The Afro News (TAN) invites community members to post or email instances of success and examples of findividual or group empowerment at work in communities near and far.
Kwame Nkrumah from 1952 to 1966 Nkrumah led Ghana as it’s first President and first Prime Minister, and before that its identity as the Gold Coast. As an influential 20th century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.
Born in 1909, Kwame Nkrumah was educated in Accra, studied at a Roman Catholic seminary, taught at a Catholic school in Axim and then left Ghana for the United States in 1935. There he received a BA from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania and then a Bachelor of Sacred Theology followed by a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania by 1942, and a Master of Arts in philosophy the following year. While lecturing in political science at Lincoln he was elected to his first presidency, that of the African Students Organization of America and Canada.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., 1887–1940 was a Jamaican publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movement. This led to his founding the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League.
Garveyism was his unique contribution. It advanced a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism eventually inspired the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (which proclaims Garvey as a prophet) amongst others. The intent was for people of African ancestry to “redeem” Africa and for European colonial powers to leave it. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World titled “African Fundamentalism”.
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, 1875–1955, was an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida, which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University, and for her role as advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Working in the fields at age five with her former slave parents motivated her early interest in her own education. After college, the school for young black girls she founded opened with six students, grew and merged with an institute for black boys. Bethune-Cookman School’s quality surpassed the standards of education for black students, and rivaled those of white schools. Bethune worked tirelessly to ensure funding for the school, and used it as a showcase for tourists and donors, to show what educated black people could do. In her terms between 1923 and 1947, she was one of the few women in the world who served as a college president.
Gwendolyn Tamika Elizabeth Brooks (Gwendie to friends) was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas to Kezia a former school teacher and David the son of a runaway slave who fought in the Civil War, had given up his ambition to become a doctor to work as a janitor because he could not afford to attend medical school. Right after her birth the family started life in Chicago and Gwendie enjoyed a stable and loving home life, although she encountered racial prejudice in her neighborhood and in her schools. Her experience of a leading white school, all black and integrated schools and then college, gave her a perspective on racial dynamics in the city that influenced her work. What began as enthusiasm for reading and writing, encouraged by her parents, and her mother’s taking her to meet Harlem Renaissance poets Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson led to her being a writer. She published her first poem in a children’s magazine at the age of 13, had a portfolio of 75 published poems by 16 and by 17 honoured her roots with submissions to “Lights and Shadows”, the poetry column of the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper.
Elijah McCoy : The Colchester, Ontario born Elijah McCoy trained as a mechanical engineer in Scotland and then lived in Detroit, Michigan. There he noted injuries and deaths due to workers’ attempts to lubricate moving machinery and many were young Black boys hired because they were small and agile. His invention, a self-lubricating device with a drip cup, revolutionized industry by allowing a gradual and constant release of oil, which allowed machines to work continuously without the need to stop them or to have people risk their lives to lubricate machines in operation. His drip cup was patented on July 12, 1872 and while there were imitations, its level of performance led to the famous phrase, ‘the real McCoy’.
McCoy went on to own his own firm and to file 57 other Canadian and American patents.
Anderson Abbott : Anderson Abbott’s family settled in Toronto, where he was of the first generation to be born free. The affluent family owned almost 50 properties in the Toronto area and Abbott went on to be educated at the Toronto School of Medicine. In 1861 he became the first Canadian born Black doctor in Canada after he interned with Alexander Augusta, also an doctor of Afric origins.
Compelled to contribute his medical services to the American Civil War effort, he was assigned to a segregated regiment. He went on to be a civilian surgeon in several Washington, DC hospitals and ultimately cared for the dying President Abraham Lincoln. In the years that followed Abbott married, worked as doctor and then coroner in Ontario and advocated for integrated schools before accepting an appointment in Chicago, as medical superintendent in 1896 and finally returning to Toronto, where he spent his later years writing on Black history and other topics.
Nathaniel Dett : was born in Drummondville, Ontario, to freedom seekers—people who came to Canada on the Underground Railroad. Dett’s gifts in music were developed from childhood through to a Bachelor of Music degree with honors and studies at Harvard, the American Conservatory (Fontainebleau) and the Eastman School of Music (Rochester) earning a Master of Music degree by 1932.
His music career, marked by performances in all the prestigious concert halls of the day was influenced throughout by Dett’s choral training at a Black college in Hampton, Virginia, in 1913.
He taught and then became the Director of Music by 1926 at the Hampton Institute. He was the first Black person to gain this position and the first African-American to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music by Oberlin Conservatory.
Behanzin Hossu Bowelle, 1841-1906 : West Africa’s most powerful ruler during the end of the nineteenth century, Bowelle was determined to prevent European intervention into his country. He welcomed European visitors but took measures to prevent their spread of influence. His army was physically fit and included a division of five thousand female warriors, in service of defending his country’s sovereignty.
The people of Dahomey called him the ‘’King Shark,” a Dahomeyan surname which symbolized strength and wisdom. A great lover of the humanities, he is credited with the creation of some of the finest song and poetry ever produced in Dahomey.
Hannibal, Ruler of Carthage 247-83 BC : Reputed to be one of the greatest generals of all time, Hannibal, born in the North African country of Carthage, conquered major portions of Spain and Italy and came close to defeating the mighty Roman Empire.
By age 25 he was a general and led an army. He marched his troops with African war elephants through the treacherous Alps to surprise and conquer Northern Italy. His tactical genius was illustrated by the Battle of Cannae where his seemingly trapped army cleverly surrounded and destroyed a much larger Roman force. Hannibal legendary achievement spans more than 2,000 years of memory.
Nandi : Queen of Zululand 1778-1826 AD : Nandi, wife of the the King of Zululand, bore him his first son, Shaka in 1786. Nandi was exiled due to the jealousy of the kings’s other wives. She raised her son with pride and the kind of training and guidance a royal heir should have. Her many sacrifices were rewarded when her son Shaka later returned and became the greatest of all Zulu Kings.
Zulu people use her name, “Nandi,” to refer to a woman of high esteem to this very day.
Mansa Kankan Mussa, King of Mali 1306-1332 : Mansa Mussa was a man who did everything on a grand scale. He was an accomplished businessman, managed vast resources to benefit his entire kingdom and was also a scholar. He heightened the cultural awareness of his people and brought in noteworthy artists to support this initiative.
In 1324, he managed an incredible feat taking 72,000 of his people safely through the Sahara Desert on a Hadj, or holy pilgrimage from Timbuktu to Mecca. His caravan covered a total distance of 6,496 miles and its spectacular success helped Mansa Mussa shine the respect of scholars and traders throughout Europe, and garnered international prestige for Mali as one of the world’s largest and wealthiest empires.
Taharqa, King of Nubia 710-664 BC : During his 25-year reign, Taharqa controlled the largest empire in ancient Africa. Only the Assyrians equaled his power and they were in constant conflict. Even through continuous warfare, Taharqa was able to initiate a building program throughout his empire which was overwhelming in scope. The numbers and majesty of his building projects were legendary, with the greatest being the temple at Gebel Barkal in the Sudan. The temple was carved from the living rock and is set off with 100 foot high images of Taharqa.
As an interesting biblical note, at age 16, this great Nubian king led his armies against the invading Assyrians in defense of his ally, Israel. As a result of this action he has a place in the Bible (Isaiah 37:9, 2 Kings 19:9).
THE GREAT MUTOTA : In 1440, Mutota, a great African king identified the looming threat of European criminal exploits. He foresaw that only a unified, single nation with a strong central government, linked through voluntary association, if possible, could design the plan he and the leaders of the day needed. His aim was nothing less than uniting Africans into a vast empire that cut across South Africa below the Limpopo river, and covered Zimbabwe with an indefinite boundary beyond the Zambezi River in Zambia, and on over Mozambique to the Indian Ocean, sweeping southward to re-posses the entire coastline fronting the New Empire. This area was also rich in the world’s main caches of precious metals such as gold, copper, tin and iron held in over 4000 mines. In 1480 after 30 years of struggle, unity took the form of the Empire of Monomotapa.