African Resistance and Colonial Domination:The Africans in the Americas| Dr. John Henrik Clarke


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African Resistance and Colonial Domination:The Africans in the Americas| Dr. John Henrik Clarke

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African Resistance and Colonial Domination:The Africans in the Americas| Dr. John Henrik Clarke

  2. 2. Dr. John Henrik ClarkeAFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIALDOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THEAMERICASThe story of the Africans who live outside of Africa is morethan a twice-told tale, yet their true history is basicallyunknown. There is a large body of literature on the subject,mostly written by able writers of African descent, that is still neglected.Yet theirs is one of the longest struggles against oppression inthe history of the world.The subject is always bigger than the time allowed to discuss it,so I will go straight to the subject. I have said and documented thatwe, as a people, have been under siege for over 3,000 years. Wehave been under siege for more than 3,000 years but lets besatisfied just to look at 3,000 years of siege as a preface to this talk.For at least that period of time our lives as a people have beenplagued by people trying to take what we have, trying to extract ourlabor, our land, and our resources, and we have been under siege aspeople principally because we have always had and still have thingsthat other people want, things they cannot do without, and dontwant to pay for. And for 3,000 years the enemy has either been atthe door, in the house or in our beds. Now this last item is cruel. Itis cruel because when you study the nature of conquest the first 1|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  3. 3. thing the conqueror assumes that belongs to him are your women.And the first thing the conqueror begins to do is the bastardizationof a people. When a people are bastardized there is set up amongthem a separate group within the group who are at odds withinthemselves about their loyalty. If I take this to its logical sequence,I will have to explain why that group kept Haiti from becomingindependent, and literally kept Jamaica from becoming independent.When a people are not too sure about who they are loyal to andwhat their commitments are they represent a danger within thecultural mainstream of their society. This is what the Europeans did,especially to the Africans in North America, to the Africans in SouthAmerica and to the Africans in the Caribbean. We have to understandthe different nature of oppression the Africans in these threeareas were reacting to, the historical experience over which they hadlittle or no control, and how they became what the nature of theiroppression made them.I will have to take a broad view of the subject to let you see thatresistance did not start with or during slavery or in the colonialperiod. First, we have to study the slave-buying customs of theEuropean. In the United States they bought slaves in small lots andthey resold the lot piecemeal. As a result, in the United States,Africans were separated instantaneously. When you separate people,break mother away from father, cousins from other relatives, you arebreaking up the one thing that holds a people together, their loyaltysystem. In the Caribbean and in South America they generally 2|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  4. 4. bought slaves in large lots and kept the lots together, not out ofkindness or humanity, [but] because they thought slaves could beworked better that way. They were right, they could, but the oneitem they forgot is that because the slaves remained together, andbecause some of them came over on the same boat, and becausesome of them came from the same region of Africa and thereforehad the same basic culture, they could maintain their loyalty system.It was the loyalty system in South America and in the Caribbean thatmade the revolts in those areas more successful than the revolts inthe United States.Now, if you are thinking fast, you are probably thinking wrong.The Africans in the Caribbean and in South America were not onemite braver than the Africans in the United States. If they foughtbetter and longer in their revolts, and if they were more successful,it is because the nature of the structure of their slavery permittedthem to maintain a loyalty system, one to the other. If you look atthe nineteenth century Caribbean African you will find a consistencyof loyalty. Because the loyalty system had broken down in theUnited States the slaves held no loyalty, one to the other, and themajor slave revolts were betrayed by house servants. In the Caribbean,the major slave revolts were planned by house servants andcarried out by all of the slaves because the house servants and thepeople in the fields had not broken their lines of communication.Lets go back a little further and look at the coming of slaveryitsel£ This is an event in history that we have not looked at except 3|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  5. 5. to look at it and become depressed. The period from 1400 to 1600was a turning point in the history of the world. In 1400 Europe wascoming out of the lethargy of its Middle Ages. The Africans, theArabs and the Berbers had been controlling Spain since 711, andthey were still in control of Spain. Their control of Spain blockedthe Europeans control of the Mediterranean. That is part of whatthe Punic Wars were all about: control of the shipping trade in theMediterranean, then the Sea of Destiny, and it would remain, for athousand years, the Sea of Destiny because it touches on threecontinents and the control and the scramble was really for NorthAfiica-that opening door to Africa, right at its top-and hingesupon the worlds first major melting pot.At this point in history, the Crusades were over. We wont deal,in detail, with the Crusades~ If you were thinking they were religiouswars, you have misread history. These wars were launched to getEuropeans out of Europe. These wars served as emotional drains onEurope and as an outlet for the Europeans with a whole lot of pentupemotions, especially against the church, to start marching andforget their anger against its judgments. They would not remembertheir anger again until the Reformation.Between 1400 and 1600 some events happened that we need topay some attention to. In 1415 the Portuguese, among otherEuropean nations, were living in fear of the so-called infidel Arabs.The Portuguese, who had been originally living under the dominationof the Afiicans and the Arabs, freed themselves from their 4|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  6. 6. domination. They managed to free themselves from this dominationbecause of an argument between two African and Arab groups, theAlmoravides and the Almohad. In that year, a little known event inhistory occurred, the battle of Cueta. The Portuguese were luckyenough to successfully attack a little enclave off the coast of Morocco.This victory stimulated Europe into thinking that the infidelArabs were not beyond defeat. This minor victory was seen as amajor victory and helped Europe into getting its nerves back. It hadhad frayed nerves. It had literally lived, for hundreds of years, in fearof the Africans and Arabs who were blocking their movements in theMediterranean. After the battle of Serta, the Portuguese began toass~rt themselves and this assertion would lead to the weakening ofAfrican and Arab hold on the Mediterranean. With this weakening,this argument between Afiicans and Arabs-dissension within theranks !f the controllers of Spain, led to about one-half of Spainbecorrung free of their domination.With both Spain and Portugal becoming free and the opening upof new trade routes, in 1482, a point to be remembered because anassault was made by the Portuguese to establish permanent homes,the first one being Elmina. Elmina castle is still in existence andmost of the castles along the coast of Ghana are still in existence.Now there is a scramble for footholds in this part of Africa and thisis literally going to become the headquarters for the sla~e trade.Back in 1455, the Spanish and the Portuguese had gone to the Popeto ask for lines of demarcation for areas they opened up. Everybody 5|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  7. 7. had to go to the Pope to engage in the slave trade, and the Popewould tell them rationally that, "You are both authorized to reduceto servitude all infidel people. If they are not Christians they are fairgame for slavery .. .. " He was telling Europeans to engage in thetrade and that they need not feel guilty. England was out of it atthis point, because of a difference of opinion with the church. Thisdifference of opinion with the church, literally, kept England out ofthe trade for its first hundred years, but she was the errand boy forthose in the trade.Now lets look at the significance of the year 1492. This yearholds significance that the African should pay attention to. Therewas a little known sailor called Christobal Colon, later to be knownas Christopher Columbus, who, if you read his diary, says, "As manand boy I sailed up and down the Guinea coast for twenty-threeyears." If you ask what Christopher Columbus was doing up anddown the coast of Guinea for twenty-three years, the only answer isthat he was a slave trader among other things. We know thatChristopher Columbus, allegedly, discovered America. We also knowthat never did he set foot on North America or on South America.And if he did not do this, he discovered absolutely nothing. Butwhat he allegedly discovered or what he allegedly did not discoveris not what is important here. It just helps in trying to show how allof this got set in motion.Your history books tell you that a major event happened in 1492,but something else happened within Africa in that year that Africans 6|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  8. 8. need to pay some attention to also. In 1492, Sonni Ali, emperor ofone of the last great African nations in West Africa, Songhay, wasdrowned on his way home from a battle in the south. He had beenan able ruler and his conflict with the priests was over religion. Hewas not a Moslem, but now with a year of interruption, a year whennobody was on the throne, there was a scramble for power and acommoner came to power, Mohammed Abu Biki Ituri. He was adevout Moslem. He restored the priests, the old Moslem preachersand the imams, to their former positions at the University of Sankore,and on his way to his inauguration the sister of the deposedking shouted out saying what he had done to her brother and callshim a foril word in the language of that day. She calls him this wordin as many languages as she can remember. She calls him, thronestealer, usurper, thief. He stops to answer her and says, "I will notlet the waitings of this sick woman disturb me. Henceforth this isthe name of my dynasty, call me throne stealer, usurper, thie£" Hecreated the last of the great dynasties of the independent Africannation-states before the encroachment of the slave trade that spreadinland into Africa. He had been prime minister for thirty years andhe had ruled the nation-state for approximately thirty-six years.In this, the last of the great African nation-states, Songhay covered amassive area larger than the continental limits of the United States.He ruled exceptionally well with ambassadors coming from all overthe Mediterranean area and with one of the leading universities ofthat day. There were two universities in the world now, the University 7|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  9. 9. ofSalamanka in Spain and the University ofSankore in Timbuktu.My main point in relating this is that while the slave trade wasstarting along the coast of Africa in inner West Africa a great nationstatewas going through its last years.After the death of Sonni Alis successor, Askia, a man whose lifeneeds far more treatment than I have time to give it here, the statebegan to be envied by the Moroccans and a black king named ElMansuriII. Using European mercenaries, they sent an army acrossthe Sahara to attack and destroy the state. He was successful. Thelargest and the last of the great nation -states in West Africa wasdestroyed and the structure of Africa had been shaken. The twocatastrophes that had overtaken Africa over the 600 years of theArab slave trade and the European slave trade had changed Africa forall time. There is something a scholar of this period must understand,whether they are Moslem or not, because it is true. Except forthe drain of Africas time and resources brought home by the Arabslave trade and the Arabs in general, Africa could have had enoughstrength and organization to resist the European slave trade. Becausethe Arabs who pursued the slave trade were only a branch of thereligion, only people who used Islam as a rationalization for the slavetrade.By this time the slave trade is well underway. But it is mainly inthe hands of the Portuguese and the Spanish and some Scandinavians.At this point, England is still out of the trade because of herdifferences in opinion with the church and King Henry VIIIs sexual 8|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  10. 10. passion would literally lay the foundation for another church. Hewas not too successful with this, but the main thing accomplished isthat England pulls completely out of the orbit of Catholicism andFrance is now in a position to sell her argument. Frances KingFrancis, will now ask, "Show me the clause in Adams will that saysthat I am not entitled to my share of the gold in Africa"- the blackgold, meaning slaves. The Englishmen would cry out, "Who gavethe Pope the right to give away kingdoms and peoples that did notbelong to him?" Their attack was aimed at the church because thechurch was not only in the trade but the church had given orders tomake sure that it got its proper share for being in the trade.There is no point in having slaves when you dont have a wholelot for them to do. But what would set the slave trade in full motionwould be opening up the so-called New World, the exterminationof the indigenous populations of the Caribbean and bringing in theAfricans. Father Bartholomew de las Casas came over with ChristopherColumbus on his third voyage, and it was Father de las Casaswho went to Rome to convince the Pope to sanction the increase inthe slave trade, to allegedly save the Indian population in theWestern Hemisphere. He did not save any Indians. In fact when thePope sent commissions to look into the conditions of the Indians,the Spaniards had no Indians left, they were all dead.The Africans began to take hold of the Caribbean Islands. Sometwelve to twenty-five million so-called Indians had disappeared andthe Africans began to adjust. This does not mean that the African 9|Page Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  11. 11. was beginning to adjust to slavery. He was adjusting to his conditionand he was trying to see his way out of his condition and he isbeginning some sort of resistance to his condition. This is the firstrecord of slave revolts that I could locate, a record of a successfulrevolt in Cuba in 1527. Now these slave revolts would be continuousand intermittent for the next 300 years.Besides the loyalty system that the slaves were able to maintain,there is another reason why the revolts in the Caribbean Islands weremore successful and it is the same reason that they were successfulin South America. The foliage, the mountains and the bush proveda natural advantage. This natural protection made the coming afterthem too costly. So in South America many slaves bypassed theauction block, went into the woods, were never slaves and foundedan independent African community. The best known of thesecommunities was Bahia, in Brazil, which still exists as a predominantlyAfrican city. Palmares, also in Brazil, was the most successfulbecause it looked among its population and found Africans whowere from the ruling class in Africa and made them a part of theruling class in Palmares. At Palmares they had ~ defense system, andways of finding the lineage of kings. This was an African state, themost successful of the African states in Brazil. Bahia was the mostglamorous, but the one that was the most politically significant wasPalmares.The escaping Africans began using the space of the countries thatthey were in to their advantage. That fuct that these countries were 10 | P a g e Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  12. 12. large and unexplored by the Portuguese was to their advantage. ThePortuguese had not explored the mountains and forests and whenthe Africans escaped to them they extracted a toll of Portuguese livesthat made any attempt to recapture them not worthwhile. The samesituation was happening in the Caribbean, principally in Jamaica anda place at the northern tip of South America, which used to becalled British Guyana. The area now called Surinam used to be calledFrench Guyana. Many of the slaves in this area were from the sameethnic group. When an ethnic group remains together, they keeptheir language together and, most importantly, they keep theirloyalty system together. A loyalty system that transcends language,religion and geography.Let me explain what I am talking about. No matter where you areand no matter what religion you might belong to, and no matterwhat kind of schooling you have gone through you are distinctly anAfrican person. You are a supporter of some loyal feelings for everyAfrican person that walks this earth and if you have confusion aboutthat, you have confusion that is detrimental to the freedom of yourown people.The British entry into the slave trade made it an establishedbusiness and gave it organization. They established spheres ofinfluence that controlled where different nations could trade. Theygave it the kind of organization that put it on a footing where thetraders were constantly fighting with each other. England, becauseof her vengeance for being kept out of the business in its early 11 | P a g e Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  13. 13. stages, would literally drive the Portuguese out of West Africa. ThePortuguese would then go down into Africa to the Congo and laterto Angola and still later around to Mozambique.My main concentration on what is happening to these Africanpeople away from home is that in the first part of the nineteenthcentury, in the Caribbean Islands, the British began to experimentwith the concept of stopping the traffic at sea. Their concern hadnothing to do with humanity, it had less to do with Christianity. Ithad to do with the business of the management of that kind oflabor, and it had to do with the fact that a young nation, the UnitedStates, had studied the British ships and had made some better shipsthan the British had. The United States called their ships the YankeeClipper, and these ships were outrunning the British ships at sea.The United States had been buying most of their slaves from thePortuguese and the Spanish and the English were going directly toAfrica and coming back directly to the United States. The developmentof these faster ships by the United States was causing a threatto their ever increasing business.If you think slavery in the United States was a business of theSoutherner, you are thinking wrong and misreading history. TheSoutherner was a buyer of slaves and not a capturer of slaves. Thepart of the United States now called New England ruled the UnitedStates. It ruled what was called the United States then and it rulesit now financially, culturally and otherwise, because that area hadfashioned the states for free white Protestant males, middle class and 12 | P a g e Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  14. 14. up, those who agreed with the political status quo and for those whoowned property and that is still the guide lines for the United Statesand its government.After the war of 1812, a war that was really fought to stop theAmerican competition with the English ships at sea, the Englishbegan to concentrate on the need to drain more wealth out of theCaribbean area, mostly from Jamaica. The Jamaican slaves began tomount one rebellion after another. While you know a great dealabout the Jamaican Maroon revolts, that was only one of the manyrevolts of this nature. They were revolting continually. Before theMaroon revolts, Kofi, a house servant who came from Ghana, starteda revolt [in] Guyana. This revolt is called the Berbice revolt. Thefirst sea captain that came to the United States also from Ghana.Ghana was literally the headquarters for the slave trade. A lot ofslaves came from Ghana, and those who did not come from thecoastal area were held in forts close to the ports because these wereholding stations for slaves until the ships got back to Africa. Thesituation reached a point where some of the Africans from certainparts of Ghana were so restless and rebellious that the word got backto the traders not to bring those Africans over here, they fight all thetime. They were talking about the Ashantis from the upcountry ofGhana.While international conflicts grew over the slave trade, the UnitedStates did not want to enter into the dialogue about stopping thetrafficking at sea. The world listened to the phony abolitionists, the 13 | P a g e Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  15. 15. most famous and perhaps the phoniest were William Wilberforce andGranville Sharpe. There were groups of Black abolitionists in theWest Indies and in the United States who were mounting thesefights of agitation while the physical struggles were going on inSouth America, in the United States and in the Caribbean Islands.The first half of the nineteenth century saw the emergence ofHaiti as an independent state. Jamaica had fought longer than Haiti,harder than Haiti, and Jamaica did not emerge as an independentstate. This was principally because Jamaica was destabilized betweenrevolts and the British made laws to outlaw revolutionary activityafter each major revolt. But the Haitian revolt unfolded in a twentyyearperiod and not enough time was left to destabilize their revolu -tionary effort. Their consistent revolts were a fortunate occurrencein history because this fortunate occurrence brought off independencefor Haiti, while Jamaica who fought harder and longer, butsporadically, did not get it.My main point, as I conclude, is that throughout the Americasthey had major revolts in the first half of the nineteenth century andthat the African people were not liberated nor given any freedom.The British emancipation of the West Indies was a fake and theemancipation of the Africans in the United States was also a fake. Sothere is no point in saying that the slaves outside of the UnitedStates were emancipated thirty-five years before those in the UnitedStates because none of them were really emancipated and they arestill to some extent slaves. By emancipation slavery was transformed, 14 | P a g e Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS
  16. 16. not eliminated.I am saying that there is still something we have to fight against.Our brothers and sisters in South America and in the Caribbean andin the United States stood up against the slave system in thishemisphere while our African brothers and sisters were fighting ahundred-year war against colonialism. The caliber of the men, thecaliber of their courage and the caliber of their character stands wellin the history of the world and in the history of struggle of anypeople at any time in history. Ifwe have to change tomorrow we aregoing to have to look back in order to look forward. We will haveto look back with some courage, warm our hands <;>n the revolutionaryfires of those who came before us and understand that we havewithin ourselves, nationally and internationally, the ability to regainwhat we have lost and to build a new humanity for ourselves, firstand foremost, and for the whole world ultimately. To do this wemust extend the concept of Pan-Africanism beyond its original baseto a concept of a world union of all African people, the African inAfijca, the African in the Caribbean, the African in South America,the African in the Pacific Islands and, especially, the African throughoutthe world who has yet to realize that he is African too. 15 | P a g e Dr. John Henrik Clarke AFRICAN RESISTANCE AND COLONIAL DOMINATION: THE AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS