Mansa Musa, fourteenth century emperor of the Mali Empire, is the medieval African ruler most known to the world outside Africa. His elaborate pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in 1324 introduced him to rulers in the Middle East and in Europe. His leadership of Mali, a state which stretched across two thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Chad and which included all or parts of the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad, ensured decades of peace and prosperity in Western Africa.
Distinguished historian and Pan-Africanist political leader, Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel, Senegal on December 23, 1933 to a Muslim Wolof family. Part of the peasant class, his family belonged to the African Mouride Islamic sect. Diop grew up in both Koranic and French colonial schools. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree in Senegal, Diop moved to Paris, where he began his graduate studies at the Sorbonne in 1946 in physics.
Scholar, African traditionalist poet, and Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor was born on October 9, 1906 in Joal, Senegal. His father, Basie Diogoye Senghor, was a Malinké landowner. His mother, Gnilane Bakhoum, came from a Christian Fulani family. They gave Senghor a European name to reflect both the noble Serer culture they identified with, as well as their Catholic faith. Senghor grew up with his father’s four wives and his twenty-four siblings.
At the age of seven, Senghor was sent to a Catholic mission school, where he first learned French. At 13, he decided to enter the Catholic priesthood. He attended Libermann seminary in Dakar but in 1926, dissuaded by the seminary, switched to the secondary school Lycée Van Vollenhoven. He graduated from high school with honors and his classical languages teacher persuaded the colonial administration to grant Senghor a scholarship to pursue literary studies in France.
The Mali Empire was the second of three West African empires to emerge in the vast savanna grasslands located between the Sahara Desert to the north and the coastal rain forest in the south. Beginning as a series of small successor trading states, Ancient Ghana, the empire grew to encompass the territory between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Chad, a distance of nearly 1,800 miles. Encompassing all or part of the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad, at its height in 1300, Mali was one of the largest empires in the world.
The Songhai Empire was the largest and last of the three major pre-colonial empires to emerge in West Africa. From its capital at Gao on the Niger River, Songhai expanded in all directions until it stretched from the Atlantic Ocean (modern Senegal and Gambia) to what is now Northwest Nigeria and central Niger. Gao, Songhai’s capital, which remains to this day a small Niger River trading center, was home to the famous Goa Mosque and the Tomb of Askia, the most important of the Songhai emperors. The cities of Timbuktu and Djenne were the other major cultural and commercial centers of the empire.
In the nearly half century between 1900 and 1945 various political leaders and intellectuals from Europe, North America, and Africa met six times to discuss colonial control of Africa and develop strategies for eventual African political liberation. In the article that follows, historian Saheed Adejumobi describes the goals and objectives of these six Pan African Congresses and assesses their impact on Africa.
Pan-Africanist ideals emerged in the late nineteenth century in response to European colonization and exploitation of the African continent. Pan-Africanist philosophy held that slavery and colonialism depended on and encouraged negative, unfounded categorizations of the race, culture, and values of African people. These destructive beliefs in turn gave birth to intensified forms of racism, the likes of which Pan-Africanism sought to eliminate.
Saheed A. Adejumobi, “The Pan-African Congress,” in Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations, Nina Mjagkij, ed. (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001).
Patrick Vieira, one of Europe’s leading soccer players, was born in the Cape Verdean community of Dakar, Senegal, on June 23, 1976. He left Senegal at the age of eight when his family moved to Europe and settled in Dreux, in northwest France. Soon after their arrival the family became citizens of France.
Vieira began his professional soccer career playing for several local youth clubs in France. Then in 1993, at age 17, he joined AC Cannes Soccer Club. The French club provided an atmosphere for the young 6-foot-4 center midfielder to advance. After three seasons with AC Cannes, Vieira signed with AC Milan, one of the leading clubs in Italy. Although he hoped to break through to the first team in the 1995-96 season, Vieira spent much of his time on the reserve squad.
Trevor Huggins, “Vieira out of crunch Italy clash,” Four Four Two Magazine, June 16, 2008; Patrick Vieira, “Vieira,” The Orion Publishing Group, November 2006.
The Ligue Universelle pour la Défense de la Race Noire (LUDRN) was a Pan-African association created on April 30, 1924, by Kojo Tovalou Houénou known as Tovalou, descendant of the last King of Dahomey (today’s Benin). The headquarters of the association was located in Paris and the executive committee composed of seven black members from the French Empire. Tovalou, a military doctor during the First World War, was designated president of the association and René Maran, a colonial administrator for Martinique, was vice president. The objectives of the association were the defense and protection of the rights of black people all over the world, the development of solidarity amongst the black population, and the evolution of the race through education.
Emilie Derlin Zinsou and Luc Zoumémou, Kojo Tovalou Houénou,
précurseur, 1887-1936: pannégrisme et modernité (Paris: Maisonneuve
& Larose, 2004); Imanuel Geiss, The Pan-African Movement: A history
of Pan-Africanism in America, Europe, and Africa (New York: Africana
Publishing Co., 1974); Iheanachor Egonu, “Les Continents and the
Francophone Pan-Negro Movement,” Phylon 42:3 (Fall 1981).
The Tirailleurs Senegalais were West African Colonial Army troops who fought for the French during World War I, World War II, and in numerous conquest, police, and colonial counterinsurgency operations. Despite the name, the Tirailleurs Senegalais were composed of soldiers recruited and conscripted from throughout French West Africa and not just from Senegal. However, recruitment and casualty burdens for Senegalese soldiers often numbered among the highest of the Tirailleurs Senegalais.
Myron Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts: The Tirailleurs Senegalais in
French West Africa, 1857-1960 (Portsmouth: Heinemann Educational Books,
Inc., 1991); Joe Lunn, Memoirs of the Maelstrom: A Senegalese Oral
History of the First World War (Portsmouth: Heinemann Educational
Books, Inc., 1999).
Galaye M’baye Diagne, the first African elected at the French National Assembly and to obtain a post in the French government, was born on October 13, 1872, on Gorée Island, Senegal. His father, Niokhor Diagne, was a cook, and his mother, Gnagna Anthony Preira, a servant. While still very young, Diagne was placed in various Métis (mixed race) families, and finally adopted by a wealthy Christian Métis, Adolphe Crespin, who renamed him Blaise. Crespin sent him to the Brother of Ploemel School for his primary education. A brilliant pupil, Diagne pursued his secondary education in Aix-en-Provence, France. He passed the French Customs Service entrance examination in Senegal in 1891.
“Diagne, Blaise (1872?-1934),” in Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis
Gates, Jr., eds., Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African &
African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005);
Amady Aldy Dieng, Blaise Diagne: député noir de l’Afrique (Paris:
Editions Chaka, 1990); “Diagne, Gueye, and Politics of Senegal, 1920s
and 1930s,” in Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History
(New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005).
The UCAD has a relatively long history as it has evolved from the Ecole de Médecine de Dakar, a Medical School that was founded in 1918 by the French Colonial administration. A January 1918 decree led to the formation of the school mainly due to the need to train medical assistants to help colonial doctors. In 1936, the Institut Francais d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), a research center for African studies, was also created in Dakar.
http://www.ucad.sn/; Félix-Marie Affa’a and Thérèse Des Lierres, L’Afrique: Face à sa laborieuse appropriation de l’Université (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2002).
The Four Communes of Senegal in French West Africa, Gorée, Dakar, Rufisque, and Saint-Louis, were the only places during the African Colonial period, where African inhabitants were granted the same rights as French Citizens.
As early as 1840, the importance of Gorée Island and Saint-Louis (located on an island of the Senegal River) as key French trading post settlements led to the establishment of a General Council in each colony. In 1848, the Second French Republic awarded to its Senegalese colonies the right to send an elected representative to the French National Assembly. Later in 1872, a decree granted to Gorée and Saint Louis the same advantages as French Communes.
“Senegal: Colonial Period: Four Communes: Dakar, Saint-Louis, Gorée and Rufisque,” in Encyclopedia of African History, Kevin Shillington, Ed., (New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005); “Senegal: French Colony,” in Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African & African American Experience, Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Mamadou Diouf, “The French Colonial Policy of Assimilation and the Civility of the Originaires of the Four Communes (Senegal): A Nineteenth Century Globalization Project,” Development and Change 29:4 (December 2002)
Gorée Island, located two miles from the Senegalese capital, Dakar, was a critical trading port for Europeans and played a major role as an entrepot for slaves taken from West Africa. Long before being conquered by the Europeans, the island was called Bezeriche Island or Ber and, according to some accounts, was settled by a population of Wolof (West African ethnic group) fishermen.
Jean Delcourt, L’île de Gorée (Dakar: Editions Clairafrique, 1975);
“Gorée Island, Senegal,” in Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African
& African American Experience, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis
Gates, Jr., eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); “Gorée
Island (Senegal),” in International Dictionary of Historic Places,
Trudy Ring, Robert M. Salkin, and Sharon La Boda, eds. (Chicago :
Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1994-1996).
Omar Ibn Said, also known as "Uncle Moreau" was unusual among enslaved people in the antebellum United States in that before he was captured he was highly educated and could read and write fluently at a time when most African slaves were illiterate. Said’s autobiography is unique because it is the only personal account of a slave written in his native language while he was in bondage in the United States.
Omar Ibn Said was born in 1770 along the Senegal River in Futa Tooro, West Africa to a wealthy Muslim family. When his father died, Said at age five was sent to a nearby town to study Islam and become a teacher. Religion was paramount in Said’s life and he was devout to the Muslim faith. With extensive religious training Said became well educated and fluent in Arabic.
“Autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, Slave in North Carolina, 1831,” The
American Historical Review 30: 4 (July, 1925); http://sites.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/omar-ibn-sayyid; Sylvaine A.
Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas
(New York: New York University Press, 1998).
The Mouride Sufi Order was founded by Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba in 1883 in the Senegambia region of West Africa. At this period there was a great deal of social dislocation and economic hardship in this region because of the impact of colonialism. Bamba thought that people needed to be more directly connected with Allah through hard work and prayer. He also taught his pupils that they should be responsible for their behaviors, have a useful occupation, and should be self-reliant. Originally the followers of the Mourides were youth, former slaves, and soldiers of the colonial administration or those from the Wolof ethnic group.
Writer and political activist Mariama Ba was born in 1929 in Dakar, Senegal to a well-to-do family. Her father worked in the French colonial administration and in 1956 became the Minister of Health of Senegal. Her mother died when she was young. Ba was raised by her maternal grandparents who emphasized conservative Muslim values. She attended a religious school, but was also educated in the French tradition. Due to the intervention of her father, she was enrolled in 1943 in the Ecole Normale (Teacher Training School) at Rufisque, a town some 25 miles away from Dakar where she received her diploma in 1947. Ba worked as a teacher from 1947 to 1959, before becoming an academic inspector. During this period, Ba had nine children with her husband, Obeye Diop. The couple separated and Ba was forced to raise her children as a single parent.
The Tukulor Empire was a Muslim theocracy established during the mid-19th century major jihads (holy wars) in Western Africa. At its apogee, the empire extended from Senegal eastward to Timbuktu, a distance of 1,500 miles. The empire's founder, Al Hajj Umar, a Senegalese Islamic scholar and leader, had gained notoriety by popularizing the Islamic Sufi order, the Tijaniyah. The members of that order helped him gain the loyalty of thousands across the Western Sudan.
Africa and China have had contact for more than a thousand years. Some scholars assert that the contacts began as early as 4th century A.D. but convincing evidence is sporadic or lacking. Beginning with the Tang dynasty (618 A.D. to 907 A.D.) documented evidence of contact and trade exists showing a relationship between China and the city-states of east Africa. This relationship has evolved over the centuries and led to a migration of Africans to China to study, trade, and act as diplomats. At least one account indicates that Du Huan was the first Chinese to visit Africa, probably in Nubia, during the 8th century A.D.
Ambassador Barnes was born in St. Augustine, Florida on April 5, 1938. Her father worked as a waiter out of Miami for the Seaboard Airlines Railroad before he moved his family to Saratoga, New York, when Shirley was just five years old. There, her father continued to work as a waiter most of his life, while her mother worked as a teacher, a pianist, and a dressmaker. Eventually, the family prospered and settled in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of New York City.
Barnes attended the Baruch School of Business at the City College of New York and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1956. While in college, she joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She also became fluent in the French language while at City College.
Through her church, Barnes was introduced to Crossroads Africa, a recently created student exchange program that connected student service projects in rural villages of various African countries. Through this experience, Barnes travelled to Togo, West Africa, and helped to build schools in 1958.
BlackPast.org is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. BlackPast.org is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.