Black History Month: Africans in Europe

February 27, 2011 at 8:09 PM | Posted in Abs Fab, Education | 2 Comments

I first read the word ‘Moor’ in Shakespeare’s Othello. I noticed it was said with disdain and it was used repeatedly to describe Othello, instead of his name. I also noticed there was a problem with Othello’s involvement with Ophelia. I deduced the problem with Othello was that he was a Black Moor. 2+2=4 Then it led me to do a bit more research on what exactly a ‘Moor’ was. Years later here’s more.

The Moors
Many historians say the Moors were the group that brought the Western world out of the Dark Ages making a significant impact on the current day world. But who were they?

illustration of angus mcbride showing the Emir of the Almohad dynasty Yaqub al-Mansur with his bodyguard, Yakub al-Mansur reigned from 1184 to 1199 with distinction. During his tenure, trade, architecture, philosophy and the sciences flourished. on July 18, 1195, he defeated the Castilian King Alfonso VIII. After victory, he took the title al-Mansur Billah ("Made Victorious by God").

The Moors inhabited Europe from 711 AD, until Columbus set sail to the Indies in 1492. They were driven out by the Spaniards, along with the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, who ordered the burning of the accumulated literature. Hence a people, their history, culture and empire were lost and forgotten. But not in its entirety.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Moors, as early as the Middle Ages and as late as the seventeenth century were, “commonly supposed to be black or very swarthy, and the word often used for Negro.” James E. Brunson and Runoko Rashidi, authors of The Moors of Antiquity wrote, “There is considerable difficulty in determining the ethnicity of the early Moors through terminology alone.”

There are several terms that have been used to identify the Moors. Arabic texts, for example, rarely used the word Moor and instead applied the term Berber (a word thought by some to be pejorative) to the early non-Arab peoples of Northwest Africa.

What Scholars Say
Although scholars generally agree that the word Moor is derived from Mauri, there are profound disagreements among history authors on what the word originally meant and how it was applied. Philip K. Hitti, author of History of the Arabs, contends that the term Moor has a geographic designation meaning Western. He wrote.“The Romans called Western African Mauretania and its inhabitants, Mauri (presumably of Phoenician origin meaning ‘Western’) whence [the] Spanish Moro [and the] English Moor. The Berbers, therefore, were the Moors proper, but the term was conventionally applied to all Moslems of Spain and North-western Africa.”

Some historians described the Berbers as war-like, nomadic and a predatory population stretching from the borders of Egypt to Morocco, and often lived on the borders of the desert and at the foot of mountains.

Some Were Called Berbers
Further research reveals the Moors were not all of Arab and North African mixed blood as many historians report, many of them were black. According to Ivan Van Sertima, associate professor of African studies at Rutgers University, Black Moors were in every corner of Europe. “Most people do not know that the peoples called Berbers by the classical Greek and Roman historians were black and affiliated with the then contemporary peoples of the East African area.”

Although much of the literature about the Berbers was burned, their presence was recorded by the Vikings and many others. Anthropologist, Dana Reynolds traced the African roots of the original North African peoples through a dozen Greek and Byzantine (neo-Roman writers) from the first to the sixth century AD. They describe the Berber population of Northern Africa, as “black-skinned and woolly-haired.”

Black as a Moor
The “Moorish” people, as the blacks were described in the pre-Islamic era, were noted for their skin color by such descriptive phrases as “black as melted pitch” and “blacker than ink,” quoted by Van Sertima in his book Golden Age of the Moor. In certain well-known European epics and histories, the phrase “black as a Moor” was used from Roman times until the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, masqueraders used to blacken their faces, so they might better pass as Moors.

Westerners choose to concentrate on the most recent world of the Arab and Berber-speaking peoples as if it is a world that has always been. The story of when North Africa was Moorish and Arabia (land of Saracens) has yet to be told.

Source: Identifying the Ethnicity of the Moors: Who Were the Berbers?

Modern Moors in Morocco

The Moors in Europe
It would not be inaccurate to say that the Moors helped reintroduce Europe to civilization. But just who were the Moors of antiquity anyway? As early as the Middle Ages, and as early as the seventeenth century, “The Moors were,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “commonly supposed to be mostly black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for negro.” Dr. Chancellor Williams stated that “The original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were Black Africans.”

At the beginning of the eighth century Moorish soldiers crossed over from Africa into Spain, Portugal, and France, where their swift victories became the substance of legends. To the Christians of early Europe there was no question regarding the ethnicity of the Moors, and numerous sources support the view that the Moors were a black-skinned people. Morien, for example, is the adventure of a heroic Moorish knight supposed to have lived during the days of King Arthur. Morien is described as “all black: his head, his body, and his hands were all black.” In the French epic known as the Song of Roland the Moors are described as “blacker than ink.”

William Shakespeare used the word Moor as a synonym for African. Christopher Marlowe used African and Moor interchangeably. Arab writers further buttress the Black identity of the Moors. The powerful Moorish emperor Yusuf ben-Tachfin is described by an Arab chronicler as “a brown man with wooly hair.”
Continue Reading Black History Month: Africans in Europe…


Black History Month: Africans in Latin America

February 22, 2011 at 12:02 PM | Posted in Abs Fab, Don't be a Dummy, Education | 1 Comment

“In 1570, enslaved Africans outnumbered Spaniards in Mexico three to one, but were reduced to only 10 percent of the population by 1810. On the Caribbean islands, Blacks outnumbered Whites by as many as 23 to 1.”

In this installment of the the Black History Month series, I explore Africa’s role in creating an ethnic group whose identity is normally confused, and sometimes hidden or entirely wiped out. Without Africans, the entire Latino ethnic group would not even exist today. Aside from the human aspect of it, the entire culture—food, music, customs would not exist. Latinos are a result of conquest, “exploration” and slavery. MOST Latinos are of or have African descent in their lineage. It is oftentimes rejected in favor of a more “whitewashed” image, but the truth remains that Latinos are a result of the African Diaspora. With Black Latinos in the media consistently and ferociously battling what they are, a la skin Sammy Sosa skin bleaching, it is no surprise the same conditioning and brainwashing and self hatred that has been shopped in the United States to Black Americans is mirrored in Latin America. But the reality is we are here, a lot of us are proud and we will be seen.

The first town of freed African slaves in the Americas is not exactly where you would expect to find it — and it isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find either. First, it’s not in the United States. Yanga, on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, is a sleepy pueblito founded by its namesake, Gaspar Yanga, an African slave who led a rebellion against his Spanish colonial masters in the late 16th century and fought off attempts to retake the settlement. The second thing that is immediately evident to vistors who reach the town’s rustic central plaza: there are virtually no blacks among the few hundred residents milling around the center of town.

Source: NewsOne: Black Mexicans Seek Recognition and Equality

Black Mexicans

If you have not heard of Mexico’s native blacks, you are not alone. The story that has been passed down through generations is that their ancestors arrived on a slave boat filled with Cubans and Haitians, which sank off Mexico’s Pacific coast. The survivors hid away in fishing villages on the shore. The story is a myth: Spanish colonialists trafficked African slaves into ports on the opposite Gulf coast, and slaves were distributed further inland. The persistence of this story explains the reluctance of many black Mexicans to embrace the label “Afro”, and why many Mexicans assume black nationals hail from the Caribbean. Colonial records show that around 200,000 African slaves were imported into Mexico in the 16th and 17th centuries to work in silver mines, sugar plantations and cattle ranches. But after Mexico won its independence from Spain, the needs of these black Mexicans were ignored. Some Afro-Mexican activists identify themselves as part of the African diaspora. Given their rejection from Mexican culture, this offers a more empowering cultural reference. But with no collective memory of slavery (it was officially abolished in Mexico in 1822), or of any time in Africa before then, Afro-Mexicans are considerably removed from their African roots.

Source: Mexico’s hidden Blacks

The Islands
The 18th century brought about a turning point in Caribbean history when slavery was brought to the islands. European importers demanded high quantities of sugar, the product of sugarcane, which grew easily in the Caribbean’s temperate weather. As demand for sugar increased, so did the demand for plantation labor.

The indigenous Arawaks were the Europeans’ original slaves but they were quickly dying out. By this time slavery was a fixture in European and Arab countries. To continue the grievous trend in the Caribbean, then-friar Bartoleme de las Casas of Hispaniola suggested enslaving Africans. Hence, many new slaves came from Africa’s Guinea coast. They were taken from their homes by slave-raiding parties, which were often endorsed by the local government.

Black Latinos

They were shipped to the West Indies via the notorious Middle Passage–a horrendous mode of transport in which slaves were packed into the ship’s hold so tightly that they could not move freely and sometimes suffocated to death. On average, 12 percent of slaves died on the trip; those who survived were fed, “oiled”, and paraded through the streets to the slave market where they were auctioned off and traded for liquor, guns, and other goods.

They were pawns in the infamous Triangular Trade: European ships set sail for the Caribbean colonies with bartering goods, arms, and liquor for African slave traders; slaves were captured and shipped from Africa to the islands; and in the final step, sugar and rum were exported from the Caribbean back to Europe.

The average life expectancy for an imported slave was only seven years, but history tells that many died within the first year after they arrived. The acclimation period, or “seasoning” as it was called, was a time of brutal adjustment for the new slaves. They were forced to adopt new cultural customs and language.

On the plantations, owners demanded slaves sever every tie to their homeland and kept slaves of the same culture apart. Rebellion was common, and slave owners exercised harsh punishments for disobedience or acts of will; indeed, it was not illegal to kill an African man in the British colonies until the beginning of the 19th century.

In the 1770s, anti-slavery movements began to take shape in Europe. The Society for the Abolition of Slavery was established in 1787 to raise public awareness of the inhumane treatment of slaves. It wasn’t until 1807, however, that a law was passed banning the trade of slaves on British ships.

Soon after the law was passed, many other countries enacted similar laws; in 1831, a massive anti-slavery rebellion in Jamaica destroyed many sugar estates, motivating Parliament to sanction the Emancipation Act of 1834. After a four-year “apprenticeship” during which the slaves were still bound to plantation life, they were released unconditionally.

Cuba was still importing slaves until 1865, and did not officially abolish slavery until 1888. The French possessions did not free their slaves until 1848, followed by the Dutch in 1863 and Puerto Rico in 1873. Many freed slaves purchased parcels of land for subsistence farming. On some of the smaller Caribbean islands, however, there was little land left to buy, so they had to return to plantation work.

Source: Caribbean Guide: From High Seas to High Life

Dominican Republic

According to a study by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, about 90% of the contemporary Dominican population has West African ancestry to varying degrees. However, most Dominicans do not self-identify as black, in contrast to people of West African ancestry in other countries. Interesting.

Source: Wikipedia: Dominican Republic

Dominicans of African descent

Central and South America

A few African servants accompanying the early Spanish or Portuguese explorers were the first slaves to enter the continent. Larger-scale importation of slaves from Africa developed after the slave trade was established early in the 16th century, though reliable quantitative information is lacking. Estimates of the number of Africans brought to South America are four million for Brazil and three million for all of Spanish America, of which most went to areas of present-day Venezuela, Colombia, coastal Ecuador and Peru, and northwestern Argentina; a number also went to the large Spanish colonial cities as urban servants. In addition, many Africans were brought to the British and Dutch Guianas (present-day Guyana and Suriname, respectively). African slaves were considered to be more resistant than American Indians to tropical diseases, especially in plantation areas. Most of the slaves imported into South America came from Portuguese or Spanish trading posts along the west coast of Africa, including areas near present-day Angola. The slave trade ceased in the early 19th century as most of the new republics banned slavery.

Source: Encyclopedia Britanica

Music, culture, and customs derived from Africa
The tango dance of Argentina was developed from dual African ancestries. One source is undoubtedly the Spanish fandango, but the fandango is really Moorish. The other source is a Black dance called the candombe, the feature attraction of Afro-Argentine festivals during and after the period of slavery. Latin American music has always been deeply influenced by the vibrant rhythms and melodies that Blacks brought with them from their African homeland.

This is particularly true of Brazil; in fact, the first real music school in that country was founded by a Black priest. Brazilian music is thoroughly filled with African themes, and well-known composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos have long found inspiration in the Black musical heritage. Many Caribbean musical styles have become widely known, including the mambo from Cuba, salsa from Puerto Rico, reggae from Jamaica, and calypso from Trinidad.

Source: African American Registry: Blacks in Latin America, A Brief History

Brazil is home to the world’s second largest population of African descent. Brazilians regularly eat foods and use words that originated in Africa, their history books talk almost exclusively about the deeds of white heroes, said Emanoel Araujo, a renowned black sculptor and the curator of the Afro Brasil Museum in Sao Paulo.

Brazil's current goalkeepers: Black Brazilian athletes often face discrimination despite awe-inspiring talents and skills

“We need to redo the history of this country,” Araujo said, “and work around the premise and the perspective of the African not only as a slave but as the one who changed Brazilian society, the one who constructed Brazilian society, who constructed the wealth of Brazil.”

That day of acknowledgment is still far off, and Brazil, a country with one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor in the world, is sharply divided between its whites and non-whites.

Source: Miami Herald: A Rising Voice Series: Afro-Latin Americans

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Black History Month: Africans in Asia

February 20, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Posted in Abs Fab, Education | 1 Comment

This series examines the African Diaspora on different regions and continents even before the slave trade. Aside from humans evolving from the Motherland, there are groups on every continent whose ancestry is unequivocally from Africa. More or less invisible for whatever conspiracy theory you choose, they undoubtedly tell a larger story of world history. Sources for this entry are listed at the end of the post.

Although the great majority of the people of the Philippines are Tagalog, the country is not ethnically homogeneous. In spite of their small numbers the original inhabitants of the Philippines are the Agta (diminutive Africoids), who still live there in some numbers and are commonly and pejoratively called Pygmies, Negritos and Aeta, and a variety of other names based upon their specific locale. In regards to phenotype, broadly speaking, the Agta can be described as physically small and unusually short in stature, dark-skinned, spiral-haired and broad-nosed. They are an extremely ancient people and, I believe, close representatives of the world’s earliest modern humans.

"Filipino Negritos"

Very similar groups of Black people in Asia reside in relative small numbers in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand in Southeast Asia. In Thailand they are commonly called Sakai. In Malaysia they have been called Orang Asli (Original Man). Pejoratively they are known as Semang, with the connotation of savage. It is very unfortunate that the contributions of these small Black people to monumental high-cultures characterized by urbanization, metallurgy, agricultural science and scripts remain essentially unexamined.

The presence of diminutive Africoids (whom Chinese historians called “Black Dwarfs”) in early southern China during the period of the Three Kingdoms (ca. 250 C.E.) is recorded in the book of the Official of the Liang Dynasty (502-556 C.E.). In Taiwan there are recollections of a group of people now said to be extinct called “Little Black Man.”

“They were described as short, dark-skinned people with short curly hair….These people, presumably Negritos, disappeared about 100 years ago. Their existence was mentioned in many Chinese documents of the Ching Dynasty concerning Taiwan.”

Similar groups of Black people have been identified in Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, and it seems almost certain that at one time a belt of Black populations of this type covered much of Asia.

Source: The Global African Community

Some historians think millions of Africans crossed the ocean. The African-Indians are called Sidis. Compared to the fate of Africans taken as slaves to the New World, the history of Africans in India is still largely unknown.

One of the strongest remaining links they have to their roots is the damaal or drum. Otherwise Sidi culture is not significantly different to that of other poor, rural Indians.

“The damaal comes from Africa,” explains Yunus, a blind man who is the chief drummer of Jambur. “The skill of playing has been passed down from father to son. It is a gift from God,” he says.

“A little like an image embedded in a hologram, the African presence in the history and politics of India remains generally obscured from view. It is only when the parchment that is the past is taken in the hand and lightly moved, in the manner of a ‘beam of coherent light’ needed to train upon a hologram, that this presence reveals itself. Then names begin to emerge, some historical developments start to make sense, and the role of a number of emphatic figures can be seen in true perspective”….N. Goswamy,Tribune newspaper

Source: BBC: In picture’s India’s African Communities

Original inhabitants of India
The Tamils are an important branch of the Dravidians. So who are the Dravidians? The Dravidians are among the earliest, perhaps the first, people to inhabit India. The early Greeks and Romans referred to them as Eastern Ethiopians. The term “Ethiopian” is a Greek work and means “people with faces burnt by the sun.” There were Eastern Ethiopians and Western Ethiopians. The Eastern Ethiopians were in Asia and the Western Ethiopians were in Africa. They were both Black people with the only real distinction being the texture of the hair. The Eastern Ethiopians had straight to wavy hair and the Western Ethiopians had tightly curled or kinky hair. The Eastern Ethiopians lived in ancient Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and probably other parts of South Asia.

Many anthropologists believe that the people of Madagascar descended from Africans and Indonesians who mixed before their arrival on the island. There is obviously a fusion of Bantu and Asian culture on Madagascar.

Source: The African-Asian Connection

Why do you think we don’t learn about this history in the classroom? Would you be interested in learning more about how the people of the ancient world traveled and what became of their descendants?

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Brooklyn Book Buddies March Meeting Comes in Like a Lion

February 4, 2011 at 1:35 PM | Posted in Abs Fab, Education | Leave a comment

Join us for chocolate and chat on Wednesday, March 2nd at 6:15 p.m. sharp

Black History Month: This Album May Very Well Change Your Life (or at least increase your knowledge)

February 3, 2011 at 1:25 PM | Posted in Abs Fab | Leave a comment

This Black History gallery was compiled by Kelvin Bennet. He did the research himself and most of these people he’s known about since he was a child. It is valuable history everyone should get acquainted with. See the album

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