African Heroes: Black heroes and pioneers we should always remeber

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Date of Birth: Sept 26, 1936 - April 2, 2008

Contribution: Anti-apartheid Campaigner & Social Worker

Biography: Winnie Mandela was the first qualified Black member of staff as a medical social worker at a hospital in South Africa. She was married to South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela for 38 years including the 27 years he was imprisoned. Her defiance for protesting the Apartheid government made her a target for harassments, the relentless police raid on her home, imprisonment, and torture. She led an international campaign for the release of her husband. Winnie was an enigmatic figure who despite the constant police intimidation and harassment, betrayals of friends and the long separation from her family, she managed to impact her community positively earning her the name “Mother of the Nation.” She established a local gardening collective, a soup kitchen, a mobile health unit, a day care center, an organization for orphans and juvenile delinquents and a sewing club. Winnie was the president of the African Congress Women’s League, and she acted as the deputy minister of Arts and culture under Nelson Mandela’s presidency.  


Timeline: Birth 1853- Death 1927

Contribution-Muslim religious leader and poet and founder of the Mouride brotherhood and Muridiyya

Biography: Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba was born in Senegal. He was a freedom fighter whose weapon against colonial oppression was to awaken human consciousness by teaching peace,  service, and unity. Bamba created the Muslim Brotherhood and is symbolic to the Muslim community today. His famous Muridiyya teachings is a spiritual path that challenges social injustice, religious obscurantism, and cultural degeneration. His principle was to create peace and unity. Colonial authorities considered Bamba as a threat, and he was thereby subjected to many ordeals including being exile to Garbon for seven years and Mauritania for four years. Bamba left a legacy worldwide as the contributor to the revival of the Senegalese Islamic identity and Muslims worldwide. He was buried in a village he founded named Touba where the Great Mosque of Touba was built. Touba is now the second biggest city in Senegal and sub-Sahara largest Mosque.


Timeline: 1850-1950

Contribution-Fight colonial domination in Rwanda and Uganda border with spiritual and political influences.

Biography: The reign of the Nyabingi Priestesses began with an Amazon queen name Kitami who had a sacred drum of extraordinary power. When she died, she was given an immortal status and the name Nyabingi. Nyabingi is a cultural practice seen as a spirit of liberation. The movement gave its leaders political powers, and they became governors of the Kiga people. Muhumusa and Kaigirwa were brave Nyabingi Priestesses leaders who fought colonial dominance in the Rwanda and Uganda border in the name of Nyabingi. Muhumusa was the first priestesses to fight colonial domination by repeatedly attacking German colonist. The British passed a 1912 Witchcraft Act in direct response to the political effectiveness of her spiritually-based resistance movement. She was imprisoned for two years. Upon her release, she launched her final attack on Anglo-Belgian Germany Boundary Commission, and she was shot, captured and deported to Uganda where she died in 1945. Following Muhumusa path, Kaigirwa led a revolt against the British and the British officials placed a high price on her head. However, no one claimed it. She was invaded by the British, but she fought back and escaped. The Nyabingi movements inspired the Rastafarians in Jamaica. At some point, men became Nyabingi priests.


Timeline - 1720’s - 1890’s

Contribution-Military soldiers

Biography: The Dahomey Soldiers also known as the Dahomey Amazons by Europeans were elite troops of women soldiers in the 18th and 19th centuries from the West African Kingdom of Dahomey presently known as Benin. The all-female military army originally began as a corps of royal bodyguard and grew to a size of about six thousand soldiers. They are considered to be the only female soldiers in the world who routinely served as combat troops. Armed with sword, spear, and muskets, they lived in the royal palace and devoted their lives to weapon training, fight wars of conquest and to protect their king. The Dahomey soldiers contributed to the military power in the Franco-Dahomean Wars in 1890 and 1892  to remove the French troops who had made claims to important ports in the region. The French conquered the Dahomey people, disbanded their units and prohibit women from serving in the military or from bearing arms. The last surviving Dahomey Soldier died in 1979.


Timeline: Birth 1807- Death 31,1891

Contribution-First African Anglican Bishop

Biography: Samuel Ajayi Crowther was a Yoruba born in Nigeria and named Ajayi. At age 13 he was taken as a slave and sold six times before being traded to a Portuguese slave-ship captain. While heading to the transatlantic market, their ship got intercepted, and the slaves were set free in Sierra Leone. Several years later he was baptized by the Anglican Church Society (CMS) and change his name to Samuel Crowther. He was among the first students to attend Fourah Bay College, a school founded by the CMS in 1827 to trained Christian services. He also attended a CMS College in England and was ordained by the Anglican Church in 1843. He began his missionary work in Nigeria and assisted in the studies of African languages. He opened a mission in Yorubaland and made a linguistic contribution by producing the Yoruba Bible, publishing Vocabulary of the Yoruba Language book and translating the Book of Common Prayers into the Yoruba language. Crowther influenced government, church and public opinion about Africa while he was in Britain. He was appointed in 1864 as the Bishop of the countries of Western Africa beyond the Queen’s dominions. Crowther opened a mission in Niger and to create unity between the two religious groups; he initiated Christian Muslim discourse in the Upper and Middle Niger regions. European missionaries started a racial attitude and subsequently attacked Crowther’s mission, discredited his work and replaced his entire staff with white missionaries. Crowther was distressed by the conflict and died from a stroke attack.



Timeline: Birth 1738  Death 1792

Contribution- Black Pioneer, abolitionist and community leader

Biography: Thomas Peters was born a slave. Peter fled from his slave master and joined the British army and became a sergeant in the Black Pioneers. Following the British defeat, he was among the 3,500 Loyalist evacuated to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The equality and resources promised were unfulfilled so Peter was selected to present the black case before the Crown. He went to London in 1790, petitioning the black grievances, including denial of vote right, trial by jury and equitable land grants in Canada. Peter learned about the Sierra Leone Company in London seeking black settlers. He returned to Nova Scotia with a government-financed scheme offering free land and independence in Sierra Leone. He persuaded over 1,200 former slaves to join him in the voyage to Sierra Leone. He and his “Nova Scotians” Founded Freetown in 1792 after the first group of blacks arrived from London in 1787. The Sierra Leone company created an all white appointed officials in Sierra Leone governed by Lt. John Clarkson. Rations were short, distribution of land delayed and many died from fever during the rainy season. Black loyalist became paid employees of the company. Peter disapprove of the Clarkson leadership believing that a successful colony in Sierra leone would benefits black people everyone and that anarchy and disorder will destroy it.  Peter voiced the people’s concern to Clarkson but he was discredited as he fear Peters actions was an attempt to replace him with a government headed by Peter. The Clarkson address Peter as a traitor during a public assembly and the people sided Clarkson. Meanwhile, Peter continued to remind his people of the promises made to them and the realities of their situation. Peter was publicly humiliated for retrieving his property from a settler who died from fever. He was charged as a thief and that shattered his reputation and credibility. He later died of fever on June 25 after leaving in Sierra Leone for three months. His true legacy is that he was a courageous man who fought for justice and fought against discrimination. He is an inspiration for Black-self expression and self-determination.


Timeline: Birth Nov 16-1930 Death-March 21, 2013

Contribution-Writer, Poet, teacher

Biography: Chinua Achebe is one of Africa’s prominent literary figures. He is Known for his literary contents of western imposition on African cultures, values, and traditions. He was born in Nigeria. He studied English and literature and worked as a director of external broadcasting at Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation. He Toured the United States in 1969 lecturing at universities. He was an English professor and publishing director and editor. He was partially paralyzed due to a car accident and later moved to the United States where he lectured in schools and colleges. Achebe wrote his groundbreaking novel Things Fall Apart in 1958 which sold over 12 million copies and translated into more than 50 languages. He fought to rewrite the story of Africa that has been long told by western voices. Achebe wrote many novels, poems, collections of short stories, children’s books and essays. His achievements include winning the Man Booker International Prize, CommonWealth Poetry, and the Nigerian National Merit Award. He also received over twenty-five honorary doctorates from universities throughout the world.


Date of birth: Oct 29,1938

Contribution-First Female president in Africa

Biography: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born in Liberia, and she has four children. She is a Harvard University graduate and has held prominent positions in government, the banking industry and at the United Nations. Known as the Iron Lady, she criticized former dictatorship leaders in Liberia. She was imprisoned and narrowly escaped execution. Sirleaf became the first elected female Head of State in Africa. She served 12 years in office leaving a recognizable legacy of democracy and women’s right. She worked hard to promote peace, reconciliation and social and economic development. Sirleaf is a worldwide inspiration and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. In 2012 she was ranked among the top 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes. She is recognized as one of the Top Best Leaders in the world by Newsweek magazine.


Timeline: Birth:1745  Death:March-1797

Contribution: Writer and anti-slavery campaigner.

Biography: Olaudah Equiano was also known as Gustavus Vassa. He was born in Nigeria, and he is from the  Igbo tribe. Olaudah and his sister were kidnapped and sold into slavery when they were little. He was transferred to Barbados and later shipped to Virginia. In 1757, a naval captain bought him and named him Gustavus Vassa. Olaudah travelled to England with the naval captain when he was 12 years old, and that is where he learned to read and write and do arithmetic. Equiano was sold a few more times before he could afford to buy his freedom for 40 pounds. While in the Caribbean, a slave trader tried to enslave him, but Equiano managed to escape. He returned to London and worked with the Sierra Leone resettlement project. He also formed the Sons of Africa group to campaign for abolition through public speaking, writing letters, and lobbying parliament. He led a delegation to the House of Commons in 1788 to support a bill that will improve conditions on slave ships. He wanted people to see slavery through the eyes of a former slave, and he knew the most powerful arguments against slavery was his own story. Equiano published his autobiography in 1789 called the "Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano." The Autobiography gave a detailed account of the horrors of slavery, and it played a pivotal role in changing public opinion about slavery. It became a bestseller and made Olaudah a rich man.  He promoted his book all over the United Kingdom working to change attitudes towards enslave people and to inspire others to join the abolition campaign. Slavery ended in the British colonies forty years after his death.