TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO- Are you familiar with the history of Black people in Russia, Peru, and China?
Many people have little knowledge of the subject, and it’s understandable. These things aren’t taught to us. Moreover, when we speak of black history, we tend to exclude narratives from many countries across the diaspora, and by extension Black communities in those countries. Even though there is so much global history not taught in schools, some people still claim that Black people have no history.
Let’s delve into a few countries that are not usually associated with Black history.
Today, approximately 25,000 Afro-Bolivians are living in the Los Yungas region of Bolivia, a narrow passage of forest situated on the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains. Every September is celebrated as Afro-Bolivian heritage month, and in particular, September 23rd is ‘Afro-Bolivian Day.’
Many people may be surprised to learn that Afro-Bolivians have their own king. The Afro-Bolivian community’s ceremonial king, Julio Pinedo, was crowned in 1992 and is known as King Julio I. According to legend, he descends from Uchicho, a prince from the Kongo region of Africa who was trafficked to Bolivia in 1820 and whose Bolivian lineage has preserved its royal connection today.
There are many stories about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which took place between the 16th and 19th centuries, during which time an estimated 12.8 million Africans were trafficked across the Atlantic to territories in North America.
Our educational system seldom teaches us about the Indian Ocean slave trade, which dates back at least to the 3rd century BCE. According to conservative estimates, at least 4 million enslaved Africans were trafficked to countries across the Indian Ocean, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
India’s Afro-Indian population is known as the Sidi, and it is estimated that there are between 20 – 70,000 Sidis there today. Afrodescendant populations are well represented in Karnataka and Gujarat. Sheedi is an Afro-Pakistani community that numbers several hundred thousand in neighboring Pakistan.
Among Russia’s 144 million citizens, only 100,000 are estimated to be of African descent. In other words, less than 1% of the population. Major cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg are home to most of them.
Many people are familiar with the brilliant poet and novelist Alexander Pushkin, considered to be the ‘founding father of modern Russian literature’. But did you know that he was mixed-race? The Great-grandson of Abram Gannibal, this Russian cultural icon was an important figure in Russian culture.
Despite being born in Africa, Abram Gannibal became one of the most esteemed military generals in history when he was gifted to the Russian Emperor Peter the Great at an early age. He was the father of eleven children, most of whom were born into Russian nobility. Ivan, his eldest son, became the second-highest military rank in imperial Russia when he reached the rank of General-in-Chief.
When we think of Peru, what comes to mind? Seven wonders of the new world are Machu Picchu, home to the llamas, Incas, and the ancient civilization of the Incas. It may seem ironic, but we don’t think of Black people, even though there is a lot of melanin in the Peruvian national football team.
As of today, the Afro-Peruvian population is estimated at around 900,000, but the Afro-Peruvian historian Ricardo Aguilar estimates that up to 3 million Peruvians are of African descent. It is found that the highest concentration of Afro-Peruvians is in Lima, El Callao, Chincha, and Caete; and in the northern region of Piura, particularly in Zaña and Yapatera.
‘Afro-Peruvian Culture Day’ is observed on June 4th as part of the Afro-Peruvian heritage month in June. A commemoration of the birthday of the Peruvian civil rights activist and musicologist Nicomedes Santa Cruz takes place on this date. He was joined by his sister, Victoria Santa Cruz, who was also a pioneering activist and performer. On YouTube, you can listen to her spoken word poem ‘Me Llamaron Negra’ (They Called Me Black).
Did you know that Denmark was ranked the seventh-largest trading nation during the Transatlantic Slave Trade? Among the Caribbean islands, Denmark had three colonial territories: St Croix, St John, and St Thomas.
It is estimated that over 100,000 enslaved Africans were trafficked to those islands, also known as ‘the Danish West Indies’, during the slavery era. As a result of Denmark’s abolition of slavery in 1848, this practice came to an end. After Denmark sold the islands to the United States in 1917, they became known as the US Virgin Islands.
Denmark unveiled the country’s first statue commemorating a Black woman in 2018. The statue was created by Jeannette Ehlers and LaVaughn Belle and is called ‘I am Queen Mary.’ Ithonors Mary Thomas, who led the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history on St Croix in the 19th century. A famous 1967 photograph of Black Panther Party founder Huey P Newton inspired Mary’s pose.
There has been an African presence in China since the 7th century, which makes it surprising that people don’t associate China with Black history. A group called Kunlun was created by Arab traders in the Tang dynasty when they trafficked enslaved Africans to China.
During the Yuan dynasty, African commodities such as ivory, tortoise shell, and frankincense were imported to China as trade between Africa and China developed. East African animals, rhinoceros horns, and amber were imported by the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty.
A large proportion of Africa’s migrant population lives in China today. The largest settlement is located in Guangzhou, a major port city. Informally, Guangzhou’s African enclave is known as ‘Chocolate City’ or ‘Little Africa’. Many of the African residentsprofit by exporting cheap consumer goods to their home nations in Africa. Although most traders only stay temporarily in China, some settle and marry local women, often setting up a home there.
If you ever find yourself in Venezuela, make sure you save May 10 for Afro-Venezuelan Day. A free Black man by the name of Jose Leonardo Chirino coordinated the most famous uprising of Blacks and indigenous people in Venezuelan history in 1795, on this date. Symbolizing both resistance to slavery and Spanish colonial rule, he has gone down in history.
Did you know that Afro-Venezuelans played a significant role in Venezuela’s struggle for independence? Afro-Venezuelan Independence fighter Pedro Camejo is best known as El Negro Primero, or ‘the Black man who goes first’ because he was reportedly always the first to ride into battle.
In 1821, he was killed in action in the second battle of Carabobo, which led to the independence of Venezuela. Throughout Venezuela, Pedro Camejo is regarded as a national symbol of bravery and resistance, and he is memorialized in Plaza Carabobo in the capital city of Caracas.
More than 1,000,000 Afro-Venezuelans identify themselves as such today, with Barlovento having the largest population.
Isn’t it becoming tedious to hear that there are no Black people in Argentina? Several sources claim that Argentina has more than two million Afro-descendant people today, while the 2010 census shows fewer than 150,000 Afro-Argentines.
Afro-Argentine National Day is celebrated on November 8 in memory of Maria Remedios del Valle, a national hero. It is known that Maria fought a heroic battle in the Argentine independence war before being wounded, imprisoned, and then able to escape. She was known as “The mother of the Homeland”.
One of the generals she had fought under-recognized her after the war and arranged for her to receive a pension until she died. She was denied compensation and taken to begging after the war.
Afro-Argentine political and social activity has been resurgent in recent years. There have been several organizations working to revive interest in Afro-Argentine culture and advocate for the community, such as Grupo Cultural Afro, SOS Racismo, and Africa Vive.
The Afro-Turkish population today is estimated at 25,000, although no official statistics exist. Most live near the Aegean coast in the city of Izmir. Many of them descend from enslaved Africans brought to Turkey to work in agriculture, cotton production, and tobacco processing during the Ottoman Empire.
Several Black males were also appointed eunuchs and elite royal guards to the royal family. Turkish society sometimes granted Black Eunuchs a relatively high degree of political power and authority even though they were technically slaves. The highest position a Eunuch could achieve was that of Kizlar Agha, the third most powerful position after the Sultan and Grand Vizier.
Founded in 2006 by the late Mustafa Olpak, the African Solidarity and Cooperation Association (ASCA) promotes solidarity and cooperation among Africans. As a result, Afro-Turkish culture flourished, in particular the Dana Bayramifestival, an Afro-Turkish festival that dates back to the 1920s and marks the reunification of families separated by slavery and the sacrifice of a bull.
An estimated 1.5 million Afro-Iraqis live in Iraq today, making up 5% of the population. Most of them are concentrated in southern Iraq, with the largest number living in the Zubeir district of Basra.
During the ninth century, Arabs brought enslaved Africans to southern Iraq to work on date plantations and in salt marshes, along with Circassian and Georgian people. Additionally, they worked as domestics in wealthy families’ houses and sometimes as soldiers.
A massive uprising dubbed the Zanj rebellion occurred in 869, described as one of the bloodiest events in Western Asia. Most of the soldiers were enslaved people and African-descent freemen, led by Ali Ibn Muhammed. As a result of the uprising, the Zanj established their own government with their own army and even minted their own coins. It took almost fifteen years for the Abbasid army to regain control of this African state, despite the Zanj soldiers’ military prowess.
What did you think of our list? Were you able to learn anything new? What are your thoughts, please share them with us.