330: African and African American Linkages: Images
Map of the West Coast of Africa in the 18th century. (Image is 272k).
Map of the southern states of the U.S. by African population.
Historical Maps of Africa
Historical Maps of the Caribbean
Maps for the History of the Americas
The origins of the African Diaspora
Nationality and ethnicity form a major part of human experience. Africans enslaved in the Americas came from specific communities and cultures. It is often thought that remembrance of these disappeared as a result of the slavery experiernce, but historical evidence suggests that ethnic awareness persisted and, in many places, continued through the 20th century. European observers of Africa were also attuned to the differences among various African peoples, as shown in these engravings of Afro-Brazilians published in 1835 by Johann Moritz Rugendas: Example 1. Example 2. Ethnic differences were widely noted, and played a role in the descriptions of runaway slaves that newspapers published. Traditional scarifications were often used to identify fugitives. The photographs below of women from Manaos, Brazil, taken in 1865, a generation before slavery was abolished there, illustrate their "country marks."
Interest in specific regions and cultures of Africa was linked to the history of European exploration and the slave trade, and secondarily to the anti-slavery movement. The Ibo author and activist Olaudah Equiano provided important information about eastern Nigeria in his autobiographical narrative. Mohamma Baquaqua, born in northern Benin, escaped from slavery in 1847 and described the region of his childhood in a book published in 1854.
Did Africans lose their ethnicity in the Americas or did they create new forms of culture in the new environment?
The slave trade:
Slave ship, early photograph. Most
European naval powers agreed to end the slave trade early in the
19th century, but illegal commerce continued. Photography did
not exist during the heyday of the slave trade but was available
when a British Navy officer on a ship intercepting slavers in
1869 took this picture. Shipboard conditions look much like the
graphic depictions in earlier accounts. As in the past,
children and those not thought dangerous were allowed on deck.
Others were kept in the hold.
Shackles. The spikes on these shackles made them particularly debilitating.
The brand of the Cadiz Company, a Spanish trading firm, about 1768.
Mutineer "Cinque." "Cinque" was an approximation of the name of a Mendi man, Sengbe, who led a revolt aboard the slaveship Amistad in 1839. Africans took over the ship, which was headed to Cuba, and ordered the Spanish pilot to take them back to Africa. He deceived them, sailing north to the United States. The ship drifted past the slaveholding states, however, and the Amistad captives were eventually returned to Sierra Leone after being put on trial. The picture is from a broadside about the trial.
Manilas. Slaves were often paid for the currencies used on the West African coast, including the manila, or iron bar, which served as a local bullion.
Cowries, as worn by a Kuba monarch at his 1947 coronation. Cowrie shells were another form of cjurrency. They came from the Maldives Islands in the Indian Ocean and their rarity made them suitable as money. Their decorative use in clothing signified the wealth and power of the wearer.
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