Our Heroes and Heroines.

Amina of Zaria


Ann Nzinga “Queen of Ndongo” (1582-1663)

In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese stake in the slave trade was threatened by England and France. This caused the Portuguese to transfer their slave-trading activities southward to the Congo and South West Africa. Their most stubborn opposition, as they entered the final phase of the conquest of Angola, came from a queen who was a great head of state, and a military leader with few peers in her time.

The important facts about her life are outlined by Professor Glasgow of Bowie, Maryland:

“Her extraordinary story begins about 1582, the year of her birth. She is referred to as Nzingha, or Jinga, but is better known as Ann Nzingha. She was the sister of the then-reigning King of Ndongo, Ngoli Bbondi, whose country was later called Angola. Nzingha was from an ethnic group called the Jagas. The Jagas were an extremely militant group who formed a human shield against the Portuguese slave traders. Nzingha never accepted the Portuguese conquest of Angola, and was always on the military offensive. As part of her strategy against the invaders, she formed an alliance with the Dutch, who she intended to use to defeat the Portuguese slave traders.”

In 1623, at the age of forty-one, Nzingha became Queen of Ndongo. She forbade her subjects to call her Queen, She preferred to be called King, and when leading an army in battle, dressed in men’s clothing.

In 1659, at the age of seventy-five, she signed a treaty with the Portuguese, bringing her no feeling of triumph. Nzingha had resisted the Portuguese most of her adult life. African bravery, however, was no match for gun powder. This great African woman died in 1663, which was followed by the massive expansion of the Portuguese slave trade.

Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah became the first prime and later president of Ghana. He is an icon of Pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism in Africa. He was born on September 21, 1909, at Nkroful in what was then the British-ruled Gold Coast, the son of a goldsmith. Trained as a teacher, he went to the United States in 1935 for advanced studies and continued his schooling in England, where he helped organize the Pan-African Congress in 1945. He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People’s party (CPP).

After his ‘positive action’ campaign created disturbances in 1950, Nkrumah was jailed, but when the CPP swept the 1951 elections, he was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence as Ghana in 1957. A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. As head of government, he was less successful however, and as time passed he was accused of forming a dictatorship. In 1964 he formed a one-party state, with himself as president for life, and was accused of actively promoting a cult of his own personality. Overthrown by the military in 1966, with the help of western backing, he spent his last years in exile, dying in Bucharest, Romania, on April 27, 1972. His legacy and dream of a “United States of African” still remains a goal among many.

Nkrumah was the motivating force behind the movement for independence of Ghana, then British West Africa, and its first president when it became independent in 1957. His numerous writings address Africa’s political destiny.

Nat Turner (1800 – 1831)

Nathaniel Turner (October 2, 1800 – November 11, 1831), commonly referred to as Nat Turner, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, and was an American Slave. He is described as being singularly intelligent in that he learned to read and write at a young age. As a young child he was overheard describing events that happened before he was born, and throughout his life he frequently received visions which he interpreted as messages from God. Turner often conducted Baptist services, and preached the Bible to his fellow slaves. This, along with his keen intelligence, and other signs marked him in the eyes of his people as a prophet “intended for some great purpose.” He was often seen praying and fasting and deeply engaged in reading stories from the bible.

Turners’ visions greatly influenced his life. For example, one vision in particular convinced him that God had given him the task of slaying all of his enemies with their own weapons. This vision prompted the Slave Rebellion which took place in Southampton County, VA during August 1831.  Nat called on his group (the rebels ultimately included more than 50 enslaved and free Africans) to “kill all whites”. As a result, slaves in the rebellion killed approximately 60 white people before the rebellion was put down a few days later, but leader Nat Turner remained in hiding for several months afterwards.

On October 30, 1831 Turner was discovered hiding in a hole covered with fence rails and then taken to court. On November 5, 1831, Nat was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He was hung on November 11 in Jerusalem, Virginia, now known as Courtland, Virginia. His body was then flayed, beheaded and quartered.

Captain Thomas Sankara

Captain Thomas Sankara was the leader of the Burkinabe Revolution. In the former Upper Volta known today as Burkina Faso, a group of men decided to launch a revolution that would enable the country “to accept the responsibility of its reality and its destiny with human dignity”. Thomas Sankara belongs to the group of African leaders who wanted to give the continent in general and their countries in particular a new sociopolitical dimension. He was the hope of the African youth before being coldly murdered by his best friend Blaise Compaore. He was remember also for his humility and lived in the same economic conditions of his people. He despised flaunting of wealth and downgraded the government fleet of cars. He is an example which few African leaders today follow.

Born in Yako, Upper Volta now Burkina Faso,on December 21,1949 was a charismatic left-leaning leader in West Africa. He was sometimes nicknamed “Tom Sank”. He was considered by some to be an “African Che Guevara”.

A captain in the Upper Volta Air Force, he was trained as a pilot. He was a very popular figure in the capital of Ouagadougou. The fact that was he was a decent guitarist and liked motorbikes may have contributed to his charisma.

Sankara was appointed Secretary of State for Information in 1981 and became Prime minister in 1983. He was jailed the same year after a visit by Jean-Christophe Mitterrand ; this caused a popular uprising.

A coup d’Etat organized by Blaise Compaore made Sankara President on August 4, 1983, at the age of 33. The coup d’Etat was supported by Libya which was, at the time, on the verge of war with France in Chad . Sankara saw himself as a revolutionary and was inspired by Cuba and Ghana’s military leader, Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings. As president, he promoted the “Democratic and Popular Revolution” (RDP Revolution Democratique et Populaire).

His government included large number of women. His policy was oriented toward fighting corruption, reforestation, averting famine, and making education and health real priorities.  Improving women’s status was one of Sankara’s explicit goals, that was unprecedented in West Africa. His government banned female circumcision, condemned polygamy, and promoted contraception.

The Burkinabe government was also the first African government to claim that AIDS was a major threat for Africa. In 1984, on the first anniversary of his accession, he renamed the country Burkina Faso, meaning “the land of upright people” in Mossi and Dyula, the two major languages of the country. He also gave it a new flag and wrote a new national anthem.

On October 15, 1987 Sankara was killed in a coup d’Etat organized by his former colleague Blaise Compaore. It’s thought that Compaoré may have had the support of France, which had been irritated for sometime by Sankara and his anti-imperialistic slogans. His replacement, Compaoré, proved to be a much more flexible partner.

Thomas Sankara has come to be a symbol of resistance, and one which speaks particularly to the imagination of young Africans. As a hero of the revolution, leader of the opposition to the colonial West – to many Africans Sankara enjoys the same status as that of Che Guevara in Latin America.

Amílcar Cabral

RBG Communiversity Page 1 of 33 Amílcar Cabral “One of the greatest of modern theoreticians of the African Revolution” A founder of the Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) A Brief Biography Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈmilkaɾ ˈlɔpɨʃ kɐˈbɾal]; (12 September 1924 – 20 January 1973) was a Guinea- Bissauan agronomic engineer, writer, Marxist and nationalist guerrilla and politician. Also known by his nom de guerre Abel Djassi, Cabral led African nationalist movements in Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands and led Guinea-Bissaus independence movement. He was assassinated in 1973, just months before Guinea-Bissau declared unilateral independence. Early years He was born on September 12, 1924 in Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea, son of Juvenal Lopes da Costa Cabral (Cape Verdean) and Iva Pinhel Évora (Guinea-Bissauan) . Cabral was educated at a licéu in Cape Verde and later in Lisbon (the capital of Portugal which was the colonial power that ruled over Portuguese Guinea) at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia. While an agronomy student in Lisbon he founded student movements dedicated to African liberation. http://www.slideshare.net/rbgstreetscholar1/amilcar-cabral-biography-and-two-classic-speeches


Cheikh Anta Diop

Diop was born to an aristocratic Muslim Wolof family in Senegal where he was educated in a traditional Islamic school. Diop’s family was part of the Mouride sect. He studied Qur’an at a young age which is believed to contributed with his disciplined studious abilities.

Cheikh Anta Diop, a modern champion of African identity, was born in Diourbel, Senegal on December 29, 1923. At the age of twenty-three, he journeyed to Paris, France to continue advanced studies in physics. Within a very short time, however, he was drawn deeper and deeper into studies relating to the African origins of humanity and civilization.

Becoming more and more active in the African student movements then demanding the independence of French colonial possessions, he became convinced that only by reexamining and restoring Africa’s distorted, maligned and obscured place in world history could the physical and psychological shackles of colonialism be lifted from our Motherland and from African people dispersed globally. His initial doctoral dissertation submitted at the University of Paris, Sorbonne in 1951, based on the premise that Egypt of the pharaohs was an African civilization–was rejected. Regardless, this dissertation was published by Presence Africaine under the title Nations Negres et Culture in 1955 and won him international acclaim. Two additional attempts to have his doctorate granted were turned back until 1960 when he entered his defense session with an array of sociologists, anthropologists and historians and successfully carried his argument. After nearly a decade of titanic and herculean effort, Diop had finally won his Docteur es Lettres! In that same year, 1960, were published two of his other works–the Cultural Unity of Black Africa and and Precolonial Black Africa.

During his student days, Cheikh Anta Diop was an avid political activist. From 1950 to 1953 he was the Secretary-General of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA) and helped establish the first Pan-African Student Congress in Paris in 1951. He also participated in the First World Congress of Black Writers and Artists held in Paris in 1956 and the second such Congress held in Rome in 1959. Upon returning to Senegal in 1960, Dr. Diop continued his research and established a radiocarbon laboratory in Dakar. In 1966, the First World Black Festival of Arts and Culture held in Dakar, Senegal honored Dr. Diop and Dr. W.E.B. DuBois as the scholars who exerted the greatest influence on African thought in twentieth century. In 1974, a milestone occurred in the English-speaking world when the African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality was finally published. It was also in 1974 that Diop and Theophile Obenga collectively and soundly reaffirmed the African origin of pharaonic Egyptian civilization at a UNESCO sponsored symposium in Cairo, Egypt. In 1981, Diop’s last major work, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology was published.

Dr. Diop was the Director of Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) at the University of Dakar. He sat on numerous international scientific committees and achieved recognition as one of the leading historians, Egyptologists, linguists and anthropologists in the world. He traveled widely, lectured incessantly and was cited and quoted voluminously. He was regarded by many as the modern `pharoah’ of African studies. Cheikh Anta Diop died quietly in sleep in Dakar, Senegal on February 7, 1986.


Yaa Asantewa “Queen Mother of Ejisu” (1900)

Near the end of the 19th century, the British exiled King Prempeh from the hinterlands of the gold coast (present day Ghana), in an attempt to take over. By 1900, still not gaining control, the British sent a governor to the city of Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti, to demand the Golden Stool, the Ark of the covenant of the Ashanti people.

The Golden Stool was the supreme symbol of the sovereignty and the independence of the Ashanti, a fierce and warlike people who inhabit dense rain forests of what is now the Central portion of Ghana. The Governor in no way understood the sacred significance of the Stool, which according to tradition, contained the soul of the Ashanti.

Yaa Asantewa was present at the meeting with the governor and chiefs. When the meeting ended, and she was alone with the Ashanti Chiefs, she said, “Now I have seen that some of you fear to fight for our King. If it were in the brave days of old, the days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anoyke and Opulu Ware, Ashanti Chiefs would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared speak to Ashanti Chiefs in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning.”

Yaa Asantewa’s speech stirred up the men, she said “If you men will not go forward, then we the women will. I will call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men until the last of us falls in the battlefields. The Ashantis, led by Yaa Asantewa, fought very bravely.

The British sent 1400 soldiers with guns to Kumasi, capturing Yaa Asantewa and other leaders and sent them into exile. The war with the British started in 1805 and ended some 100 years later. Yaa Asantewa’s War was the last major war led by an African woman.

Robert Sobukwe (1924-1978)

The African nationalist leader Robert Sobukwe was born in Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Born to farmer/ part-time woodcutter Hubert and housewife/ hospital cook Angelina Sobukwe on 5th December 1924, he was the youngest of five sons and one daughter. Thanks to a bursary from the Department of Education and a loan from the Bantu Welfare Trust, he later attended Fort Hare University, a public university in Eastern Cape. This university between 1916 and 1959 was instrumental in creating a African political elite as it was attended by students from all over Sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that he became a member of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), the youth wing of the African National Congress whose purpose was to secure indigenous African leadership.

In 1952 in the ANCYL he and Nelson Mandela together became leaders of the Defiance Campaign. However, soon enough he found himself at odds with the ANC’s leaders as they were willing to accept multiracial (i.e. non-African) leadership due to their ongoing participation in the Native Representative Council which was compelled to contain white officials.

Sobukwe himself fervently demonstrated a belief in “Africa for the Africans”, rejecting any type of system that allowed non-Africans to aid in African progress. His beliefs inspired many anti-apartheid movements, especially the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). After the ANCYL he went on to become the founder and 1st President of the Pan-African Congress (PAC) whose purpose was to oppose the apartheid regime which was in force at the time (1948-1994). He was known to have said in his inauguration speech:

“…(M)ulti-racialism is in fact a pandering to European bigotry and arrogance. It is a method of safeguarding white interests, implying as it does, proportional representation irrespective of population figures.
…We guarantee no minority rights, because we think in terms of individuals, not groups.

In 1954 he became a lecturer of African studies at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he became known as “the Prof”, and from 1957 onward was editor of The Africanist paper.
When it came to 21 March 1960 Robert was heading a national protest against the Pass Law, a law mandating all black South Africans to carry a pass book to allow them to visit only certain areas of the country. When he took the march to a police station in Soweto, he was found guilty of breaking this law. Meanwhile, officers in Sharpeville police station opened fire on PAC supporters which resulted in 69 of them dead and 180 injured. This is known as the Sharpeville Massacre. This also resulted in Robert’s arrest (which the white authorities had lusted after for so long); he was sentenced to 3 years and then kept in solitary confinement on Robben Island for an additional 6 years due to the General Law Amendment Act, a law that allowed the Minister of Justice to annually renew Sobukwe’s sentence indefinitely.

After his release in 1969 he and his family were put under house arrest in Galeshewe, Kimberley, Northern Cape. This was deemed a sufficiently isolated place for him to be safe, which of course really meant for him to be kept out of sight and out of mind from the white South Africans. He was forbidden from resuming political activity and overseas travel, which meant he could no longer accept several prospective teaching positions in American universities. After finishing a law degree with help from a local lawyer and opening a law practice in Kimberley in 1975, he fell ill and in 1977 was in hospital where it was discovered that he had lung cancer. Though doctors requested the authorities to allow him freedom of movement on humanitarian grounds, this request was ignored outright. He had to be shunted around to different hospitals to receive appropriate treatments – which he ultimately didn’t get because of restrictions compelling him to report to the police every time he left Kimberley and Cape Town. In other words, the white authorities and police deliberately tried to stop his treatments while fully conscious that his cancer was getting worse.

Sobukwe finally died on 27th February 1978 from pulmonary complications. Today he is still celebrated as a man who strived for a democratic South Africa.

Toussaint L’Ouverture (20 May 1743 – 8 April 1803)

The remarkable leader of this slave revolt was Toussaint Breda (later called Toussaint L’Ouverture, and sometimes the “black Napoleon”). Slave revolts from this time normally ended in executions and failure – this story is the exception. It began in 1791 in the French colony of Saint Dominique (later Haiti). Though born a slave in Saint Dominique, Toussaint learned of Africa from his father, who had been born a free man there.

Napoleon was one of the greatest generals who ever lived. But at the end of the 18th century a self-educated slave with no military training drove Napoleon out of Haiti and led his country to independence.

He learned that he was more than a slave, that he was a man with brains and dignity. He was fortunate in having a liberal master who had him trained as a house servant and allowed him to learn to read and write. Toussaint took full advantage of this, reading every book he could get his hands on. He particularly admired the writings of the French Enlightenment philosophers, who spoke of individual rights and equality.

In 1789 the French Revolution rocked France. The sugar plantations of Saint Dominique, though far away, would never be the same. Spurred on by such Enlightenment thinkers as JeanJacques Rousseau, the early moderate revolutionaries considered seriously the question of slavery. Those moderate revolutionaries were not willing to end slavery but they did apply the “Rights of Man” to all Frenchmen, including free blacks and mulattoes (those of mixed race). Plantation owners in the colonies were furious and fought the measure. Finally the revolutionaries gave in and retracted the measure in 1791.

The news of this betrayal triggered mass slave revolts in Saint Dominique, and Toussaint became the leader of the slave rebellion. He became known as Toussaint L’Ouverture (the one who finds an opening) and brilliantly led his rag-tag slave army. He successfully fought the French (who helped by succumbing to yellow fever in large numbers) as well as invading Spanish and British.

By 1793, the revolution in France was in the hands of the Jacobins, the most radical of the revolutionary groups. This group, led by Maximilian Robespierre, was responsible for the Reign of Terror, a campaign to rid France of “enemies of the revolution.” Though the Jacobins brought indiscriminate death to France, they were also idealists who wanted to take the revolution as far as it could go. So they again considered the issue of “equality” and voted to end slavery in the French colonies, including what was now known as Haiti.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He died El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, and went into history as one of the most influential minds of the African world. Who underwent three amazing transformations in his short life. From Little to X, to Shabazz. His mother, Louis Norton Little, was a homemaker occupied with the family’s eight children. His father, Earl Little, was an outspoken Baptist minister and avid supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.

Earl’s civil rights activism prompted death threats from the white supremacist organization Black Legion, forcing the family to relocate twice before Malcolm’s fourth birthday. Regardless of the Little’s efforts to elude the Legion, in 1929 their Lansing, Michigan home was burned to the ground, and two years later Earl’s mutilated body was found lying across the town’s trolley tracks.

Police ruled both accidents, but the Little’s were certain that members of the Black Legion were responsible. Louise had an emotional breakdown several years after the death of her husband and was committed to a mental institution. Her children were split up amongst various foster homes and orphanages.

Malcolm was a smart, focused student and graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger,” Malcolm lost interest in school. He dropped out, spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts working various odd jobs, and then traveled to Harlem, New York where he committed petty crimes. By 1942 Malcolm was coordinating various narcotic, prostitution and gambling rings.

Eventually Malcolm and his buddy, Malcolm “Shorty” Jarvis, moved back to Boston, where they were arrested and convicted on burglary charges in 1946. Malcolm placated himself by using the seven-year prison sentence to further his education. It was during this period of self-enlightenment that Malcolm’s brother Reginald visited and discussed his recent conversion to the Muslim religious organization the Nation of Islam. Intrigued, Malcolm studied the teachings of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the Nation of Islam fought for a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. By the time he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower with the new surname “X.” He considered “Little” a slave name and chose the “X” to signify his lost tribal name.

Intelligent and articulate, Malcolm was appointed a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad also charged him with establishing new mosques in cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Harlem, New York. Malcolm utilized newspaper columns, radio and television to communicate the Nation of Islam’s message across the United States. His charisma, drive and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members. Malcolm was largely credited with increasing membership in the Nation of Islam from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.

The crowds and controversy surrounding Malcolm made him a media magnet. He was featured in a week-long television special with Mike Wallace in 1959, The Hate That Hate Produced, that explored fundamentals of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm’s emergence as one of its most important leaders. After the special, Malcolm was faced with the uncomfortable reality that his fame had eclipsed that of his mentor Elijah Muhammad.


Amos Wilson (1941 – 1995)

Dr. Amos Nelson Wilson (1941 – 1995) Former Social Caseworker, Psychological Counselor, Supervising Probation Officer, Training Administrator in the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, Master Teacher, Organizer, and Author. The late, Honorable Dr. Wilson was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1941. Familiarly referred to as Brother Amos, he provided the average person with an acute analysis of where we are and the things that affect us. He served as a council to energize our race and those in positions of influence as to how to carry out their leadership responsibilities. Dr. Wilson’s activities transcended academia into the fields of business, owning and operating various enterprises in the greater New York ar

Wilson transitioned in 1995 and could’ve been found lecturing with the elders mentioned…he admired Dr. Chancellor Williams. However, because of his understanding of consciousness (trained as a developmental psychologist/clinical psychologist and MUCH MORE!), his comprehension per personality/identity/culture/socialization/pedagogy, etc., (esp., Psycho-history: how historical experiences–natural and social–shape the individual and the group), gave him another insight that many (really most) are now “catching-up” with today. He predicted and prescribed endless well-though out works as to the black American’s and to a lesser degree, the global black “collective’s,” dire reality.

He found the historical romanticism (black firsts/”Egyptian Obsession”) and contributionism (gifts to oppressive systems/”Black History Month”) in excess, reactionary and an affront to the realization of African growth, development and advancement (Pan-Africanism). These are his body of work: Developmental Psychology of the Black Child Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children Black-On-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination Understanding Black Adolescent Male Violence: Its Remediation and Prevention The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness: Euro-centric History, Psychiatry and the Politics of White Supremacy African-Centered Consciousness Vs. The New World Order Blueprint for Black Power: A Moral, Political, and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century (his last text before transition)


Hannibal of Carthage (247-183 B.C.)

Hannibal is said to be the greatest military leader and strategist of all time. Hannibal was born in 247 B.C., when Carthage, then the maritime power, was beginning to decline. The Carthaginians civilisation was a mix of African and Phoenicians, who were great merchants. They traded with India and the people of the Mediterranean, and the Scilly Isles.

When very young, Hannibal accompanied Hamilclar, his father in a battle with the Romans. Seventeen years later, he succeeded his father and became supreme commander of the peninsula.

Hannibal had 80,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and 40 African war elephants. He conquered major portions of Spain and France, and all of Italy, except for Rome.

Hannibal marched his army and war elephants through the Alps to surprise and conquer his enemies. In one battle, the Romans put 80,000 men on the field to defeat Hannibal, led by Scipio. When Scipio attacked with his entire army, Hannibal had so studied the grounds and arranged his men so that they surrounded the Romans. He then turned his armored war elephants loose and trampled them. Behind them, he sent his African swordsmen to complete the slaughter.

In another battle, Rome sent 90,000 men led by Varro and Emilius. With only 50,000 men, knowing he could not win by using his main force, Hannibal placed the weakest part of his army in the center, contrary to the best military rules. With his veterans and cavalry on both wings, the Romans struck them in full center as Hannibal had anticipated. When they were sure of victory by overcoming the center, Hannibal’s flank closed in and killed 70,000 men, 80 senators and Emilius.

Hannibal later went on to become a statesman of Carthage, and later took his own life, rather than surrender to Rome.

King Ibrahim Njoya (1860-1933)

Njoya’s family’s dynastic rule began in the 14th century. The son of king Nsangu, Ibrahim was due to become king of his people – the Bamum of West Cameroon. However, as he wasn’t yet of age his mother Njapdunke acted as regent. Even upon reaching maturity his official rule couldn’t commence because his slain father’s head was in enemy hands, and according to Bamum tradition ancestors’ heads or skulls are of ceremonial importance. This meant he had to wait until he’d recovered his father’s head, for which he enlisted German aid and was thus granted relative independence.

This meant he subsequently maintained good relations with the Germans, even going so far as to discard resistance proposals from Rudolf Duala Manga Bell (a fellow Cameroonian king who, though raised to respect African & European customs and usually compliant with colonial powers, was vehemently opposed to the German Reichstag’s policy to have his people the Duala moved inland to make way for 100% European riverside settlements) after being asked for assistance. This seemed to have been borne out of a belief that opposing German powers would be unhelpful for the Bamum.

pon retrieval of his father’s head, Njoya’s official rule began in 1886/7, thereby making him the 17th king of Bamum. Early on in his reign he thought he tried to work European influences into his society by dressing his soldiers in a uniform that resembled those of the Hungarian Hussars and training them in a similar manner. This experiment didn’t sit well with Europeans as they found it insulting and intimidating. Ibrahim was known to be intelligent, having invented a manual corn-grinding mill and a palace built for him. He is also known to have converted to Christianity and Islam, abandoning idolatry, royal excesses and polygamy. Later he used the Islamic and Christian influences in his life, blended them with traditional Bamum religion and effectively formed his own religion.

His invention of the Bamum’s very first alphabet – A-ka-u-ku – enabled his people’s history and culture to be more accurately preserved. Prior to this, recording of history was done by intergenerational oral transmission, the way used in much of Africa at the time (known as the African griot tradition). As Njoya duly noted, oral transmission risked corruption via memory lapses, mishearing or deliberate falsification, hence he ensured all levels of his government and schools learned his script. This meant that for the 1st time ever, the Bamum people read about their customs and country’s history.

Symbols and pictograms were developed to depict certain syllables. His intellectuals aided him in simplifying it as it initially had around 500 characters. When it was finalised the A-ka-u-ku alphabet had around 70 letters. Just like the English alphabet it is read from left to right.

However, his relationship with French turned sour and in 1931 the French government had him deposed and exiled. He died 2 years later at the age of 73. Soon after his exile the French banned A-ka-u-ku in the school system, so now most Bamum have forgotten it. subsequently Ibrahim Njoya’s grandson Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya (current Cameroonian sultan) turned his grandfather’s palace into a school for children to re-learn the alphabet.


As stated elsewhere that the list will continue to expand. With pride and honour YAP boldly point to above listed great personalities as our heroes/heroine to whom we owe our existence as free Africans not under chains or claws colonialism. During their time slavery and colonialism and to some extent neo-colonialism were the enemies and as brave warriors they fought without fear, they were dauntless and uncompromising. In our time neo-colonialism and disunity dare us we must fight back without fear, we must be dauntless and uncompromising like the people before us had done only this way can our hopes and aspirations become reality, only this way can our dreams becomes reality. Through unity we will bring to reality Africa of our dreams, together we must stand, together we must learn, and together we must work.

Long live Africa!!! Long live YAP!!!


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