One of these days when the word HAPPINESS has no limit as you are surrounded by smiling and happy people and you end with them like friends or a family after sharing point of views and experiences about the African history of slavery and colonialism in Portugal and also from their different countries: Belgium, Netherland, United States of America, Kenya, England and Brazil.
It went beyond a simple walking tour and knowing each other and sharing our own experiences has been a blessing for all of us.
We had the honour to be visited by the TSF one of the three main Portuguese radio news stations and part of the Portuguese Global Media Group.
Find below the link to listen to the program.
I would like to thank the radio for their interest in spreading the news.
The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a resolution Tuesday addressing “structural racism” in Europe against Europeans of African descent. The resolution calls for “reparations for crimes against humanity during European colonialism.”
The document was written by the British Labour MEP Claude Moraes and was inspired by the racist behavior allegedly experienced by Italian socialist MEP Cécile Kyenge, who served as Italy’s first black government minister, according to The Guardian. The resolution was approved with 535 in favor, and 80 against with 44 abstentions.
The resolution urges member states of the EU to form and execute anti-racism strategies within their home nations, specifically focusing on “the fields of education, housing, health, criminal justice, political participation and migration,” according to the European Parliament website. It also seeks to address “racial profiling in criminal law and counter-terrorism.”
The resolution also clearly endorses action regarding reparations made to Afro-Europeans for “crimes against humanity during European colonialism.
The European Parliament’s press release about the resolution reads, “Additionally, people of African descent should be taken into account more in current funding programmes and in the next multiannual financial framework (2021-2027).”
The resolution encourages EU institutions and member states to address and rectify past injustices and crimes against humanity, perpetrated in the name of European colonialism. These historic crimes still have present day negative consequences for people of African descent, MEPs claim.
MEPs suggest carrying out reparations, such as apologising publicly and return stolen artefacts to their countries of origin.”
The European Parliament also calls for nations to declassify their colonial archives and to provide a “comprehensive perspective on colonialism and slavery” in academic curricula.
Josephine Baker was a dancer and singer who became wildly popular in France during the 1920s. She also devoted much of her life to fighting racism.
Who was Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker spent her youth in poverty before learning to dance and finding success on Broadway. In the 1920s she moved to France and soon became one of Europe’s most popular and highest-paid performers. She worked for the French Resistance during World War II, and during the 1950s and ’60s devoted herself to fighting segregation and racism in the United States. After beginning her comeback to the stage in 1973, Baker died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1975, and was buried with military honors.
Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Carrie McDonald, was a washerwoman who had given up her dreams of becoming a music-hall dancer. Her father, Eddie Carson, was a vaudeville drummer. He abandoned Carrie and Josephine shortly after her birth. Carrie remarried soon thereafter and would have several more children in the coming years.
To help support her growing family, at age eight Josephine cleaned houses and babysat for wealthy white families, often being poorly treated. She briefly returned to school two years later before running away from home at age 13 and finding work as a waitress at a club. While working there, she married a man named Willie Wells, from whom she divorced only weeks later.
Dancing in Paris
It was also around this time that Josephine first took up dancing, honing her skills both in clubs and in street performances, and by 1919 she was touring the United States with the Jones Family Band and the Dixie Steppers performing comedic skits. In 1921, Josephine married a man named Willie Baker, whose name she would keep for the rest of her life despite their divorce years later. In 1923, Baker landed a role in the musical Shuffle Along as a member of the chorus, and the comic touch that she brought to the part made her popular with audiences. Looking to parlay these early successes, Baker moved to New York City and was soon performing in Chocolate Dandies and, along with Ethel Waters, in the floor show of the Plantation Club, where again she quickly became a crowd favorite.
In 1925, at the peak of France’s obsession with American jazz and all things exotic, Baker traveled to Paris to perform in La Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. She made an immediate impression on French audiences when, with dance partner Joe Alex, she performed the Danse Sauvage, in which she wore only a feather skirt.
Baker and the Banana Skirt
However, it was the following year, at the Folies Bergère music hall, one of the most popular of the era, that Baker’s career would reach a major turning point. In a performance called La Folie du Jour, Baker danced wearing little more than a skirt made of 16 bananas. The show was wildly popular with Parisian audiences and Baker was soon among the most popular and highest-paid performers in Europe, having the admiration of cultural figures like Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and E. E. Cummings and earning herself nicknames like “Black Venus” and “Black Pearl.” She also received more than 1,000 marriage proposals.
Capitalizing on this success, Baker sang professionally for the first time in 1930, and several years later landed film roles as a singer in Zou-Zou and Princesse Tam-Tam. The money she earned from her performances soon allowed her to purchase an estate in Castelnaud-Fayrac, in the southwest of France. She named the estate Les Milandes and soon paid to move her family there from St. Louis.
Racism and the French Resistance
In 1936, riding the wave of popularity she was enjoying in France, Baker returned to the United States to perform in the Ziegfeld Follies, hoping to establish herself as a performer in her home country as well. However, she was met with a generally hostile, racist reaction and quickly returned to France, crestfallen at her mistreatment. Upon her return, Baker married French industrialist Jean Lion and obtained citizenship from the country that had embraced her as one of its own.
When World War II erupted later that year, Baker worked for the Red Cross during the occupation of France. As a member of the Free French forces, she also entertained troops in both Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps most importantly, however, Baker did work for the French Resistance, at times smuggling messages hidden in her sheet music and even in her underwear. For these efforts, at the war’s end, Baker was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour with the rosette of the Resistance, two of France’s highest military honors.
Following the war, Baker spent most of her time at Les Milandes with her family. In 1947, she married French orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, and beginning in 1950 began to adopt babies from around the world. She adopted 12 children in all, creating what she referred to as her “rainbow tribe” and her “experiment in brotherhood.” She often invited people to the estate to see these children, to demonstrate that people of different races could in fact live together harmoniously.
Return to the U.S., Civil Rights Advocate
During the 1950s, Baker frequently returned to the United States to lend her support to the Civil Rights Movement, participating in demonstrations and boycotting segregated clubs and concert venues. In 1963, Baker participated, alongside Martin Luther King Jr., in the March on Washington, and was among the many notable speakers that day. In honor of her efforts, the NAACP eventually named May 20th “Josephine Baker Day.”
After decades of rejection by her countrymen and a lifetime spent dealing with racism, in 1973, Baker performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and was greeted with a standing ovation. She was so moved by her reception that she wept openly before her audience. The show was a huge success and marked Baker’s comeback to the stage.
In April 1975, Baker performed at the Bobino Theater in Paris, in the first of a series of performances celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Paris debut. Numerous celebrities were in attendance, including Sophia Loren and Princess Grace of Monaco, who had been a dear friend to Baker for years. Just days later, on April 12, 1975, Baker died in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 68.
On the day of her funeral, more than 20,000 people lined the streets of Paris to witness the procession, and the French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Baker the first American woman in history to receive French military honors.
First black woman in the French Pantheon
Joséphine Baker, will enter the Pantheon. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has decided to pantheonize this artist, activist for freedom and equality, learned, Saturday August 21, franceinfo, confirming information from Parisian. Joséphine Baker will thus become the first black woman to rest in this republican temple, installed in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.
The ceremony will take place on November 30.
The file in favor of the interpreter of the famous song “I have two loves” had been examined for the first time at the end of June by the Elysee, still according to Le Parisien / Today in France. A petition in favor of the pantheonization of the artist, launched two years ago by Laurent Kupferman, had gathered 38,000 signatures.
In mid-20th century Canada, Viola Desmond brought nationwide attention to the African Nova Scotian community’s struggle for equal rights. An African-Canadian businesswoman, she confronted the racism that Black Nova Scotians routinely faced by refusing to sit in a segregated space in a public theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946. After her arrest and conviction on spurious charges that concealed racial discrimination behind the arrest, Desmond fought the charges with the help of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP). Now a symbol of the struggle for equal rights, Viola Desmond’s defiance in the face of injustice became a rallying cry for Black Nova Scotians and Canadians determined to end racial discrimination.
Viola Desmond was born in 1914, the daughter of a middle-class mixed-race family in Halifax. When Desmond graduated from high school she worked as a teacher in Black schools, one of very few employment avenues open to her. Black women in Nova Scotia were restricted from going to beauty salons and studying beauty culture (hair-styling, cosmetics, or wig making), so Desmond attended schools in Montréal and New York. When she obtained her diplomas she opened a salon and eventually a beauty school beside her husband Jack Desmond’s barbershop in Halifax. As an entrepreneur, she achieved financial independence and became a role model to African-Canadian women through the success of her enterprises, which included skin and hair care products for Black women that had previously been unavailable to Nova Scotians.
In November of 1946, Viola Desmond was travelling on business from Halifax to Sydney, Nova Scotia, when car trouble obliged her to stop overnight in New Glasgow. She attended a local movie theatre where she encountered segregated seating rules. When told to move to another seat, she refused to comply. She was forcibly removed from the theatre, arrested, held in jail overnight, and then charged, tried, and convicted with tax evasion. That charge, based on the one cent difference in tax between floor and balcony seats, was the only legal infraction that could be invoked to justify placing her in jail.
The physical injury, humiliation, and injustice that Desmond suffered outraged the Nova Scotian Black community. The newly established NSAACP took her case on and engaged a lawyer to contest her conviction. Although they did not succeed in overturning her conviction, the case became a rallying point for Black Nova Scotians seeking to end discrimination in their province. Viola Desmond’s act of defiance has since become iconic for Canadians, representing a turning point in the struggle for rights in Canada.
In this day in 1963, African leaders from 32 independent countries established an intergovernmental organization called the Organization of African Nations in Addis-Abeba, Ethiopia.
Some of the key aims of the OAU were to encourage political and economic integration among member states, and to eradicate colonialism and neo-colonialism from the African continent. 58 years later in 2021, the continent is far to have achieved this goal: No Unity, no real Independence.
African leaders became the torturers of their own people.
They prioritize their personal interest and sell the continent to multinational companies, lobbies and fail to prioritize the interest of their own people.
They are the snakes in our houses.
They undermined the fight.
They betrayed real pan-africans leaders and children of the continent.
Yet, at the inaugural ceremony the ex-president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah pronounced a speech full of dream and hope for the continent.
The full speech below
“Your Excellencies, Colleagues, Brothers and Friends,
At the first gathering of African Heads of State, to which I had the honour of playing host, there were representatives of eight independent States only. Today, five years later, we meet as the representatives of no less than thirty-two States, the guests of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie, the First, and the Government and people of Ethiopia. To His Imperial Majesty, I wish to express, on behalf of the Government and people of Ghana my deep appreciation for a most cordial welcome and generous hospitality.
The increase in our number in this short space of time is open testimony to the indomitable and irresistible surge of our peoples for independence. It is also a token of the revolutionary speed of world events in the latter half of this century. In the task which is before us of unifying our continent we must fall in with that pace or be left behind. The task cannot be attached in the tempo of any other age than our own. To fall behind the unprecedented momentum of actions and events in our time will be to court failure and our own undoing.
A whole continent has imposed a mandate upon us to lay the foundation of our Union at this Conference. It is our responsibility to execute this mandate by creating here and now the formula upon which the requisite superstructure may be erected.
On this continent it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference.
From the start we have been threatened with frustration where rapid change is imperative and with instability where sustained effort and ordered rule are indispensable.
No sporadic act nor pious resolution can resolve our present problems. Nothing will be of avail, except the united act of a united Africa. We
have already reached, the stage where we must unite or sink into that condition which has made Latin America the unwilling and distressed prey of imperialism after one and a half centuries of political independence.
As a continent we have emerged into independence in a different age, with imperialism grown stronger, more ruthless and experienced, and more dangerous in its international associations. Our economic advancement demands the end of colonialist and neo-colonialist domination in Africa.
But just as we understood that the shaping of our national destinies required of each of us our political independence and bent all our strength to this attainment, so we must recognise that our economic independence resides in our African union and requires the same concentration upon the political achievement.
The unity of our continent, no less than our separate independence, will be delayed if, indeed, we do not lose it, by hobnobbing with colonialism. African Unity is, above all, a political kingdom which can only be gained by political means. The social and economic development of Africa will come only within the political kingdom, not the other way around. The United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, were the political decisions of revolutionary peoples before they became mighty realities of social power and material wealth.
How, except by our united efforts, will the richest and still enslaved parts of our continent be freed from colonial occupation and become available to us for the total development of our continent? Every step in the decolonisation of our continent has brought greater resistance in those areas where colonial garrisons are available to colonialism.
This is the great design of the imperialist interests that buttress colonialism and neo-colonialism, and we would be deceiving ourselves in the most cruel way were we to regard their individual actions as separate and unrelated. When Portugal violates Senegal’s border, when Verwoed allocated one-seventh of South Africa’s budget to military and police, when France builds as part of her defence policy an interventionist force that can intervene, more especially in French-speaking Africa, when Welensky talks of Southern Rhodesia joining South Africa, it is all part of a carefully calculated pattern working towards a single end: the continued enslavement of our still dependent brothers and an onslaught upon the independence of our sovereign African States.
Do we have any other weapon against this design but our unity? Is not our unity essential to guard our own freedom as well as to win freedom for our oppressed brothers, the Freedom Fighters?
Is it not unity alone that can weld us into an effective force, capable of creating our own progress and making our valuable contribution to world peace? Which independent African State will claim that its financial structure and banking institutions are fully harnessed to its national development? Which will claim that its material resources and human energies are available for its own national aspirations? Which will disclaim a substantial measure of disappointment and disillusionment in its agricultural and urban development?
In independent Africa we are already re-experiencing the instability and frustration which existed under colonial rule. We are fast learning that political independence is not enough to rid us of the consequences of colonial rule.
The movement of the masses of the people of Africa for freedom from that kind of rule was not only a revolt against the conditions which it imposed.
Our people supported us in our fight for independence because they believed that African Governments could cure the ills of the past in a way which could never be accomplished under colonial rule. If, therefore, now that we are independent we allow the same conditions to exist that existed in colonial days, all the resentment which overthrew colonialism will be mobilised against us.
The resources are there. It is for us to marshal them in the active service of our people. Unless we do this by our concerted efforts, within the framework of our combined planning, we shall not progress at the tempo demanded by today’s events and the mood of our people. The symptoms of our troubles will grow, and the troubles themselves become chronic. It will then be too late even for Pan-African Unity to secure for us stability and tranquillity in our labours for a continent of social justice and material well-being. Unless we establish African Unity now, we who are sitting here today shall tomorrow be the victims and martyrs of neo-colonialism.
There is evidence on every side that the imperialists have not withdrawn from our affairs. There are times, as in the Congo, when their interference is manifest. But generally it is covered up under the clothing of many agencies, which meddle in our domestic affairs, to foment dissension within our borders and to create an atmosphere of tension and political instability. As long as we do not do away with the root causes of discontent, we lend aid to these neo-colonialist forces, and shall become our own executioners. We cannot ignore the teachings of history.
Our continent is probably the richest in the world for minerals and industrial and agricultural primary materials. From the Congo alone, Western firms exported copper, rubber, cotton, and other goods to the value of 2, 773 billion dollars in the ten years between 1945 and 1955, and from South Africa, Western gold mining companies have drawn a profit, in the four years, between 1947 to 1951, of 814 billion dollars.
Our continent certainly exceeds all the others in potential hydroelectric power, which some experts assess as 42 percent of the world’s total. What need is there for us to remain hewers for the industrialised areas of the world?
It is said, of course, that we have no capital, no industrial skill, no communications and no internal markets, and that we cannot even agree among ourselves how best to utilise our resources.
Yet all the stock exchanges in the world are preoccupied with Africa’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, copper and iron ores. Our capital flows out in streams to irrigate the whole system of Western economy. Fifty-two percent of the gold in Fort Knox at this moment, where the U. S. A. stores its bullion, is believed to have originated from our shores. Africa provides more than 60 percent of the world’s gold. A great deal of the uranium for nuclear power, of copper for electronics, of titanium for supersonic projectiles, of iron and steel for heavy industries, of other minerals and raw materials for lighter industries – the basic economic might of the foreign Powers – come from our continent. Experts have estimated that the Congo basin alone can produce enough food crops to satisfy the requirements of nearly half the population of the whole world.
For centuries Africa has been the milk cow of the Western world. It was our continent that helped the Western world to build up its accumulated wealth.
It is true that we are now throwing off the yoke of colonialism as fast as we can, but our success in this direction is equally matched by an intense effort on the part of imperialism to continue the exploitation of our resources by creating divisions among us.
When the colonies of the American Continent sought to free themselves from imperialism in the 18thcentury there was no threat of neo-colonialism in the sense in which we know it today. The American States were therefore free to form and fashion the unity which was best suited to their needs and to frame a constitution to hold their unity together without any form of interference from external sources. We, however, are having to grapple with outside interventions. How much more, then do we need to come together in the African unity that alone can save us from the clutches of neo-colonialism.
We have the resources. It was colonialism in the first place that prevented us from accumulating the effective capital; but we ourselves have failed to make full use of our power in independence to mobilise our resources for the most effective take-off into thorough going economic and social development. We have been too busy nursing our separate States to understand fully the basic need of our union, rooted in common purpose, common planning and common endeavour. A union that ignores these fundamental necessities will be but a shame. It is only by uniting our productive capacity and the resultant production that we can amass capital. And once we start, the momentum will increase. With capital controlled by our own banks, harnessed to our own true industrial and agricultural development, we shall make our advance. We shall accumulate machinery and establish steel works, iron foundries and factories; we shall link the various States of our continent with communications; we shall astound the world with our hydroelectric power; we shall drain marshes and swamps, clear infested areas, feed the under-nourished, and rid our people of parasites and disease. It is within the possibility of science and technology to make even the Sahara bloom into a vast field with verdant vegetation for agricultural and industrial developments. We shall harness the radio, television, giant printing presses to lift our people from the dark recesses of illiteracy.
A decade ago, these would have been visionary words, the fantasies of an idle dreamer. But this is the age in which science has transcended the limits of the material world, and technology has invaded the silences of nature. Time and space have been reduced to unimportant abstractions. Giant machines make roads, clear forests, dig dams, layout aerodromes; monster trucks and planes distribute goods; huge laboratories manufacture drugs; complicated geological surveys are made; mighty power stations are built; colossal factories erected – all at an incredible speed. The world is no longer moving through bush paths or on camels and donkeys.
We cannot afford to pace our needs, our development, our security to the gait of camels and donkeys. We cannot afford not to cut down the overgrown bush of outmoded attitudes that obstruct our path to the modern open road of the widest and earliest achievement of economic independence and the raising up of the lives of our people to the highest level.
Even for other continents lacking tile resources of Africa, this is the age that sees the end of human want. For us it is a simple matter of grasping with certainty our heritage by using the political might of unity. All we need to do is to develop with our united strength the enormous resources of our continent. A United Africa will provide a stable field of foreign investment, which will encourage as long as it does not behave inimically to our African interests. For such investment would add by its enterprises to the development of the national economy, employment and training of our people, and will be welcome to Africa. In dealing with a united Africa, investors will no longer have to weigh with concern the risks of negotiating with governments in one period which may not exist in the very next period. Instead of dealing or negotiating with so many separate States at a time they will be dealing with one united government pursuing a harmonized continental policy.
What is the alternative to this? If we falter at this stage, and let time pass for neo-colonialism to consolidate its position on this continent, what will be the fate of our people who have put their trust in us? What will be the fate of our freedom fighters? What will be the fate of other African Territories that are not yet free?
Unless we can establish great industrial complexes in Africa – which we can only do in united Africa – we must have our peasantry to the mercy of foreign cash crop markets, and face the same unrest which overthrew the colonialists? What use to the farmer is education and mechanisation, what use is even capital for development; unless we can ensure for him and a fair price and ready market? What has the peasant, worker and farmer gained from political independence, unless we can ensure for him a fair return for his labour and a higher standard of living?
Unless we can establish great industrial complexes in Africa, what have the urban worker, and all those peasants on overcrowded land gained from political independence? If they are to remain unemployed or in unskilled occupation, what will avail them the better facilities for education, technical training, energy and ambition which independence enables us to provide?
There is hardly any African State without frontier problem with its adjacent neighbours. It would be futile for me to enumerate them because they are already familiar to us all. But let me suggest to Your Excellences, that this fatal relic of colonialism will drive us to war against one another as our unplanned and uncoordinated industrial development expands, just as happened in Europe. Unless we succeed in arresting the danger through mutual understanding on fundamental issues and through African Unity, which will render existing boundaries obsolete and superfluous, we shall have fought in vain for independence. Only African Unity can heal this festering sore of boundary disputes between our various States. Your Excellencies, the remedy for these ills is ready to our hand. It stares us in the face at every customs barrier, it shouts to us from every African heart. By creating a true political union of all the independent States of Africa, we can tackle hopefully every emergency, every enemy and every complexity. This is not because we are a race of superman, but because we have emerged in the age of science and technology in which poverty, ignorance and disease are no longer the masters, but the retreating foes of mankind. We have emerged in the age of socialized planning, when production and distribution are not governed by chaos, greed and self-interest, but by social needs. Together with the rest of mankind, we have awakened from Utopian dreams to pursue practical blueprints for progress and social justice.
Above all, we have emerged at a time when a continental land mass like Africa with its population approaching three hundred million are necessary to the economic capitalization and profitability of modern productive methods and techniques. Not one of us working singly and individually can successfully attain the fullest development. Certainly, in the circumstances, it will not be possible to give adequate assistance to sister States trying, against the most difficult conditions, to improve their economic and social structures. Only a united Africa functioning under a Union Government can forcefully mobilize the material and moral resources of our separate countries and apply them efficiently and energetically to bring a rapid change in the conditions of our people.
If we do not approach the problems in Africa with a common front and a common purpose, we shall be haggling and wrangling among ourselves until we are colonized again and become the tolls of a far greater colonialism than we suffered hitherto.
Unite we must. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, big or small, we can, here and now, forge a political union based on Defence, Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy, and a common Citizenship, an African currency, an African Monetary Zone and an African Central Bank. We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent. We need a common Defence system with an African High Command to ensure the stability and security of Africa.
We have been charged with this sacred task by our own people, and we cannot betray their trust by failing them. We will be mocking the hopes of our people if we show the slightest hesitation or delay by tackling realistically this question of African Unity.
The supply of arms or other military aid to the colonial oppressors in Africa must be regarded not only as aid in the vanquishment of the freedom fighters battling for their African independence, but as an act of aggression against the whole of Africa. How can we meet this aggression except by the full weight of our united strength?
Many of us have made non-alignment an article of faith on this continent. We have no wish, and no intention of being drawn into the Cold War. But with the present weakness and insecurity of our States in the context of world politics, the search for bases and spheres of influence brings the Cold War into Africa with its danger of nuclear warfare. Africa should be declared a nuclear-free zone and freed from cold war exigencies. But we cannot make this demand mandatory unless we support it from a position of strength to be found only in our unity.
Instead, many Independent African States are involved by military pacts with the former colonial powers. The stability and security which such devices seek to establish are illusory, for the metropolitan Powers seize the opportunity to support their neo-colonialist controls by direct military involvement. We have seen how the neo-colonialists use their bases to entrench themselves and attack neighbouring independent States. Such bases are centers of tension and potential danger spots of military conflict. They threaten the security not only of the country in which they are situated but of neighbouring countries as well. How can we hope to make Africa a nuclear-free zone and independent of cold war pressure with such military involvement on our continent? Only by counter-balancing a common defence force with a common defence policy based upon our desire for an Africa untrammelled by foreign dictation or military and nuclear presence. This will require an all-embracing African High Command, especially if the military pacts with the imperialists are to be renounced. It is the only way we can break these direct links between the colonialism of the past and the neo-colonialism which disrupts us today.
We do not want nor do we visualize an African High Command in the terms of the power politics that now rule a great part of the world, but as an essential and indispensable instrument for ensuring stability and security in Africa.
We need a unified economic planning for Africa. Until the economic power of Africa is in our hands, the masses can have no real concern and no real interest for safeguarding our security, for ensuring the stability of our regimes, and for bending their strength to the fulfilment of our ends. With our united resources, energies and talents we have the means, as soon as we show the will, to transform the economic structures of our individual States from poverty to that of wealth, from, inequality to the satisfaction of popular needs. Only on a continental basis shall we be able to plan the proper utilisation of all our resources for the full development of our continent.
How else will we retain our own capital for our development? How else will we establish an internal market for our own industries? By belonging to different economic zones, how will we break down the currency and trading barriers between African States, and how will the economically stronger amongst us be able to assist the weaker and less developed States?
It is important to remember that independent financing and independent development cannot take place without an independent currency. A currency system that is backed by the resources of a foreign State is ipso facto subject to the trade and financial arrangements of that foreign country.
Because we have so many customs and currency barriers as a result of being subject to the different currency systems of foreign powers, this has served to widen the gap between us in Africa. How, for example, can related communities and families trade with, and support one another successfully, if they find themselves divided by national boundaries and currency restrictions? The only alternative open to them in these circumstances, is to use smuggled currency and enrich national and international racketeers and crooks who prey upon our financial and economic difficulties.
No independent African State today by itself has a chance to follow an independent course of economic development, and many of us who have tried to do this have been almost ruined or have had to return to the fold of the former colonial rulers. This position will not change unless we have unified policy working at the continental level. The first step towards our cohesive economy would be a unified monetary zone, with, initially, an agreed common parity for our currencies. To facilitate this arrangement, Ghana would change to a decimal system. When we find that the arrangement of a fixed common parity is working successfully, there would seem to be no reason for not instituting one common currency and a single bank of issue. With a common currency from one common bank of issue we should be able to stand erect on our own feet because such an arrangement would be fully backed by the combined national products of the States composing the union. After all, the purchasing power of money depends on productivity and the productive exploitation of the natural, human and physical resources of the nation.
While we are assuring our stability by a common defence system, and our economy is being orientated beyond foreign control by a Common currency, Monetary Zone and Central Bank of Issue, we can investigate the resources of our continent. We can begin to ascertain whether in reality we are the richest, and not, as we have been taught to believe, the poorest among the continents. We can determine whether we possess the largest potential in hydroelectric power, and whether we can harness it and other sources of energy to our own industries. We can proceed to plan our industrialization on a continental scale, and to build up a common market for nearly three hundred million people.
Common Continental Planning for the Industrial and Agricultural development of Africa is a vital necessity.
So many blessings must flow from our unity; so many disasters must follow on our continued disunity, that our failure to unite today will not be attributed by posterity only to faulty reasoning and lack of courage, but to our capitulation before the forces of imperialism.
The hour of history which has brought us to this assembly is a revolutionary hour. It is the hour of decision. For the first time, the economic imperialism which menaces us is itself challenged by the irresistible will of our people.
The masses of the people of Africa are crying for unity. The people of Africa call for a breaking down of boundaries that keep them apart. They demand an end to the border disputes between sister African States – disputes that arise out of the artificial barriers that divided us. It was colonialism’s purpose that left us with our border irredentism that rejected our ethnic and cultural fusion.
Our people call for unity so that they may not lose their patrimony in the perpetual service of neo-colonialism. In their fervent push for unity, they understand that only its realization will give full meaning to their freedom and our African independence.
It is this popular determination that must move us on to a Union of Independent African States. In delay lies danger to our well-being, to tour very existence as free States. It has been suggested that our approach of unity should be gradual, that it should go piece-meal. This point of view conceives of Africa as a static entity with “frozen” problems which can be eliminated one by one and when all have been cleared then we can come together and say: “Now all is well. Let us unite”. This view takes no account of the impact of external pressures. Nor does it take cognizance of the danger that delay can deepen our isolations and exclusiveness; that it can enlarge our differences and set us drifting further and further apart into the net of neo-colonialism, so that our union will become nothing but a fading hope, and the great design of Africa’s full redemption will be lost, perhaps, forever.
The view is also expressed that our difficulties could be resolved simply by a greater collaboration through cooperative association in our inter-territorial relationships. This way of looking at our problems denies a proper conception of their inter-relationship and mutuality. It denies faith in a future for African advancement, in African independence. It betrays a sense of solution only in continued reliance upon external sources through bilateral agreements for economic and other forms of aid.
The fact is that although we have been cooperating and associating with one another in various fields of common endeavour even before colonial times, this has not given us the continental identity and the political and economic force which would help us to deal effectively with the complicated problems confronting us in Africa today. As far as foreign aid is concerned, a United Africa would be in a more favourable position to attract assistance from foreign sources. There is the far more compelling advantage which this arrangement offers, in that aid will come from anywhere to Africa because our bargaining power would become infinitely greater. We shall no longer be dependent upon aid from restricted sources. We shall have the world to choose from.
What are we looking for in Africa? Are we looking for Charters, conceived in the light of the United Nations example? A type of United Nations organisation whose decisions are framed on the basis of resolutions that in our experience have sometimes been ignored by member States? Where groupings are formed and pressures develop in accordance with the interest of the group concerned? Or is it intended that Africa should be turned into a lose organization of States on the model of the organization of the American States, in which the weaker States within it can be at the mercy of the stronger or more powerful ones politically or economically or at the mercy of some powerful outside nations or group of nations? Is this the kind of association we want for ourselves in the United Africa we all speak of with such feeling and emotion?
Your Excellences, permit me to ask: is this the kind of framework we desire for our United Africa? And arrangement which in future could permit Ghana or Nigeria or the Sudan, or Liberia, or Egypt or Ethiopia for example, to use pressure, which either superior economic or political influence gives, to dictate the flow and the direction of trade from, say, Burundi or Togo or Nyasaland to Mozambique?
We all want a United Africa, united not only in our concept of what unity can connote, but united in our common desire to move forward together and dealing with all the problems that can best be solved only on a continental basis.
When the first Congress of the United States met many years ago at Philadelphia, one of the delegates sounded the first chore of unity by declaring that they had met in a “state of nature” in other words, they were not at Philadelphia as Virginians, or Pennsylvanians, but simply as Americans. This reference to themselves as Americans was in those days a new and strange experience. May I dare to assert equally on this occasion, Your Excellences that we meet here today not as Ghanaians, Guineans, Egyptians, Algerians, Moroccans, Malians, Liberians, Congolese or Nigerians but as Africans. Africans united in our resolve to remain here until we have agreed on the basic principles of a new compact of unity among ourselves which guarantees for us and future a new arrangement of continental government.
If we succeed in establishing a new set of principles as the basis of a new Charter or Statute for the establishment of a Continental Unity of Africa and the creation of social and political progress for our people then, in my view, this Conference should mark the end of our various groupings and regional blocs. But if we fail and let this grand and historic opportunity slip by then we should give way to greater dissension and division among us for which the people of Africa will never forgive us. And the popular and progressive forces and movements within Africa will condemn us. I am sure therefore that we should not fail them.
I have spoken at some length, Your Excellences, because it is necessary for us all to explain not only to one another present here but also to our people who have entrusted to us the fate and destiny of Africa. We must therefore not leave this place until we have set up effective machinery for achieving African Unity. To this end, I now propose for your consideration the following:
As a first step, Your Excellences, a Declaration of Principles uniting and binding us together and to which we must all faithful and loyally adhere, and laying the foundations of unity should be set down. And there should also be a formal declaration that all the Independent African States here and now agree to the establishment of a Union of African States.
As a second and urgent step for the realization of the unification of Africa, an All-Africa Committee of Foreign Ministers be set up now, and that before we rise from this Conference a day should be fixed for them to meet.
This Committee should establish on behalf of the Heads of our Governments, a permanent body of officials and experts to work out a machinery for the Union Government of Africa. This body of officials and experts should be made up of two of the brains from each Independent African State. The various Charters of the existing groupings and other relevant document could also be submitted to the officials and experts. A praesidium consisting of the Head of the Governments of the Independent African States should be called upon to meet and adopt a Constitution and others recommendations that will launch the Union Government of Africa.
We must also decide on allocation where this body of officials and experts will work as the new Headquarters or Capital of our Union Government. Some central place in Africa might be the fairest suggestion either at Bangui in the Central African Republic or Leopoldville in Congo. My colleagues may have other proposals. The Committee of Foreign Ministers, officials and experts should be empowered to establish:
1. A Commission to frame a Constitution for a Union Government of African States; 2. A Commission to work out a continent-wide plan for a unified or common economic and industrial programme for Africa; this plan should include proposals for setting up: • A Common Market for Africa • An African currency • African Monetary Zone • African Central Bank, and • Continental Communications System; 3. A Commission to draw up details for a Common Foreign Policy and Diplomacy; 4. A Commission to produce plans for a Common System of Defence; 5. A Commission to make proposals for Common African Citizenship. These Commissions will report to the Committee of Foreign Ministers who should, in turn, submit within six months of this Conference their recommendations to the Praesidium. The Praesidium meeting in Conference at the Union Headquarters will consider and approve the recommendations of the Committee of Foreign Ministers.
In order to provide funds immediately for the work of the permanent officials and experts of the Headquarters of the Union, I suggest that a special Committed be set up now to work a budget for this.
Your Excellences, with these steps, I submit, we shall be irrevocably committed to the road which will bring us to a Union Government of Africa. Only a united Africa with central political direction can successfully give effective material and moral support to our Freedom Fighters in Southern Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, South-West Africa, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, Basutoland, Portuguese Guinea, etc., and of course South Africa.”
“Nina Simone, you are idolized, even loved, by millions now. But what happened, Miss Simone? Maya Angelou
She was one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century, an icon of American music. She was the consummate musical storyteller, a griot as she would come to learn, who used her remarkable talent to create a legacy of liberation, empowerment, passion, and love through a magnificent body of works. She earned the moniker ‘High Priestess of Soul’ for she could weave a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment. She was who the world would come to know as Nina Simone.
When Nina Simone died on April 21, 2003, she left a timeless treasure trove of musical magic spanning over four decades from her first hit, the 1959 Top 10 classic “I Loves You Porgy,” to “A Single Woman,” the title cut from her one and only 1993 Elektra album. While thirty-three years separate those recordings, the element of honest emotion is the glue that binds the two together – it is that approach to every piece of work that became Nina’s uncompromising musical trademark.
By the end of her life, Nina was enjoying an unprecedented degree of recognition. Her music was enjoyed by the masses due to the CD revolution, discovery on the Internet, and exposure through movies and television. Nina had sold over one million CDs in the last decade of her life, making her a global catalog best-seller.
No one website can fully explore the many nuances and flavors that made up the more than 40 original albums in the Nina Simone library. This site contains most of Nina’s finest works and press mentions. However, we might not have had the chance to witness the breathtaking range of material Nina could cover if she hadn’t taken the path she did.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933,
Nina’s prodigious talent as a musician was evident early on when she started playing piano by ear at the age of three. Her mother, a Methodist minister, and her father, a handyman and preacher himself, couldn’t ignore young Eunice’s God-given gift of music.
Raised in the church on the straight and narrow, her parents taught her right from wrong, to carry herself with dignity, and to work hard. She played piano – but didn’t sing – in her mother’s church, displaying remarkable talent early in her life.
Able to play virtually anything by ear, she was soon studying classical music with an Englishwoman named Muriel Mazzanovich, who had moved to the small southern town. It was from these humble roots that Eunice developed a lifelong love of Johann Sebastian Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert.
After graduating valedictorian of her high school class, the community raised money for a scholarship for Eunice to study at Julliard in New York City before applying to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Her family had already moved to the City Of Brotherly Love, but Eunice’s hopes for a career as a pioneering African American classical pianist were dashed when the school denied her admission.
To the end, she herself would claim that racism was the reason she did not attend. While her original dream was unfulfilled, Eunice ended up with an incredible worldwide career as Nina Simone – almost by default.
Sharpeville massacre, (March 21, 1960), incident in the black township of Sharpeville, near Vereeniging, South Africa, in which police fired on a crowd of blacks, killing or wounding some 250 of them. It was one of the first and most violent demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa.The Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), a splinter group of the African National Congress (ANC) created in 1959, organized a countrywide demonstration for March 21, 1960, for the abolition of South Africa’s pass laws. Participants were instructed to surrender their reference books (passes) and invite arrest. Some 20,000 blacks gathered near a police station at Sharpeville, located about 30 miles (50 km) south of Johannesburg. After some demonstrators, according to police, began stoning police officers and their armoured cars, the officers opened fire on them with submachine guns. About 69 blacks were killed and more than 180 wounded, some 50 women and children being among the victims. A state of emergency was declared in South Africa, more than 11,000 people were detained, and the PAC and ANC were outlawed. Reports of the incident helped focus international criticism on South Africa’s apartheid policy. Following the dismantling of apartheid, South African President Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site at which, on December 10, 1996, he signed into law the country’s new constitution.The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March.In 1979, the General Assembly adopted a Programme of activities to be undertaken during the second half of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (A/RES/34/24). On that occasion, the General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination, beginning on 21 March, would be organized annually in all States.
Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and an international framework for fighting racism has been built, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification, yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings.
Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world. Racism and intolerance can take various forms — from denying individuals the basic principles of equality to fuelling ethnic hatred that may lead to genocide — all of which can destroy lives and fracture communities.
Redoshi, also known as Sally Smith, was the second to last living, African-born survivor of North American slavery, and the only female survivor of the transatlantic slave trade known to have been recorded on film.
Born on the coast of West Africa in what is present day Benin, Redoshi was one of about 110 West African children and adults who were human cargo of the schooner Clotilda, the last slave ship to reach the United States.
In July of 1860, the Clotilda docked in Mobile Bay, Alabama, even though federal law had banned the importation of slaves to the United States since 1808. Redoshi outlived all other known Clotilda survivors with the exception of Matilda McCrear, who died in January 1940.
Another Clotilda survivor, Kossola/Cudjo Lewis, died in 1935. Very little is known about Redoshi’s early life, although a newspaper article suggested that she was the daughter-in-law of a chief and that her father upheld the law in their community (Montgomery Advertiser, 31 January 1932).
Descriptions of Redoshi’s kidnapping by Dahomean slave traders indicate that, similar to many of her fellow Clotilda survivors, she was a member of a Yoruba community that was raided on or around February 16, 1860.
King Glele of Dahomey led the raid on Redoshi’s town. Glele’s father, King Ghezo, had signed a treaty with Great Britain in 1852 that formally abolished the export of slaves overseas. However, a decline in the price of palm oil and resurgence of the Cuban slave trade meant that an overt trade in slaves soon resumed within the West African kingdom.
When Ghezo died in 1858, Glele expanded his father’s slave raiding campaigns. Redoshi claimed that the Dahomean warriors who kidnapped her wet her town’s gunpowder to ensure that the community could not defend itself before launching a surprise night attack. The survivors of the raid were then marched to the slave port of Ouidah. Redoshi suggested that this journey took four days. The captives were then locked for three weeks in a slave pen, or barracoon, alongside other raid survivors and kidnap victims before being selected for sale to the U.S. for $100 each.
The voyage from West Africa to Mobile lasted for around forty-five days. Redoshi stated that at least two people died from sickness on board the ship and thrown out to sea, consequently. Upon arrival in Mobile the Clotilda survivors were smuggled upriver in an effort to conceal their illegal purchase and journey from U.S. authorities. Although the schooner was burned and sunk, remains of the Clotilda were finally identified at the bottom of the Mobile River in May 2019.
Most of the Clotilda survivors stayed in Mobile because they were enslaved to the Meaher family. The groups of men and women managed to reunite after the Civil War. They purchased land from their former owners and created their own community, known as African Town, the first U.S. town to be run continuously by black people and the only one founded by Africans. However, Redoshi, her husband, Yawith, and at least two other Africans were sent to Bank of Selma founder Washington Smith’s plantation in Bogue Chitto, Dallas County. According to Amelia Boynton Robinson, a community leader and voting rights activist who interviewed Redoshi in the 1930s, Redoshi was a twelve-year-old girl when she was sold and married to Yawith, a much older man from a different ethnic group.
When Redoshi arrived at the Smith plantation, they renamed her Sally or Sallie and her husband, Yawith, became known as William or Billy Smith. The couple was enslaved to Washington Smith for the next five years and worked in both his house and cotton fields.
After the Civil War formally granted them their freedom, Redoshi and Yawith continued to labor as sharecroppers on the Smith plantation. Redoshi and Yawith found that the amount of cotton that they produced was miscounted when they tried to sell it. This was a common practice by plantation owners and merchants in the Black Belt that was designed to keep black farmers in perpetual debt to white landlords. In response, Yawith developed a system for recording independently the amount of cotton that he produced.
Together, Redoshi and Yawith had a daughter to whom they gave a West African name, which was recorded variously on census and marriage data as Leasy, Luth A., Lethe, Lethia, Letia, and Lethy. Boynton Robinson also recalled that Redoshi had several great-grandchildren and that some became public school teachers and ministers.
Redoshi and other Clotilda captives were among the few African-born slaves who lived through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. More notably for a survivor of the transatlantic slave trade, Redoshi witnessed the activist beginnings of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement through her associations with Amelia Boynton Robinson and Bogue Chitto. Redoshi was buried on the plantation where she had been enslaved. Records evidence that Redoshi remained committed to her West African spiritual beliefs and language throughout her life.
In the last year of her life, Redoshi appeared in the U.S. Department of Agriculture film The Negro Farmer: Extension Work for Better Farming and Better Living (1938). This recording of Redoshi is the only known footage of a female African born transatlantic slave trade survivor. Although she is shown talking on film, tragically her voice is silenced in the brief clip, over which a white narrator intones.
There has been little acknowledgment of Portugal’s role in the transatlantic slave trade – until now.
As a wet winter gives way to spring, Lisbon’s Campo das Cebolas square is empty and quiet.
From the nearby ferry terminal, commuters from neighbourhoods on the other side of the Tagus river go back and forth. Between the empty, pedestrianised square and the river bank runs the Infante Dom Henrique highway, named after the discoverer, Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460). A few hundred metres away, a soaring, empty cruise ship, the Vasco da Gama, evoking the great 15th-century explorer, is moored to the dock.
References to Portugal’s epic, seafaring past like these litter this city – there is even a Vasco da Gama shopping mall. But until now, there has never been a single explicit reference, memorial or monument in Portugal’s public space to its pioneering role in the transatlantic slave trade, nor any acknowledgement of the millions of lives that were stolen between the 15th and 19th centuries.
This is the task that has brought Kiluanji Kia Henda, Angola’s most successful contemporary artist, here from his hometown of Luanda. The forthcoming Memorial-Homage to the Victims of Slavery that he has designed will be the first memorial of its kind in Portugal and, he says, “the greatest challenge I’ve faced as an artist”.
The installation, due to be unveiled in Lisbon this spring, features a field of three-metre-high sugar canes, forged in aluminium, alluding to the cold economic rationale that drove the transatlantic-slave trade. It is also a challenge for Portugal. For a country that both established the transatlantic slave trade and was one of the last to continue reaping its profits (it was still using de-facto slave labour in its colonies in the 1960s), Portugal has been slow to reckon with its past.
The national school curriculum, museums and tourism infrastructure all amount to a grandiose rendering of the country’s 15th to 17th-century “discoveries” in Africa, Asia and the Americas, and a selective recollection of its 20th-century colonial exploits in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé & Principe, Goa, Macau and East Timor.
There are monuments and statues up and down the country dedicated to navigators, missionary priests responsible for the conversion of Africans and Indigenous people to Catholicism, or soldiers who fought against African independence in the colonial wars. Meanwhile, it is often said that “Portugal is not a racist country”, despite enormous structural inequalities and decades of documented discrimination. “There has been a silencing here of centuries of violence and trauma,” says Kia Henda.
However, a burgeoning movement here – the Movimento Negro – along with global calls to “decolonise history”, have begun to challenge the way Portugal views itself, from past to present. The Movimento Negro has been around in various forms in Portugal since the start of the last century; the latest resurgence of it is now in its second generation. Most of the sizeable Black population in Portugal today are immigrants and their descendants from the former Portuguese African colonies, who emigrated here from the 1960s and hold in their memories and histories a very different version of Portugal’s past. Kia Henda’s memorial is seen as part of this process; erupting on the national landscape and expected to stay.
Significantly, the memorial is not an initiative of the Portuguese government, but came about in 2017, when the Djass Afro-descendent Association, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded by the Portuguese MP, Beatriz Gomes Dias, won a popular vote for public funds.
Abolitionist and slave-narrative author, he was born in the commercial center of Djougou, West Africa, inland from the Bight of Benin in what would later be the republic of Benin. He was a younger son of a Muslim merchant from Borgu and his wife, who was from Katsina, the Hausa city in northern Nigeria— then known as the Sokoto Caliphate; his parents’ names are now unknown. His home town, Djougou, was located on one of the most important caravan routes in West Africa in the nineteenth century, connecting Asante, the indigenous African state that controlled much of the territory that would become Ghana, and the Sokoto Caliphate. After a childhood in which he attended a Koranic school and learned a craft from his uncle, who was also a merchant and a Muslim scholar, Baquaqua followed his brother to Dagomba, a province of Asante. There he was captured in war in the early 1840s, but he was released when his ransom was paid. However, back home in Djougou, he was again taken captive, apparently kidnapped, in 1845, at about age twenty or twenty-one. Baquaqua was then sold south to Dahomey and eventually to a Portuguese ship trading at Ouidah and Popo and taken to Brazil.
In Brazil, Baquaqua was initially sold to a baker in Pernambuco. When he refused to comply, he was sent south to Rio de Janeiro and sold to a ship’s captain. Baquaqua served as the cabin steward on the Lembrança, a ship that made two trips to southern Brazil before sailing from Rio to deliver a consignment of coffee in New York. There, Baquaqua became the object of a legal dispute between local abolitionists who helped him jump ship, and his Brazilian master who attempted to recover him. When two judges refused to free Baquaqua, his abolitionist supporters helped him to escape from jail and make his way to Boston via the Underground Railroad. From Boston he was sent to Haiti to avoid being arrested again.
In the free black republic of Haiti, Baquaqua once again faced the difficulty of adapting to another culture and language. The Reverend William Judd and his wife Nancy of the American Baptist Free Mission Society soon took him into their home. There, he worked as their cook and learned English, becoming proficient enough to read the Bible and write letters. He also converted to Christianity and was baptized in 1848.
After two years in Haiti, Baquaqua was in danger of being drafted into the Haitian army. He returned instead to New York to continue his education, hoping to work as a missionary in Africa. With the support of abolitionists, he secured funding and studied for three years at New York Central College in upstate New York. After leaving school in 1853, he traveled throughout New York and Pennsylvania, fundraising for the Free Baptist missions. Baquaqua drew on his own experiences as a slave to become an effective abolitionist speaker in spite of his heavily accented English.
Racist attacks and threats prompted Baquaqua to move to Chatham, Ontario, Canada in 1854. He crossed the border to nearby Detroit in order to arrange publication of his biography under his own copyright. Shortly thereafter, Baquaqua left for Liverpool, England, planning to return to West Africa. However, he encountered many difficulties in securing funding and was still in England as of 1857, the last date in which he appears in the historical record. How and where he died, and whether he married and had a family are unknown today.
Although he may never have reached Africa, Baquaqua’s biography ” Biography of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua” survives to document his resistance to enslavement, as well as his unique journey from bondage in Africa and Brazil to freedom in New York and England. His biography is valuable as one of the most detailed and fully authenticated accounts of Africa and the Atlantic crossing on a slave ship. Baquaqua is also notable for making the cultural transition from being a Dendi-speaking Muslim, who had studied at a Qur’anic school and knew some Arabic, to a Portuguese-speaking slave in Brazil, then to a free Baptist convert in Creole-speaking Haiti, and finally to an English-speaking abolitionist in North America and England.
LINES SPOKEN BY MAHOMMAH.
You can’t expect one of my race, With woolly hair and sable face, And scarce a ray of knowledge To interest his friends at college. But, I will do the best I can, To prove I mean to be a man. ‘Tis true, my limbs have fetters worn, ‘Tis true my back the scourge has borne, But ’tis not true that tyrant’s power E’er made my heart within me cower. No ! that was free as when I played, Beneath my native palm trees’ shade.
Oh! Africa, my native land, When shall I see thee, meekly stand, Beneath the banner of my God, And governed by His Holy word?
When shall I see the oppressor’s rod Plucked from his hand, my gracious God? Oh! when shall I my brethren see, Enjoy the sweets of LIBERTY?
Friends of the crushed and bleeding slave, Ask God to pity! God to save!! For all the help of man is vain, Since man for man has forged the chain. Oh Righteous Father, thou art just, To thee I look, to thee I trust; Oh may thy gracious spirit bear The Afric’s groan, the Afric’s prayer, Up to thy spotless throne above, Where all is joy and peace and love, For Jesus’ sake, Oh! save the oppressed, And let their souls in heaven find rest.
On July 2, 1839, the SpanishschoonerAmistad was sailing from Havana to Puerto Príncipe, Cuba, when the ship’s unwilling passengers, 53 slavesrecently abducted from Africa, revolted. Led by Joseph Cinqué, they killed the captain and the cook but spared the life of a Spanish navigator, so that he could sail them home to Sierra Leone. The navigator managed instead to sail the Amistad generally northward. Two months later the U.S. Navy seized the ship off Long Island, New York, and towed it into New London, Connecticut. The mutineers were held in a jail in New Haven, Connecticut, a state in which slavery was legal.
The Spanish embassy’s demand for the return of the Africans to Cuba led to an 1840 trial in a Hartford, Connecticut, federal court. New Englandabolitionist Lewis Tappan stirred public sympathy for the African captives, while the U.S. government took the proslavery side. U.S. President Martin Van Buren ordered a Navy ship sent to Connecticut to return the Africans to Cuba immediately after the trial. A candidate for reelection that year, he anticipated a ruling against the defendants and hoped to gain proslavery votes by removing the Africans before abolitionists could appeal to a higher court.
Prosecutors argued that, as slaves, the mutineers were subject to the laws governing conduct between slaves and their masters. But trial testimony determined that while slavery was legal in Cuba, importation of slaves from Africa was not. Therefore, the judge ruled, rather than being merchandise, the Africans were victims of kidnapping and had the right to escape their captors in any way they could. When the U.S. government appealed the case before the U.S. Supreme Court the next year, congressman and former president John Quincy Adams argued eloquently for the Amistad rebels. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court, and private and missionary society donations helped the 35 surviving Africans secure passage home. They arrived in Sierra Leone in January 1842, along with five missionaries and teachers who intended to found a Christian mission.
Spain continued to insist that the United States pay indemnification for the Cuban vessel. The U.S. Congress intermittently debated the Amistad case, without resolution, for more than two decades, until the American Civil Warbegan in 1861.