Tag Archives: History

A Black Icelander?

Seems one escaped slave ..really escaped to a new world!

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The DNA of Iceland’s First Known Black Man, Recreated from His Living Descendants

Hans Jonatan, who escaped slavery in 1802, now has hundreds of relatives in the country.

Hans Jonatan was born into slavery on a Caribbean sugar plantation, and he died in a small Icelandic fishing village. In those intervening 43 years, he fought for the Danish Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, lost a landmark case for his freedom in The General’s Widow v. the Mulatto, then somehow escaped to become a peasant farmer on the Nordic island.

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A descendent of Hans Jonatan

No one knows how he got there. No one knows where in Iceland he is buried today. But the story of the first black man in Iceland, as far as it is known, has endured in local lore, passed down from his Icelandic wife and two children to hundreds of descendants since his death in 1827.

“The old East Fjords people would often say, ‘Oh, yes, you’re descended from the black man,’” one living descendant told Gísli Pálsson in his biography of Jonatan, The Man Who Stole Himself.

Today, Jonatan’s descendants mostly lack the dark skin and curly hair that so obviously marked him as the son of a black mother, an enslaved woman named Emilia Regina, and a white father, identity unknown. But bits of his DNA live on inside his great-great-great-great grandsons and granddaughters, and it is possible, scientists have now shown, to reconstruct parts of his genome from his living descendants. And with that, it is also possible to trace his mother’s ancestry in Africa.

It could only have happened in Iceland. The country’s small and genetically homogeneous population is largely descendants of settlers who arrived from Scandinavia and the British Isles a millennium ago. This, along with, detailed genealogy records tracking centuries of family relationships, have made Iceland a genetics laboratory. The biopharmaceutical company DeCODE Genetics, whose scientists helped carry out the study of Jonatan’s genome, has also analyzed DNA from more than half of Iceland’s adult population—including 182 of Jonatan’s living descendants.

Humans share some 99.5 percent of their DNA with each other, so it is in that other 0.5 percent where geneticists go looking for variations distinguishing one group from one another. In the relatively homogeneous Icelandic background, it was easy to find the African sequences. “If you’re sequencing an Icelander, you will find about one variant per million bases that is not found in any other Icelander. But you go and sequence into the African part [of the genome], you will find at least 100 variants,” says Kári Stefánsson, the CEO of DeCODE.

No single descendant carries all of Jonatan’s original genome. But each carry a small part of it. So the team stitched together sequences found in 182 different descendants to recreate 38 percent of the African half of his genome—presumably the half that came from his mother. The sequences most closely matched present-day populations in Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroon. There are few records about Jonatan’s mother, who was also born into slavery in the Caribbean, so this may be the only hint to her and her ancestors’ origins.

“It’s the writing of history with DNA, basically,” says Hannes Schroeder, an archaeologist at the University of Copenhagen who has used DNA to trace the origins of enslaved Africans. Schroeder was also a coordinator of EUROTAST, an interdisciplinary project studying the slave trade that helped fund the reconstruction of Hans Jonatan’s genome.

Jonatan’s life story was unique, and the methods used to study his DNA may prove unique, too. It would be difficult to reconstruct the genome of any single enslaved African in regions where many of them lived and their DNA mixed together in their descendants. “It’s definitely a special case because of Iceland,” says Schroeder. “The same project wouldn’t have been possible in, say, France.”

or similar reasons, it’s almost impossible to reconstruct the European half of Jonatan’s genome—the half that came from his unknown white father. Kirsten Pflomm, a descendent of Jonatan, says this is the question she hopes DNA can answer. You actually would not need to reconstruct a genome to prove Jonatan’s paternity; you would just need to obtain a DNA sample from potential fathers or their descendants for comparison. Pálsson’s biography suggests suggests Jonatan’s father could have been a secretary named Hans Gram—or Jonatan’s master, Ludvig Schimmelmann, or a certain Count Moltke.

Pflomm, who is American, lives in Copenhagen. When she moved to the city for a job, she was astonished to find that her apartment is across the street from Amaliegade 23, where Jonatan was living when he escaped to Iceland. Pflomm eventually hopes to make it to the small Icelandic fishing village where Jonatan lived out his days—by every account an upstanding citizen. “He seems like a guy I really wish I could have met,” she says.

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Posted by on January 18, 2018 in Black History


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Oprah for President?

The country is suffering under serial disasters from our first celebrity president.

One of the characteristics of Third World countries is the election of popular entertainers over solid politicians. Leading to even more misery as the woefully underprepared singer/actor/media type struggles not only with how the country’s government works – but the far more complex world of international relations and finance. Saw that in Haiti, and it is one of the big reasons the rebuilding effort and flow of international money into the country stopped.

There isn’t any need to go into the long term and possibly catastrophic damage of the Chumph.

To  fix that is going to take an experienced and steady hand. And it will take years if not a decade.

Yeah the Stock Market is at 25,000. What are you going to do when the inevitable “reset” comes and it drops to 12,000? A number of folks I have talked to in finance and investment think that is on the short term horizon.

So… What is Oprah bringing to the party? She is undoubtedly a very intelligent person with communications skill non pareil. But she knows absolutely nothing (just like the current POS in office) about the more complex international and strategic issues.

So, in my view – Oprah, please don’t run!

‘The Boondocks’ predicted an ‘Oprah 2020’ presidency more than a decade ago

Oprah Winfrey’s speech on Sunday night at the Golden Globes pitched the worlds of politics, entertainment and media into fits of hysterical speculation. The television host and media titan delivered fist-pumping remarks after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award — the first African American woman honored with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s top laurel.

The comments, while straying away from outright political terrain, focused on changing the world order controlled by “brutally powerful men,” a reference to the sexual harassment scandals that have upset so many industries. “A new day is on the horizon,” she concluded to applause.

Almost immediately rallying cries spread online for a “Oprah 2020” presidential campaign. Winfrey’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, told a Los Angeles Times reporter that “it’s up to the people,” adding “she would absolutely do it.”

But in a fictional way, an Oprah Winfrey White House has already happened. In 2006, the edgy cartoon “The Boondocks” predicted a Winfrey 2020 presidency.

“The Boondocks,” the brainchild of artist and University of Maryland graduate Aaron McGruder, began as a syndicated comic strip in 1996 before jumping onto Cartoon Network as an animated show on the network’s lineup in 2005. Following the life of a young black family in a white neighborhood, McGruder’s work constantly bucked norms and pushed sensitive buttons.

The season one episode “Return of the King” was especially controversial. The program imagined an alternative history in which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was not assassinated in 1968. Instead, he had fallen into a coma. In the episode he wakes up in 2000. King’s nonviolent views become so unpopular following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that he leaves to live in Canada.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist and political commentator, was incensed by the program. “Cartoon Network must apologize and also commit to pulling episodes that desecrate black historic figures,” he said, USA Today reported at the time.

The episode later won a 2006 Peabody Award.

In the show’s final frames, a newspaper headline from November 8, 2020, shows Oprah Winfrey has just been elected president.

McGruder’s premise was likely not intended as a complete farce. In the past, the artist has talked about Winfrey’s real power. “Oprah has the power to lay waste to entire industries with a mere utterance,” he told the New York Times in 2005. “That’s a power that you have to respect. And ultimately I respect it.”

Oddly, there is a precedent of edgy cable cartoons successfully forecasting future political events. In 2000, “The Simpsons” broadcast an episode entitled “Bart to the Future.” The plot involved a President Trump.


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Mikkie Gets It! Former RNC Chair Denounces The Chumph

Don’t know if it is something in the coffee at MSNBC, vs something in the psychedelic moonshine at Faux – but Michael Steele, former chair of the RNC has had it with the Chumph’s racism.


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Yrsa Daley-Ward – Poet

A new poet, and someone to keep on the radar with her new release

It isn’t that dad doesn’t love you or your brother
said Mum, greasing up our ashy legs with Vaseline
Or that your auntie Amy’s a man stealing back-stabbing, cheating bitch
who can’t keep a man so she has to steal somebody else’s.
We just don’t see eye to eye on much, that’s all
and he wouldn’t stop eating cashew nuts in bed

It’s not that you mother and I hate each other
said Dad, pushing a crumpled ten pound note into my chinos pocket
…or that I forgot about your birthday
but I need time to think now. I’m moving in with Amy
and anyway, your mum cooks with too much salt.

It wasn’t so much an affair, you understand
said Auntie Amy, lacing up my brothers small Nike trainers
and picking out my knots with the wooden comb shaped like a fist
but a meeting of minds outside of our respective vows
And bodies, muttered mum, when I told her later.
Two faced tramp. What a joke.
Don’t tell anyone I said that.
Don’t tell anyone I said that.

It’s not as though your mums exactly an angel, either
said dad with blood red eyes
and a pulsing vein in his forehead
finishing the last of his whisky
and auntie Amy hissed, Easy Winston, you’ve had enough
and dad said, Don’t tell me what to do
not even my wife yet, and you think you know it all.

It not that your family are going to hell, necessarily
said grandma, boiling up the green banana, yam and dumpling
and grating the coconut onto the rice and peas
They must just accept Jesus Christ into their lives
and put away the drink and sin and all the lies.
Now go and wash your hands and set the table.
Don’t worry, child.
We’ll pray for them tonight.


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Those Pesky Disappearing Black Confederates

Every few years the invisible black confederate story recirculates among the neo-confederate types.

Every time they wind up empty.

Hope the bill passes to memorialize Robert Smalls! Small would later serve in the US Congress until 1886.

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GOP lawmakers surprised to learn no black soldiers served under Confederacy in South Carolina

The justification for building a monument to black Confederate soldiers is crumbling as historians point out there’s no evidence such combatants ever existed.

State Rep. Bill Chumley (R-Woodruff) and state Rep. Mike Burns (R-Taylors) pre-filed a bill last month that would establish a commission to design an African-American Confederate veterans monument, reported The State.

The bill would also require public schools to teach the contributions of black people toward the Confederate cause, and Chumley said his proposal had already accomplished his goal even as historians undermine its intent.

“We are all learning a lot,” Chumley said. “The purpose of the bill is education.”

The State reviewed pension records from 1923 that show three blacks claimed armed service in South Carolina units under the Confederacy, with two of them confirmed as cooks or servants and none for armed service.

“In all my years of research, I can say I have seen no documentation of black South Carolina soldiers fighting for the Confederacy,” said historian Walter Edgar, the longtime director of the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Southern Studies. “In fact, when secession came, the state turned down free (blacks) who wanted to volunteer because they didn’t want armed persons of color.

Edgar, who wrote a history of the state, said any black person who served in a Confederate unit in South Carolina was either a slave or an unpaid laborer working against his will.

South Carolina forbid blacks from carrying weapons during most of the Civil War out of fear of a slave revolt, but the Confederacy did allow black soldiers in the final months of the doomed rebellion.

State Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-Columbia), a black Democrat, and state Sen. Greg Gregory (R-Columbia), a white Republican, filed a separate proposal to memorialize Robert Smalls, who hijacked a Confederate supply ship in 1862 and turned it over to the Union.

He went on to become a state legislator and five-term congressman.

If the monument is built, it would be the first on Statehouse grounds to honor an individual African-American.

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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Black History


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Memphis Plays “Whack a Reb” Around Republican State Racists

Nice move, Memphis!

In a rapidly emerging war between municipalities, the Trump administration and white-wing, neo fascist Republican dominated legislators opposed to local rule…

Another mile marker.

 Memphis takes bold legal action to circumvent Tennessee state rule and remove Confederate statues

The city of Memphis engaged in a “massive operation” on Wednesday to take down two controversial Confederate statues before the morning light, the Commercial Appealreports.

The Memphis City Council first unanimously voted to sell two public parks to a private entity. Within minutes, Memphis Police Department officers had deployed to the sites of statues honoring Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Within one hour of the vote, Mayor Jim Strickland had signed the ordinance.

The sale of the parks was a legal mechanism to circumvent a decision by the Tennessee Historical Commission intended to prevent local governments from taking down the statues.

“Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park have been sold. Operations on those sites tonight are being conducted by a private entity and are compliant with state law,” Mayor Strickland explained. “We will have further updates later tonight.”


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Will Meghan Markle be the first black British Royal? Not so Fast…

Seems the Royal History is a bit “darker” than we thought…

I have a niece who is a dead ringer for Charlotte.

Britain’s black queen: Will Meghan Markle really be the first mixed-race royal?

A portrait of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, and American actress Meghan Markle, who is engaged to Prince Harry.

When Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement Monday, Twitter erupted with the news that the newest princess in the royal family would be bi-racial.

“We got us a Black princess ya’ll,” GirlTyler exulted. “Shout out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Their wedding will be my Super Bowl.”

But Markle, whose mother is black and whose father is white, may not be the first mixed-race royal.

Some historians suspect that Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III who bore the king 15 children, was of African descent.

Historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom argues that Queen Charlotte was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, Ouruana, a black Moor.

In the 13th century, “Alfonso III of Portugal conquered a little town named Faro from the Moors,” said Valdes, a researcher for Frontline PBS. “He demanded [the governor’s] daughter as a paramour. He had three children with her.”

According to Valdes, one of their sons, Martin Alfonso, married into the noble de Sousa family, who also had black ancestry. Queen Charlotte had African blood from both families.

Valdes, who grew up in Belize, began researching Queen Charlotte’s African ancestry in 1967, after he moved to Boston.

“I had heard these stories from my Jamaican nanny, Etheralda “TeeTee” Cole,” Valdes recalled.

He discovered that a royal physician, Baron Christian Friedrich Stockmar, described Queen Charlotte as “small and crooked, with a true mulatto face.”

Sir Walter Scott  wrote that she was “ill-colored” and called her family “a bunch of ill-colored orangutans.”

One prime minister once wrote of Queen Charlotte: “Her nose is too wide and her lips too thick.”

In several British colonies, Queen Charlotte was often honored by blacks who were convinced from her portraits and likeness on coins that she had African ancestry.

Valdes became fascinated by official portraits of Queen Charlotte in which her features, he said, were visibly “negroid.”

“I started a systematic geneological search,” said Valdes, which is how he traced her ancestry back to the mixed-race branch of the Portuguese royal family.

Charlotte, who was born May 19, 1744, was the youngest daughter of Duke Carl Ludwig Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Princess Elisabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen. She was a 17-year-old German princess when she traveled to England to wed King George III, who later went to war with his American colonies and lost rather badly. His mother most likely chose Charlotte to be his bride.

“Back in London, the king’s enthusiasm mounted daily,” wrote Janice Hadlow in the book, “A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III.” “He had acquired a portrait of Charlotte and was said to be mighty fond of it, but won’t let any mortal look at it.”

King George III ordered that gowns be made and waiting for his new bride when she arrived in London.

He met Charlotte for the first time on their wedding day, Sept. 8, 1761.

“Introduced to the king, Charlotte ‘threw herself at his feet, he raised her up, embraced her and led her through the garden up the steps into the palace,’ ” Hadlow wrote. “Some later reminiscences asserted that at the moment of their meeting, the king had been shocked by Charlotte’s appearance.”

In a portrait painted by Sir Allan Ramsay, Queen Charlotte’s hair is piled high in curly ringlets. Her neck is long and her skin appears to be café-au-lait.

Ramsay, Valdes said, was an abolitionist married to the niece of Lord Mansfield, the judge who ruled in 1772 that slavery should be abolished in the British Empire. And Ramsay was uncle by marriage to Dido Elizabeth Lindsay, the black grand-niece of Lord Mans field. Dido’s life story was recently recounted in the movie, “Belle.”

In 1999, the London Sunday Times published an article with the headline: “REVEALED: THE QUEEN’S BLACK ANCESTORS.”

“The connection had been rumored but never proved,” the Times wrote. “The royal family has hidden credentials that make its members appropriate leaders of Britain’s multicultural society. It has black and mixed-raced royal ancestors who have never been publicly acknowledged. An American genealogist has established that Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III, was directly descended from the illegitimate son of an African mistress in the Portuguese royal house.”

After the Times story, The Boston Globe hailed Valdes’ research as ground breaking. Charlotte, who died in 1818, passed on her mixed-race heritage to her granddaughter, Queen Victoria, and to Britain’s present day monarch, Queen Elizabeth.

Some scholars in England dismissed the evidence as weak —  and beside the point.

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Posted by on November 28, 2017 in Black History, General, The Post-Racial Life


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