to communicate with the spirit world. She received training as an Nganga Miranda (Shaman) to help her improve her communication with the spirit world. During the early 1700’s Kimpa Vita received training as a Missionary, her Christian influence along with her uncanny abilities helped improve her abilities as well as her reputation. At the age of 20 Kimpa Vita became stricken by an illness which caused a near death experience. During her near death experience she received visions from St. Anthony of Paudua, and was said to have become reincarnated as St. Anthony. Beatrice Kimpa Vita was now said to be the physical manifestation of St. Anthony, and a force to be reckoned with. She was compelled to reunite the Kingdom of Kongo under one ruler and strengthen her people. Her mission was long overdue for a war torn nation. Kimpa Vita in her efforts to unite and strengthen the Kongo Kingdom created Antonianism; which is a mixture of Konoglese culture and history with Christianity. While moving towards uniting her Kingdom Kimpa Vita began to gain a large following which was seen as a threat to the Catholic Church.
Kimpa Vita and her following opposed the mission of the Catholic Church. She claimed to be a vessel of God completing a divine mission. In 1705 Kimpa Vita resided is Sao Salvador where she won the allegiance of Pedro Constantinho da Silva Kibenga, commander of one of King Pedro IV’s armies. Pedro Kibenga’s alliance with Kimpa Vita angered King Pedro IV and he was on a mission to eliminate Kimpa Vita. Her Antonian missionaries were sent out to gain converts to their mission, they became successful in South Soyo as well as Mbamba Lovata. Kimpa vita and her followers pushed the ideas that God, Jesus, and his saints were African and heaven was for Africans as well as whites. These ideas were contrary to the historic ideas of Christianity in the Kongo; Kimpa Vita’s ideas were revolutionary and truly empowering for her people. In 1706, Kimpa Vita was captured by King Pedro IV and charged with heresy for attempting to empower her people. She was later bound and burned at the stake. After her death the Antonian movement did not die, her followers continued to fight until they were defeated by King Pedro IV’s army in 1709. Kimpa Vita was one of Africa’s first warriors to oppose the colonization of Africa. Her ideas and beliefs helped create an all-black Christian movement designed to liberate the people of the Kongo. It is said that her ideas did not die with the movement. Her ideas are said to have become an inspiration to the “Stono Rebellion” in South Carolina as well as the Haitian Revolution. Kimpa Vita lived and died for the freedom of her people, an example we can proudly follow today. Mrs. Beatrice Kimpa Vita, we stand on your shoulders.
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