In 2020 a Memorial will be erected in Lisbon in honor of the victims of the slave trade, an initiative of
Djass – Association of Afro-descendants that was one of the winning projects of the 2017/2018 edition of the Participative Budget of Lisbon.
The Memorial will be chosen by voting in public sessions and will take place in December and January in various locations in the Lisbon region.
There are three voting proposals designed by three great contemporary artists:
– Grada Kilomba–
– Jaime Lauriano
– Kiluanji Kia Henda.
We would like to introduce you the project of Kiluanji Kia Henda.
“Plantation – Prosperity and Nightmare” is intended to address the memory of slavery as the presence of an absence, as we do not believe it is possible to directly and realistically represent such transnational trauma.
We then turn to the raw material, sugar cane, the white gold that was at the origin of the compulsory slave trade.
The project is a representation of a sugar cane plantation consisting of 540 feet of black aluminum sugar cane, each 3 meters high and 8 centimeters in diameter. Between the cane feet there are regular breaks, inviting for walking and reflection. An experience is presented between the sacred, the contemplative, and the everyday banal. As if sugarcane became the image of urban repetition itself. Until a small amphitheater appears in the middle of the plantation, as a meeting point. Maybe a quilombo of runaway slaves. Maybe just a void, a gap of intervals, where something new can come up.
This is expected to be a socializing point for the most varied cultural events, from music to small street shows, from academic dialogues to theatrical readings. The historical link between monoculture and slavery is narrated, in a monument that deals with the relationship between excess wealth and the inhuman exploitation of life. The project aims to build a place of memory, open to reflection. It is sought that in the center of the anguish the avenues of encounter are open, pointing to new creations and new possibilities for coexistence.
Over a decade after his death, vindication has come to Fela Kuti, Africa’s musical genius. AfroBeat, his gift to the world, is now an international staple on his own uncompromising terms, social content intact.
Throughout his life, Fela contended that AfroBeat was a modern form of danceable, African classical music with an urgent message for the planet’s denizens. Created out of a cross-breeding of Funk, Jazz, Salsa and Calypso with Juju, Highlife and African percussive patterns, it was to him a political weapon.
Fela refused to bow to the music industry’s preference for 3-minute tracks, nor did he buckle under entreaties to moderate his overwhelmingly political lyrics. He went down in 1997 still railing against the consumerist gimmicks that taint pop music, with the aim, he felt, of promoting and imposing homogeneous aesthetic standards worldwide, thereby inducing passivity.
The fact that AfroBeat is today globally winning hearts in its original form – lengthy, ably crafted, earthy compositions laced with explicitly political lyrics – suggests that Fela’s purgatory on earth may have served to awaken a sensibility in people to appreciate authenticity and substance.
Fela’s rise in the early 1970s paralleled the downfall of the hopes Africans pinned on their newly won Independence. As a whole, Africans were again living in incarcerated societies; Nigeria, he said, was a “prison of peoples”. Africa had fallen mostly into the hands of uncaring thieves and scoundrels who were unmindful of wrecking society in order to sustain insolent lifestyles. To reclaim Africa’s stolen dignity became Fela’s obsession.
As many of these new countries turned into terror-drenched, neo-colonial states, Fela summoned his people to return to their senses and principles of old: self-pride, self-reliance, and decency rooted in traditional cultural norms. To achieve these, he prescribed forsaking the corrupting ways of Western society, its capitalist greed, its Communist despotism, the straitjacket moral conventions of Judeo-Christianity and Islam. He saw imperialism, colonialism and racism as scourges to be universally eradicated, and the structures that sustain them dismantled, before humankind could advance.
Fela’s seismic music infused freshness into the reality of rotten politics. In song after song, he summoned revolt, not solely against erstwhile tyrants and exploiters (“Zombie”, “Army Arrangement”, “Coffin for Head of State”) but against self-damaging prejudices and assimilationist alienation (“Yellow Fever”, “Colonial Mentality”, “Teacher, Don’t Teach Me No Nonsense”, “Gentleman”, “Lady”). He chastised the West (“International Thief
Thief”, “Underground System”) and the local elites that fronted for multinationals (“Beasts of No Nation”, “Government of Crooks”).
Ordinary Africans embraced songs such as “Shakara”, “Sorrow Tears and Blood”, “Upside Down” and “Why Black Man Dey Suffer” for accurately mirroring their frustrations. They welcomed the graphic words of “Expensive Shit” or “Who No Know Go Know” as down-to-earth explanations for their lowly condition. More importantly, Fela’s music was a clarion proclamation that it was possible to reverse their lot (“Water No Get Enemy”, “Africa Center of the World”).
Groomed and pampered in youth by a pre-independence middle class but morphed by Black Power and pan-Africanist politics into a revolutionary ghetto hero, Fela voiced relentless condemnation of the so-called New Africa, attracting to himself a deluge of repression. His personal life became a harrowing tale of police beatings, victimization by the court system, near-death encounters with the Nigerian military.
Fela’s casual, uninhibited approach to sexual relations, his affection for nudity, further alarmed the uptight elites. Because of the Judeo-Christian concept of “sin”, he believed, humans were constrained by an “Adam-and-Eve” loathing of their own bodies. Monogamous marriage, individualism and “body-phobia”, he said, were Islamic-Arab or Judeo-Christian importations.
Few aspects of his life caused more affront, and media curiosity, than his marriage to twenty-seven beautiful fellow singers and dancers, aggravated by his impenitent use of marijuana. Though no woman ever claimed to have been coerced into marrying him or remaining at his side, these young, resourceful, intelligent and highly politicized co-wives were considered an insult to “good society”.
Nigeria’s rulers regarded Fela’s “Kalakuta Republic” as a Sodom and Gomorrah to be purged with sulphur and gunfire; this elicited from Fela a response whose trademark extravagance signaled out-and-out defiance. When convenient, he provoked outrage, rode it as if surfing a wave, and used it as political capital.
A life pockmarked by scandal allowed Fela to project himself as indestructibly macho, an image he relished and cultivated. This was as much a manifestation of patriarchal narcissism as an attempt to blunt the fear the Nigerian military’s ferocity had instilled into ordinary citizens.
Fela was a Promethean spirit, in a constant face-off with Death. In the solace of intimacy, he was jovial, boisterous and loquacious, but he was mercurial – reflective and wistful at times, irascible and distant at others. His father-brother-lover relationship with his wives was overall affectionate, their love and loyalty for him undeniable. But his angry outbursts at errant household members or defaulting band personnel were intimidating.
Anyone who knew him well was aware that he was a nurturing democrat as much as a charismatic autocrat. Intensely loyal to friends and family and a profoundly generous man, he could be quite dogmatic, inconsistent and arbitrary in views and behavior, reigning unfettered as a benevolent King over his Kalakuta commune.
Much of what Fela said may be questionable, but most of what he actually did is not. Intuitive, and shot-from-the-hip, Fela’s ideology was all his own – disjointed and contradictory, but powerful and original. His sincere commitment to the world’s underdogs is indisputable, as was his passionate love for Africa.
Although his uninhibited life-style openly challenged the nuclear/monogamous marriage structure, paving the way for progressive discussions of multiple forms of partnership, Fela’s take on sexual orientation and identity echoed archaic notions. He recognized the need to renegotiate the social pact between the genders and stood up for the rights of prostitutes as “sexual workers” deserving respect and legal protection. But he exhibited much confusion about homosexuality; faced with such issues, he retreated to the safe ground of established patriarchal/heterosexual socialization. So, what is it about this quixotic rebel and libertine that fascinates us?
Partly it was his transgressive deviation from conformity; partly, his willingness to pay a heavy price for defending freedom.
Above all, as an artist, he has left us an imperishable music that is indeed classical. His masterly compositions are a sort of people’s dictionary, translating into accessible art the complex ills afflicting society.
AfroBeat is about social, political and cultural literacy. It confronts the geography of world complacency, greed and fear and calls for a trans-formative insubordination.
Check out this documentary about the man: Music is the weapon
When did Thomas Sankara live? Born in 1949, Captain Thomas Sankara took power during the revolution which started on August 4, 1983. With his comrades in arms, he renamed the Upper Volta, a name inherited from the French colonial power, into the Democratic and Popular Republic of Burkina Faso, which means “the land of upright men.” He was later ousted by one of his closest comrades, Blaise Compaore, then murdered on October 15, 1987 along with twelve of his companions. What is Thomas Sankara known for? Trying to turn his West African country into an agricultural laboratory in order to achieve food self-sufficiency. He was ahead of his time and promoted products made in Burkina Faso. He also attempted to boost local manufacturing and consumption. “The comrade president of Burkina” wanted to improve the health system and the education in a country that was one of the poorest in the world. He lived a modest lifestyle himself. The emancipation of women was also one of his political priorities. What has Thomas Sankara been criticized for? His links to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, but also for disrupting the established order. In 1985, a conflict even occurred with Mali about the border between the two countries. Did Thomas Sankara speak out against the powers that be? In a historical speech pronounced in July 1987 at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Sankara denounced the debt owed to the Bretton Woods institutions – World Bank and International Monetary Fund – which according to him were inherited from colonialism.
Almost three decades after his murder, the captain was still seen as a hero by the protesters who brought down the regime of Blaise Compaore in October 2014. Many people consider him an icon for African youths.
A memorial project is underway in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou. What are some Thomas Sankara quotes?“The origins of debt come from the origins of colonialism. Those who lend us money are those who had colonized us before. They are those who used to manage our economies. Colonizers are those who indebted Africa through their brothers and cousins who were the lenders. We had no connections with this debt. Therefore we cannot pay for it.”
“I am neither a messiah nor a prophet. I possess no truths. My only ambition is a double aspiration: firstly to be able to speak in a simple language, with evident and clear words, on behalf of my people, the people of Burkina Faso; secondly to manage to also be the voice of the ‘great disinherited people of the world’, those who belong to the world so ironically christened the Third World. And to state, though I may not succeed in making them understood, the reasons for our revolt.”
“We wish to be the heirs of all the revolutions of the world, of all the liberation struggles of the peoples of the Third World.” Who killed Thomas Sankara?Full light has not been shed on the circumstances and those responsible for his death during the coup of 1987. His widow Mariam Sankara ist still seeking justice. DNA tests were done on the supposed remains of Burkina’s leader, but they were not conclusive. An international arrest warrrant has been issued against the former president Blaise Compaore, now living in exile. There are many calls for France to give access to its archives to see if the former colonial power was involved in the death of the “African Che Guevara.” Claire-Marie Kostmann, Richard Tiene, Gwendolin Hilse and Philipp Sandner contributed to this package. It is part of DW’s special series “African Roots,” dedicated to African history, a cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation.
Source: Deutsche Welle.
Take your time to watch this video and know more about Thomas Sankara and even his last minute
ONLY 4 YEARS in power (1983-87).
Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (21 December 1949 – 15 October 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Viewed by supporters as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara”
– He vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles in a matter of weeks.
– He initiated a nation-wide literacy campaign, increasing the literacy rate from 13% in 1983 to 73% in 1987.
– He planted over 10 million trees to prevent desertification
– He built roads and a railway to tie the nation together, without foreign aid
– He appointed females to high governmental positions, encouraged them to work, recruited them into the military, and granted pregnancy leave during education.
– He outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy in support of Women’s rights
– He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.
– He reduced the salaries of all public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and 1st class airline tickets.
– He redistributed land from the feudal landlords and gave it directly to the peasants. Wheat production rose in three years from 1700 kg per hectare to 3800 kg per hectare, making the country food self-sufficient.
– He opposed foreign aid, saying that “he who feeds you, controls you.”
– He spoke in forums like the Organization of African Unity against continued neo-colonialist penetration of Africa through Western trade and finance. • He called for a united front of African nations to repudiate their foreign debt. He argued that the poor and exploited did not have an obligation to repay money to the rich and exploiting
– In Ouagadougou, Sankara converted the army’s provisioning store into a state-owned supermarket open to everyone (the first supermarket in the country).
– He forced civil servants to pay one month’s salary to public projects.
– He refused to use the air conditioning in his office on the grounds that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabes.
– As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer.
– A motorcyclist himself, he formed an all-women motorcycle personal guard.
– He required public servants to wear a traditional tunic, woven from Burkinabe cotton and sewn by Burkinabe craftsmen. (The reason being to rely upon local industry and identity rather than foreign industry and identity)
– When asked why he didn’t want his portrait hung in public places, as was the norm for other African leaders, Sankara replied “There are seven million Thomas Sankaras.”
– An accomplished guitarist, he wrote the new national anthem himself
Sankara seized power in a 1983 popularly supported coup at the age of 33, with the goal of eliminating corruption and the dominance of the former French colonial power. He immediately launched one of the most ambitious programmes for social and economic change ever attempted on the African continent. To symbolize this new autonomy and rebirth, he renamed the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (“Land of Upright Man”). His foreign policies were centered on anti-imperialism, with his government eschewing all foreign aid, pushing for odious debt reduction, nationalizing all land and mineral wealth, and averting the power and influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. His domestic policies were focused on preventing famine with agrarian self-sufficiency and land reform, prioritizing education with a nationwide literacy campaign, and promoting public health by vaccinating 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever, and measles. Other components of his national agenda included planting over ten million trees to halt the growing desertification of the Sahel, doubling wheat production by redistributing land from feudal landlords to peasants, suspending rural poll taxes and domestic rents, and establishing an ambitious road and rail construction program to “tie the nation together”. On the localized level Sankara also called on every village to build a medical dispensary and had over 350 communities construct schools with their own labour. Moreover, his commitment to women’s rights led him to outlaw female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy, while appointing women to high governmental positions and encouraging them to work outside the home and stay in school even if pregnant.
In order to achieve this radical transformation of society, he increasingly exerted authoritarian control over the nation, eventually banning unions and a free press, which he believed could stand in the way of his plans. To counter his opposition in towns and workplaces around the country, he also tried corrupt officials, “counter-revolutionaries” and “lazy workers” in Popular Revolutionary Tribunals. Additionally, as an admirer of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution, Sankara set up Cuban-style Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs).
His revolutionary programs for African self-reliance made him an icon to many of Africa’s poor. Sankara remained popular with most of his country’s impoverished citizens. However his policies alienated and antagonised the vested interests of an array of groups, which included the small but powerful Burkinabé middle class, the tribal leaders whom he stripped of the long-held traditional right to forced labour and tribute payments, and France and its ally the Ivory Coast. As a result, he was overthrown and assassinated in a coup d’état led by Blaise Compaoré on October 15, 1987. A week before his murder, he declared: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”
On October 15, 1987, Sankara was killed by an armed group with twelve other officials in a coup d’état organised by his former colleague Blaise Compaoré. Deterioration in relations with neighbouring countries was one of the reasons given, with Compaoré stating that Sankara jeopardised foreign relations with former colonial power France and neighbouring Ivory Coast. Prince Johnson, a former Liberian warlord allied to Charles Taylor, told Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that it was engineered by Charles Taylor. After the coup and although Sankara was known to be dead, some CDRs mounted an armed resistance to the army for several days.
Sankara’s body was dismembered and he was quickly buried in an unmarked grave, while his widow Mariam and two children fled the nation. Compaoré immediately reversed the nationalizations, overturned nearly all of Sankara’s policies, rejoined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to bring in “desperately needed” funds to restore the “shattered” economy, and ultimately spurned most of Sankara’s legacy. Compaoré’s dictatorship remained in power for 27 years until overthrown by popular protests in 2014. A transformational leader
Sankara’s visionary leadership turned his country from a sleepy West African nation with the colonial designation of Upper Volta to a dynamo of progress under the proud name of Burkina Faso (“Land of the Honorable People”). He led one of the most ambitious programs of sweeping reforms ever seen in Africa. It sought to fundamentally reverse the structural social inequities inherited from the French colonial order.
Sankara focused the state’s limited resources on the marginalized majority in the countryside. When most African countries depended on imported food and external assistance for development, Sankara championed local production and the consumption of locally-made goods. He firmly believed that it was possible for the Burkinabè, with hard work and collective social mobilization, to solve their problems: chiefly scarce food and drinking water.
In Sankara’s Burkina, no one was above farm work, or graveling roads–not even the president, government ministers or army officers. Intellectual and civic education were systematically integrated with military training and soldiers were required to work in local community development projects.
Sankara disdained formal pomp and banned any cult of his personality. He could be seen casually walking the streets, jogging or conspicuously slipping into the crowd at a public event. He was a rousing orator who spoke with uncommon candor and clarity and did not hesitate to publicly admit mistakes, chastise comrades or express moral objections to heads of powerful nations, even if it imperiled him. For example, he famously criticized French president François Mitterand during a state dinner for hosting the leader of Apartheid South Africa. Who was Thomas Sankara?
– A captain in army of Upper Volta, a former French colony in West Africa
– Instrumental in the coup that ousted Col Saye Zerbo as president in 1982
– Took power from Maj Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo in an internal power struggle and became president in August 1983
– Adopted radical left-wing policies and sought to reduce government corruption
– Changed the name of the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “the land of upright men”
– Killed in mysterious circumstances by a group of soldiers in October 1987
He is one of the souls for the new revolutionary generation. Thomas incarnates the righteouness and the honesty of a lot of African. He was just direct and did not have any ambiguous obscure language.
At the time of his interview, Fountain Hughes was sure of one strong conviction: he would rather kill himself than be a slave again.
Hughes was 101 at the time of this interview on Voices from the Days of Slavery but his perspectives and memories of the days of slavery were as sharp as a smile.
His family had lived as slaves, including his grandfather who belonged to President Thomas Jefferson.
“If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun and just end it all right away. Because you’re nothing but a dog. You’re not a thing but a dog. Night never come out, you had nothing to do,” he shared with Hermond Norwood on June 11, 1949, at Baltimore, Maryland.
Hughes, a former slave, was born on May 10, 1848, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He said that his grandfather, who was a slave of Jefferson, lived up to the age of 115.
In the nearly 30 minutes-long audio interview, he bares out all the details of his life as a slave, his experiences and struggles of growing up as a young boy to a slave mother and a father who was killed at war.
“Children wasn’t, couldn’t spend money when I come along. In fact, when I come along, young men, young men couldn’t spend no money until they was twenty-one years old. And then you was twenty-one, why then you could spend your money. But if you wasn’t twenty-one, you couldn’t spend no money. I couldn’t take, I couldn’t spend ten cents if somebody give it to me. Because they’d say, ‘Well, he might have stole it.”
Hughes died in 1957 at the age of 109.
Listen the full tape below
Herbal remedies and plants were part of Africans and plants played a pivotal role in their way of life even before they were enslaved and during the slave trade.
Many indigenous African discoveries have not been credited to the people who discovered them but with time, such discoveries are being unearthed and some have been duly acknowledged.
During the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade, the Europeans had doctors among them who attended to their ailments and treated some of the slaves who were sick so they could get back to work.
The Europeans took credit for most medicinal treatments discovered by Africans, however, Graman Quassi, a slave in Surinam who later earned his freedom, is an exception though history may have overlooked his achievements in the natural sciences.
Graman Quassi was born in 1690 in Gold Coast (Ghana), West Africa. His name has many variations; Quacy, Kwasi, Kwesi and Quasi. Quassi (Kwesi) was an Akan (Fante) and his native name was Kwasimukamba (Kwasi Mukamba). He has many attributes to his name; a freedman, healer, planter and spy. He assumed all these roles at one point in his life.
He was sold into slavery in Suriname, a Dutch protectorate in South America. As a slave, he was known as an obeah (one skilled in medical and spiritual knowledge) and he used it to his advantage.
He used his medicinal knowledge to heal the Europeans and the slaves as well. He was paid for his services and with that, he gradually became a person of influence at the time.
This is where many say he switched sides. He reportedly became an informant for the Dutch and helped them capture the Maroons; Africans who mixed with the indigenous people in the Americas after they escaped slavery.
Quassi, as an informant, worked with John Gabriel Stedman, Scottish-Dutch mercenary to hunt down freedom fighters in Suriname. Lieutenant Stedman admired Quassi so much that he named him Graman Quassi, which meant Great man Kwasi.
In 1777, Stedman, after observing Quassi, wrote: “This African, by his insinuating temper and industry not only obtained his freedom from a state of slavery, but by his wonderful ingenuity and artful conduct found the means of procuring a very competent subsistence.
“Having got the name of a lockoman, or sorcerer, among the lower slaves, no crime of any consequence was committed, especially at the plantations, but Gramman Quacy, which signifies Great-man Quacy, was instantly sent for to discover the perpetrators, which he very seldom missed, owing, in fact to their faith in his sorceries […] and for these services, occasionally received capital rewards.”
To the Surinamese, Quassi was a traitor and to the Dutch, their secret weapon in defeating the Maroon rebels. Anthropologists, who were on a mission in the Maroon communities in Saramanka, heard oral tales about Quassi.
He was described as the “traitor who gained medical Knowledge from them” and eventually led the Europeans into their forests to capture them. In one of their narrations, their chief at the time cut off Quassi’s right ear.
The Europeans gave him a golden breastplate with the inscription, “Quassie, faithful to the whites.” He served the governor as his personal slave until he was freed under the manumission act.
On his major achievement in the natural sciences, Quassi is credited for being “absolutely the first discoverer of the Quassia tonic” in 1730. The “bitter wood” Quassia was named after him. “Scientifically known as Quassia amara (Amargo, Bitter-ash, Bitter-wood) is a species in the genus Quassia.”
Some botanists treat it as the only species in the genus. Quassia amara is used as insecticide, in traditional medicine and as an additive in the food industry.
Quassi was honoured by Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linne), known as “the father of modern taxonomy” who named the plant Quassi amara and a visiting Swedish naturalist, Nils Dahlberg, who met Quassi around 1761.
The Quassia Amara plant known for its medicinal purposes, Photo: Revolvy
Quassia Amara is a natural emetic (a substance that can cause vomiting). The chemical, Quassin, derived from the plant, is one of the world’s most bitter substances. The plant treats fever or can be taken as a tea. It also wards off parasites such as lice, fleas and mosquitoes.
Miranda, a historian with the Natural History Museum, explains the link between the three botanists. She says Carl observed a freedman Quassi use the Amara plantto heal people with the bitter tonic from the plant. The Quassia plant didn’t cause diarrhoea as the Peruvian bark, a plant also used for its medicinal properties did, hence Quassia had no side effects.
Believed to be safe and effective, Quassia found its place in various European Pharmacopoeia and it aided in the production of other drugs. The Surinamese people also exported Quassia in large quantities after Linnaeus put word out on the plant’s medicinal benefits.
Carl and Nils must have been very impressed with Quassi’s findings because it was unusual for Europeans to credit Africans for their medical findings. Nils, at a point, wanted to be credited with Quassi’s findings but his actions were futile.
Europeans hardly admit gaining insights in medicinal, herbal and scientific knowledge from the indigenous African. Miranda admits, saying, “It is really unusual that a European would name a plant scientifically after a previously enslaved African.”
Quassi was honoured for his services to the Dutch in 1776 at 80 years. In the Hague, he met The Prince of Orange and was given full military regalia like that of a Dutch general.
Quassi returned to Suriname and lived in a Dutch sponsored house, described as a grand house in Paramaribo. He later owned his own plantations which had enslaved workers and died a rich man in 1780.
Many historians have wondered if there are other botanical names with African ties like Quassie.
The story of Isaac Johnson, his mother, father and three other siblings, began like that of an ordinary family, with love, laughter and a great deal of looking out for each other.
How it ends is rather not what any child would have imagined, especially when it has their father at the very centre of it all.
In a personal account of his life and journeys as a slave, Johnson, whose surname was the maiden name of his mother, recounts the breathtakingly unimaginable story of how his Irish father, Richard Yeager, easily sold his entire family into slavery, from what used to be a pleasant and ordinary life for them.
Johnson’s mother, named Jane, was stolen from Madagascar by brothers of his Irish grandfather named Griffin Yeager in 1840. These men were engaged in the villainous vocation of the slave trade, trading people in America to enrich themselves.
Griffin gave Johnson’s mother the name Jane and made her a servant in his house, keeping her till he died. According to Johnson’s accounts, by the terms of his grandfather’s will, Jane was bequeathed to his eldest son Richard, commonly known as Dick Yeager.
“Dick also received by the will other personal property, and, equipped with cows, sheep, horses and some farming utensils, he took Jane and moved onto the farm referred to on Green river”, in the State of Kentucky.
Johnson recounts that his father used Jane in all respects as a wife and she, in her supposed innocence, gave him four children – all boys.
Johnson was born in 1844, second to an elder brother called Louis, who was two years older than he was.
They lived a happy and contented life, being more prosperous than most of the farmers in that section of the State, most of whom lived at least, ten miles away from their home. So, for long, they had almost no neighbours.
“They worked together in harmony, she taking the lead in the house and he in the field, where she often assisted him. The first year they raised such vegetables as they needed but these brought no money. They then commenced raising tobacco and hogs. Their first crop of tobacco brought them $1600 in cash, but the hogs all died. They were so encouraged by the tobacco crop that they devoted all their energy to this product thereafter, and in time they became the leading tobacco growers. Other people soon came as neighbors, none of whom owned slaves,” according to accounts.
But soon, the newcomers came in and began to disapprove of and freely talk about his father and the manner in which he was living with a slave and raising children with her.
The new neighbours were unrelenting in showing their disapproval for what they believed was a wrong association between a White and especially a slave, opening the family up to a lot of ostracism.
Yeager began to feel the social cut keenly and soon concluded that it would be safer to sell out his property and leave that part of the country. He accordingly advertised his farm and stock for sale.
Still very young, along with Johnson’s other brothers, the property got sold but his father retained the horses which were taken to the New Orleans market. Johnson’s father went along with them, staying away for about two months. All the while, they waited for his return.
Instead, one day, a sheriff came over and took all of them to Bardstown in Nelson County, about two days journey eastward. There, they were placed in a negro pen for the night.
Still unsure what was happening, the following morning, to their astonishment, a crowd gathered and took turns examining each one of them.
“What it all meant we could not imagine till Louis was led out about ten o’clock, placed on the auction block and the auctioneer cried out: “How much do I hear for this nigger?” Johnson described.
After continuous calls to the crow for bids to be made, Louis was at last sold for eight hundred dollars. It became very obvious to them by then, what exactly was going on and it seemed as though “my mother’s heart would break. Such despair I hope I may never again witness.”
And then one after the other, the auctioneer called for Johnson, and then Ambrose, and then to his mother and their little brother, Eddie, who by the way, was supposed to have been auctioned together with his mother but the crowd wanted them separately.
As Johnson describes, “in a very short time, our happy family was scattered, without even the privilege of saying “Good by” to each other, and never again to be seen, at least so far as I was concerned.”
In total, his entire family was sold for $3,300 and the worst of all was the knowledge they would get later that their father had actually brought all this change to them; they were sold by his orders and all that money went into his pocket.
Yes! He had sold his entire family into slavery with as less of a hint about what he had planned.
That would mark the beginning of the longest years of Johnson’s life, characterized by unending quests for freedom and deepening hatred for his colour and race.
His experiences in life also explain why he eventually chose to bear his mother’s maiden name, instead of that of his father, Yeager.
The small island of Curaçao was inhabited by the Arawak indigenous people until it was “discovered” by Spanish explorers in 1499. After “discovering” Curaçao, a few Spanish explorers made temporary homes on the island where they temporarily stayed before continuing their journey carrying most of the Arawak people into other colonies as labour.
For several years, the island, though “discovered”, was not of high demand by the Europeans who were establishing colonies in the Caribbean. Curaçao was not of interest because it had no mineral resources, especially gold which was at the time the most valuable trade commodity. The island was mainly occupied by remaining Arawak people, Spanish explorers and traders, as well as Portuguese sailors who were left on the island to heal.
The turn around of high-end trade goods and the discovery that the Caribbean was a fertile land for sugar, cotton and coffee made the lands more valuable and by 1662, the land was largely taken up by the Dutch after they gained independence from the Spanish.
By the late 17th century, Curaçao had become a good supplier of sugar and an important trade route especially the Atlantic slave trade. Slaves were sold and bought on the island and only a few were left to work on the small plantations on the island.
By the 18th century, a large percentage of the population was made up of enslaved Africans mainly from West Africa. Many of the enslaved people lived and died in poverty under harsh conditions because of ill-treatment and this led to tension between the Dutch and the Africans forced to work as slaves.
In 1795, there was much resentment between the colonist and the enslaved people and this tension led to a slave rebellion. According to the Indie Wire, Tula Rigaud, a local slave on the Knip plantation led the slaves working on the plantation and requested that the plantation owners put an end to collective punishment, working on Sundays and allow slaves to buy their clothes from anywhere and not just their masters.
After being ignored, Tula planned a rebellion for a few weeks and on August 17, 1795, he joined forces with three other slaves; Louis Mercier, Bastian Karpata, and Pedro Wakao to start a revolt against their slave masters after their demand was not met.
The rebellion started with Tula leading close to 50 slaves to their master, Caspar Lodewijk van Uytrecht, to let him know that they were no longer his slaves after which they marched off to Fort Amsterdam to free several slaves who had been thrown into jail.
The growing group of rebels then went off to several plantations to meet the other lead rebels to proclaim themselves free and immediately abandon the plantations.
Louis Mercier led the rebels in Saint Kruis to take the Dutch commander Van der Grijp and ten of his soldiers hostage and threw them into jail after which he joined Tula on their mission.
By the evening of August 17, Tula and his rebels had succeeded in freeing thousands of slaves and went on to camp on the sandy bay of Portomari where they were attacked by the Dutch but managed to defeat them.
The Curaçao slave revolt of 1795 lasted for more than a month and became a bloody battle between the enslaved people and their masters.
Inspired by the 1791 revolt in Haiti that led to the freedom of the enslaves, Tula was motivated to free his people and start an independent nation, and close to 4,000 freed people fought and a 1,000 rebelled for Tula’s vision.
On September 19, 1795, Tula and Karpata were captured by the Dutch after being deceived by a slave. Mercier and Wakao were captured shortly after and the revolt was officially called off by the Dutch.
Slaves were advised to return to their plantations while those who refused to do so were killed. On October 3, 1795, Tula was publicly tortured until he died to serve as a warning to other slaves. Shortly after, Wakao, Mercier and Karpata were also executed.
Even though Tulsa’s dream of an independent community did not come to pass, the harsh treatment of slaves in Curaçao greatly reduced and rules were given to slave masters. The government also created rights for slaves that needed to be adhered to. Slavery was finally abolished in Curaçao in 1863.
The people of Curaçao mark August 17 as the start of the struggle towards liberation and a monument in honour of Tula was made at the very spot of his death in the south coast of the island near the Holiday Beach Hotel.
In 2013, a movie centred around the life of Tula and the 1795 revolt was made to bring more light on the uniqueness of Tula’s revolt that helped slaves receive better treatment.
In commemoration of the revolt a statue was erected of Tula. This paper argues that this statue is a reflection of the Curacaoan society’s awareness of this horrible part of their past. The statue shows that the island’s history of slavery is still very much remembered, commemorated and, moreover, displayed. The Tula Slavery Freedom Statue symbolizes the island’s still present memories of the revolt, or more broadly of its history of slavery. This powerful statue symbolizes the struggle for freedom. It depicts how a slave, probably symbolizing the leader Tula, desperately tries to break the chains and shackles of his fellow slaves. This statue is considered a symbol of Curaçao’s start of a long battle for the abolishment of slavery on the island. Although, the type and significance of slavery on Curacao was different than the other colonies, the statue shows that the effect of slavery on the island was nonetheless as great and, moreover, still present.
The placement of the statue illustrates that Curacao has not forgotten that dark page in the island’s history, but rather acknowledges it, and celebrates the fight against slavery, generally considered to be brought on by the revolt of 1795, lead by Tula.
The monument, designed by Nel Simon, was erected in 1998 in Willemstad, Curaçao, the same place of Tula’s execution.
Sources: Face2faceafrica.com / https://portwillemstad.wordpress.com
“Most times when I’m in the archives alone, I think I want to be a professor, and I will start writing books,” Koroma said.
Instead, in his 15 years at the archives, Koroma has helped many other professors and researchers with their work. They began coming in droves from all over the globe in the 2000s, when they realized technology had become cheap and accessible enough to digitize documents and put information into databases. Those databases and many others about the historic slave trade will soon be publicly accessible for the first time, in one place. That may revolutionize the way the history of slavery is learned and taught here and abroad, and allow African descendants more insight into their family histories.
“So much of them were coming,” said Koroma, speaking of the influx of researchers at the archives.
There was one basic question many researchers wanted to answer first. For a long time, historians struggled to estimate the size of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. So, the first big database they put together was meant to reveal an answer, and it did: It’s estimated that at least 12.5 million peoplewere abducted from Africa and sold as slaves between 1500 and 1875. As many as 10.7 million survived the dangerous passage on slave ships.
“Inevitably, if you’re descended from one of the 10.7 million people who survived the Middle Passage, there’s going to be a point where there is no more data,” said Katrina Keefer, an adjunct professor of history and cultural studies at Canada’s Trent University.
She says that’s what academics wanted to know next — how to trace enslaved Africans back to their home village or tribe. Keefer recalls thinking about that when she was in graduate school: If researchers could discover where enslaved Africans came from, their descendants wouldn’t have to have a family history that began with slavery.
“And I remember sitting in a classroom and thinking, ‘but the answer’s right there,’” Keefer said. “‘It’s literally right there on people’s faces.’”
During a teenage obsession with dressing Goth, Keefer had developed a fascination with the physical ways people mark themselves to show identity. That led her to see something others didn’t when she looked at colonial British records. Their descriptions in many cases include drawings of facial scars made by Africans to show their origins and identities, which after they were enslaved, served to represent where they came from — what village or ethnic group. The markings were often a series of straight lines of different lengths and patterns across the face and neck.
“Initially, people kind of blinked at me. There was a lot of ‘well yes, of course,’” she said. “‘Oh, we never thought of that.’”
Keefer is using information in the Sierra Leone archives to develop a computer program that can recognize and catalog the scars.
“We’re hoping to essentially allow people to feel a greater connection to their ancestors and a greater realization of what their true origins are,” she said.
But then again, a scar can only tell you so much.
“Any one data point like a scar is great,” said Dean Rehberger, director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at Michigan State University. “But it’s only one data point.”
That’s why the scar database is meant to feed into a massive, new information hub created by Rehberger and his team with a $1.5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“In doing the project, we found a number of institutions and places that are holding data that people don’t even know about,” Rehberger said.
The project — named Enslaved — will attempt to gather research about historic slavery in one place. Until now, much of that information has only been in books or museums, or scattered in corners of the internet in different languages, hidden behind broken links. The Enslaved project is standardizing all that information, so it’ll be searchable and accessible.
“We’re coming right at the point where we can actually take literally billions of records and put them together in the same home — what we’re calling a hub and then be able to search over them,” Rehberger said.
The project goes online in 2020, with three interfaces: one, the Enslaved Hub for searching the data and visualizing; the second, the Enslaved Publishing Platform for academics and the public to contribute data and publish data; and the third, called Enslaved Narratives, a selected set of linked, enslaved narratives.
“It’s fair to say it’s the first time that this could happen at this scale for the amount of funds we have,” Rehberger said. “At the same time, people around the world who are working on this see the real benefit of coming together and working together.”
Critics point out that the information being gathered is from the point of view of enslavers and colonialists. But institutions around the world are participating. The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University is contributing a database with details drawn from 1,500 biographies of people who were enslaved or connected to the slave trade. The database draws on essays in three biographical dictionaries edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and several others. The books’ executive editor, Steven Niven, says previously, the information was behind a paywall.
“The print set costs about $1,200,” he said.
The Enslaved project is supposed to go online next year, and Niven expects the sudden influx of accessible information to revolutionize the way people learn about slavery and teach it.
“By using biographies, and by using a large number of biographies, we can tell complex stories, local stories, to get a grip of what is hard history — you know, the forced history of 12 million people, and then systematic exploitation for several hundred years in the Americas,” Niven said.
“They will do their best to help the archives. But it’s normally not enough,” he said. “We want to keep these things alive. Because other people have volunteered to keep them alive before us.”
Koroma worries that no one will volunteer to care for the archives after him, since archivists in training earn so little. He believes that for the true history of slavery to survive and be told, the original evidence must be preserved, and protected.
The Emancipation Statue is the work of Barbados’ best known sculptor Karl Broodhagen and symbolises the breaking of the chains of slavery at Emancipation.
Slavery, abolished in 1834, was followed by a 4-year apprenticeship period where free men continued to work a 45-hour week without pay in exchange for living in the tiny huts provided by the plantation owners.
Full freedom from slavery was celebrated in 1838 at the end of the apprentice period with over 70,000 Barbadians of African descent taking to the streets to celebrate. Today, Emancipation Day is celebrated as a national holiday on August 1st.
Many Barbadians refer to the statue as Bussa, the name of a slave who helped inspire a revolt against slavery in Barbados in 1816. Bussa was born a free man in west Africa but was captured and transported to Barbados to work as a slave. He is one of Barbados’ National Heroes
The Freedom Fighter
Although not much is known about the man, Bussa was born a free man in West Africa.
There is no biographical information available about Bussa; his actual birth name remains a mystery, as does the majority of his life.
What is known is that African slave merchants captured him in the late 18th century, sold to the British, then transported as a slave to Barbados.
What is also known is that Bussa had the strength of character and a passion for enforcing change. It is this courage and sheer determination that is recorded in the history books.
The man Barbadians fondly remember as ‘Bussa’ played an integral role in changing the social and political climate of the island forever. Note: Existing records do show there was a slave called ‘Bussa’ who worked on a plantation in St. Philip around the time of his rebellion.
Bussa’s Rebellion, as it is known, was the first of three large-scale slave rebellions in the British West Indies in the years leading up to emancipation. It was followed by the massive revolution in 1823 in Demerara (now part of Guyana), and by an even more enormous rebellion in 1831 – 1832 in Jamaica.