Posts Tagged ‘HISTORY’


July 5, 2020


October 24, 2018

Vanguard News

Benin: The ancient kingdom of warriors

By Osa Mbonu

My task here is to rewrite, in just one newspaper page, this 569-page historical, cultural, artistic and monarchial encyclopedia printed in 8 or 9 point size letters, so that my readers, as usual, will feel they have read the entire compendium. It is such a daunting task that can only be achieved by a master.

Yet, no such successful compression of this 1,500-year of history of one of the greatest ancient civilizations can compensate for the knowledge derivable from reading the entire volume. But do not be deceived, reading of the entire volume of “The Benin Monarchy: An Anthology of Benin History” is not a day’s job, perhaps not weeks’ or months’ depending on the reader’s passion and time available to him. In any case, it is a book no one can afford not to read.

Muted, yet so glaring, instructive and worthy of reflection in the history of Benin kingdom, is how a little piece of technology – the firearm – in the hands of the British conquered all the physical strength of Benin warriors, their voodoos, mysticisms, magic, incantations, shrines, human sacrifices and many other forms of superstitions generally associated with Africa, even up to this day in some p-laces.

It is a credit to the throne of Benin kingdom that educated Obas have, to a very large extent done away with many of those negative aspects of the Benin culture. If those shrines and human sacrifices could not save Benin people in 1897 from the hands of the British and their muskets and mortars, of what point is it to keep them?

An English historian had argued that history is not just the record of past events but the record of change. There is no history in the movement of the hands of the clock since it was invented many centuries ago, for instance, because the movement has ever been clockwise. There could have been history there if at some point the hands of the clock started moving anticlockwise.

The history of Benin people, like the history of man, is the history of change. When we sift out fables about men like the first son of Osanobua and Oduduwa dropping from heaven and of the Benin or Ile-Ife being the center and cradles of the world, what we have left are factual stories of ancient men who migrated from other places, settled down in the rain forests around the land known today as Benin, and established small pockets of settlements called villages. Man had led a wandering life in search of food until he was compelled by agriculture to settle down at one place.

Those splinter settlements, after existing for a long time without any central ruler like a king, either voluntarily agreed to surrender their independence to one powerful warrior or group of warriors in exchange for protection, or were forced to do so. The result was the emergence of the Ogiso dynasty established around AD 500 beginning with King Ogiso Igodo which saw the reign of 31 Kings before the collapse of that dynasty after King Ogiso Owodo was banished and a period of interregnum followed.

At this point, some sequence of events occurred which became, up to this day, subjects of controversy between Benin and the Yoruba people. The Benin people believe that Oduduwa, called Prince Ekaladerhan, was the only son of that exiled King Ogiso Owodo. They believe that Ekaladerhan (or Oduduwa) exiled himself from Benin even before his father, King Ogiso Owodo was banished from Benin. Ekaladerhan or Oduduwa went to and founded Ile-Ife where he became King.

After King Ogiso Owodo was deposed and banished, Benin people went in search of the only son of the King, Prince Ekaladerhan (Oduduwa) with the aim of persuading him to return to Benin to succeed his banished father. Instead, Ekaladerhan (Oduduwa) sent his son Prince Oranmiyan to Benin. But there was an administrator named Ogiamen, appointed by the people of Benin to administer Benin during that period of interregnum. Like what the late Gen. Sani Abacha did during Ernest Shonekan’s interim government, Ogiamien was nursing his own ambition – to create his own dynasty.

He appointed his son to succeed him. Even though he was resisted by Benin people, Ogiamien and other warlords who contested the throne troubled Oranmiyan and made his stay uncomfortable so much that Oranmiyan decided to return to Ile-Ife, describing Benin as Ile-Ibinu (the land of vexation). The Benin account has it that Oranmiyan reigned as Benin King from AD 1,170 though his palace was at Usama, an outskirt of the city, due to the crisis.

When he eventually left, he left behind his Benin queen, Erinmwinde who gave birth to a son, who later became Oba Eweka the First in the year AD 1,200. Historians regard the beginning of the reign of Oranmiyan as the beginning of the second dynasty of kings in Benin kingdom.

One implication of the Benin line of history is that Oduduwa, whom the Yoruba claim as their father, did not fall down from heaven after all as they claim. Nobody has ever fallen down from heaven. Even Jesus who is believed to have come from heaven had to be born into the world by a woman.

Yoruba people believe that Oduduwa who fell down from heaven had a son who went on a military campaign and founded the Benin Kingdom. But from the Benin perspective, we know that before the return of Oranmiyan to Benin, the Ogiso dynasty in Benin, which saw the reign of 31 kings, had already come to pass. Of these two conflicting historical accounts of the Benin and Yoruba Kingdoms, the Benin version appears to be more tenable.

Between AD 1440 and 1606, was the era of warrior kings. This corresponded to the period of Oba Ewuare the Great and Oba Ehengbuda. Apart from the brief reigns of Oba Ezoti and Oba Olua, the rest of the kings that fall within this period were all warrior kings who led their own military forces to battle. These fierce warrior kings went on military campaigns, conquering other peoples and expanding Benin territories and influences which resulted in empire building.

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The Benin capacity to successfully overrun other people’s lands has been attributed to their trade with Europeans at Ughoton, the Benin port, which bequeathed them with guns and ammunition. The Benin Empire at its zenith was said to have extended to River Niger in the east and south, into Yoruba lands (Oyo) and what came to be known as Dahomey.

The 1897 British Invasion

The British invasion of Benin in 1897, or what is popularly called The Benin Punitive Expedition, is certainly the most narrated aspect of the Benin history. Needless to recount it here in detail, there are, however, tremendous lessons to be learned from that sad historical event for those who are wont to learn. For men never learn from history.

First, the Benin, as that time of British invasion, was an Empire. An Empire is just a fanciful word that describes a bully geographical entity that takes pleasure in overrunning and pillaging other geographical entities for economic and political gains. Britain was also an Empire, in fact, the biggest Empire in the world as at then. While Benin, the lesser empire was happily overrunning and pillaging her neighboring enclaves, it did never occur to her that a higher human power (not even God) was at hand to emasculate her for similar motives.

Prince Idugbowa who became the Oba Ovonramwen N’Ogbaisi (1888-1914) was the unfortunate King on the Benin throne when series of events brewed and culminated in war between Benin and Britain. The war, in summary, was caused by economic factors – the British traders and most of their African collaborators wanted unimpeded access to the forests and lands of Benin which they saw as land flowing with milk and honey, but the powerful and independent Oba refused to allow that to happen. The Oba, as usual, was bent on controlling trade and charging custom duties.

Before the punitive expedition, however, Oba Ovonramwen N’Ogbaisi had acquired a notorious reputation as a tyrant king whose domain was littered with the skeletons and bloods of those he had either used for sacrifice or political opponents he had executed.

Truly, Oba Ovonramwen N’Ogbaisi had carried out a somewhat large scale purge of his enemies – those whom he had considered threats to his throne, those with who he had contested the throne and those who had opposed him as crown prince before his coronation. This was usual in those days of monumental intrigues occasioned by struggles for the throne. Partly in an effort to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it, Benin was described by Europeans as ‘City of Blood’, ‘City of Skulls’ , and as land strewn with ‘huge pits filled with the dead and dying’.

In 1862, the first consular visit was undertaken by Sir Richard Burton who returned with description of Benin as a place of ‘gratuitous barbarity which stinks of blood and as having a ‘bloody custom’.

After numerous efforts (including tricking the Oba into signing the Gallwey Treaty of 1892) to peacefully get the Oba to allow the British traders and their local guides unimpeded access to the natural wealth of Benin forests, the British resolved to forcefully remove the Oba. Several other British officials like Vice-Consul Copland Crawford tried to reach Benin but failed because the King was unwilling to receive them.

All these people were infuriated with the Oba and therefore mounted pressure on the Colonial Administration for military action to be taken against the Oba, “so as to open up,” in the words of merchant James Pinnock of Liverpool, “the road and country (of Benin) teeming as it does with every natural wealth of the great hinterland of the world”.

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Sir Raph Moor, who succeeded Macdonald as the Consul General stated that “in the event of the foregoing peaceful means proving of no avail, it then becomes necessary to resort to force.

“In the Benin and Warri districts,” Moor continued, “all developments except existing trade is completely prevented by the attitude of the King of Benin, who still declines to receive government officers or to allow them to enter his country in any direction peaceably. He punishes severely those of his people who even in outlying districts venture to receive them and arbitrarily stops trade from time to time without assigning any reason.

“At the present time trade has absolutely been stopped in Benin by his orders…without giving up his evil practices the king knows that he cannot admit the government into his country.”

After these report, Moor recommended that an expeditionary force should be sent in January or February “to remove the king and his jujumen from the country.”

•Oba Ovonramwen N’Ogbaisi…during his exile days in Calabar.
When Moor went on leave, Acting Consul General, Lt. James Philips, “after asking for the Foreign Office permission to use force against Benin in November 1896, set out, before getting a reply, on a risky trip,” writes Philip Aigbona Igbafe.

“I am certain that there is only one remedy,” James Philips had written, “that is to depose the King of Benin from his stool. I am convinced from information which leaves no room for doubt as well as from experience of the native character, that pacific means are now quite useless, and that the time has come to remove the obstruction.

I therefore ask his Lordship’s permission to visit Benin City in February next to depose and remove the King of Benin and to establish a native council in his place and take such further steps for the opening up of the country as the occasion may require.”

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According to Igbafe, Philips had erroneously believed that Benin people would be glad to be rid of a king who was a ‘tyrant’ and a ‘despot’”. Although the Foreign Office did not approve of a military action against Benin due to the financial cost and insufficient troops, Philips calculated that the cost of the expedition could be offset by sale of large collection of ivory and other artifacts that would be looted from the king’s palace.

The disapproval, writes Igbafe, “was communicated to Consul General Philips in a cablegram of 8 January 1897 followed by a dispatch of 9 January 1897. Before messages got to the Niger Coast Protectorate, Philips was already dead, for he hurriedly set out to Benin on a mission, defying the warnings of the Itsekiri traders, the advice of Chief Dogho, the Oba’s communicated preference to receive him a month later and insistence of messengers from the Oba not to proceed with the journey.

According to Igbafe, “on 2 January 1897, Philips set out from Sapele for Benin, accompanied by several Protectorate officials, representatives of the European trading firms and numerous carriers. At Gele Gele, on the night of 2 January, messengers sent earlier to the Oba arrived with the Oba’s thanks and requests to defer the visits by one month as he was engaged in the traditional Igue festival.”

The Itsekiri traders at Ughoton also warned Philips against proceeding with the journey, reporting that Benin soldiers were lurking in the forests along the route. But Philip was bent on proceeding. He sent messages back to the Oba informing him of his intention to continue the journey.

“On 4 January, the expedition left Ughoton, and marching in a single file, the party ran into the ambush laid by Benin soldiers near the village of Ugbine. All the European members of the party were killed except two with military experience, Commander R.H. Bacon and Captain Alan Boisragn who went down on their bellies when the firing began.”

The backlash of the killing of Philips and his party was the Punitive Expedition. Nine ships and soldiers drawn from Her Majesty’s army from all over the British Empire were congregated against the Oba and the Benin people.

Moor’s leave was cut short and he was assigned to lead the troops to Benin. “He arrived at the Warigi base operation on 9 February 1897 and on the 10th the advance on Benin began. Capturing Sapoba on the 11th and Ologbo on the 12th, the troop advanced from Ologbo on the 14th with Benin soldiers heroically contesting the route in a running fight all the way.

Benin was captured on 18 February, after the British troops had fired some rockets tubes into the city. The rockets broke the resistance of the Benin soldiers. The Oba and most of the chiefs ran from the city after being bombarded by what they believed to be invisible enemies.

The British then entered the palace and looted all its wealth – ivories, artifacts and many other valuables which were transported to Europe, many of which could be seen today in the British Museum and other parts of Europe and America.

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The Oba and his chiefs were put to trial. Some of the Benin warriors chose to suicide in preference to public hangings. At a reconvened trial on 9 September 1897, Oba Ovonramwen N’Ogbaisi was sentenced to exile from his fallen kingdom.

His wives were disbanded and he was chained, handcuffed, gagged, strapped in a hammock and taken away from Benin on 13 September 1897 on the Protectorate yacht Ivy to Old Calabar where he became seriously ill on 9 January 1914 and died on 13 January 1914.

The banishment of Oba Ovonramwen N’Ogbaisi, though it ushered in another round of period of interregnum in the history of Benin Kingdom, did not bring an end to it. After that interregnum, Oba Eweka II (1914-1933) and the 37th Oba arose. Then from 1933-1978, Oba Akenzua II, described as the grandeur of royalty and the first educated monarch in the history of Benin, was installed on 5 April 1933. He ran a transparent monarchy in terms of removal of human sacrifices, especially in the burial of his father, Oba Eweka II.

From 1979-2016, Oba Erediauwa, the 39th Oba, called the Philosopher King, sat on the throne. He was an author and writer of repute. He was instrumental to the creation of Edo State.

From Oba Erediauwa, the Benin Kingdom fell into the hands the present King, Oba Ewuare II, the Philosopher and Diplomat King. He has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the United States and has served as Nigerian Ambassador to several countries. Although His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, has made a lot of significant achievements, his reign and life are still on the trajectory of time and as such, no complete assessment of his achievements or failures, as the case may be, can be made. Any such assessment, besides being incomplete, may also border on praise-singing by the assessor aimed at courting and currying the favor of the King.


April 16, 2015



AdTech Ad

A glorious celebration for the life of Dr. Ben

Herb Boyd | 4/11/2015, 3:22 p.m.
While there is no dismissing the glorious encomiums for the late Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan—and they were as full of ...

The funeral of the late Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan Derek Muhammad
While there is no dismissing the glorious encomiums for the late Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan—and they were as full of praise as the many dispensers—the priceless item at his more than three-hour funeral service at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem was the printed program. One thing was certain upon being lucky enough to get one was the prediction that they would not have a sufficient supply for the massive turnout.
An even safer prediction was that many of the hundreds of admirers of the great scholar would not be able to get in the church in the first place, and like the overflow crowd at the wake and viewing on Thursday, many had to settle for the celebration outside the church at the end of the services.

Professor James Small had the awesome responsibility of moderating the “service of commemoration and the Initiation into the Duat,” as the ceremony was called. Looking at the long list of speakers, performers and proclamations he advised the participants that “you have two minutes for your remarks,” he said, “and only Dr. Jeffries can have an extended African two minutes.” It brought the expected laughter from a packed church, especially from those familiar with Dr. Leonard Jeffries’ long, history-laden speeches. And later he and his wife, Dr. Rosalind Jeffries, would speak in tandem, both stressing an “African identity” and keeping to the limits.
“Dr. Ben is not gone, he’s right here,” said veteran activist and cultural maven Camille Yarbrough during her delivery of the libations. She asked the audience to “just breathe” deeply and reflect on Dr. Ben’s spirit.
After the collective breath was exhaled, Minister Akbar Muhammad was called to the podium and, for the most part, he read a message from Minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. It was a message of unity and solidarity with understanding that Dr. Ben was a historian “from whose lessons we can learn from the past.”
Listening to someone read from the Book of Vindication must have been a first time experience for most of those in attendance. And it was during this reading that “Mut the mother of heaven” was mentioned and “heaven” would be almost a running gag for the rest of the ceremony, particularly where it was variously located by different speakers.
Professor Small, a leopard skin print draped over his shoulders, kept things moving at a good clip, and often dropping his own observations of his mentor. “Dr. Ben gave us the foundation to understand our eternity,” he remarked before asking Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III to read the obituary. Among the highlights of Dr. Ben’s enormously productive 96 years—he joined the ancestor on March 19—Butts recalled was that he was a versatile genius who wrote more than 40 books. “He will be remembered as a brilliant historian, committed to the uplift and enlightenment of the global African community. He will also be remembered as charismatic with an enormous sense of humor. And at the same time, as being straight, forthright, and even confrontational if he detected lies, deceit, or falsehoods.”

Olivia Holloway ·

Dr Ben will always be important to myself and a great many more every last one of us is grateful for opening our eyes to the glorious ness of who we really are as a people his spirit will forever be with us
Dellin J. Cooke ·

i owe such much of my understanding to Dr.Ben was in the darkness to my existence as a black man in America thought the bible was the truth an I was the this descendant of a slave with no past just the one that the Europeans wrote for me. Dr.Ben showed me I had a history an knew GOD long before this faireytale book f lies Dr.Ben an Dr.Clarke will never be forgotten.
Delinda Wills Thomas ·

Thanks so much for the LIVE STREAM of Dr. Ben’s celebration of his life and for allowing me to meet family members, historians, ministers, attorneys, and others who talked about the realities his life and works,..Dr. Ben taught me the truths about me, my people and opened my mind to further research, readings, teachings to carry the African Centered baton of his findings,..He will always live on through me and others,..
Nefertina Abrams ·

The Great Pharaoh is on his journey sent with great love, admiration and respect, I was blessed to attend the Wake which was phenominal… I laughed, I cheered, I cried, I sighed, but most of all I Gave Thanks for his life and his legacy…
Aku A King

Yes….just as there were hundreds clamoring to be a part of this moment, physically….. I, like many others, were there as we “watched”, very closely, every movement on and offstage…thanks to AMSTERDAM NEWS and LIVESTREAM…… We were THERE…..and we are STILL there….. AKOBEN!!!!


January 17, 2015



May 23, 2014













February 3, 2014

FROM Global African Presence on Facebook


Tedla Gebeyehu
Tirhas Gebru; Ethiopia never been Colonized, you know why ? Because Ethiopians sacrificed for their freedom with their lives. Their history and victory is written with their blood and nobody can deny that except Ethiopian enemies !

Like · 3 · 6 hours ago

Lonnie F. Coaxum
Dr. Rashidi can you provide us a pic of the Sphinx with it noise on

Like · 5 hours ago

Global African Presence
There is no such picture Lonnie.

Like · 1 · 5 hours ago

Tedla Gebeyehu
Abdulkarim Atiki;- Ethiopia fought Facist Italians twice
1st. 1895-1896
2nd. 1936-1941
The first invasion, Ethiopians defeated Facist Italians by destroying their entire army. There where Italian soldiers who surrendered in thousands but the Emperor at the time “The great Emperor Menelik” pardon them and those who like to return to their country, went back and some choose to live in Ethiopia. The Emperor also declared no one to touch them or treat them like outsider. The people accept the order and Most of them get married with Ethiopian woman and have family and lived peacefully like everybody. Their ancestors still live in Ethiopia. You can take a visit and see it for yourself.
• The second occupation was five years but in those five years the people fought the enemy day and night. The people never surrendered to the enemy. It is known as “the resistance movement of 1936-1941.”
Finally the people kick out the Italian Invaders completely from the land in 1941. This means Facist Italian Colonizers defeated for the second time. The leader of Ethiopia at the time was “Emperor Haile Selassie”. Peace restored once again in the nation, but with a high prize and sacrifice !

Like · 3 · 5 hours ago

Tedla Gebeyehu
I love this history class !

Like · 1 · 5 hours ago

Olutomi Brown
I never knew about my people in school. What a shame!

Like · 2 · 4 hours ago

Nibret Aga
Mildew Bossalini…: like Libya, Syria, Iraq…the same tactics have been used for years…1935 the emperor of Ethiopia was terrorised…ancient manuscripts were burnt to destroy evidence…war and hate among ourselves..happening today in the entire world then they rewrite the history the rest…

Like · 4 · 4 hours ago

Viola Dawson
Because of white power’

Like · 1 · 4 hours ago

Sherrie Parrie
whites do not have POWER they have DEATH

Like · 3 · 3 hours ago

Anthony Devon Gayle
Welcoming the ENEMIES.

Like · 1 · 3 hours ago


December 27, 2013



December 22, 2013

FROM the nation newspaper-Nigeria

Crocodile tears on the grave of Mandela

Posted by: Jide Osuntokun

The death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013) has attracted a lot of emotions, comments and tributes from many current leaders and past leaders of several countries in the world. Some of these comments are genuine, others are insincere and amounts to crocodile tears. About 100 global political players, both current and those who have held positions of power in the world, including President Barrack Obama, current American President and three former Presidents- Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W Bush, and the heir apparent to the British throne Prince Charles as well as our own President Goodluck Jonathan and David Cameron, John Major and Gordon Brown, current and former British Prime Ministers respectively attended the official funeral ceremony held at a big stadium in Soweto South Africa. This must have been a security nightmare for the South African authorities. Mandela who initially embraced the non-violent philosophy of Mochandas Ghandhi-Ji later abandoned non-violence and was largely responsible for forming the Umkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation), which was the armed youthful wing of the African National Congress (ANC). The young revolutionaries in South Africa by the 1960s were already getting impatient with the conservative and non-violent approach to African liberation espoused by the ANC. Members of the Pan African Congress (PAC) were already critical of the non-violent campaign of the ANC. We can therefore say Nelson Mandela reluctantly took to armed struggle because as he argued nobody can kill a wild beast with bare hands.

In the history of the liberation of South Africa some attention should be paid to the PAC and Azanian People’s Congress’ roles as alternative platforms for the liberation of South Africa. A comparable situation is what happened in the US where the existence of militant youthful groups such as Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) led by Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown, as well as the Black Panther Movement of Huey Newton and Eldrige Cleaver, and the Black Muslims particularly the faction led by one of its charismatic leaders, Malcom X with their cry burn baby burn made Martin Luther King nonviolent campaign largely acceptable to the white folks. Even though the situation was not exactly the same, white folks saw Mandela as somebody they could ultimately do business with.

This does not diminish the achievements of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela but it is important to put the two global icons within their historical context. The two share many things in common especially their ability to forgive their oppressors. Martin Luther King’s tolerance is firmly rooted in Christian religion while Mandela’s ability to forgive is rooted in political reality. He wanted to build a non-racial majoritarian democracy in South Africa and he came to the conclusion that the only way to do this was by forgiving his racist oppressors who had built in South Africa a first world infrastructure and economy albeit on the backs of the blacks. If he had adopted the Mugabe approach of land expropriation, he would have destroyed his much loved country of South Africa for which he paid huge price of 27 years imprisonment. Since 1994 when he became president and now after having been succeeded by Thabo Mbeki and the current President Jacob Zuma, the vast majority of black South Africans have remained largely poor. Of course centuries of Black marginalization cannot be removed within a few years but young black South Africans are not prepared to wait indefinitely for the fruit of majority rule. This is the challenge facing South Africa today. And some of the militant youths have been known to issue militant statements about the conniving and apologetic leadership of the ANC who are only ready to tinker with the white economic structure of South Africa without radically changing it. This is why incredibly as it may sound, Robert Mugabe is perhaps the most popular political figure in Southern Africa today. This also accounts for the tumultuous ovation he attracted when he entered the stadium during the funeral mass for Mandela.

I had the opportunity to meet Mandela in May 1990, when he came to Nigeria, and the University of Lagos conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate degree after leaving prison and before becoming president of South Africa. Professor Nurudeen Alao who was Vice Chancellor asked me and Dr. Tunji Dare to prepare a citation for the great man. We independently wrote this and after comparing notes, Dare said my citation captured totally the essence of the man, and he subsequently published his own draft, I believe in The Guardian. I remember that one of the things the great man asked us was that he wanted to learn how Nigeria has been able to create a forum like the House of Chiefs in the old regions for traditional leaders to participate in governance so that he could do the same in South Africa. I do not know what became of his interest in this regard.

After Mandela’s death, I have been thoroughly amused by the comments of our leaders. Some of these leaders have hailed him as a great man, a great African icon and a great world leader that is worthy of emulation. Yet some of these so-called African leaders held power for years without leaving any remarkable or worthwhile imprint on the society. It is surprising that those who overstayed their welcome in office are now acclaiming Mandela as their friend and as someone from whom they learnt something. One only hopes that our current leaders and those after them will learn from this great man’s example, that it is not the amount of money that one has that matters, but that it is the enduring and unforgettable legacies that one leaves behind that really matter.

The former American President George W Bush also went to South Africa to pay his last tribute to Mandela; I believe his sincerity. But we should not forget that his Vice President Dick Cheney regarded Mandela as a terrorist. And according to General Colin Powel, a former American Secretary of State and his successor Condoleezza Rice both of whom are blacks claimed that they were hugely embarrassed to find Mandela’s name on America’s terrorist list. It is surprising that the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin and the Chinese President Xi Jinping were conspicuously absent in South Africa to pay their last respects to Mandela; they will not be missed of course. And the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found a lame reason about security and the cost of the trip not to go to South Africa. Of course, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was there because Mandela was a supporter of the Palestinian cause and liberation. Let it be remembered that Israel and the United States under President Ronald Reagan assisted South Africa to acquire nuclear weapons in the late 1970s.

President Jonathan in some kind of homily during a funeral service for Mandela said that Nigeria is not likely to have a man of Mandela’s stature. I disagree and I say General Yakubu Gowon remains the greatest Head of State of Nigeria with high moral stature on a comparable level with Mandela. Gowon’s case is that of a prophet that is with no honour in his own country. Here was a man who governed this country for nine years and ended up not having a single house or billions of naira, and oil blocs in his name but was responsible for most of the enduring physical infrastructure in the country. Here is a war leader who fought a civil war and ended it without show trials and executions of those on the other side of the conflict. Gowon represents our own Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela rolled into one. Since leaving office, he went back to the university and earned himself a doctorate degree in Political Science and has never soiled his hands with filthy lucre. He has used his moral currency and goodwill to attract funds for good cause such as guinea-worm eradication and has spent along with others, years in praying for the peace of Nigeria. When he was in power, Gowon was a pan-Africanist and extended the reach of Nigeria’s foreign policy to the black Diaspora in the Caribbean. History will be fair to Gowon, he may not have had the press and publicity and international acclaim that Mandela has but Gowon among our leaders certainly made a difference. And he deserves to be celebrated now and in the future.



April 14, 2013


May 2, 2011

Lynchings in America
A History Not Known By Many
When I was a boy growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, the word lynching was hardly ever mentioned. My parents only said these “mean” acts happened in the country (rural areas) with white men in white gowns (the KKK). In all my schooling, through high school and on to college, lynching was never part of a lecture or connected with American history. I knew of the word, lynching, but never, never the scope of this violent, hateful act.

On Thursday, January 13, 2000, an article entitled, “An Ugly Legacy Lives on, Its Glare Unsoftened by Age,” by Robert Smith was published in the New York Times. This excellent article revealed a world not known by many Americans living today and especially by me. Without my explaining here, it should be read by all persons, especially as it pertains to race and hate. Without understanding this past evil history, we cannot understand why hate is on the rise today in this year of 2000.

After reading the New York Times article, I wanted to know more about lynching and what could possibly be presented on this squeamish subject. It turned out that an exhibit of rare collected photo postcards were on display featuring lynchings as they took place in America from 1883-1960. I saw this exhibit. It was on view at the Roth Horowitz Gallery in New York City until February 12, 2000. This small gallery took in only about fifteen people at a time, and the line was long. Watching the viewers as they exited revealed what was inside: people with tears, some with anguish, some looked surprised with the horror they had seen.

This New York exhibition presented the collected photocards of Mr. James Allen, a white Atlanta resident who, for fifteen years, sought out these images of racial horror and self-righteous vigilante acts as rare finds. Since most of these photocards were kept as “keepsakes” by some families, Mr. Allen had to solicit ads for purchase. He paid from fifteen dollars to as much as thirty thousand dollars for individual cards. The sixty photo postcards and other material were temporarily housed in the library at Emory University to allow scholars to have access to it, but are now being held by their owner at

Melvin Sylvester, Feb. 2000

1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana
Photo from the official 1977 Citadel yearbook
1919 lynching William Brown in Douglas County, Nebraska

1935 lynching of Rubin Stacy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Lynching In America
A Book on the Subject
This book, Without Sanctuary: Lynching photography in America (by James Allen, Hilton Als, Leon F. Litwack, with a forward by Congressman John Lewis; Twin Palms Publishers, 2000), is a new, startling book on this shocking topic of lynching in America. This book is an extension of the exhibit held at the Roth Horowitz Gallery and the collected photo postcards of Mr. James Allen of Atlanta, Georgia. Pages of actual real life lynchings are captured with photos and dates with explanatory texts about where these dastardly acts occurred. Mr. Allen says, “Without Sanctuary is a grim reminder that a part of the American past we would prefer for various reasons to forget we need very much to remember.” The book is a vivid account of the existence of lynching on American soil. On view in the book are ninety-eight plates of lynchings and the victims and the people surrounding the actual executions. A few were white; a few were women; but most were African-American men used as prime targets for lynch mobs. To see this book is to try and understand, but it is not for the squeamish viewer or persons not able to transcend reasons why these acts should never have happened.

1936 lynching of Lint Shaw in Royston, Georgia

For Further Reading

About Lynching / Robert L. Zangrando, John F. Callahan, and Dickson D. Bruce, Jr. Modern American Poetry : An Online Journal and Multimedia Companion to Anthology of Modern American Poetry. Urbana, IL : Department of English of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002.

The aesthetics and politics of the crowd in American literature / Mary. Esteve. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003. PS169.C75E88 2003

Covers lynching in literature

American lynching : a documenatry feature / Gode Davis and James M. Fortier. Herndon, VA : Bitter Fruit Productions, 2005.

“This documentary explores racist events and attitudes indigenous to the Northern and Southern states that either condoned or condemned lynching as a practice.”

American Negro short stories / John Henrik Clarke. New York : Hill and Wang, 1966. PS647.A35C55 1966x

Includes “The lynching of Jube Benson” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Anatomy of a lynching : the killing of Claude Neal / James R. McGovern. Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, 1982. HV6465.F6M35 1982

And the dead shall rise : the murder of Mary Phagan and the lynching of Leo Frank / Steve Oney. New York : Pantheon Books, 2003. HV6534.A7O54 2003

Anti-lynching crusaders helped free our country / Philip Dray. Newsday, A39 (741 words), June 15, 2005.

An apology for old form of terror : Senate expected to vote tomorrow on resolution regarding its failure to help end practice of lynching / Martin C. Evans. Newsday, A34 (600 words), June 12, 2005.

At the hands of persons unknown : the lynching of Black America / Philip Dray. New York : Random House, 2002. HV6464.D73 2002

The awful truth: a photography exhibition unearths the painful history of lynching in America / Danny Postel. Chronicle of Higher Education, 48(44):A14 (3 pages), July 12, 2002.

Black manhood on the silent screen / Gerald R. Butters. Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, 2002. PN1995.9.N4B88 2002

Includes “Oscar Micheaux: From Homestead to Lynch Mob”

Call for reconciliation : Minister attacked by Klansmen seeks understanding as alleged mastermind in triple killing faces trial / John Moreno Gonzales. Newsday, A07 (733 words), June 13, 2005.

Crime, but no punishment : Georgia town is still divided over the murders of four blacks nearly 60 years ago / Tina Susman. Newsday, A30 (1633 words), March 30, 2005.

Dangerous liaisons : gender, nation, and postcolonial perspectives / Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti, and Ella Shohat. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 1997. JC312.D36 1997

Includes “On the threshold of woman’s era : lynching, empire, and sexuality in Black feminist theory” by Hazel V. Carby

The Duluth Lynchings Online Resource : a collection of historical documents relating to the tragic events of June 15, 1920. Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, MN : The Society, 2003.

“This web site facilitates access to over 2,000 pages of scanned documents to provide an in-depth and scholarly resource of primary source materials on the subject, designed also for those unfamiliar with this tragic event.”

The Duluth Lynchings Online Resource: historical documents relating to the tragic events of June 15, 1920 / Scott Ellsworth. Journal of American History, 91(1):349-350, June 2004.

Discusses the website:

Ebony rising : short fiction of the greater Harlem Renaissance era / Craig Gable. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2004. PS647.A35E24 2004

Includes “Lynching for profit” by George S. Schuyler

Elite Georgia’s dark secret / Linda Kulman. U.S. News & World Report, 135(13):49, (800 words), Oct 20, 2003.

1915 lynching of Leo Frank

Etiquette, lynching, and racial boundaries in southern history: a Mississippi example / J. William Harris. American Historical Review, 100(2):387 (24 pages), April 1995.

Exorcising blackness : historical and literary lynching and burning rituals / Trudier Harris. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1984. PS153.N5H28 1984

F.B.I. discovers trial transcript in Emmett Till case / Shaila Dewan and Ariel Hart. New York Times, A14 (917 words), May 18, 2005.

A festival of violence : an analysis of Southern lynchings, 1882-1930 / Stewart Emory Tolnay and E. M., Beck. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1995. HV6464.T65 1995

The first Waco horror : the lynching of Jesse Washington and the rise of the NAAC / Patricia Bernstein. Houston, TX :, 2005.

Website to accompany the book.

Fresh outrage in Waco at grisly lynching of 1916 / Ralph Blumenthal. New York Times, A26 (1598 words), May 1, 2005.

Gender, class, race, and reform in the progressive era / Noralee Frankel and Nancy Schrom Dye. Lexington, KY : University Press of Kentucky, 1991. HQ1419.G46 1991

Includes “African-American women’s networks in the anti-lynching crusade” by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn

Go down, Moses : the miscegenation of time / Arthur F. Kinney. New York : Twayne Publishers ; London : Prentice HallInternational, 1996. PS3511.A86G6349 1996

Treatment of lynching in the William Faulkner work

Jasper, Tex., and the ghosts of lynchings past. New York Times, A26 (576 words), Feb 25, 1999.

Revulsion at the death of James Byrd Jr. demonstrates a sea change in public sentiment toward lynchings

Judge Lynch: his first hundred years / Frank Shay and Arthur Franklin Raper. Montclair, NJ : Patterson Smith, 1969. HV6457.S5 1969b

The killing season: a history of lynching in America / Philip Dray. The New Crisis, 109(1):41 (3 pages), January-February 2002.

Excerpt from “At the Hands of Persons Unknown: the Lynching of of Black America”

Kin disagree on exhumation of Emmett Till / Gretchen Ruethling. New York Times, A3 (357 words), May 6, 2005.

The legacy of a lynching / Robert F. Worth. American Scholar, 67(2):65 (13 pages), Spring 1998.

“Like a violin for the wind to play”: lyrical approaches to lynching by Hughes, Du Bois, and Toomer / Kimberly Banks. African American Review, 38(3):451 (15 pages), Fall 2004.

Critical essay

Local sequential patterns: the structure of lynching in the deep South, 1882-1930 / Karherine Stovel. Social Forces, 79(3):843 (14134 words), March 2001.

Lynch-law; an investigation into the history of lynching in the United States / James Elbert Cutler. New York : Negro Universities Press, 1969. HV6457.C8 1969b

Lynch Street : the May 1970 slayings at Jackson State College / Tim Spofford. Kent, OH : Kent State University Press, 1988. F349.J13S66 1988

The lyncher in me : a search for redemption in the face of history / Warren Read. St. Paul, MN : Borealis Books, 2008.
Chronicles the author’s experiences with having discovered his great-grandfather’s role in the Duluth lynchings of 1920 and his subsequent search for the descendants of the victims.

Lynching / John Simkin. Spartcus Educational.

Lynching in America : carnival of death / Mark Gado. TrueTV Crime Library : Criminal Minds and Methods. New York : Turner Broadcasting System, [2005?].

A lynching in the heartland : race and memory in America / James H. Madison. New York : Palgrave, 2001. F534.M34M33 2001

The lynching of persons of Mexican origin or descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928 / William D. Carrigan. Journal of Social History, 37(2):411 (29 pages), Winter 2003.

Lynching victim is cleared of rape, 100 years later / Emily Yellin. New York Times, Section 1, 24 (912 words), Feb 27, 2000.

Ed Johnson from Chattanooga, Tennessee

Masculinity : bodies, movies, culture / Peter Lehman. New York : Routledge, 2001. PN1995.9.M46M34 2001

Includes “Lynching photography and the ‘black beast rapist’ in the southern white masculine imagination” by Amy Louise Wood

Media, process, and the social construction of crime : studies in newsmaking criminology / Gregg Barak. New York : Garland Pub., 1994. P96.C74M43 1994

Includes “Communal violence and the media : lynchings and their news coverage by The New York Times between 1882 and 1930” by Ira M. Wasserman and Steven Stack

Minstrel show; or, The lynching of William Brown (The Plays of Max Sparber) / Max Sparber. Minneapolis, MN : Sparberfans.Blogspot.Com, 1998.

“Retells the story of the real-life murder of an African-American man in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1919, through the narration of two fictional African-American blackface performers.”

The murder of Emmett Louis Till, revisited. / Brent Staples. The New York Times, A16 (912 words), Nov 11, 2002.

New documetary film may cause the 1955 Mississipi case to be reopened

The NAACP crusade against lynching, 1909-1950 / Robert L. Zangrando. Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1980. HV6457.Z36

The Negro holocaust: lynching and race riots in the United States, 1880-1950 / Robert A. Gibson. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. New Haven : Yale University, 1979 ; posted 2005.

Curriculum unit.

The old religion / David Mamet. New York : Free Press, 1997. PS3563.A4345O39 1997

Play about a lynching in Georgia

On looking: lynching photographs and legacies of Lynching after 9/11 / Dora Apel. American Quarterly, 55(3):457-478, Sept 2003.

On lynchings: Southern horrors, A red record, Mob rule in New Orleans / Ida B. Wells-Barnett. New York : Arno Press, 1969. HV6457.B37

Plays of Negro life; a source-book of native American drama / Alain LeRoy Locke and Montgomery Gregory. Westport, CT : Negro Universities Press, 1970. PS627.N4L6 1970

Includes “Judge Lynch” by J. W. Rogers, Jr.

Race, rape, and lynching : the red record of American literature, 1890-1912 / Sandra Gunning. New York : Oxford University Press, 1996. PS173.N4G86 1996

Racial violence and representation: performance strategies in lynching dramas of the 1920s / Judith L. Stephens. African American Review, 33(4):655 (10281 words), Winter 1999.

Racial violence on trial : a handbook with cases, laws, and documents / Christopher Waldrep. Santa Barbara, CA : ABC-CLIO, 2001. KF221.M8W35 2001

Reading rape : the rhetoric of sexual violence in American literature and culture, 1790-1990 / Sabine Sielke. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2002. PS374.R35S54 2002

Includes “‘The one crime’ and ‘the real ‘one crime” : rape, lynching, and mimicry in Sutton E. Griggs’s ‘The Hindered hand'”

Remember, and learn : the lessons of racism’s ugly history. Newsday, A38 (223 words), June 15, 2005.

Revolt against chivalry : Jessie Daniel Ames and the women’s campaign against lynching / Jacquelyn Dowd Hall. New York : Columbia University Press, 1979. HV6457.H34

Rope and faggot / Walter Francis White. New York : Arno Press, 1969. HV6457.W45 1969

Rough justice : lynching and American society, 1874-1947 / Michael J. Pfeifer. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2004. HV6457.P44 2004

Selected works of Ida B. Wells-Barnett / Ida B.Wells-Barnett ; Trudier Harris, editor. New York : Oxford University Press, 1991. E185.97.W55A2 1991

Includes: “Southern horrors : lynch law in all its phases” ; “A red record : tabulated statistics and alleged causes of lynching in the United States, 1892-1893-1894” ; “Mob rule in New Orleans : Robert Charles and his fight to the death”

Senate issues apology over failure on antilynching law / Sheryl Gay Stolberg. New York Times, A15 (739 words), June 14, 2005.

Senate remorse over lynchings / India Autry. Newsday, A27 (232 words), June 14, 2005.

Senators introduce lynching apology. New York Times, A13 (176 words), February 2, 2005.

The shadow of hate a film / Charles Guggenheim and Julian Bond. Washington, D.C. : Guggenheim Productions, Inc., 1995. IMC Video E184.A1S564 1995bx

Includes the Leo Frank lynching in Georgia in 1913

Strange fruit : plays on lynching by American women / Kathy A. Perkins and Judith L. Stephens. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1998. PS627.L95S73 1998

Their majesties, the mob / John Walton Caughey. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1960. HV6791.C38

Over 50 documents republished from various sources

Thirty years of lynching in the United States, 1889-1918 / National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. New York : Negro Universities Press, 1969. HV6457.N3 1969

The tragedy of lynching / Arthur Franklin Raper and the Southern Commission on the Study of Lynching New York : Negro Universities Press, 1969. HV6464.R3 1969b

An ugly legacy lives on, its glare unsoftened by age : critic’s notebook / Roberta Smith. New York Times, E1 (1445 words), January 13, 2000.

Discusses an exhibit of lynching photographs at the Roth Horowitz Gallery.

Under sentence of death : lynching in the South / W. Fitzhugh Brundage. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 1997. HV6464.U49 1997

Unnatural selections : eugenics in American modernism and the Harlem Renaissance / Daylanne K. English. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004. PS228.E84E54 2004

Includes “Blessed are the barren : lynching, reproduction, and the drama of new Negro womanhood, 1916-1930”

War of words: the controversy over the definition of lynching, 1899-1940 / Christopher Waldrep. Journal of Southern History, 66(1):75 (2 pages), February 2000.

We are coming : the persuasive discourse of nineteenth-century Black women / Shirley W. Logan. Carbondale, IL : Southern Illinois University Press, 1999. E185.86.L57 1999

“‘Out of their own mouths’ : Ida Wells and the presence of lynching”

We charge genocide : the historic petition to the United Nations for relief from a crime of the United States Government against the Negro people / Civil Rights Congress (U.S.). New York : Civil Rights Congress, 1952. E185.61.C592 1952x

Whispered consolations : law and narrative in African American life / Jon Christian Suggs. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 2000. KF4757.S84 2000

Includes “Lynchings and passing”

“With the past let these be buried”: the 1873 mob massacre of the Hill family in Springtown, Texas / Helen McLure. Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 105(2):293 (29 pages), October 2001.

Without sanctuary : lynching photography in America / James Allen. Santa Fe, NM : Twin Palms, 2000. HV6459.W57 2000

Official website:

Without sanctuary: lynching photography in America / Grace Elizabeth Hale. Journal of American History, 89(3):989-994, December 2002.

Witnessing lynching : American writers respond / Anne P. Rice. New Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers University Press, 2003. PS509.L94W58 2003

Wounds not scars: lynching, the national conscience and the American historian / Joel Williamson. Journal of American History, 83(4):1221 (33 pages), March 1997.

African Americans in the Twentieth Century



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