Back to Africa, Amaros versus Americos a tale of two stories

Amaros – Positive asssimilation

 

The Amaros, who were sometimes called Nago in Brazil (Nago, indicates Yoruba ethnicity) were liberated slaves from Brazil and Cuba. Returnees from Brazil and Cuba and their current-day descendants were and are more commonly called “Agudas”. They went to the New World as slaves from different sub-ethnic and ethnic backgrounds but approached relationships among themselves as equals. They came back to Nigeria, principally to re-connect with their fatherland. In Lagos, they were given the watery terrains of Popo Aguda as their settlement. They were not brought up in the Anglican faith like the Sierra Leoneans but chose Catholicism, the dominant religion in Brazil and Cuba. By the 1880s, the Agudas comprised about 9% of the population of Lagos. It should be remembered that some of the Agudas were Muslims. Some of the Catholic Brazilians and Cubans also worshipped African Orishas which they had also worshipped in Brazil and Cuba. These Amaros gave Portuguese and Spanish names in Nigeria.

The Brazilian returnees were notably technically skilled artisans and were known for the distinctive Brazilian architecture built in their settlements and later in the Lagos environs. During the time, modern European architecture was not only meant to be a nice abode but also a dominating advertisement to show Africans of a different style and culture.[8] However, in due time, the Brazilian style emerged as a viable alternative and modern style used by African contractors working on public and large private jobs such as the Holy Cross Cathedral in Lagos and the Mohammed Shitta Bey Mosque. The Brazilians introduced to Nigeria elaborate architectural designs, two-story buildings and bungalows with stucco facades. The Brazilian returnees also popularized the use of Cassava as a food crop.[9] They had pioneered trade with Brazil in the mid nineteenth century. But by the 1880s, ruinous competitors and an economic downturn had forced many to abandon the export trade. Agriculture soon became an avenue to supplement shortfalls in economic activity. They also introduced Cocoa Plantations together with Saro, J.P.L. Davies

 

migrants from Brazil and Cuba.[1] Saros and Amaros also settled in other West African countries such as the Gold Coast (Ghana).  Latin American countries such as Brazil and Cuba. Liberated “returnee” Africans from Brazil were more commonly known as “Agudas”, from the word àgùdà in the Yoruba language. Most of the Latin American returnees or Amaros started migrating to Africa after slavery was abolished on the continent. Many of the returnees chose to return to Nigeria for cultural, missionary and economic reasons. Many (if not the greater majority) of them were originally descended from the Yoruba of western and central Nigeria.

The returnees mostly resided in the Lagos Colony, with substantial populations in Abeokuta and Ibadan. Some also settled in Calabar, Port Harcourt and other cities in the Niger Delta. Though, many were originally dedicated Anglophiles in Nigeria, they later adopted an indigenous and patriotic attitude on Nigerian affairs due to a rise in discrimination in the 1880s,[2] and were later known as cultural nationalists.

(The late Nigerian billionaire, was a descendent of Amaros)

Image result for Deinde Fernandez
Americo Liberians – From slaves to slave masters

“The love of liberty brought us here”, was the motto of some 13,000 persons who crossed the Atlantic to create new settlements on the Grain Coast of West Africa between 1817 and 1867 with the aid of the American Colonization Society.

The majority of African Americans who set sail for Africa were educated free blacks who owned property and hailed from Maryland and Virginia.warfare between the Americo-Liberians and the indigenous groups.

“The blacks from America who went to Liberia took with them the worst lessons of the ante-bellum South,” said Williams. “They treated the Africans they met there the way the slaveholders in the American South treated them.”

Still, they struggled. The farming techniques they learned in Pennsylvania and North Carolina were inappropriate in Liberia’s tropical climate. There was no “mother country” to provide financial support, and the colonists received very little support from the ACS, which was always in debt.

 

The early settlers practiced their Christian faith, sometimes in combination with traditional African religious beliefs. They spoke an African American Vernacular English, and few ventured into the interior or mingled with local African peoples. They developed an Americo-Liberian society, culture and political organization that was strongly influenced by their roots in the United States, particularly the country’s Southeast.

Today, the Americo-Liberian population numbers about 150,000. Americo-Liberians were credited for Liberia’s largest and longest economic expansion, especially William V. S. Tubman, who did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendants of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior.[3] Most of the powerful old Americo-Liberian families fled to the United States in the 1980s after President William Tolbert was assassinated in a military coup.

Making up about 5% of the Liberian population, Americo-Liberians dominated national politics from the founding of the colony until Samuel Doe led a military coup in 1980. There is debate about how Americo-Liberians held on to power for so long. Some attribute it to the fact that divisions were based on “light-skin vs. dark skin”, particularly because the first president was of mixed race, as were numerous immigrants, reflecting the nature of African-American society in the Upper South. Scholars have noted, however, that during the Americo-Liberian reign, the leaders had an array of skin colors and African-European admixture, meaning that theory is unlikely. It is more likely they built their power on their connections to the ACS, familiarity with American culture and economics, and ability to create a network of shared interests. Others believe their long reign was in part due to the Masonic Order of Liberia, a fraternal organization, as opposed to colorism. A marble Masonic Lodge was built in 1867 as one of Monrovia’s most impressive buildings. It was considered a bastion of Americo-Liberian power, and was strong enough to survive the civil war. After years of neglect after the war the Masonic order has repaired the lodge.[4]

The Americo-Liberian settlers were, from the beginning, essentially American rather than African in outlook and orientation. They retained preferences for western modes of dress, Southern plantation-style homes, American food, Christianity, the English language, and monogamous kinship practices. The settlers held land individually in contrast to the communal ownership of the African population and their political institutions were modeled on those of the United States with an elected president, a legislature made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives, and a supreme court. They seldom intermarried with indigenous Africans and tried to influence the interior inhabitants primarily through evangelization and trade.

But the nation as a whole struggled. Americo-Liberians, based mainly around Monrovia, denied the native tribes the right to vote under the new constitution and even used them as forced labor. It was the beginning of more than 100 years of totalitarian rule by the colonists.

According to Carl P. Burrowes, co-author of The Historical Dictionary of Liberia, an alliance between executive branch officials and local traditional rulers helped Americo-Liberians keep their grip on power. Local chiefs delivered bloc votes to urban leaders during elections.Reflecting the system of racial segregation in the United States, the Americo-Liberians created a cultural and racial caste system with themselves at the top and indigenous Liberians at the bottom.[13][14][15] They believed in a form of racial equality by which meant that all residents of Liberia had the potential of to become “civilized” through conversion to Christianity and western-style education

The graft culminated during the 1923 election when incumbent candidate D. B. King received 45,000 votes at a time when only 6,000 voters were legally registered. “[It] earn[ed] Liberia a dubious place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s most rigged election,” Burrowes wrote via e-mail.

Over the years, the U.S. government took little interest in Liberia other than as a military and intelligence outpost. In 1926, the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company opened its largest rubber factory in the world in Liberia. It quickly became the backbone of the Liberian economy, and as recently as the 1970s, Liberia’s per capita income was equal to Japan’s.

But ordinary Liberians grew increasingly angry at the corrupt rule of the Americo-Liberian “True Whig” party. In 1979, riots convulsed Monrovia when President William R. Tolbert Jr., whose family was the biggest importer of rice in Liberia, proposed an increase in the price of the commodity.

A year later, Tolbert was killed and 13 of his ministers shot on a beach during a coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe that destroyed the old dominance of the Americo-Liberians and set in motion a cycle of violence

 

In 1980, a violent military coup was led by Samuel Doe. Doe’s tenure as leader of Liberia led to a period of civil wars, resulting in destruction of the country’s economy. In the early 21st century, Liberia has been reduced to one of the most impoverished nations in the world, in which most of the population lives below the international poverty line.

 The Tabom people
 The Tabom People or Agudas refers to the Afro-Brazilian community in South of Ghana. The Tabom People are an Afro-Brazilian community of former slavesreturnees. When they arrived in South Ghana and Accra and they could speak only Portuguese, so they greeted each other with “Como está?” (How are you?) to which the reply was “Tá bom”,[1] so the Ewe people, Ga-Adangbe people and Akan people in of South Ghana and Accra started to call them the Tabom People.

The Afro-Brazilian descendants and community in South Ghana dates back to one study from the 19th century that between an estimated 3,000 and 8,000 former slaves decided to return to Africa.[2]

Up to now it is not very clear, if the Tabom really bought their freedom and decided to immediately come back or if they were at that time free workers in Brazil, they came after the Malê Revolt of 1835 in Bahia. A lot of Afro-Brazilians when percecuted found their way back to Ghana, Togo, Bennin and Nigeria especially those who organised the Malê Revolt.[2] In Ghana it is common to find family names like de Souza, Silva, or Cardoso. Some of them have been very well known in Ghana.[2] The first Brazilian Ambassador to Ghana, Raymundo de Souza Dantas, arrived in 1961.[

In Ghana, the representative group of people that decided to come back from Brazil is the Tabom People. They came back on a ship called SS Salisbury, offered by the British government. About seventy Afro-Brazilians of seven different families arrived in South Ghana and Accra, in the region of the old port in James Town in 1836.[2] The reception by the Mantse Nii Ankrah of the Otublohum area was so warm that they decided to settle down in Accra.[2] The leader of the Tabom group at the time of their arrival was a certain Nii Azumah Nelson.[2]The eldest son of Azumah Nelson, Nii Alasha, was his successor and a very close friend to the Ga King Nii Tackie Tawiah.[2] Together they helped in the development of the whole community in commerce.[2]

At the present moment the Tabom Mantse is Nii Azumah V, descendant of the Nelson’s. The Taboms are also known as the founders of the First Scissors House in 1854, the first tailoring shop in the country, which had amongst other activities, the task to provide the Ghanaian Army with uniforms.[2] Proof of these skills is without any doubt Dan Morton, another Tabom and one of the most famous tailors nowadays in Accra.[2]

In Ghana, the de Souza family can be found around Osu, Kokomele and other parts of the Greater Accra regionand South Ghana. Sekondi-Takoradi and Cape Coast are also other bases.[2] Almost all of them remained along the costal regions of South Ghana.[2] However, it is very common to see a De Souza, a Wellington, a Benson, a Palmares, a Nelson, an Azumah, Amorin, Da Costa, Santos, De Medeiros, Olympio and other Afro-Brazilians in Ghana speaking perfect Ga-Adangbe language, Ewe language and Akan language. [2] This is because most of the Afro-Brazilian people got married to Ewe andGa-Adangbes and Akans [2]

Because they were welcomed by the Ewe people, Ga-Adangbe people and Akan people and received by their kings as personal guests, the Taboms received lands in privileged locations, in places that are nowadays very well known estates, like Asylum Down, the area near to the central train station and around the Accra Brewery Company.[2] In those areas, the mango trees planted by them bear silent witnesses to their presence. In the estate of North Ridge there is a street called “Tabom Street”, which is a reminder of the huge plantations that they formerly had there.[2] Some of the Taboms live nowadays in James Town, where the first house built and used by them as they arrived in South Ghana is located.[2] It is called the “Brazil House” and can be found in a short street with the name “Brazil Lane”.[2] Because of their agricultural skills, they started plantations of mango, cassava, beans and other vegetables. They brought also skills such as irrigationtechniques, architecture, carpentry, blacksmithing, gold smithing, tailoring, amongst others, which certainly improved the quality of life of the whole community.[2]

Nowadays the Taboms are completely integrated in the Ghanaian society and are a part of the Ga-Adangbe People, Ewe People and Akan Peopl

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