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

Family Matters

February 13, 2010

Tags: Senegal, Islam, France, nature, history

Four and a half centuries ago, in 1555, Amath Diegui Fall was born in Futa Toro the Fulani/Tukulor region of northern Senegal, the cradle of Islam in Senegambia and beyond. His mother was Djegui Ba, his father Pathe Fall, a descendant of the damel (king) of Kayor. Amath, called Amar in Kayor, was an erudite , devout Muslim who became known as Khaly (judge) Amar Fall. He founded the town of Pire. Fall's erudition attracted believers and scholars from a vast area and in 1611, he founded the Islamic university of Pire that still exists and had for students historical figures such as Suleyman Bal and Abdel Kader Kane who blocked the slave trade on the Senegal River (see Servants of Allah and Fighting the Slave Trade.) A prolific author, Fall died in 1638.

I am a descendant of Khaly Amar Fall. Like him I highly value education, research, knowledge, writing and sharing what I have learned.

In 1555, a man named N. Mustel died in Rougemontiers, in Normandy, France. He was born in 1495. Contrary to Fall, nothing is known about him, not even his first name. He came from a locality that had been invaded by the Danes in the 9th century. The red-headed and freckle-faced generations that followed him were farmers deeply rooted in Normandy. Many were illiterate and their knowledge was nature based.

I am a descendant, 16 generations later, of N. Mustel. Like those who preceded me in Normandy (and Burgundy,) I have freckles and a passion for trees and plants, forests and little villages; and in New York, I live one block for a hilly park, a river, and medieval cloisters.

No originality whatsoever. Who I am was already in the works 500 years ago. History, including family history, is fascinating.


  1. February 10, 2011 9:59 AM EST
    **This is a comment on Bintou's Braids. Did you ever wonder if by some sort of miracle, that Bintou's Braids, would find its way into the hands of a real little girl named Bintou? Well, "our" five year old Bintou, a family friend living in Rhode Island since birth, never dreamed of such a day. Still, My family and Bintou's family will never forget the irrepressible smile on her face and the unmistakable look of pride when she discovered Bintou's Braids. Soon the day will come when Bintou will read-aloud "her" story to us.

    MS Diouf, Thank you for awakening our dreams. Your book will surely touch many hearts; for your name need not be Bintou, to deeply relate to such a well crafted work of art.

    Jonathan Keller
    - Jonathan Keller
  2. August 15, 2011 9:04 PM EDT
    Very nice Sylviane. Yes , people do believe in hazard yet nothing is really! the path we take in our lives has a lot to do with our upbringing.

    Well said. Miss you
    - Khady Sarr ( descendant of Khaly Amar Fall )
  3. August 25, 2011 4:14 AM EDT
    Thank you for the great information Sylviane,from the family to the whole world we can learn more about our family roots,the important and knowledgable events that had occured.
    - Cousin Abdou Sarr( Ibra Pagne Sarr's son) desendant of Khaly Amar Fall
  4. September 27, 2011 10:19 PM EDT
    No originality whatsoever. Who I am was already in the works 500 years ago. History, including family history, is fascinating. "

    Thank you so much for these words. It's the summation of my most recent thoughts of self and family. I was reflecting upon the many decision I've made in life. I would later find out from elders in my family that my Father -who is passed- made many strikingly similiar decisions. Decisions made before I was born and not a witness to.

    I was recently at the Mosque during the month of Ramadan and a Muslim from West Africa spoke to me in his language. He looked at me with an expression of annoyance because I wouldn't talk back to him. I wasn't being rude but I was listening to try to figure out what language he was speaking. Even though I have no knowledge of West African tounges but I felt like I should've known what he was saying!!

    Obviously he felt the same because he kept talking to me. So we sat down next to each other to make wudu (wash for prayer) and another West African Brother sitting across from us was laughing. I asked him "what's funny?? what was he saying??". He replied "He thinks you're someone else".

    Then the Brother who was speaking to me in the West African tounge turned to me and spoke to me in English. He said "I thought you were Fulani.. I was asking you were you in line to wash or use the restroom".

    I was so Honored!! That after 400 years I'm still identified with our people. This is not the first time Brothers from west Africa identified me with the Fulani tribe. This has inspired me to research my family history to see if I can confirm this identity.

    Thank you so Much for your words and works. I am in the process of reading your book "Allah's Servants" and it is indeed a page turner.

    May Allah continue to Bless Sister Sylvianne,


    Brother Elijah Shabazz
    - Elijah Shabazz
  5. November 28, 2013 11:15 AM EST
    Happy Thanksgiving! This is the time I've visited your site. I found it by browsing the Internet and found very interesting information. is there a possibility to sign up for this site?

    Earline Bentley
    - Earline Bentley
  6. November 28, 2013 1:10 PM EST
    Thank you for your kind words. There's no need to sign up. You can just visit the site whenever you want. I wish I had more time to update it more often! Have a happy holiday.
    - Sylviane Diouf
  7. December 9, 2013 5:01 PM EST
    What is the process for obtaining you as a speaker for an event in June 2014?
    - Fowziyyah Ali
  8. February 13, 2014 12:49 PM EST
    Thank you Sylviane for the great work you are doing for the Black race.
    - Mackala Fall ( descendant of Khaly Amar Fall)


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 first book on the American maroons' experience
A major book on the various components of the Black Power movement, with photos, essays and testimonies.
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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