Throughout time the history of some of our community members is difficult to openly accept. They have African roots; but some lived and live in hiding of their identity or feel the world will react negatively to them if they openly said but history does not ignore their life stories.
History will always remind us to learn to accept every form of mankind and it educates us further to develop an understanding of the way the world exists today.
The history outlined below are of some outstanding people whose names you know but probably didn’t know that they were of African descent.
Alessandro de Medici, First Duke of Florence, An exploration of the Italian Renaissance wouldn’t be complete without talking about the powerful banking and political family the Medicis. Alessandro de Medici, the first Duke of Florence, supported some of the era’s leading artists. In fact, he is one of only two Medici Princes to be buried in a tomb designed by Michelangelo.
You could say Medici was the first black ruler in Italy, in fact the first black head of state in the Western world, though his African heritage was rarely talked about. He was born in 1510 to a black servant and a white 17-year-old named Giulio de Medici, who would later become Pope Clement VII. Upon his election to pope, Clement VII had to relinquish his position as Duke of Florence and appointed his son instead. But the teenage Medici faced a changing political climate. Emperor Charles V sacked Rome in 1527, and Florentines took advantage of the turmoil to establish a more democratic form of government. Medici fled his hometown. He returned when tensions eased two years later and was again appointed by the Emperor Charles V, who offered his own daughter also born out of wedlock — as Medici’s wife. Despite the family ties, Medici was killed by a cousin shortly after he married in 1537. Source: African American Registry.
Alexander Pushkin, considered the father of Russia’s Golden Age of literature, Alexander Pushkin, was born into nobility in the summer of 1799. He was the great-grandson of an Ethiopian Prince named Ibrahim Gannibal, who had relocated to Russia and become a General in the army of Peter the Great.
Puskin became a member of a revolutionary group dedicated to social reform and wrote poems that reflected his views. His work, which included “Freedom” and “The Village,” came under scrutiny by Russian authorities and led to his exile in 1820 to his mother’s estate.
Six years later, he was pardoned by Czar Nicholas I and free to travel; he married in 1831 and later challenged one of his wife’s admirers to a duel in 1837. He died two days later from injuries he sustained in the battle. Pushkin’s most famous works include the poem “The Bronze Horseman,” the verse novel “Eugene Onegin” and the play “Boris Gudunov”. He also left behind an unfinished novel about his Ethiopian great grandfather. Source: PBS and Shaw.
Alexandre Dumas, French novelist and author of “The Three Musketeers,” was the son of General Alexandre Dumas and the grandson of a Haitian woman. Souce: Kean Collection/Getty Images
Carol Channing, the famous Broadway performer started her career in the 1940′s and 1950′s as a white actress. She didn’t reveal to the world that her father was black until 2002, when she was around 80 years old.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, perhaps America’s most emulated and admired First Lady, descended from a family known as the van Salee’s, who were described as “mulatto” in the 17th century. This family traced its lineage in part to a Dutch mariner named Jan Jensen, who turned Turk (what some Europeans called “going native”), which was more popular than common history reveals.
It is widely believed Jensen fathered two children, Anthony and Abraham van Salee, by a Moorish concubine.
Following a dispute with his white wife, Anthony van Salee was exiled to territory across the river, where he became Brooklyn’s first settler. Until a few decades ago, this property adjoining Coney Island was called Turk’s Island after Anthony van Salle — the term “Turk,” in his day being synonymous with Moor (North African). A descendant, John van Salee De Grasse, born in 1825, was the first black American formally educated as a doctor.
When Jackie Kennedy was asked about her van Salee roots during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she called her ancestors “Jewish.” Of course, her socialite father, born in 1891, was nicknamed “Black Jack” Bouvier for his swarthy complexion. In the 1960s, journalists described the First Lady’s features as “French, “earning her the cover page of countless magazines, including film and fan publications. Not only Kennedy Onassis, but well-borns Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Vanderbilt (and thus Anderson Cooper) are van Salee descendants. by Bijan C. Bayne
Soledad O’Brien, it wasn’t until news correspondent Soledad O’Brien appeared on CNN’s “Black in America” that the world realized that she was black. Her father is Afro-Cuban and her mother is Australian.
Michael Fosberg, Action movie actor didn’t know that he was passing when he played white characters. He was 32 and well into his career before his mother revealed to him that the man he knew as his father wasn’t and that his real dad was a black man.
Darnell Martin, when she produced “I Like It Like That” in 1994, she was the first black woman to write and direct a film for a major Hollywood studio. Only very few people know that Darnell’s father was black so the milestone wasn’t properly celebrated.
Now as we know there are stories and some come out with shock or surprise, this is relevant to our history to continue to be educated, informed and learn from the root to be open minded especially the next generation as our world is progressing toward a better future of integration.
We should never be afraid or ashamed of our heritage; we are made for this world and should be proud always to be a part of God’s creation – He is and remains the pure root of all humanity!
You can take the man out of the country but you can never take the root out of him – Honore Gbedze
Ref: Madame Noire