LEARN ABOUT IMPORTANT PEOPLE FROM THE PAST.
IMHOTEP 3000 B.C.E. - 2950 B.C.E.
Imhotep was the world’s first named physician, and the architect who built Egypt’s first pyramid. He is indisputedly the world’s first doctor, a priest, scribe, sage, poet, astrologer, a vizier and chief minister, to Djoser (reigned 2630-2611 BC), the second king of Egypt’s third dynasty.
An inscription on one of that king’s statues gives us Imhotep’s titles as the “the prince of peace,” “chancellor of the king of lower Egypt,” the “first one under the king,” the “administrator of the great mansion,” the “hereditary Noble,” the “high priest of Heliopolis,” the “chief sculptor,” and finally the “chief carpenter”.
As a builder, Imhotep is the first recorded master architects. He was the first pyramid architect and builder, and among his works one counts the Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara, Sekhemkhet’s unfinished pyramid, and possibly the Edfu Temple. The Step Pyramid remains today one of the most brilliant architecture wonders of the ancient world and is recognized as the first monumental stone structure.
Imhotep was also the first known physician, medical professor and a prodigous writer of medical books. As the first medical professor, Imhotep is believed to have been the author of the Edwin Smith Papyrus in which more than 90 anatomical terms and 48 injuries are described. He also founded a school of medicine in Memphis, possibly known as “Asklepion, which remained famous for two thousand years. All of this occurred some 2,200 years before the Western Father of Medicine Hippocrates was born.
Queen Tiye (1415-1340 BCE)
Born in Nubia, Queen Tiye was the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Amenhotep IV (later known as Akenhaton), and mother-in-law of Nefertiti. Highly prestigious during the reign of both her husband and son, she exerted her influence as queen consort and queen mother of KMT ( Egypt ) over a fifty-year period. In addition, she shaped Kemetic ( Egyptian ) fashion and altered the prevailing view regarding royal women.
HANNIBAL BARCA (247–183 or 182 BC)
Coin depicting Hannibal Barca
Considered by many to be the greatest military strategist of all time, Hannibal Barca led Carthagian forces against Rome during Second Punic War. The son Hamilcar, also a great military leader, Hannibal’s army occupied most of Italy for 15 years. He is best known for leading his army from Carthage in North Africa (what is now Tunisia), across the Mediterranean into Iberia (present Spain and Portugal), over the Pyrenees and the Alps, and into Italy. As impressive as that sounds, it should be noted that his army rode elephants. That’s right, Hannibal’s North African army invaded Italy on elephants.
MANSA MUSA KING OF THE MALI EMPIRE (reigned 1312 - 1337 AD)
Under King Mansa Musa, the empire was broken into provinces, each ruled by a governor. Each province was composed of many villages. Each village had a mayor. This allowed for controlled but swift management of local problems, leaving Mansa Musa and his advisors free to handle the management of the empire.
The Kingdom of Mali was rich. The army guarded the gold mines. They also guarded the section of the Trans-Sahara Trade Route that passed by Mali. Legend says there were usually 90,000 warriors on foot, 10,000 warriors on camels, and few on Arabian horses, who worked together to kept the trade route safe for travel. Traders always stopped at Mali. They knew they would find safety, culture, and richly rewarding trade.
Garrido, Juan (c. 1480-c.1550)
Born around 1480 in West Africa, Juan Garrido is the most prominent among the small group of African freeman who traveled to the Americas to take part in the Spanish conquest of the West Indies and Mexico in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries. He later became an agricultural innovator and is credited with introducing wheat harvesting to the Americas.
After arriving in Lisbon, Portugal and becoming Christianized (c. 1495), Garrido traveled to the island of Santo Domingo. Although the record is conflicting, he probably accompanied a Spaniard by the name of Pedro Garrido, as a protégé or servant. By 1508, Juan Garrido was part of the Spanish auxiliary forces that helped invade and capture Puerto Rico and Cuba. His 1538 petitionary proof of merit to the Spanish Archivo General de Indias at Seville describes his 30 years of service to the Spanish Crown in various imperial conquests, including the pacification of the Caribbean Islands.
By 1519, Garrido, a veteran conquistador, was a member of the Hernan Cortés’ expeditionary force that invaded Mexico and lay siege on the Aztec capital at Tenochtitlan.
Zumbi (pronounced: 'zoombee') (1645 – November 20, 1695)
Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655, believed to be descended from the Imbangala warriors of Angola. He was captured by the Portuguese and given to a missionary, Father António Melo, when he was approximately 6 years old. Baptized Francisco, Zumbi was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass. Despite attempts to pacify him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties.
Before the king Ganga Zumba was dead, Zumbi had taken it upon himself to fight for Palmares' independence. In doing so he became known as the commander-in-chief in 1675.
By 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco, Pedro Almeida, weary of the longstanding conflict with Palmares, approached its leader Ganga Zumba with an olive branch. Almeida offered freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. But Zumbi was distrustful of the Portuguese. Further, he refused to accept freedom for the people of Palmares while other Africans remained enslaved. He rejected Almeida's overture and challenged Ganga Zumba's leadership. Vowing to continue the resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new leader of Palmares.
Toussaint-Louverture (May 20, 1743 – April 7, 1803)
Toussaint Bréda, Toussaint-Louverture was the leader of the Haitian Revolution. His military genius and political acumen led to the establishment of the independent black state of Haiti, transforming an entire society of slaves into a free, self-governing people. The success of the Haitian Revolution shook the institution of slavery throughout the New World.
Toussaint Louverture began his military career as a leader of the 1791 slave rebellion in the French colony of Saint Domingue. Initially allied with the Spaniards of neighboring Santo Domingo, Toussaint switched allegiance to the French when they abolished slavery. He gradually established control over the whole island, expelling the British invaders and using political and military tactics to gain power over his rivals. Throughout his years in power, he worked to improve the economy and security of Saint Domingue. He restored the plantation system using free labour, negotiated trade treaties with Britain and the USA and maintained a large and well-disciplined army.
In 1801 he promulgated an autonomist constitution for the colony, with himself as governor for life. In 1802 he was forced to resign by forces sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to restore French authority in the colony. He was deported to France where he died in 1803. The Haitian Revolution continued under his lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared independence in 1804.
Shaka kaSenzangakhona - Shaka Zulu (1787 –1828)
The only known drawing of Shaka—standing with the long throwing assegai and the heavy shield in 1824, four years before his death.
Shaka was the first son of the chieftain Senzangakhona and Nandi, a daughter of a previous chief of the Elangeni tribe, also of the Kwazulu-Natal area.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary (October 9, 1823 – June 5, 1893)
Mary Ann Shadd Cary (October 9, 1823 – June 5, 1893) was born to Abraham and Harriett Shadd, both free-born blacks, in Wilmington, Delaware. She was the oldest in her family of 13 children. Her father, a shoemaker, was a key figure in the Underground Railroad and a subscription agent for William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.
When the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 in the United States threatened to return free northern blacks and escaped slaves to bondage, Shadd and her brother Isaac moved to Canada and settled in Windsor, Ontario. In Windsor, she founded a racially integrated school with the support of the American Missionary Association. Shadd's support for racial integration embroiled her in a public dispute with Henry Bibb, the established leader in the black community in Canada. Bibb's newspaper, The Voice of the Fugitive, attacked Shadd's ideas and character, leading Shadd to found The Provincial Freeman newspaper in 1853, along with Samuel Ringgold Ward. The paper quickly folded, but Shadd and Ward revived it a year later from an office in King Street, Toronto. The paper continued to be published until 1859 promoting temperance, moral reform, civil rights and black self-help while attacking the racial discrimination blacks faced within North America. It was one of the longest published black newspapers until the Civil War.
Shadd believed that separate churches, schools and communities for blacks would ultimately undermine the search for freedom. She campaigned for equality and integration for black people, making public speeches and addressing issues of abolition and other reforms. Eventually, many of her family members, including her father and sisters, joined her in Canada.
In 1856, she married Thomas F. Cary, a barber from Toronto who was involved with the newspaper. They had two children, Sarah and Linton, and lived in Chatham, Ontario, where she continued to work on her newspaper and teach school. In 1858, John Brown held a secret "convention" at the home of her brother Isaac. In 1861, she published Voice from Harper's Ferry, a tribute to Brown's unsuccessful raid.
Grajales, Antonio Maceo (1845-1896)
The Cuban leader Antonio Maceo Grajales is considered the “most popular leader of the nationalist movement.” Maceo was the son of a Venezuelan mulatto and an Afro-Cuban woman. He joined the independence movement in 1868. During the thirty year period of the Cuban War, he ascended to the rank of general. The Cuban War for Independence was characterized by leadership efforts which erased racial lines and united all Cubans in the independence movement. In this it is significant that African Cubans as well as whites followed Maceo unconditionally. His public pronouncements made clear that he had no tolerance for racism. Maceo refused to sign “El Pacto de Sanjon” (peace accord to the end the Cuban War for independence and accept Spanish rule) because it did not abolish slavery. However, this pact was signed on February 10, 1878 by the “Committee of the Center,” a group of insurgent leaders along with Spanish General Martinez Campos.
Maceo continued to refuse to participate in any agreement which kept Afro-Cubans in bondage. In his first public statement during the second phase of the Cuban War for Independence, Maceo invited the Cuban slaves to join the insurgency. In 1879 he made a pronouncement regarding what the real goal of the war was. He stated: “[The war] was one for independence, with which [African Cubans] would achieve the emancipation of the three hundred thousand slaves [then] living in Cuba; [the movement’s] flag [was] the flag of all Cubans and its principles [were] the equality of men.” This statement exemplifies the uncompromising stand that Maceo maintained during his participation in the Cuban War.
Maceo distinguished himself not only as an Afro Cuban abolitionist and civil rights champion, but also as a consummate general. His most notable exploit, which made him famous among Cubans and feared by the Spaniards, was his horseback march wherein he covered more than 1,000 miles in 92 days and sustained 27 encounters against the Spaniards.
Madam C J. Walker (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919)
Madam C J. Walker began to teach and train other black women in order to help them build their own businesses. She also gave other lectures on political, economic and social issues at conventions sponsored by powerful black institutions. After the East St. Louis Race Riot, she joined leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in their efforts to support legislation to make lynching a federal crime. In 1918 at the biennial convention of the National Association Of Colored Woman (NACW) she was acknowledged for making the largest contribution to save the Anacostia (Washington, DC) house of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She continued to donate money throughout her career to the NAACP, the YMCA, and to black schools, organizations, individuals, orphanages, and retirement homes.
Kwame Nkrumah (21 September 1909 - 27 April 1972)
Kwame Nkrumah (21 September 1909 - 27 April 1972) was the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966. Overseeing the nation's independence from British colonial rule in 1957, Nkrumah was the first President of Ghana and the first Prime Minister of Ghana. An influential 20th century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.
John Henrik Clarke (January 1, 1915 — July 16, 1998)
John Henrik Clarke (January 1, 1915 — July 16, 1998), born John Henry Clark, was a Pan-Africanist American writer, historian, professor, and a pioneer in the creation of Africana studies and professional institutions in academia starting in the late 1960s.
He was Professor of African World History and in 1969 founding chairman of the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He also was the Carter G. Woodson Distinguished Visiting Professor of African History at Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center. In 1968 along with the Black Caucus of the African Studies Association, Clarke founded the African Heritage Studies Association.
He was memorialized for devoting "himself to placing people of African ancestry 'on the map of human geography'." Clarke said "History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be."
Besides teaching at Hunter College and Cornell University, Clarke was active in creating professional associations to support the study of black culture. He was a founder and first president of the African Heritage Studies Association, which supported scholars in areas of history, culture, literature and the arts. He was a founding member of other organizations to recognize and support work in black culture: the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and the African-American Scholars' Council.
His writing included six scholarly books and many scholarly articles. He edited anthologies of black writing, as well as his own short stories, and more general interest articles. He was co-founder of the Harlem Quarterly (1949–51), book review editor of the Negro History Bulletin (1948–52), associate editor of the magazine Freedomways, and a feature writer for the Pittsburgh Courier and the Ghana Evening News