Sylviane Anna Diouf

Historian of the African Diaspora

Osman, the maroon in the swamp

My ancestor's mosque built in 1611 in Pire, Senegal

Tromelin, Indian Ocean, home of the shipwrecked Africans

Ruins of the houses

Remembering July 8

July 4, 2009

Tags: Cudjo, slave trade, slavery, Michelle Obama

On July 8, 149 years ago, 110 young people disembarked from the slave ship Clotilda. It may appear paradoxical, but at a time when there seems to be too few around, I truly believe that they and other victims of the slave trade and slavery are role models for all ages. Our pain and revolt at the sheer horror of what they endured, and at the poisonous legacy of the slave trade and slavery that need to be addressed and redressed, should not overshadow their accomplishments.

As I discover thousands of their stories while doing research, I know that their victimization is not the only aspect of their lives they would have wanted us to remember. William Prescott had seen it coming when he said in 1937, “They will remember that we were sold but they won’t remember that we were strong. They will remember that we were bought, but not that we were brave.”

Let us also remember that theirs is not ancient history. Cudjo, the last survivor of the last slave ship died in 1935 and the last African Americans born in slavery passed away in the 1950s.

Each time we recall their immense suffering and exploitation, we should also celebrate their resilience and bravery and measure the progress that theirs and their descendants’ fighting spirit made possible. Three days after Cudjo Lewis’ s funeral, Fraser Robinson III was born in Chicago. His daughter Michelle is the First Lady of the United States.

Books

The first book on the American maroons' experience
A major book on the various components of the Black Power movement, with photos, essays and testimonies.
In a tale worthy of a novelist, Sylviane Diouf provides a well-researched, nicely written, and moving account of the last slave ship to America, whose 110 captives arrived in Mobile in 1860 and, after the war, created their dream of Africa in Alabama. Howard Jones, author of Mutiny on the Amistad
The fascinating story of the East Africans who distinguished themselves in India
Thorough and ambitious. William and Mary Quarterly
Readers are presented with a wide range of evidence to show how Africans fought against slavery as well as the slave trade. Canadian Journal of History
A groundbreaking look at [the] bigger picture has been unveiled in a project called "In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience." The Washington Post
Children's Books
Bintou’s hair is short and fuzzy, but she wants beautiful braids “with gold coins and seashells” like the big girls, but everyone says no. The New York Times
Young readers will enjoy this fascinating look at [some] brave leaders. Children's Literature
Destroys the stereotype of the happy, ignorant slave child. Booklist

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