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16th Century

Esteban (? - 1539)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of the David Weber Collection
Esteban, an enslaved North African, made the first contact with the native peoples of what is now the American Southwest.  Fraught with misunderstandings, that encounter led to Esteban’s untimely demise in 1539 and prefigured the violence that would characterize the Spanish conquest and subsequent colonization of the region.
Sources: 
George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds.  Narratives of the Coronado Expedition , 1540-1542 (1940). Dedra S. McDonald, “Intimacy and Empire:  Indian-African Interaction in Spanish Colonial New Mexico, 1500-1800” in James F. Brooks, ed., Confounding the Color Line:  The Indian-Black Experience in North America (2002).
Affiliation: 
Hillsdale College (Michigan)

de' Medici, Alessandro (1510–1537)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Alessandro de' Medici, called “Il Moro” (“The Moor”), was born in the Italian city of Urbino in 1510. His mother was an African slave named Simonetta who had been freed. Alessandro’s paternity is uncertain.  Most sources name Lorenzo de' Medici, ruler of Urbino. But Alessandro might also have been the son of Pope Clement VII, the brother of Lorenzo II who became the head of the Medici family after Lorenzo's death.

Clement VII chose the nineteen-year-old Alessandro to become the first Duke of Florence in 1529. Pope Clement at that time was at odds not only with the Florentines who had driven out the Medici family in 1497, but also with the emperor Charles V. To solidify the allegiance that the papacy owed to the Holy Roman Empire, Alessandro was named Duke of Florence and promised the emperor's daughter Margaret. With the help of Charles V, Clement could restore the rule of the Medici family in Florence in 1530 and make Alessandro the first reigning Duke. Supported initially by the best families, Alessandro became an absolute prince, overthrowing the city’s’ republican government.
Sources: 
T.F. Earle and K.J. Lowe, Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); J.A. Rogers, World's Greatest Men of Color, Volume II (New York: Macmillan, 1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Augsburg

Blanke, John (16th Century)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
John Blanke, Musician at the
Court of Henry VIII
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Historians have documented the arrival of black people in Britain as members of the Roman Army. The first reference to a black African in Britain in the historical record is at a Roman military settlement at Carlisle, in ca. 210 AD. Shortly after, in the years 253-58 AD, Hadrian's Wall on the Empire's northern frontier was guarded by a division raised in North Africa. Other Africans were brought to Britain at various times although the continuous presence of black people in Britain is traced to 1555, when Africans arrived in the company of a London merchant.

John Blanke, a black trumpeter, was a regular musician at the courts of both Henry VII and Henry VIII.  Musicians' payments were noted in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, who was responsible for paying the wages. There are several payments recorded to a “John Blanke, the blacke trumpeter.” This trumpeter was paid 8d [8 pence] a day, first by Henry VII and then from 1509 by Henry VIII.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

De Porres, Martin (1579-1639)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Born December 9, 1579 in Lima, Peru, St. Martin de Porres is best known for his charitable work.  His piety allowed him access to the Dominican order of his country, and his acts of compassion for the sick became part of the justification for his canonization as the first black saint of the Americas.

Fathered by a Spaniard of noble birth, Don Juan de Porres, and born of an emancipated American black slave living in Panama, Anna Velasquez, Martin de Porres’ fair-mindedness and empathy became discernible traits at an early age.

Educated for a time in Santiago de Guayaquil, de Porres returned to Lima and by 1591 had become an apprentice to a surgeon/barber.  Upon gaining knowledge of medicine, de Porres began applying his skills in healing the sick and infirmed.  His work with the underclasses of Lima culminated with his decision to apply as a helper to the Convent of the Most Holy Rosary, a Dominican community.  Because of his racial background, he wasn’t immediately offered the holy habit but was promoted to distributing alms, attracting large sums of donations to support his work in a Dominican infirmary. It was here where de Porres’ reputation as a “miracle healer” began.  

Sources: 

J. W. Seabrook, “Review of Meet Brother Martin!” The Journal of Negro History, 26:4 (October, 1941); Gayle Murchison, “Mary Lou Williams’s Hymn Black Christ of the Andes (St Martin de Porres):  Vatican II, Civil Rights, and Jazz as Sacred Music,” The Musical Quarterly, 86:4 (2002).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Muhammed Toure / Askia Muhammad I (c. 1442-1538)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Tomb of Askia Muhammad Toure at Gao, Mali
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Sources: 
Thomas A. Hale, Scribe, Griot, and Novelist: Narrative Interpreters of the Songhay Empire (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1990); John O. Hunwick, Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1999).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian

Changamire (ca. 1500 – 1830)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Changamire Ruins
Image Ownership: Public Domain

The Changamire dynasty of rulers emerged from the Shona people who had founded the state of Monomutapa around 1500. Named after its founder Changa (also known as Changamir), Changamire had been a province of Monomutapa but with the rise of civil wars and the Portuguese occupation of Monomutapa's capital, the Changamir seized the opportunity to establish a new state called Rozwi which later became known as Changamire. Changamir broke free of Monomutapa and led a mass migration to the area in modern Zimbabwe near Bulawayo.  Changamir and his successors conquered the indigenous people and ruled the region between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers (now modern Zimbabwe) until 1830.

From two prosperous capitals, Khami and later at Dhlo Dhlo, Changamire rulers established a new empire.  The indigenous farmers there provided food for Changamire and labor for the massive stone structures that dotted the Changamire state.  Many of these buildings were royal property and their stone architecture included countless worked gold ornaments and reflected the power and authority of the elite rulers. The terracing of the older Khami site and two enormous man-made platforms at Dhlo Dhlo reflect the connection of the Changamire rulers to the tradition of monumental stone structures in an earlier Shona culture - Great Zimbabwe (8th century to 16th century).

Sources: 
Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, The History of African Cities South of the Sahara: From the origins to colonization (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2005); Philip D. Curtin, African History: From earliest times to independence (London: Longman, 1995); “Khami Ruins National Monument,” World Heritage List, 10 December 2009; Innocent Pikirayi, The Zimbabwe Culture: Origins and decline of southern Zambezian states (Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2001).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Accra, Ghana (ca. 1500- )

Entry Type: 
Places
History Type: 
Global African History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Accra is the political and economic capital of modern Ghana on the Gold Coast. Between 1500 and 1578, a fortress operated by the Portuguese stood at the site of modern Accra. This fort provided the Europeans with an outlet for trade, particularly in slaves, with the Ga people, themselves recent migrants from the inland hills of the region. While the Ga destroyed this fort in 1578, by the mid seventeenth century, a group of Ga, known as the Accra, had settled on the site. In 1642, the Dutch expelled the Portuguese from the Gold Coast and established a new trading post at Accra. In the early 1660s, the Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading to Africa (later the Royal African Company) established a series of posts in the region sparking a war between the English and the Dutch over the Gold Coast trade monopoly. After the treaty of Breda in 1672, the victorious English established their own trading post at Accra which was eventually expanded into a fortress.

Sources: 
Roger S. Gocking, The History of Ghana (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2005); Steven J. Slam and Toyin Falola, Culture and Customs of Ghana (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002); W. E. F. Ward, A History of Ghana (London: Ruskin House, 1958).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Montana State University

Luanda, Angola (1576- )

Entry Type: 
Places
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Ownership: Public Domain

Luanda was founded by Portuguese explorer Paolo Dias de Novaes as St. Paul of Luanda in 1576. It became the capital of a Portuguese colony in 1586 and became the capital of independent Angola when the former Portuguese colony gained its independence in 1975.  Luanda is also the largest city in Angola with an estimated 2009 population of over 4.5 million. The city is located in the northwestern region of the country on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The most common religions are Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist but missionaries of many faiths reside in Angola. The city's major sports are basketball, soccer, and tennis.

As major port city for Angola in the sixteenth century, Luanda became the center for commercial, political, and cultural affairs. The Portuguese also used Luanda as their major slave trading port until 1836. The end of slave trading caused a temporary decrease in Luanda’s economy and export activity but by the 1840s, the city exported palm and peanut oil, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, tobacco, and cocoa.  Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries Colonial Portuguese authorities invested in port and rail infrastructure to expand agricultural and mineral exports.  By 1940, the city had 61,208 people including nearly 10,000 white inhabitants. After World War II new waves of colonists from overcrowded Portugal arrived.  The growth of the "European Quarter" often meant the displacement of Africans to slums on the edge of the city.

Sources: 
Karen Ellicott, Cities of the World, Vol. 1: Africa (Detroit: Gale, 2002); Eric Young, "Luanda, Angola"  Encyclopedia of Africa, editors, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr,,  http://www.oxfordreference.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t295.e2427; "Luanda," World Encyclopedia 2008; Oxford Reference Online, 2011,  http://www.oxfordreference.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t142.e6939.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ambar, Malik (1548--1626)

Entry Type: 
People
History Type: 
Global African History
Image Courtesy of Musee des Arts
Asiatiques-Guiment, Paris
Malik Ambar was among the tens of thousands of men, women, and children captured in Africa and sold into slavery in the Middle East and India over nearly nine centuries.  His story is also an indication of the ability of some in the predominantly Muslim Indian Ocean world to rise far above their initial servile status. Born Chapu in 1548 in Harar Province, Ethiopia, Ambar (as he was later called) was stripped of his family, his name, and permanently removed from his homeland.  Nevertheless, half a century later he had transformed himself into a king-maker in southern India’s interior region known as the Deccan where he led the area's most powerful army against Mughal rule.
Sources: 
Richard M. Eaton, “Malik Ambar” in A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761 (Cambridge University Press, 2005); Richard Pankhurst, “The Ethiopian Diaspora to India,” in The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean (Africa World Press, 2003); Omar H. Ali, “The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World,” Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library (online exhibit, 2011) See http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africansindianocean/.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of North Carolina, Greensboro
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