THE CULTURE CORNER

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“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.”

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887 – 1940)

Every year in October we celebrate BLACK HISTORY MONTH. Black history is with us every second, minute, hour, week, month and year. PANTHER NEWSLETTER’S CULTURE CORNER will attempt to enlighten you with what they never told you in your history class. Our story will be told right here – So enjoy the journey of clarification.

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Blacks in Britain (Part Five) 

Not widely known – But true…

 

The 1750’s – While Liverpool was to become the “King” of Britain’s slave trade seaports, even surpassing Bristol, London’s contibution to the trade cannot be ignored. By the 1750’s, London had become a critical partner in the slave trade: It was the London Commission Agents that greased the wheels by financing the entire system. By 1750, London merchants were handling almost three-quarters of the sugar imported into England. They had become money-lenders of a highly specialised kind. ‘Acting in the dual capacity of broker and banker,’ they ‘reaped lucrative commissions and interest for accommodating the peculiar needs of planters and slave merchants.’

In 1752 Liverpool’s ships carried 25,820 Africans crammed into holds ‘like books on a shelf,’ with each person allowed less than half the space granted, in the same period, to a transported convict.  The business of trafficking lives proved profitable. The estimate of the profits Britain gleaned from the African slave trade was £12,000,000, based upon the transportation of 2,500,000 slaves, with perhaps half of the estimate collected between 1750 and 1790. Fully one-quarter of Liverpool’s shipping consisted of the slave trade, and Britain relied on the sea port to account for 60% of its trade, and the monies brought from Britain’s slave trade accounted for 40% of Europe’s economy.

In 1759, two Africans, one a Prince, recently rescued from slavery attended the May 9, 1759 showing of the play Oroonoko, adapted from Behn’s 1688 book. The Prince, William Ansah Sessarakoo from Annamaboe (modern-day Ghana), had been sent to England to receive an education by his father. While in transit to England, the captain of the ship captured Sessarakoo and sold him into slavery, but was later rescued by the English for obvious diplomatic reasons. The English public was enraged by the unjust enslavement of a member of Africa’s “exotic nobility,” but except for those within the anti-slavery community, general indignation did not extend to the legions of lesser enslaved Africans, nor to those who would soon face enslavement.

In 1783, black North American soldiers, who fought along side British soldiers against the colonies in the American Revolutionary War, arrived in London to reap the “Freedom” they were promised for their service. But what they received was immediate access into British poverty.  In 1731, the Lord Mayor of London had proclaimed that no blacks could be taught trades, and neither black slaves nor servants were entitled to poor law relief or wages. Homelessness and starvation, or kidnapping and re-enslavement became new harsh realities. Some blacks found their way in St. Giles or other areas along the Wapping River. There, they lived alongside poor whites in abject poverty and misery.

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FAMOUS BLACK PEOPLE PAST AND PRESENT

  • AESOP  –  World renowned story teller.
  • SOCRATES  –  One of the greatest  thinkers in western civilization.
  • COUNT BERNADOTTE  – Sweden’s FIRST KING called the Negro Monarch of Sweden.
  • PIETRO OLONZO NINO  –  Captain of Adirante Colon’s flagship the SANTA MARIA.
  • FRANCESCO BUWATO  –  Founder of the City of Brooklyn (New York City).
  • HENRI POINT DU SABLE  –  Founder of the City of Chicago, Illionois.
  • SAMUEL FRANCUS  –  Saved the “FATHER OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”  –  George Washington from being poisoned by Thomas Hickey, an agent of the British army.
  • GIBRAL TARIKH  –  The Rock of Gibraltar is named after him.
  • ROBERT BROWNING  –  World renowned poet and writer.

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TRIBUTE TO OUR S/HEROES

Fanny Eaton (1835 – ?) – Fanny Antwistle was born in Jamaica and is described as of ‘mixed race’. By the mid-1850s she was living in London, married to James Eaton, who dove cabs and carts, and mother of their first two children, James Mark and Fanny Matilda, born in St Pancras in 1855 and 1858. In the 1861 census the family were living just south of Kings Cross in a small crowded house and Fanny’s occupation is given as ‘charwoman’ or daily cleaner. However, she also had intermittent employment as artist’s model.  She sat to A.F Sandys, Rebecca and Simeon Solomon, and Albert Moore in 1859-60, to Joanna Wells in 1860-61, to D.G Rossetti in 1865 and to J.E Millias in 1864 and 1867, amongst others.  Thought not a full-time career, modelling augmented other earnings.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta – (1842 – 1880) – Sarah Forbes Bonetta a West African of royal blood of the Egbado Omoba (a clan of the Yoruba people). She was orphaned in inter-tribal warfare at the age of eight.  Intended to be a human sacrifice, she was rescued by Captain Frederick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy, who convinced King Ghezo of Dahomey (Republic of Benin) to give her to Queen Victoria, “She would be a present from the King of the blacks to the Queen of the Whites,” Forbes wrote later.  He named her Sara Forbes Bonetta.  While her hair was ‘strongly indicative of her African birth, her features are pleasing and handsome and her manners and conduct most most mild and affectionate’ (The Times, 18 November 1850). Victoria was impressed by the girl’s exceptional intelligence, and had Sarah raised as her goddaughter in the British middle class. In 1851 she gained a long lasting cough that was caused by the climate transferring from Africa to Great Britain. She was sent to school in Africa and later then returned to England when she became 20.  Sarah was sanctioned by Victoria to marry James Davies at Nicholas Church in Brighton in August, 1862. Davies was a Yoruba businessman of considerable wealth for the period, and the couple moved back to their native Africa after their wedding.  Sarah was baptised at a church in the town of Badagry, a former slave port. She died at the age of 37 in 1880 of tuberculosis. James Davies was concerned about Sara because she had a bad cough that would not go away; she was eventually diagnosed with the consumption.

Empress Menen – (25 March 1889 – 15 February 1962) – (Baptismal name Wolete Giyorgis) was the wife and consort of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.  Empress Menen was the daughter of Asfaw, Jantirar of Ambassel.  He was a direct descendant of Emperor Lebna Dengel, through Emperor Gelawdewos of Ethiopia and his daughter Princess Enkulal Gelawdewos. The title of Jantirar has traditionally belonged to the head of the family holding the mountain fortress of Ambassel, and Jantirar Asfaw was one of them.  Her mother was Woizero Sehin Mikael, half-sister of Lij Iyasu (Iyasu V), and daughter of Negus Mikael of Wollo.  Woizero Sehin’s mother, Woizero Fantaye Gebru, was a direct descendant of Emperor Susenyos in the “Seyfe Melekot” line. Empress Menen and Emperor Haile Selassie were the parents of six children: Princess Tenagnework, Prince Asfaw Wossen (Emperor-in-Exile Amha Selassie I), Princess Tsehai, Princess Zenebework, Prince Makonnen Duke of Harrar, and Prince Sahle Selassie.

Alice Walker – One of the most important writers of the 1980s was Alice Walker. Her stunning novel ‘The Colour Purple’, was made into a major motion picture and she was awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Askia Muhammad Toure (1493 -1529) – Askia Muhammad Toure united the entire central region of the Western Sudan, and established a governmental machine that is still revered today for its detail and efficiency. He divided his country into provinces, each with a professional administrator as governor, and ruled each fairly and uniformly through a staff of distinguished legal experts and judges.

Idris Alooma (Sultan of Bornu – 1580 – 1617) – For two centuries before Idris Alooma become Mai (Sultan) of Bornu, Kanem was a separate land whose people had been driven out by their nomadic cousins, the Bulala. It took one of Africa’s most extraordinary rulers to reunite the two kingdoms located mainly in Chad and Nigeria. Idris Alooma was a devout Moslem. He replaced tribal law with Moslem law, and early in his reign, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca.  But the trip had as much military as religious significance, for he returned with Turkish firearms and later commanded an incredibly strong army. They marched swiftly and attacked suddenly, crushing hostile tribes in annual campaigns. Finally Idris conquered the Bulala, establishing dominion over the Kanem-Bornu Empire and a peace lasting half a century.

Moshoeshoe (King of Bassutoland – 1786 – 1868) – For half a century, the Basotho people were ruled by the founder of their nation. Moshoeshoe was a wise and just king who was as brilliant in diplomacy as he was in battle.  He united many diverse groups, uprooted by war, into a stable society where law and order prevailed and the people could raise their crops and cattle in peace. He knew that peace made prosperity possible, and he often avoided conflict through skilful negotiations.  Moshoeshoe solidified Basotho defences at Thaba Bosiu, their impregnable mountain capital. From this stronghold he engineered a number of major victories over superior forces.

Samory Toure  (The Black Napoleon of the Sudan – 1830 – 1900) – The ascendance of Samory Toure began when his native Bissandugu was attacked and his mother taken captive. After a persuasive appeal, Samory was allowed to take her place, but  later escaped and joined the army of King Bitike Souane of Torona.  Following a quick rise through the ranks of Bitike’s army, Samory returned to Bissandugu where he was soon installed as king and defied French expansionism in Africa by launching a conquest to unify West Africa into a single state. During the eighteen-year conflict with France, Samory continually frustrated the Europeans with his military strategy and tactics. This astute military prowess prompted some of France’s greatest commanders to entitle the African monarch, “The Black Napoleon of the Sudan”.

Gil Heron (9 April 1922 – 27 November 2008) – The father of Gil Scott Heron, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He had been playing professional football in the United States and was invited to Scotland and took part in a public trial for Celtic at Celtic Park on August 4, 1951, scoring twice in the game.  It was enough to impress the club who signed him and he made his debut on August 18, 1951 in a League Cup tie against Morton at Celtic Park.  He scored once in the 2-0 victory. He was the first black player to play for the Scottish club. Heron only played five first-team matches in all, scoring twice. He was released by the club the next year and joined Third Lanark A.C where he played in seven League Cup matches, scoring five goals but did not appear in the League. Next he went to English club Kidderminster Harriers before moving back to Detroit Corinthians. At Celtic he earned the nicknames ‘The Black Arrow’ and ‘The Black Flash.’

Here ends your history lesson for this month.

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Log on for more CULTURE CORNER next month and remember…

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I

‘Til next month – Everyting – Bless

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One Response to “THE CULTURE CORNER”

  1. Fanny Matilda Eaton (my Great Grandmother) died in 1924 in Acton, London. Her husband, James, died in 1881. They had 10 children – 6 girls and 4 boys.
    Thank you for keeping her memory alive.

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