The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Friday, October 24, 2014


Scholars want help identifying slaves' origins
Liz Milewicz, former project manager for African-Origins. Researchers using audio recordings of names found in Courts of Mixed Commission records for Havana, Cuba, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, to identify their likely ethno-linguistic origins, at Emory University in Atlanta. The recordings helped connect the sound of the name to its spelling, enabling a more accurate assessment of the name's possible ethnic origins. AP Photo/Emory University, Bryan Meltz.

By: Suzanne Gamboa, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP).-— Almost two centuries before there was a man named Obama in the White House, there was a man named Obama shackled in the bowels of a slave ship. There is no proof that the unidentified Obama has ties to President Barack Obama. All they share is a name. But that is exactly the commonality that Emory University researchers hope to build upon as they delve into the origins of Africans who were taken up and sold.

They have built an online database around those names, and welcome input from people who may share a name that's in the database, or have such names as part of their family lore.

"The whole point of the project is to ask the African diaspora, people with any African background, to help us identify the names because the names are so ethno-linguistically specific, we can actually locate the region in Africa to which the individual belonged on the basis of the name," said David Eltis, an Emory University history professor who heads the database research team.

So far, two men named Obama sit among some 9,500 captured Africans whose names were written on line after line in the registries of obscure, 19th century slave trafficking courts. The courts processed the human chattel freed from ships that were intercepted and detoured to Havana, Cuba or Freetown, Sierra Leone. Most of the millions of Africans enslaved before 1807 were known only by numbers, said James Walvin, an expert on the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Once bought by slave owners, the Africans' names were lost. Africans captured by the Portuguese were baptized and given "Christian" names aboard the ships that were taking them into slavery.

But original African names — surnames were uncommon for Africans in the 19th century — are rich with information. Some reveal the day of the week an individual was born or whether that individual was the oldest, youngest or middle child or a twin. They can also reveal ethnic or linguistic groups.

The president's father was from Kenya, on the eastern coast of Africa, and Eltis said it was rare for captives to hail from areas far from the port where their ships set sail. The unidentified Obamas on the slave ships sailed from west Africa. Walvin, author of "The Zong," a book about the slave trade, said there were Africans who had been brought great distances before they were forced onto ships.

"Often their enslavement had begun much earlier, deep in the African interior, most of them captured through acts of violence, warfare or kidnap, or for criminal activity ..." Walvin said in his book, which chronicles the true story of a captain who ordered a third of the slaves aboard his ship thrown overboard due to a shortage of drinking water.

Obama's ancestors, a nomadic people known as the River Lake Nilotes, migrated from Bahr-el-Ghazal Province in Sudan toward Uganda and into Western Kenya, according to Sally Jacobs, author of "The Other Barack", a book about the president's father. They were part of several clans and subclans that eventually became the Luo people of Kenya, Jacobs writes.

The president's great-grandfather's name was Obama. Obama is derived from the word "bam", meaning crooked or indirect, she said in her book.

But it's also possible that Obama was a name used by other cultural groups in Africa and for whom the name had a different meaning.

The slaves found aboard intercepted ships provided their names, age and sometimes where they were from, through translators, to English and Spanish speaking court registrars who wrote their names as they sounded to them.

Body scars or identifying marks also were recorded. The details were logged in an attempt to prevent the Africans from being enslaved again, which didn't always work.

Emory's researchers are including audio clips of the names as they would likely be pronounced in Africa.

"These people enslaved were not just a nebulous group of people with no place and no name," said Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson, one of the researchers, who has found variations of his name, his brother's and his children's names in the database. He is originally from Ghana. "That's how lot of us view slavery. We don't have names faces to go with it ... It makes them that much more removed from us."

Eltis and his researchers acknowledge the database may not help African Americans with genealogical research because records on the Africans once they were freed from the ships are harder to find, if they exist at all.

However, the project provides another piece in a major jigsaw, and helps put together a bigger picture on slavery, Walvin said.

Before this project, Eltis and others assembled a database of 35,000 trans-Atlantic slave ship voyages responsible for the flow of more than 10 million Africans to the Americas.

Together, the two databases provide some details on the horrific voyages of the Africans, including the Obamas.

The Xerxes, which carried one of the unidentified Obamas, was a 138-foot schooner that began its voyage in Havana with a crew of 44. Five guns were mounted aboard when the ship left on a slave purchasing trip to Bonny on Feb. 10, 1828.

Sailing under the Spanish flag, the ship's captain Felipe Rebel purchased 429 slaves, nearly one third of them children, before setting out on a return trip to the Americas. But on June 26, 1828, the Xerxes was intercepted and forced to dock at an unknown Cuban port. By then, 26 slaves had died.

The other unidentified Obama, 6-foot-3-inches tall, was one of 562 Africans shackled in the belly of the Midas. The vessel was a Brig, a fast, maneuverable ship with two square-rigged masts. It was equipped with eight guns.

Midas' captain J. Martinez and a crew of 53 left Cuba on an unknown date. It left Bonny with 562 slaves but was intercepted. It docked in Cuba July 8, 1829 minus 162 slaves who had died during the voyage.

Some slaves freed from seized ships were returned to Africa, but not always to their original homelands. Some were sent to Liberia or were allowed to remain free in the cities where the courts were located. Some may have been re-enslaved and some died on ships that were returning them to Africa.



Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.





Today's News

December 30, 2011

Titanic artifacts, more than 5,000 estimated at $189 million, headed to auction at Guernsey's

Museo de Arte de Ponce announces "Treasures of the Collection in Context: The Pre-Raphaelites"

Stanford University Silicon Valley Archives offer window into Apple origins

IWM launches new app with ArtFinder: Great British posters from the second World War

Comprehensive tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater: Virtual tour now available for the iPad

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says work on 9/11 museum has stalled

The complete letters: Filmed correspondence on view at the CCCB in Barcelona

LA Art Show: Modern & Contemporary features new works by Damien Hirst and David Bailey among others

God(s): A User's Guide an opportunity to discover and reflect on religious practices

New exhibition features microscopes from the Golub Collection, University of California, Berkeley

Tonya A. Cameron to auction Asian art, antiques and historical ephemera from estate of Boston theater critic

Composed: Identity, Politics, Sex - New installation of works by seven contemporary artists

Gaëtane Verna appointed Director of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

Art Stage 2012: Chen Wenling in Singapore with Red Memory and China Scene

Italy probes report that Colosseum stones fall

Beat by the Bay: San Francisco artists & galleries of the fifties at Ever Gold Gallery

Toilet paper goes chic with designer covers

Scholars want help identifying slaves' origins

Coal country has tourism potential in West Virginia

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Image of a Christ without a beard, short hair and wearing a toga unearthed in Spain

2.- Giant mosaic unearthed in mysterious tomb in Amphipolis in northern Macedonia

3.- Bonhams sale of 18th century French decorative arts to benefit Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

4.- Paris flustered by erection of 'sex-toy' sculpture; Paul McCarthy slapped by a passer-by

5.- High art or vile pornography? Marquis de Sade explored in Orsay museum exhibition

6.- 'Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection' opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

7.- Greek culture minister says Elgin Marbles return a matter of 'global heritage'

8.- Vandals deflate Paris 'sex-toy' sculpture by American artist Paul McCarthy after outrage

9.- Exhibition at National Gallery in London explores Rembrandt's final years of painting

10.- 'Hans Memling: A Flemish Renaissance' opens at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site