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After almost 50 years, former Black Panther Sundiata Acoli to be released from prison

Sundiata Acoli, a former Black Panther member who was convicted of murder in 1974 and has been denied parole multiple times, will now be released from prison. The New Jersey supreme court has granted parole to Acoli, ruling that he was no longer a threat to the public.

85-year-old Acoli has been serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper during a shootout in which Assata Shakur, the self-exiled aunt of Tupac Shakur, was also arrested. Shakur escaped in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum. Acoli had been eligible for parole since 1992 but had been denied so many times.

In the 1970s when the Black liberation fighters’ struggle was at its peak in the United States, it gave birth to militant groups like Philadelphia-based MOVE founded by John Africa in 1972 and the Black Panther Party founded in late October 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The Black Panthers’ militant wing was called the Black Liberation Army.

Acoli, a member of the Black Liberation Army, was on May 2, 1973, driving just after midnight when a state trooper, James Harper, stopped him for a “defective taillight”. Acoli was then in the vehicle with two others — Assata Shakur and Zayd Malik Shakur — who were also members of the Black Liberation Army. Harper was joined by another trooper, Werner Foerster, at the scene. Foerster then found an ammunition magazine for an automatic pistol on Acoli. A shootout ensued; Foerster died in the process and Harper was wounded.

Assata Shakur was arrested while Zayd Malik Shakur was found dead near the car. Acoli fled but was caught some hours later. Acoli and Assata Shakur were convicted of the murder of Foerster in separate trials. Acoli said he did not remember what happened as he passed out after being hit by a bullet. In 1974, Acoli was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Acoli became eligible for parole in 1992 but was not allowed to take part in his own parole hearing.

All in all, he has been denied parole eight times. His lawyer, Bruce Afran, said each time he is denied, the reason given is the same — “he hasn’t done enough psychological counseling; he doesn’t fully admit to his crime, or he hasn’t adequately apologized for it,” according to the Post. In 2014, a state appellate panel ruled that Acoli should be released, citing good behavior since 1996. The state Attorney General’s office however contested and the case was sent back to the board. Again, it denied Acoli’s request. Acoli started appealing that decision.

After being repeatedly denied parole, New Jersey’s Supreme Court has now voted 3-2 to overturn a parole board ruling, according to BBC. Acoli’s prison record has been “exemplary”, the judges said, adding that he had completed 120 courses while in prison, received positive evaluations from prison officials, and participated in counseling. The parole board had “lost sight that its mission largely was to determine the man Acoli had become”, the judges said.

Activists now hope that Acoli’s release would bring attention to other elderly members of the Black Panthers who are still imprisoned in the U.S


In major reversal, N.J. Supreme Court orders parole of man convicted of murdering state trooper in 1973

By S.P. Sullivan – May 10, 2022

New Jersey’s highest court on Tuesday ordered the parole of one of New Jersey’s most high-profile prisoners, Sundiata Acoli, the Black Liberation Army activist convicted for the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.

In a narrow 3-2 vote, the state Supreme Court reversed a decision by the state parole board denying Acoli parole, ruling there was not “substantial credible evidence” to support the board’s findings that his release presented a danger to the public.

“In light of Acoli’s verbal renunciation of violence as an acceptable way to achieve social change; more than two decades infraction-free in the federal prison system; the multitude of programs and counseling sessions he completed; his honor status as an inmate; his acquisition of vocational skills; and his advanced age, it is difficult to imagine what else might have persuaded the board that Acoli did not present a substantial likelihood to reoffend,” Justice Barry Albin wrote for the majority.

The gun battle on the New Jersey Turnpike in which Foerster was killed remains one of the most infamous cases in the Garden State over the last half century and Acoli’s parole petition has been closely monitored by both the law enforcement community and a network of supporters who say Acoli has repaid his debt to society.

The state had denied parole eight times over the course of decades, finding Acoli lacked remorse for the killing because, under questioning at his last hearing, Acoli posited that Foerster could have been killed by “friendly fire” in a lengthy interview.

Acoli’s supporters said he’s an 85-year-old grandfather with dementia, a “model prisoner” who poses no risk to the public.

While he has apologized for his role in Foerster’s murder, Acoli, formerly known as Clark Edward Squire, has claimed he was grazed by a bullet and blacked out during the shootout, and couldn’t remember the exact sequence of events.

It remains an open question who actually fired upon the trooper.

Acoli was in a car with Assata Shakur, then known Joanne Chesimard, when they and another passenger, James Costen, were pulled over for a busted taillight in 1973. Somehow, the routine stop turned into a gunfight that left Costen and Foerster dead and another state trooper, James Harper, wounded.

Shakur and Acoli were both convicted for Foerster’s murder, although Shakur escaped to Cuba, where she remains one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives to this day. Acoli, meanwhile, has served the intervening decades in prison.

“He has lived in one of the worst environments in the world for 40 years without a single offense,” Bruce Afran, a civil rights lawyer who has taken up Acoli’s cause, said during oral arguments in January.

The state Attorney General’s Office had opposed Acoli’s release, saying he has not demonstrated remorse.

“Despite him saying he’d accepted responsibility and understanding, when pushed with what happens, he goes to blaming the victims here, the officers,” assistant attorney general Stephanie Cohen said during oral arguments earlier this year.

Advocates said Acoli, who first became eligible for parole in 1993, has been repeatedly denied parole because he was convicted of murdering a state trooper, which tarred his efforts at parole.

Under the law that was in effect when Acoli was sentenced, he is technically eligible for parole, but the state parole board ruled in 2017 that he showed a lack of remorse and remained too dangerous for release.

Werner Foerster

New Jersey State Police Trooper Werner Foerster’s funeral in 1973.

Harvard Researcher Says Afrikans Are 100% Pure Human Than The Rest

A Harvard researcher has declared that Africans are the only race that has 100 percent human DNA while the rest have Neanderthal DNA in them. While this seems controversial another separate study colludes with the Harvard study.

Dr. David Emil Reich, a genetics professor at Harvard, and his colleagues analyzed the genetic variants of 846 non-African people, 175 people who live in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, and a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal man.

They have found out that nine genetic variants found in humans are associated with specific traits that can be found in Neanderthals. The same genetic variants are the same ones responsible for such diseases, such as Type-2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, lupus, optic disk size, and biliary cirrhosis.

The Harvard researcher and his team also found that this Neanderthal DNA affects how keratin filaments developed. As opposed to humans, Neanderthals have more keratin filaments than humans making their skin tougher. This allows them to survive in harsh, cold, climates. That DNA was beneficial to the human survival in such climates.

separate study conducted by Dr. Benjamin Vernot and Dr. Joshua Akey from the University of Washington yielded the same conclusion after the scientists analyzed the genetic makeup of 286 East Asians and 379 Europeans.

According to the duo, Neanderthal skin genes are present in Europeans and East Asians. On the other hand, the rest of the genes are not compatible with the human genome and they most probably become extinct. One area of the human genome where the Neanderthal DNA is absent is that which affects human language and speech.

Harvard researcher DR. Reich said that the goal of the study is to understand how this DNA impact the biological impact of how human and Neanderthal DNA flow. It will also show the scientists what genes have been preserved and which ones have been rejected through the process of natural selection.




St. Josephine Bakhita

Feast Day: Feb. 8

Kidnapped. Beaten. Sold. So traumatized she forgot her own name. This is the horrifying beginning of the story of St. Josephine Bakhita.

Despite years of being enslaved and abused, St. Josephine’s story ends in life-giving hope. Her recovery is a testimony to the role that believing in God’s love can play in helping victims of enslavement survive. St. Josephine came to believe that God loved her and called her by name. Canonized in 2000, she offers hope to those seeking to reclaim their dignity as God’s beloved children. She has become the patron saint for all victims of trafficking. An annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking is observed on her feast day, Feb. 8.

Born around 1869, the child later named Bakhita led a carefree life as a member of the Daju people of Sudan. Life drastically changed when Arab slave traders murdered her parents and kidnapped her. She was forced to walk over 600 miles barefoot and sold 5 times over the next 12 years in the slave markets of Sudan.

After being sold to an Italian merchant, she came to be cared for by the Canossian Sisters in Italy, and this is when Bakhita learned who she really was. Drawn to Jesus on the cross, she learned of a God “she had experienced in her heart, without knowing who he was” since she was a child. In the words of Pope Benedict, “She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her – that he actually loved her.”

Refusing to leave the sisters when her master returned, Bakhita won freedom in 1889 when an Italian court ruled that she had never legally been a slave. In control of her life for the first time, Bakhita joined the sisters. Baptized Josephine Margaret and Fortunata, she professed her vows in 1896 and called others to love God while serving as a cook, sacristan and doorkeeper at Schio for 42 years. Beloved by the residents of Venice for her hopeful presence and joyful smile, this sister they fondly called Sor Moretta (“little brown sister”) or Madre Moretta (“black mother”), was a special source of inspiration.

Though she endured much physical pain in her final years, she died smiling in 1947, calling out to Our Lady. In her biography, she reveals that she had transcended her suffering to forgive her captors, “If I were to meet those who kidnapped me, and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For, if these things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today.”

Three Afrikan Skeletons Found in Mexico Show Horrors of Early Slavery in the New World

A skull analyzed in the new study, along with tubes for genetic and isotope testing.
A skull analyzed in the new study, along with tubes for genetic and isotope testing.
Image: Rodrigo Barquera

Three skeletons belonging to African individuals have been uncovered at a mass grave in Mexico City. They represent some of the first African people to arrive into slavery in the New World. An interdisciplinary analysis of these remains is shedding new light on this grim period of history and the harsh conditions endured by the first wave of enslaved Africans in the Americas.

“To the best of our knowledge, they are the earliest genetically identified first-generation Africans in the Americas,” according to the authors of a new paper, published today in Current Biology.

Found in Mexico City, the three skeletons were buried in a mass grave near the former site of the Hospital Real de San José de los Naturales. This early hospital dates back to the early colonial period of New Spain and was primarily used to treat indigenous peoples. All three skeletons date back to this early colonial period in the 16th century, which means these individuals were among the first wave of Africans to be kidnapped and brought to the Americas via the transatlantic slave trade.

An interdisciplinary analysis of these remains paints a bleak picture of their lives, showing evidence of forged migration, physical abuse, and exposure to infectious diseases.

“By investigating the origin and disease experience of these individuals through molecular methods and evaluating the skeleton[s] for signs of life experience and cultural affinity, we illuminate, in some measure, the identity, culture, and life of these people whose history has largely been lost,” wrote the authors in the new study, co-authored by Johannes Krause from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

The origin of this story goes back to 1518, when Charles I of Spain authorized the transfer of enslaved Africans to the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which at the time included most of what is now Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of the U.S. and Canada. By 1779, an estimated 130,000 to 150,000 Africans had been forcibly relocated to the Viceroyalty, according to the researchers. Of these, some 70,000 arrived between 1600 and 1640. Writing in the new paper, the authors explained the sudden increase in relocation of enslaved individuals:

…in part due to a reduction in the indigenous labor force that resulted from both casualties in the many conflicts during the European conquest and from diseases (among them, small-pox, measles, and typhoid fever) that devastated nearly 90% of the native population. Creoles, Africans, mulattoes, and other African-descended groups were thought to have higher resistance to these diseases compared to Indigenous Americans and Europeans making them desirable assets. Further to this, Las Leyes Nuevas (The New Laws) of 1542 prohibited the use of Native American labor as slaves in New Spain.

To analyze the three skeletons, the authors combined genetic and isotopic evidence, along with physical evidence gleaned from the remains.

Proof that these people came from Africa came from multiple sources. First, their upper teeth showed evidence of decorative filing, a known cultural practice of some African tribes. Second, these three individuals shared a Y-chromosome lineage that is strongly correlated to people from sub-Saharan Africa and is now the most common genetic lineage among living African Americans. And thirdly, dental isotopes extracted from their teeth showed that the individuals were born outside of Mexico, having spent their entire youth in Africa, according to the research.

Skulls and dental decoration patterns observed on the skeletal remains.
Skulls and dental decoration patterns observed on the skeletal remains.
Image: Collection of San José de los Naturales, Osteology Laboratory, (ENAH), Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: R. Barquera & N. Bernal

Analysis of the skeletons suggests these people were subjected to physical abuse and intense manual labor, such as muscle-derived patterns on bones and signs of hernia on vertebrae. Other evidence pointed to “nutritionally inadequate diets, anemia, parasitic infectious diseases, and blood loss,” wrote the authors.

These enslaved Africans were also victims of extreme violence. One skeleton had five copper buckshots fired from a gun, while another showed signs of skull and leg fractures. None of these injuries resulted in their deaths, but all three died prematurely.

“And since they were found in this mass burial site, these individuals likely died in one of the first epidemic events in Mexico City,” explained Rodrigo Barquera, the first author of the study and a graduate student at MPI SHH, in a press release. “[We] can tell they survived the maltreatment that they received. Their story is one of difficulty but also strength, because although they suffered a lot, they persevered and were resistant to the changes forced upon them.”

The analysis also resulted in the detection of two known pathogens, namely the virus responsible for Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the bacterium responsible for yaws (Treponema pallidum pertenue), which causes symptoms similar to syphilis. Importantly, this is the earliest evidence of HBV and yaws in the Americas.

Joint and bone damage found on the skeletal remains: (A) extensive bone wear, (B) signs of hernia on a vertebrae, (C and D) greenish coloration as evidence of a copper bullet.
Joint and bone damage found on the skeletal remains: (A) extensive bone wear, (B) signs of hernia on a vertebrae, (C and D) greenish coloration as evidence of a copper bullet.
Image: Collection of San José de los Naturales, Osteology Laboratory, (ENAH), Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: R. Barquera & N. Bernal

“Although we have no indication that the HBV lineage we found established itself in Mexico, this is the first direct evidence of HBV introduction as the result of the transatlantic slave trade,” said Denise Kühnert, a co-author of the study and an expert in infectious diseases at MPI SHH. “This provides novel insight into the… history of the pathogen.”

The same could hold true for yaws, which was common in the Americas during the colonial period. Prior to the new study, however, the oldest genetic evidence of yaws came from a 17th-century European colonist.

“It is plausible that yaws was not only brought into the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade but may subsequently have had a considerable impact on the disease dynamics in Latin America,” added Kühnert.

Needless to say, this is among the trickier aspects of the new study; linking the presence of HBV and yaws in these individuals to the spread of diseases from Africa to the Americas is a precarious proposition at best. Future research is needed.

The new paper presents a devastating snapshot of life during the early colonial period and the tremendous hardships endured by the tens of thousands of people abducted from Africa.


Gullah, descendants of Afrikan slaves in South Carolina who haven’t abandoned their cultural roots

The Gullah Geechee Kinfolk…Pathfinders Travel Magazine

The Gullah people, also referred to as the Geechee, reside in Georgia and the low country of South Carolina within the United States.  They are also located within the coast and the Sea Islands  – which are a series of minute islands along the Atlantic Ocean. They equate to over 100 islands.

Originally, the Gullah people inhabited the Cape Fear region of North Carolina extending to the Jacksonville, Florida area. They eventually heavily populated South Carolina and Georgia.

They differentiate themselves by referring to one another as saltwater Geechee or freshwater Geechee; this describes the mainland and the Sea Islands settlers. saltwater

Geechee or Gullah are also the names of the language spoken by the African natives. The name Geechee is said to derive from the Ogeechee River within the vicinity of Savannah, Georgia.

The Gullah originate from Angola, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Mozambique and the Bight of Benin which is a bight in the Gulf of Guinea on the western African coast.

Slaves from this portion of Africa were brought for the chief purpose of profit for slave owners and colonizers.

Two British trading companies operated the slave castle at Bunce Island, formerly known as Bance Island in the Sierra Leone River.  Henry Laurens, a slave agent was based in Charleston, S.C. His colleague, Richard Oswald was based in England.  Any slaves taken from West Africa passed through Bance Island.  It was the principal spot for slaves being shipped to Georgia and South Carolina.

Along the Western coast of Africa, the natives grew and harvested rice.  This rice was initially planted and grown in the inland delta of the Upper Niger River.  British colonizers realized that African rice could be cultivated in the southern parts of the U.S. Hence why slaves were captured from Western Africa. They were needed to build irrigation and dam systems that would aid in growing the rice.

By the 18th century, large acres of land in the lowlands of South Carolina and Georgia were made into African rice fields.  It proved to be very lucrative for America during that time.

The Gullah have been able to preserve much of their African culture due to the similarity in the climate of their origin and their new land. Many slave overseers were African which enabled a fusion of African cultures and preservation of customs. Additionally, because malaria and yellow fever became endemic, white slave owners, rice field owners and plantation overseers were forced to leave their homes and migrate to the city.  This attributed to the increase of African rice overseers.

1861 ushered in the beginning of the Civil War. White planters, afraid of an invasion by U.S. naval forces, abandoned their land.  Union forces soon arrived on the land and were introduced to the Geechee who were eager for their freedom and willing to risk their lives for it.  The Gullah joined the Union Army as the First South Carolina Volunteers.

The Sea Islands became the first place in the South where slaves were freed. Unitarian missionaries from Pennsylvania also formulated schools for freed slaves – even before the end of slavery.

After the end of the war, the rice fields became damaged and chances of labor were considerably low.  Rice planters gradually abandoned their land. In 1890, hurricanes obliterated the crops altogether. The Gullah were now the main inhabitants of the low country which isolated them from their former owners and the greater population. This allowed for the opportunity to practice their culture, undisturbed by outside influences.

There was an awesome mending of customs and traditions from the Mende, Baga, Fula, Mandinka and Wolof tribes, to name a few.

Some mentionable customs that have passed from African traditions are the Gullah word guber which is derived from the Kikongo and Kimbundu word, N’guba.  The Geechee version of gumbo comes from the Angolan dish of okra called Umbundu.  Gullah herbal medicines are highly comparable to traditional African remedies.  Gullah strip quilts are made in the same fashion as Kente cloth from the Ashanti and Ewe people of Ghana as well as the Akwete cloth from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria.

During the 20th century, wealthy whites redeveloped some areas of the plantations destroyed earlier on.  Since there has been an influx of visitors who wish to enjoy the favorable weather and beautiful scenery. Juxtaposing this notion has been the Gullah fighting to preserve and practice their culture.  Development of the plantations for tourism purposes has also threatened the livelihood of the native Gullah.In 2006, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Act enabled the preservation of historic sites as it relates to Gullah culture.  The act has also provided $10 million towards the cause aforementioned.

Gullahs have reached as far north as New York City; keeping close ties to family members by visiting and passing down their traditions to newer generations. Some Gullahs have established relationships with natives in Sierra Leone in the form of reunions.


A story of 1619, 1776 and 2020: Telling the whole truth about Amerika and slavery

Engraving shows the arrival of a Dutch slave ship with a group of African slaves for sale, Jamestown, Virginia, 1619.
Engraving shows the arrival of a Dutch slave ship with a group of African slaves for sale, Jamestown, Virginia, 1619. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Last week, the New York Times received a George Polk Award — one of the highest marks of recognition in American journalism — for its 1619 Project, a special package published last August exploring slavery’s legacy in the United States. Yet the Times’ own report on the award acknowledged that the project has drawn sharp criticism from historians. And a few days earlier, a group of African-American public figures launched a rival 1776 Project to counter what they consider its false and demoralizing narrative.

No decent person would deny that African-Americans endured horrific oppression or dispute the value of telling that story. But there is plenty of dispute about historical facts and interpretations, and their present-day meaning. Was racialized slavery an evil that tarnished America’s founding ideals — or America’s very foundation? Are our current social structures still hopelessly rooted in white supremacy, or is reality far more complex?

The 1619 Project posits that American history began with slavery — the arrival of 20 enslaved Africans in colonial Virginia. But as former Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain argues in her 1776 Project essay, this narrative is flawed from the start: The Africans were indentured laborers who, like their white counterparts, later gained freedom and sometimes land. Leading black historian Nell Irving Painter also makes this point. Thus, 1619 was the start not only of African bondage in America, but of the free African-American community.

Most contentiously, the 1619 Project asserts that preserving slavery was a principal motive for the American Revolution. Its defenders cite literature arguing that the colonies’ pursuit of independence was fueled by fears of a ban on slavery after Britain’s highest court ruled in 1772, in Somerset vs. Stuart, that slavery was not sanctioned by British common law. But as I found in months of research, reported in depth in The Bulwark, this is junk history: The colonial Somerset backlash is a myth based on speculation and cherrypicked, out-of-context quotes. (There was a backlash among planters in the Caribbean, but they sought more British protection while mainland America rebelled.)

Supporting material mentioned on Twitter by 1619 Project lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones includes University of Houston historian Gerald Horne’s 2014 book, “The Counterrevolution of 1776.” But that volume is riddled with errors — e.g., a 1774 pro-Crown, pro-slavery pamphlet is misattributed to a revolutionary — and Horne is a career Communist propagandist who defends Stalinism. While Hannah-Jones has downplayed the connection, Horne is on an upcoming New York Times-sponsored panel about the project.

The real story of slavery and the American Founding is full of paradox. The Revolution’s anti-tyranny rhetoric kindled abolitionist fervor; the British offer of freedom to slaves who fought for the Crown stoked fear of slave revolts. Supporters of the 1619 Project note that the Declaration of Independence referenced such fears, assailing King George for inciting “domestic insurrections amongst us.” Yet the same passage originally included a powerful condemnation of Britain’s promotion of slavery — later dropped to placate slaveholders.

The Revolution’s aftermath saw abolition in the North, but also a slavery-enabling Constitution and rollbacks in the rights of free blacks — a shameful betrayal of “all men are created equal.”

Still, the revolutionary spirit of that message remained. It almost certainly helped end slavery in the Western world. It scared slaveholders like Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, who repudiated the Founders as anti-slavery believers in “equality of races.” It inspired abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, who saw it as a goal to fight for.

The 1619 Project admirably stresses black Americans’ role in that fight — but asserts that “for the most part [they] fought back alone,” an inaccurate and polarizing claim that erases the very real history of interracial solidarity.

In a later-deleted snarky Twitter rejoinder to the 1776 Project, Hannah-Jones wondered why any African-Americans would embrace “the year revolutionaries decided to form a new country where you and your people would have been enslaved for another 100 years.” But the dissenters — conservatives like Swain and activist Robert Woodson, but also liberals like Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page, scholar and author John McWhorter, Columbia University philosophy student and writer Coleman Hughes — believe that the heritage of 1776, of a political order based on the then-radical principle of inalienable human rights, belongs to all Americans. They deserve to be heard.


The Rise and Fall of Shaka Zulu


1824 European artist’s impression of King Shaka of the Zulu Nation, with a long throwing assegai and heavy shield. No drawings from his life are known.

Shaka Zulu’s Rise From Unwanted Illegitimate Son, To Great Zulu Warrior King — by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

He is Shaka the unshakeable,
Thunderer-while-sitting, son of Menzi
He is the bird that preys on other birds,
The battle-axe that excels over other battle-axes in sharpness,
He is the long-strided pursuer, son of Ndaba,
Who pursued the sun and the moon.
He is the great hubbub like the rocks of Nkandla
Where elephants take shelter
When the heavens frown…

Traditional Zulu praise song, English translation by Ezekiel Mphahlele

Shaka kaSenzangakhona (1787 – 1828), better known worldwide as Shaka Zulu (also spelled Chaka or Tshaka), was one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom. Shaka Zulu made his mark in history as a great warrior king in what today is the Republic of South Africa. Shaka was born in July 1787 (in the Zulu lunar month of uNtulikaz) near the present-day small town of MelmothKwaZulu-Natal Province.

I first heard of Shaka Zulu when as a kid the Shaka Zulu mini-series aired on TV and my parent’s debated if it was appropriate for someone my age to watch it, as it was both violent and contained scenes of nudity. My parents ultimately decided I could watch it, with adult supervision. Watching the series helped to build my facilitation with African history. After watching Shaka Zulu on TV and then on  my own reading more about the history of Southern Africa lead me to greater awareness of the Apartheid regime in South Africa (reggae music also educated me as well). On a personal note my early anti-apartheid activities as a high-schooler was the start of my political activism.

Shaka Zulu was birth name was actually Sgidi kaSenzangakhona. Historical records indicates that he was conceived by a process called ukuhlobonga, a sexual act between an unmarried couple where penetration does not occur. His father, Senzangakhona, was one of a number rulers of a then insignificant small chiefdom, known as the Zulu.  The Zulu’s at this time were a relatively small community. Shaka’s mother’s name was Nandi. Nandi was the daughter of a chief of another tribe the Langeni . Young Shaka was stigmatized from birth as an illegitimate son (its postulated that anger from this fueled much of his later rise and cruelty). Shaka’s father Senzangakhona repeatedly tried to deny any responsibility for Nandi’s pregnancy but eventually relented and installed her as his third wife. As Shaka was growing up in his father’s homestead, he preferred the name Sgidi to Shaka. He later said Sgidi was a reference to his illegitimacy, and reminded him that he rose from nothing.

Artist rendition of Shaka beside his mother Nandi

Shaka’s parent’s marriage was tumultuous from the start and eventually his father Senzangakhona drove Shaka’s mother and her only child out of his homestead, and they moved to his mother Nandi’s community of Mthetwa,. Here, growing up as a fatherless child, Shaka seems to have been the victim of humiliation and cruel treatment by the Langeni boys. At that time there were two strong rival groups, the Mthethwa led by the paramount chief Dingiswayo, and the Ndwandwe under the ferocious Zwide. Later, probably at the time of the Great Famine, known as the Madlantule (c.1802), Shaka was taken to the Mthethwa people, where shelter was found in the home of Nandi’s aunt. Shaka, however, suffered from the bullying and teasing of the Mthethwa boys, who resented his claims to chiefly descent. Young Shaka was ridicule and called “fatherless”. To try and overcome the stigma of his illegitimate birth, Shaka asked and was initiated into an ibutho lempi (fighting unit).

The Mthetwa people were constantly tormented him, as Shaka is also allege to have spoken with a speech impediment. But then Dingiswayo, the the paramount chief of the area, after witnessing his already burgeoning warrior aptitude at a young age, decided to start mentored the boy. Shaka thus grew up in the court of Dingiswayo, who welcomed to developing young warrior with friendliness. As he grew to manhood, Shaka began to discover new talents and skills. Outwardly, he grew tall and powerfully built, and his skill and daring gave him a natural mastery over the other youths in his age group. At this point he also seemed to develop the thirst for power that would make him a future King. When Shaka was 23, Dingiswayo called up Shaka’s Dletsheni age group for military service. For the next six years, he served brilliantly as a warrior of the Mthethwa Empire. With Shaka’s thirst for power, his intelligence, and martial prowess he quickly rose up the regiment’s ranks.

When Shaka’s father, Senzangakhona died in 1816, Shaka’s half-brother Sigujana first took over as the chief of the Zulu.  By this time Shaka’s military acumen had made him paramount chief Dingiswayo ’s favorite, as he had earned the paramount chief respect. Dingiswayo released Shaka from military service and sent him to take over the Zulu, which at this time probably numbered fewer than 1,500, occupying an area on the White Umfolozi River. They were among the smallest of the more than 800 Eastern Nguni–Bantu clans, but from the day of Shaka’s arrival they commenced their march to greatness. Shaka ruled with an iron hand from the outset, meting out instant death for the slightest opposition.

Assegai Spear With Long Shaft

Upon gaining chiefdom, Shaka’s first act was to reorganize the army. Like all the other clans in Southern Africa, the Zulu were armed with ox-hide shields and spindly throwing spears. Battles in Southern Africa tended to be brief and relatively bloodless clashes in which the outnumbered side prudently gave way before extensive casualties occurred, and village elders then negotiated terms. Shaka’s troops changed this dynamic forever.

Shaka first rearmed his men with long-bladed, short-hafted stabbing assegais, which enabled them to fight at close quarters. Next the Zulu chief instituted a regimented system based on grouping like age-groups quartered in separate kraals (villages). These separate groups were distinguished by both uniform markings on their shields and by similar combinations of headdresses and ornaments. With his new lethally and organized shock troops, and backed by the head chief, Shaka conquered and assimilated the neighboring areas, including the Lengeni, who had infamously teased him in his childhood.

While he was on one such crusade of enacting revenge on his childhood tormentors, Shaka’s great mentor Dingiswayo, was killed by a rival clan leader named Zwide. Upon his return Shaka, and hearing the news was overcome with grief and anger. Shaka swore to avenge Dingiswayo death.

It took Shaka nearly seven years to meet and destroy Zwide’s army, in a conflict is considered the first Zulu Civil War. Zwide tried at first to evade direct conflict with Shaka’s superior warriors. But utilizing his infamous cruel streak, Shaka forced the issue by capturing and brutally killed Zwide’s mother. Shaka locked her up in a hut with jackals and hyenas which attacked her, and then he burning down the hut. Zwide then tried to directly confront Shaka, and he and his soldiers were cut down to the last man.

Statue of Shaka in Zulu land — created after his death as no paintings were made of him during his life

With the death of Zwide, Shaka became the unrivaled Zulu king. Shaka’s reign saw the expansion of his kingdom, as smaller chiefdoms would surrender to his rule or be forcibly destroyed and conquered.  The chiefdoms that surrendered were then overseen by either the reigning chief or a relative specifically selected by Shaka.

As Shaka became more respected by his people, he was able to spread his militant ideas. Shaka the fierce soldier ingrained in the Zulus that the most effective way of becoming powerful was by conquering and controlling other tribes. His teachings greatly influenced the social outlook of the Zulu people. The former pastoral Zulu tribe soon developed a warrior outlook, which Shaka turned to his advantage.

Shaka’s Zulu rule was primarily based on military might, as he smashed rivals and then absorbed the scattered surviving remnants into his own army. But the Zulu king also supplemented his militancy with a mixture of both diplomacy and patronage. Shaka incorporated friendly chieftains, including the Zihlandlo and the Mathubane with subtler tactics and bribes. When confronted by the powerful former “alpha” ruling Qwabe tribe, Shaka convinced them to just re-invent their genealogies whole-clothe to give the impression that Qwabe and Zulu were closely related, creating a tribal union.

This map illustrates the rise of the Zulu Empire under Shaka (1816–1828) in present-day South Africa. The rise of the Zulu Empire under Shaka forced other chiefdoms and clans to flee across a wide area of southern Africa. .

Although the Zulu warrior king’s military campaigns were primarily located in the Southern African coastal areas, Shaks’s actions indirectly led to the Mfecane (“Crushing”) that devastated South Africa’s inland plateau in the early 1820s. Marauding clans, fleeing the Zulu’s wrath and desperately searching for land, started a deadly game of musical chairs that broke the clan structure of the interior and left and estimated two million dead in its wake. The Boer Great Trek (white Afrikaners settlers) of the 1830s passed through this same area.The invasion probably only succeeded because there was virtually no natives left to oppose their settlements.

Shaka did occasional voluntarily grant Europeans permission to enter his Zulu territory. In the mid-1820s Henry Francis Fynn famously provided medical treatment to the king after an assassination attempt by a rival tribe member hidden in a crowd (see the account of Nathaniel Isaacs). In a show of gratitude, Shaka permitted European settlers to enter and operate in the Zulu kingdom. Although at first peaceful, these permits later opened the door for future British incursions into the Zulu kingdom that were violent in nature. During this time Shaka observed several demonstrations of European technology and knowledge. But as innovative as he was with adapting new fighting technology, Shaka still held fast to the belief that the Zulu way was superior to that of the foreigners.

Zulu warrior wielding an iklwa spear and  Nguni shield.

As for his formentioned willingness to adapt new technology, Shaka is often said to have been dissatisfied with the long throwing assegai that was the weapon of choice in Southern Africa. Shaka is credited with introducing a new variant of the weapon: the iklwa, a short stabbing spear with a long, broad, sword-like, spearhead. Shaka probably did not himself invent the iklwa, at least according to Zulu scholar John Laband, but Shaka did insist that his warriors train with the weapon. The iklwa gave the Zulu warriors a “terrifying advantage over opponents who clung to the traditional practice of throwing their spears and avoiding hand-to-hand conflict.” The Zulus didn’t completely forgo throwing spears, but instead used them as an initial missile weapon before close contact with the enemy, when the shorter stabbing spear was used in hand-to-hand combat.

Shaka also introduced a larger, heavier version of the Nguni shield. Furthermore, it is believed that he taught his warriors how to use the shield’s left side to hook the enemy’s shield to the right, exposing the enemy’s ribs for a fatal spear stab. In Shaka’s time, these cowhide shields were supplied by the king, and they remained the king’s property. Different colored shields distinguished different amabutho within Shaka’s army. Some had black shields, others used white shields with black spots, and some had white shields with brown spots, while others used pure brown or white shields.


Stories from the European explorers claim that sandals were discarded to toughen the feet of Zulu warriors. Some of the famous accounts include The Washing of the Spears, Like Lions They Fought, and Anatomy of the Zulu Army. The stories claim that those who objected to going without sandals were simply murdered by Zulu commanders. Furthermore they state that Shaka drilled his troops frequently, including forced marches in a fast trot over hot, rocky terrain covering more than 50 miles (80 km) a day.

Historian John Laband dismisses these stories as myth. Labrand points out in his writing: “What are we to make, then, of [European trader Henry Francis] Fynn’s statement that once the Zulu army reached hard and stony ground in 1826, Shaka ordered sandals of ox-hide to be made for himself?”

Furthermore Laband dismisses the idea of a 50 miles (80 km) march in a single day as ridiculous. As Laband notes that even though these stories have been repeated by “astonished and admiring white commentators,” the Zulu army covered “no more than 19 kilometers (12 miles) a day, and usually went only about 14 kilometers (9 miles).” and, Zulus under Shaka’s direct command sometimes advanced more slowly. As noted by his own troops Zulu’s spent two whole days recuperating in one instance, and on another they rested for a day and two nights before pursuing their enemy. But several historians of the Zulu, and the Zulu military system, continue to affirm the mobility rate of up to 50 miles per day.

But regardless of disagreement over the Zulu’s famed mobility, almost all historians credit Shaka with initial development of the “Bull Horn” formation that became synonymous with Zulu warrior conquest. The bull horn was composed of three elements:

  1. The main Zulu fighting force, know as the “chest,” closed into the enemy’s “impi” (warriors) and pinned them in position, by engaging them in melee combat. The warriors who comprised the “chest” were senior veterans.
  2. While the enemy’s impi were pinned by the “chest,” the next section known as the “horns” would flank the Impi from both sides and encircle it; in conjunction with the “chest” they would then destroy the trapped force. The warriors who comprised the “horns” were young and fast junior warriors.
  3. The last group known as the  “loins,” which were a large reserve, was hidden, seated, behind the “chest” with their backs to the battle. These were inexperienced fighters who were often known for losing confidence in wars. The “loins” would be committed only wherever the enemy impi threatened to break out of the encirclement.

Shaka is also remembered by military historians for incorporating Zulu youth, both boys and girls into the army; and involving these now seasoned warrior women in leading the community in the absence of the men. But even as his great prowess on the battle field is celebrated Shaka, is also remembered for some infamous acts off the filed. Shaka the illegitimate child, put to death women who got pregnant by him and brutally killing people who he believed wronged him.

King Shaka never had sustained personal relation except for one person, he fanatically loved his mother Nandi. This love turned to grief when she died of dysentery in 1827. The mentally deteriorating King then randomly killed 7000 people at her funeral after he publicly declared  they were not mourning with enough vigor. Directly after this shocking act Shaka declared a year of mourning. The King declared no crops could be planted and no milk should be used for the full year of mourning. Shaka even ordered the execution of several couples who would got pregnant during the year. Oral sources record that in this period of devastation, a singular Zulu, a man named Gala, eventually stood up to Shaka and objected to these measures, pointing out that Nandi was not the first person to die in Zululand. Taken aback by such candid talk, the Zulu king is supposed to have called off the destructive edicts, rewarding the blunt teller-of-truths with a gift of cattle

But the damage from these irrational orders were done. Shaka’s people wavered in their loyalty to the “mad king”, and came to no surprise that he was then stabbed and killed by his two half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana with the help of Mbopha his fore to loyal personal servant.

This memorial Stone of King Shaka Zulu in Stranger, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Photo: Wiki CC

Zulu oral history claims as his life ebbed away, Shaka called out to his brother Dingane.

“Hey brother! You kill me, thinking you will rule, but the swallows [white people] will do that. Are you stabbing me, kings of the earth? You will come to an end through killing one another.”

But this version seems to have been a coventient politicized version pushed by later generation of Souther African White propaganda. The version which is probably the truest rendition comes from Mkebeni kaDabulamanzi, King Cetshwayo’s nephew and grandson of King Mpande (another half-brother to Shaka)—

Are you stabbing me, kings of the earth? You will come to an end through killing one another.

Upon Shaka’s death, Dingane became king but his reign saw the decline of the Zulu army in the region. He was deposed by his half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana, and an advisor called Mbopa. It is said Mbopa created a diversion, which distracted Shaka and provided Dingane and Mhlangana with the opportunity to strike the fatal blows. Shaka’s body was then thrown into a pit whose precise location is unknown. Year later the Zulu tribe erected a monument at one of the alleged locations.

But Shaka’s legend has lived on beyond his ignominious death. He has become a global icon of the Zulu people and has been the subject of several movies and TV shows including a 1986 mini-series on ABC. As for the Zulu people they provided the fiercest opposition to European people and defeated the African and British Empire repeatedly in battle until the British introduced the repeating rifle (machine gun)  at the Battle at Blood River on  December 16th 1838, and with that Shaka’s dream of a mighty independent Zulu empire was just as dead as he was.




source:  Black Kos, Week In Review – The Rise and Fall of Shaka Zulu

Early Afrikan Captives Talked Back to European Enslavers

Bucknell University Professor of Spanish Dr Nick Jones’ book on “Habla de Negros” — “Black talk/speech” — in early colonial Spain and Portugal shows that “through their Africanized Spanish, they’re speaking back to their masters, they’re critiquing them” and making their humanity and agency known.



Why Are Black People Still Punished for Their Hair?

Only black people are shamed when they choose to wear hairstyles consistent with their natural hair texture.


Ms. Tabacco Mar has represented black women in race discrimination lawsuits.


Credit…Deidre Schoo for The New York Times
Credit…Mireya Acierto/WireImage, via Getty Images

It was the fall of my first year of law school, in 2005, and I was headed to my first interview for a legal internship. I wore my only interview outfit, a conservative navy skirt suit and a cream blouse. A classmate complimented me on the look. Then she added, “But you’ll never look really professional with your hair in dreadlocks.”

I was reminded of that day as I watched video footage of a black student in Gretna, La., crying as she was forced to leave school because school officials objected to her hair. They claimed her box braids violated a dress code prohibition against “unnatural” hair styles because the braids included hair extensions. Extensions are sometimes used in black hairstyles, like braids, that don’t require the use of damaging chemical straighteners. The student and a classmate sent home for the same reason were not allowed to return until a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the school after both girls had missed several days of classes.

Far too often, black students are humiliated, shamed or banned from school because of bias against natural black hair. Just one week earlier, a 6-year-old black boy in Florida was barred from school because of his locs, also known as dreadlocks. And last year, twin sisters in Massachusetts were barred from extracurricular activities and threatened with suspension from their charter school because of hair extensions in their box braids, even though white students at the school were allowed to wear hair extensions in other styles.

The shaming and regulation of black people’s hair starts in school, or even earlier, but it doesn’t end there. Consider the case of Chastity Jones, who was selected for a customer support position in Mobile, Ala. After Ms. Jones completed an interview, the company’s human resources manager told her she could not be hired “with the dreadlocks.” Locs, the manager feared, “tend to get messy,” although she acknowledged that Ms. Jones’s weren’t. When Ms. Jones refused to cut off her hair, she was told she would not be hired.

Ms. Jones sued the company for race discrimination, arguing that its hair policy was unfair toward black employees, but a federal appeals court in Atlanta rejected her claim. The court reasoned that discrimination based on race is forbidden because, it said, race is immutable, while hairstyles can be changed. It’s true that hairstyles involve some degree of personal choice, but that doesn’t give employers free rein to discriminate against workers who wear dreadlocks, a hairstyle said to be named by slave traders who viewed African hair texture as “dreadful.”

Afropunk Festival, Brooklyn, 2016.
Credit…Deidre Schoo for The New York Times
Credit…Mireya Acierto/WireImage, via Getty Images

When it comes to hair, only black people and multiracial people of African descent are punished when they choose to wear styles consistent with their natural hair texture. It’s unthinkable that a court would uphold a policy that effectively required white workers to alter their hair texture through costly, time-consuming procedures involving harsh chemicals. Yet that’s exactly what the appeals court apparently expected Ms. Jones to do to keep her job. In May, the Supreme Court refused even to allow Ms. Jones to petition for review, letting the appeals court’s bad reasoning stand uncorrected.

I was luckier than Chastity Jones; I got the internship. But I never forgot the hurtful comment.

Years later, when I joined a large corporate law firm, I noticed that I was the only professional woman of color with natural hair. Most young lawyers at the firm removed their suit jackets when they arrived at work and didn’t put them on again until they left the building. I wore mine whenever I stepped away from my desk, afraid people would see me without it and assume I wasn’t a lawyer.

It’s frustrating that schools, employers and federal courts continue to judge us based not on what we can contribute but on who we are and how we wear our hair.

But there has been some progress. Last year, the Army lifted its ban on locs and twists; the Marine Corps did the same in 2015. That move is a powerful antidote to the notion that hairstyles involving untreated black hair are unnatural and unprofessional. After all, if service members can do their jobs while wearing locs, surely the rest of us can, as well.