George W. Williams.

History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens online

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Online LibraryGeorge W. WilliamsHistory of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens → online text (page 11 of 57)
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His skin as white as salt;
His hair long and tangled as the sea-weed.
He is more great than the princes of the earth;
He is clothed with the skins of fishes, -
Fishes more beautiful than birds.
His house is built of brass rods;
His garden is a forest of tobacco.
On his soil white beads are scattered
Like sand-grains on the seashore._"

The following idyl, extemporized by one of Stanley's black soldiers,
on the occasion of reaching Lake Nyanza, possesses more energy of
movement, perspicuity of style, and warm, glowing imagery, than any
song of its character we have yet met with from the lips of unlettered
Negroes. It is certainly a noble song of triumph. It swells as it
rises in its mission of praise. It breathes the same victorious air of
the song of Miriam: "_Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed
gloriously; the horse and the rider hath he thrown into the sea_." And
in the last verse the child-nature of the singer riots like "The May
Queen" of Tennyson.


"Sing, O friends, sing; the journey is ended:
Sing aloud, O friends; sing to the great Nyanza.
Sing all, sing loud, O friends, sing to the great sea;
Give your last look to the lands behind, and then turn to the sea.

Long time ago you left your lands,
Your wives and children, your brothers and your friends;
Tell me, have you seen a sea like this
Since you left the great salt sea?


Then sing, O friends! sing; the journey is ended:
Sing aloud, O friend! sing to this great sea.

This sea is fresh, is good and sweet;
Your sea is salt, and bad, unfit to drink.
This sea is like wine to drink for thirsty men;
The salt sea - bah! it makes men sick.

Lift up your heads, O men, and gaze around;
Try if you can see its end.
See, it stretches moons away,
This great, sweet, fresh-water sea.

We come from Usukuma land,
The land of pastures, cattle, sheep and goats,
The land of braves, warriors, and strong men,
And, lo! this is the far-known Usukuma sea.

Ye friends, ye scorned at us in other days.
Ah, ha! Wangwana. What say ye now?
Ye have seen the land, its pastures and its herds,
Ye now see the far-known Usukuma sea.
Kaduma's land is just below;
He is rich in cattle, sheep, and goats.
The Msungu is rich in cloth and beads;
His hand is open, and his heart is free.

To-morrow the Msungu must make us strong
With meat and beer, wine and grain.
We shall dance and play the livelong day,
And eat and drink, and sing and play."

_The religious and miscellaneous poetry_ is not of the highest order.
One of the most remarkable men of the Kaffir tribe was Sicana, a
powerful chief and a Christian. He was a poet, and composed hymns,
which he repeated to his people till they could retain them upon their
memories. The following is a specimen of his poetical abilities, and
which the people are still accustomed to sing to a low monotonous
air: -

"Ulin guba inkulu siambata tina
Ulodali bom' unadali pezula,
Umdala undala idala izula,
Yebinza inquinquis zixeliela.
UTIKA umkula gozizuline,
Yebinza inquinquis nozilimele.
Umze uakonana subiziele,
Umkokeli ua sikokeli tina,
Uenza infama zenza go bomi;
Imali inkula subiziele,
Wena wena q'aba inyaniza,
Wena wena kaka linyaniza,
Wena wena klati linyaniza;
Invena inh'inani subiziele,
Ugaze laku ziman' heba wena,
Usanhla zaku ziman' heba wena,
Umkokili ua, sikokeli tina:
Ulodali bom' uadali pezula,
Umdala uadala idala izula."


"Mantle of comfort! God of love!
The Ancient One on high!
Who guides the firmament above,
The heavens, and starry sky;

Creator, Ruler, Mighty One;
The only Good, All-wise, -
To him, the great eternal God,
Our fervent prayers arise.

Giver of life, we call on him,
On his high throne above,
Our Rock of refuge still to be,
Of safety and of love;

Our trusty shield, our sure defence,
Our leader, still to be:
We call upon our pitying God,
Who makes the blind to see.

We supplicate the Holy Lamb
Whose blood for us was shed,
Whose feet were pierced for guilty man,
Whose hands for us have bled;

Even our God who gave us life,
From heaven, his throne above,
The great Creator of the world,
Father, and God of love."

When any person is sick, the priests and devout people consult their
favorite spirits. At Goumbi, in Equatorial Africa, this ceremony is
quite frequent. Once upon a time the king fell sick. Quengueza was the
name of the afflicted monarch. Ilogo was a favorite spirit who
inhabited the moon. The time to invoke the favor of this spirit is
during the full moon. The moon, in the language of Equatorial Africa,
is Ogouayli. Well, the people gathered in front of the king's house,
and began the ceremony, which consisted chiefly in singing the
following song: -

"_Ilogo, we ask thee!
Tell who has bewitched the king!

Ilogo, we ask thee,
What shall we do to cure the king?

The forests are thine, Ilogo!
The rivers are thine, Ilogo!

The moon is thine!
O moon! O moon! O moon!
Thou art the house of Ilogo!
Shall the king die? Ilogo!
O Ilogo! O moon! O moon!_"[97]

In African caravans or processions, there is a man chosen to go in
front and sing, brandishing a stick somewhat after the manner of our
band-masters. The song is rather an indifferent howl, with little or
no relevancy. It is a position much sought after, and affords abundant
opportunity for the display of the voice. Such a person feels the
dignity of the position. The following is a sample: -

"_Shove him on!
But is he a good man?
No, I think he's a stingy fellow;
Shove him on!
Let him drop in the road, then.
No, he has a big stick:
Shove him on!
Oh, matta-bicho! matta-bicho!
Who will give me matta-bicho_?"

Of this song Mr. Reade says, -

"_Matta-bicho_ is a bunda compound meaning _kill-worm_; the
natives supposing that their entrails are tormented by a
small worm, which it is necessary to kill with raw spirits.
From the frequency of their demand, it would seem to be the
worm that ever gnaws, and that their thirst is the fire
which is never quenched."

The Griot, as we have already mentioned, sings for money. He is a most
accomplished parasite and flatterer. He makes a study of the art. Here
is one of his songs gotten up for the occasion.


"The man who had not feared to pass the seas through a love
of study and of science heard of the poor Griot. He had him
summoned. He made him sing songs which made the echoes of
the Bornou mountains, covered with palm-trees, ring louder
and louder as the sounds flew over the summits of the trees.


"The songs touched the heart of the great white man, and the
dew of his magnificence fell upon the Griot's head. Oh! how
can he sing the wonderful deeds of the Toubab? His voice and
his breath would not be strong enough to sing that theme. He
must be silent, and let the lion of the forest sing his
battles and his victories.


"Fatimata heard the songs of the Griot. She heard, too, the
deeds which the Toubab had accomplished. She sighed, and
covered her head with her robe. Then she turned to her young
lover, and she said, 'Go to the wars; let the flying ball
kill thee: for Fatimata loves thee no longer. The white man
fills her thoughts.'"

The most beautiful nursery song ever sung by any mother, in any
language, may be heard in the Balengi county, in Central Africa. There
is wonderful tenderness in it, - tenderness that would melt the
coldest heart. It reveals a bright spot in the heart-life of this

"_Why dost than weep, my child?
The sky is bright; the sun is shining: why dost than weep?
Go to thy father: he loves thee; go, tell him why thou weepest.
What! thou weepest still! Thy father loves thee; I caress thee:
yet still thou art sad.
Tell me then, my child, why dost thou weep?_"

It is not so very remarkable, when we give the matter thought, that
the African mother should be so affectionate and devoted in her
relations to her children. The diabolical system of polygamy has but
this one feeble apology to offer in Africa. The wives of one man may
quarrel, but the children always find loving maternal arms ready to
shelter their heads against the wrath of an indifferent and cruel
father. The mother settles all the disputes of the children, and cares
for them with a zeal and tenderness that would be real beautiful in
many American mothers; and, in return, the children are very noble in
their relations to their mothers. "Curse me, but do not speak ill of
my mother," is a saying in vogue throughout nearly all Africa. The old
are venerated, and when they become sick they are abandoned to die

It is not our purpose to describe the religions and superstitions of
Africa.[99] To do this would occupy a book. The world knows that this
poor people are idolatrous, - "_bow down to wood and stone_." They do
not worship the true God, nor conform their lives unto the teachings
of the Saviour. They worship snakes, the sun, moon, and stars, trees,
and water-courses. But the bloody human sacrifice which they make is
the most revolting feature of their spiritual degradation. Dr.
Prichard has gone into this subject more thoroughly than our time or
space will allow.

"Nowhere can the ancient African religion be studied better
than in the kingdom of Congo. Christianity in Abyssinia, and
Mohammedanism in Northern Guinea, have become so mingled
with pagan rites as to render it extremely difficult to
distinguish between them.

"The inhabitants of Congo, whom I take as a true type of the
tribes of Southern Guinea generally, and of Southern Central
Africa, believe in a supreme Creator, and in a host of
lesser divinities. These last they represent by images; each
has its temple, its priests, and its days of sacrifice, as
among the Greeks and Romans."[100]

The false religions of Africa are but the lonely and feeble reaching
out of the human soul after the true God.


[88] Stanley's Through the Dark Continent, vol. ii. pp. 320, 321; see,
also, pp. 3, 78, 123, 245, 414.

[89] Western Africa, p. 455.

[90] Western Africa, p. 456.

[91] Western Africa, p. 470.

[92] Equatorial Africa, p. 531.

[93] Savage Africa, p. 212.

[94] Through the Dark Continent, vol. ii. pp, 470, 471.

[95] Through the Dark Continent, vol. ii. pp. 482, 483.

[96] History of English Literature, vol i. pp. 48. 49.

[97] Equatorial Africa, pp. 448, 449.

[98] On the intellectual faculties of the Negro, see Prichard, third
ed., 1837, vol. ii. p. 346, sect. iii. Peschel's Races of Men, p. 462,
_sq._, especially Blumenbach's Life and Works, p. 305, _sq_ Western
Africa, p. 379, - all of chap. xi.

[99] See Prichard, fourth ed., 1841, vol. 1. p. 197, sect. v. Moffat's
Southern Africa; Uncivilized Races of Men, vol 1. pp. 183-219.

[100] Savage Africa, p. 287, _sq._




Sierra Leone was discovered and named by Piedro de Cintra. It is a
peninsula, about thirty miles in length by about twenty-five in
breadth, and is situated 8° and 30' north latitude, and is about
13-1/2° west longitude. Its topography is rather queer. On the south
and west its mountains bathe their feet in the Atlantic Ocean, and on
the east and north its boundaries are washed by the river and bay of
Sierra Leone. A range of mountains, co-extensive with the
peninsula, - forming its backbone, - rises between the bay of Sierra
Leone and the Atlantic Ocean, from two to three thousand feet in
altitude. Its outlines are as severe as Egyptian architecture, and the
landscape view from east or west is charming beyond the power of
description. Freetown is the capital, with about twenty thousand
inhabitants, situated on the south side of Sierra Leone River, and
hugged in by an amphitheatre of beautiful hills and majestic

"On the side of the hill [says Mr. Reed] which rises behind
the town is a charming scene, which I will attempt to
describe. You have seen a rural hamlet, where each cottage
is half concealed by its own garden. Now convert your linden
into graceful palm, your apples into oranges, your
gooseberry-bushes into bananas, your thrush which sings in
its wicker cage into a gray parrot whistling on a rail; ...
sprinkle this with strange and powerful perfumes; place in
the west a sun flaming among golden clouds in a
prussian-blue sea, dotted with white sails; imagine those
mysterious and unknown sounds, those breathings of the
earth-soul, with which the warm night of Africa rises into
life, - and then you will realize one of those moments of
poetry which reward poor travellers for long days and nights
of naked solitude."[101]

In 1772 Lord Mansfield delivered his celebrated opinion on the case of
the Negro man Sommersett, whose master, having abandoned him in a
sick condition, afterwards sought to reclaim him. The decision was to
the effect that no man, white or black, could set foot on British soil
and remain a slave. The case was brought at the instance of Mr.
Granville Sharp. The decision created universal comment. Many Negroes
in New England, who had found shelter under the British flag on
account of the proclamation of Sir Henry Clinton, went to England.
Free Negroes from other parts - Jamaica, St. Thomas, and San
Domingo - hastened to breathe the free air of the British metropolis.
Many came to want, and wandered about the streets of London, strangers
in a strange land. Granville Sharp, a man of great humanity, was
deeply affected by the sad condition of these people. He consulted
with Dr. Smeathman, who had spent considerable time in Africa; and
they conceived the plan of transporting them to the west coast of
Africa, to form a colony.[102] The matter was agitated in London by
the friends of the blacks, and finally the government began to be
interested. A district of about twenty square miles was purchased by
the government of Naimbanna, king of Sierra Leone, on which to locate
the proposed colony. About four hundred Negroes and sixty white
persons, the greater portion of the latter being "women of the
town,"[103] were embarked on "The Nautilus," Capt. Thompson, and
landed at Sierra Leone on the 9th of May, 1787. The climate was
severe, the sanitary condition of the place vile, and the habits of
the people immoral. The African fever, with its black death-stroke,
reaped a harvest; while the irregularities and indolence of the
majority of the colonists, added to the deeds of plunder perpetrated
by predatory bands of savages, reduced the number of the colonists to
about sixty-four souls in 1791.

The dreadful news of the fate of the colony was borne to the
philanthropists in England. But their faith in colonization stood as
unblanched before the revelation as the Iron Duke at Waterloo. An
association was formed under the name of "St. George's Bay," but
afterwards took the name of the "Sierra Leone Company," with a capital
stock of one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, with such
humanitarians as Granville Sharp, Thornton, Wilberforce, and Clarkson
among its directors. The object of the company was to push forward the
work of colonization. One hundred Europeans landed at Sierra Leone in
the month of February, 1792, and were followed in March by eleven
hundred and thirty-one Negroes. A large number of them had served in
the British army during the Revolutionary War in America, and,
accepting the offer of the British Government, took land in this
colony as a reward for services performed in the army. Another fever
did its hateful work; and fifty or sixty Europeans, and many blacks,
fell under its parching and consuming touch.[104] Jealous feuds rent
the survivors, and idleness palsied every nerve of industry in the
colony. In 1794 a French squadron besieged the place, and the people
sustained a loss of about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Once
more an effort was made to revive the place, and get its drowsy
energies aroused in the discharge of necessary duties. Some little
good began to show itself; but it was only the tender bud of promise,
and was soon trampled under the remorseless heel of five hundred and
fifty insurrectionary maroons from Jamaica and Nova Scotia.

The indifferent character of the colonists, and the hurtful touch of
the climate, had almost discouraged the friends of the movement in
England. It was now the year 1800. This vineyard planted by good men
yielded "nothing but leaves." No industry had been developed, no
substantial improvement had been made, and the future was veiled in
harassing doubts and fears. The money of the company had almost all
been expended. The company barely had the signs of organic life in it,
but the light of a beautiful Christian faith had not gone out across
the sea in stalwart old England. The founders of the colony believed
that good management would make the enterprise succeed: so they looked
about for a master hand to guide the affair. On the 8th of August,
1807, the colony was surrendered into the hands of the Crown, and was
made an English colony. During the same year in which this transfer
was made, Parliament declared the slave-trade piracy; and a naval
squadron was stationed along the coast for the purpose of suppressing
it. At the first, many colored people of good circumstances, feeling
that they would be safe under the English flag, moved from the United
States to Sierra Leone. But the chief source of supply of population
was the captured slaves, who were always unloaded at this place. When
the English Government took charge of Sierra Leone, the population was
2,000, the majority of whom were from the West Indies or Nova Scotia.
In 1811 it was nearly 5,000; in 1820 it was 12,000; it 1833 it was
30,000; in 1835 it was 35,000; in 1844 it was 40,000; in 1869 it was
55,374, with but 129 white men. On the 31st of March, 1827, the slaves
that had been captured and liberated by the English squadron numbered
11,878; of which there were 4,701 males above, and 1,875 under,
fourteen years of age. There were 2,717 females above, and 1,517
under, the age of fourteen, besides 1,068 persons who settled in
Freetown, working in the timber-trade.

With the dreadful scourge of slavery driven from the sea, the sanitary
condition of the place greatly improved; and with a vigorous policy of
order and education enforced, Sierra Leone began to bloom and blossom
as a rose. When the slaver disappeared, the merchant-vessel came on
her peaceful mission of commerce.

The annual trade-returns presented to Parliament show that the
declared value of British and Irish produce and manufactures exported
to the West Coast of Africa, arranged in periods of five years each,
has been as follows: -


1846-50 . . . £2,773,408; or a yearly average of £554,681
1851-55 . . . 4,314,752; " " " 862,950
1856-60 . . . 5,582,941; " " " 1,116,588
1861-63 . . . 4,216,045; " " " 1,405,348


The same trade-returns show that the imports of African produce from
the West Coast into Great Britain have been as follows. The "official
value" is given before 1856, after that date the "computed real value"
is given.

Official value, 1851-55 . . . £4,154,725; average, £830,945
Computed real value, 1856-60 . . 9,376,251; " 1,875,250
" " " 1861-63 . . 5,284,611; " 1,761,537

The value of African produce has decreased during the last few years
in consequence of the discovery of the petroleum or rock-oil in
America. In 1864 between four and five thousand bales of cotton were
shipped to England.

It is to be borne in mind, that under the system which existed when
Sierra Leone, the Gambia, and Gold Coast settlements were maintained
for the promotion of the slave-trade, the lawful commerce was only
£20,000 annually, and that now the amount of tonnage employed in
carrying legal merchandise is greater than was ever engaged in
carrying slaves.[105] W. Winwood Reade visited Sierra Leone during the
Rebellion in America; but, being somewhat prejudiced against the
Negro, we do not expect any thing remarkably friendly. But we quote
from him the view he took of the people he met there: -

"The inhabitants of the colony may be divided into four
classes: -

"First, The street-venders, who cry cassada-cakes, palm-oil,
pepper, pieces of beef, under such names, as _agedee_,
_aballa_, _akalaray_, and which are therefore as
unintelligible as the street-cries of London. This is the
costermonger type.

"Second, The small market-people, who live in frame houses,
sell nails, fish-hooks, tape, thread, ribbons, etc., and who
work at handicrafts in a small way.

"Third, The shopkeepers, who inhabit frame houses on stone
foundations, and within which one may see a sprinkling of
mahogany, a small library of religious books, and an almost
English atmosphere of comfort.

"Lastly, The liberated Africans of the highest grade, who
occupy two-story stone houses enclosed all around by
spacious piazzas, the rooms furnished with gaudy richness;
and the whole their own property, being built from the
proceeds of their ... thrift."

When England abolished the slave-trade on the West Coast of Africa,
Christianity arose with healing in her wings. Until slavery was
abolished in this colony, missionary enterprises were abortive; but
when the curse was put under the iron heel of British prohibition, the
Lord did greatly bless the efforts of the missionary. The Episcopal
Church - "the Church of England" - was the first on the ground in 1808;
but it was some years before any great results were obtained. In 1832
this Church had 638 communicants, 294 candidates for baptism, 684
sabbath-school pupils, and 1,388 children in day-schools. This Church
carried its missionary work beyond its borders to the tribes that were
"sitting in darkness;" and in 1850 had built 54 seminaries and
schools, had 6,600 pupils, 2,183 communicants, and 7,500 attendants on
public worship. It is pleasant to record that out of 61 teachers, 56
_were native Africans!_ In 1865 there were sixteen missionary
societies along the West Coast of Africa. Seven were American, six
English, two German, and one West-Indian. These societies maintained
104 European or American missionaries, had 110 mission-stations,
13,000 scholars, 236 schools, 19,000 registered communicants;
representing a Christian population of 60,000 souls.

The Wesleyan Methodists began their work in 1811; and in 1831 they had
two missionaries, 294 members in their churches, and 160 pupils in
school. They extended their missions westward to the Gambia, and
eastward toward Cape Coast Castle, Badagry, Abbeokuta, and Kumasi; and
in this connection, in 1850, had 44 houses of worship, 13
out-stations, 42 day-schools, 97 teachers, 4,500 pupils in day and
sabbath schools, 6,000 communicants, 560 on probation, and 14,600 in
attendance on public worship. In 1850 the population of Sierra Leone
was 45,000; of which 36,000 were Christians, against 1,734

Sierra Leone represents the most extensive composite population in the
world for its size. About one hundred different tribe are represented,
with as many different languages or dialects. Bishop Vida, under
direction of the British Parliament, gave special attention to this
matter, and found not less than one hundred and fifty-one distinct
languages, besides several dialects spoken in Sierra Leone. They were
arranged under twenty-six groups, and yet fifty-four are unclassified
that are distinct as German and French. "God makes the wrath of man to

Online LibraryGeorge W. WilliamsHistory of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens → online text (page 11 of 57)