4 Black Super Heroes who changed the world
“Born into darkness… some into royalty. They emerged as heroes to free their people and transform the world as we know it…”
This sounds like an introduction to a superhero film or comic book, doesn’t it? It’s actually an introduction to our history. More Africans have died for the future of Africans than Saints have for Christendom and we should celebrate them. However, beyond Martin Luther King, many black people will be quicker to list Abraham Lincoln and William Wilberforce as the catalysts for their emancipation. This is despite countless other heroes coming before and after the emancipation and civil rights movement (see Fight for Freedom to learn more)
Why you need a hero
The reason why so many of us don’t have a hero to readily claim is because this part of the story has been taken from us. But why?
Psychologists such as Carl Jung inspired the psychologist Erich Neuman to write “The Origin and History of Consciousness”. The works have been quoted many times by Clinical Psychologist, Jordan Peterson. Erich Neuman writes of the importance of the Hero Myth
“of mythology is seen as the unconscious self-delineation of the growth of consciousness in man.”
Neumann, Erich. The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton Classics) . Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
The Hero Myth consists of a being born with great potential or a sense of destiny. The hero is then led astray from their path (deceit, capture etc.) before growing their potential (they meet a guide, learn something, are inspired) so that they can overthrow evil. Psychologists such as Neuman say this is a metaphor for us coming into actualisation; ie we are born with potential and then have to learn to order the chaotic nature of life so that we can triumph over it.
If you take away the hero, you take away triumph. If you take away triumph, you take away the symbolism of progress. If you take away progress, there is no quantifiable difference between your current state and your juvenile beginnings.
And this is the story we are told over and over and over again. That primitive unprogressed Africans were enslaved, and then by the grace of their masters were let free again ie by the likes of Abraham Lincoln and William Wilberforce.
The truth could not be further from this.
The oppressors of black people gave up the fight because they were losing. They then claimed victory over the evil of slavery, claimed themselves to be the heroes and wrote our heroes out of it.
Just like the English have Churchill and the Anglo-Americans have George Washington, we have countless heroes who represent our greatness in our image.
So without further Adieu, for this US black history month, let’s remember our heroes.
Cecile Fatiman — born 1771
What do you do when you’re born into slavery? If you’re Cecile Fatiman, you trigger the greatest slave revolt of all time. Described as having long silky hair and green eyes, Cecile Fatiman is thought to be the daughter of an African slave and a Corcisan prince.
In August 1791, Fatiman conducted a vodou ceremony with Dutty Boukman. This ceremony became known as the Bois Caiman ceremony which translates to “the forest by the Imam’s house”; Dutty Boukman was a Gambian Islamic scholar before he was captured and sold into slavery.
An animal was sacrificed and an oath was taken as the two sworn allegiance to a movement to overthrow the French slavers. Cecile Fatiman predicted the coming of a great Messiah who would overthrow the French and bring liberty to all. That messiah turned out to be Toussaint Louverture.
Toussaint Louverture — born 1743
By fifty years of age, Toussaint was already well accomplished. He had bought his freedom from his previous master, had a successful business and was bilingual.
However after the Bois Caiman ceremony, Toussaint had a calling. He was living in changing times. The peasant class French had claimed liberty from their oppressors by cutting off the heads of their Monarchy. Toussaint Louverture took up the call to action as the Messiah for the blacks on the island of St Domingue (present day Haiti) and joined the fight for freedom against the grand-blancs (the great whites).
Often surviving on less than 4 hours sleep and foraged fruits, Toussaint rode over 100 miles a day to scout ahead of his army, writing countless letters in French, Creole, Spanish and English and took the fight to the French.
With diplomatic flare, Toussaint persuaded the Spanish to loan him firearms and uniform to fight the French. He continually leveraged his position to play the different European forces off against each other.
After 10 years, by the age of 60, Toussaint Louverture had defeated the French, Spanish, British and Napoleon Bonaparte’s own army. He inspired an incredibly loyal following, holding himself and his army to incredibly high standards of military ability and honour.
Consider that this was a time when enslaved Africans were tied down and had gunpowder inserted into their anus and set alight as a punishment for disobedience. Despite this savagery, Toussaint’s soldiers would escort civilian whites out of warzones if they discovered them. They would leave the whites safe and unharmed before returning to duty.
Toussaint organised his army under close friends into a great black fighting machine. They fought day and night under volleys of rifle fire. Toussaint had his teeth blown out by an explosion, a hand crushed by a cannonball and he kept fighting. The whites could hear the Africans singing of their victories for some distance.
With huge aspirations, Toussaint Louverture emancipated the neighbouring territory of modern day Dominica from slavery and planned to do the same for Jamaica and North America.
He was later ambushed and arrested by Napoleon’s forces. Toussaint was later escorted to eastern France and imprisoned in a dungeon where he died of pneumonia.
Toussaint Louverture is argued to be the catalyst for emancipation in the Caribbean. After 300 years of slavery in the West Indies, slavery was completely abolished within 30 years of the Haitian Revolution as islands fell like dominoes to anti-slavery revolts.
Samuel Sharpe — born 1801
One individual who Toussaint may have inspired is Jamaica’s very own Samuel Sharpe. Sam Sharpe shared two things with many other black heroes, such as Malcolm X, Nat Turner, Cecile Fatiman and Toussaint Louverture and that was his faith and his intelligence.
Faith seems to encourage our heroes to find meaning in suffrage and their high levels of intelligence seems to enable them to communicate more clearly and plan their enormous feats.
Sam Sharpe was a baptist preacher who toured Jamaica, educating other African Jamaicans on the gospel. Many black preachers were given copies of the bible which did not include texts which may inspire rebellion. For example, Exodus was removed (see the slave bible). Like Nat Turner, Sam Sharpe gained access to these texts and was inspired to fight for freedom.
The Jamaicans knew that Haiti had been successfully freed by Toussaint Louverture and Jean Jaque Dessalines. They also knew that the abolition movement was gaining traction in British Parliament. On the Christmas of 1831, Sam Sharpe led a revolt of 60,000 Jamaicans against the British; first in peaceful protest and then in revolt.
Samuel Sharpe was captured and hung. His last words were “I would rather die on yonder gallows than live in slavery”
Slavery was abolished in the West Indies the following year.
Harriet Tubman — born 1822
Born into slavery in 1822, Harriet tubman witnessed extreme violence. However one incidence of violence caused her to suffer seizures which she claimed to provide her with a gift. An irate overseer threw a heavy piece of metal at her head. Ever since, she claims to have been sent visions from God which protected her in later life and warned her of impending danger.
In 1849, Harriet Tubman seized the opportunity to escape from Maryland to Philadelphia. The trip was however, short lived. Despite going against all odds to win her freedom, Harriet returned to Maryland to rescue her family and again to rescue more enslaved Africans. Travelling at night, with false papers and armed with a pistol, Harriet who became known as Moses never lost a passenger.
When the American Civil war broke, Tubman joined the Union Army. She eventually became an armed scout and spy. Tubman later led the raid at Combahee Ferry which liberated more than 700 African Americans.
Ever since, Harriet Tubman has become a symbol of strength and freedom.
Black history is full of heroes which is why I have created a video guided curriculum on African History. Go to https://blackhistory.school/black-history-curriculum/ to learn about your heroes.
From Frederick Douglas who beat up a slaver who tried to break his spirit, who then escaped to Britain to tour in speaker circuits to gain support for the abolitionist movement.
Or how about King Narmer of ancient Egypt and Mansa Musa of modern day Mali. They united their countries under wealth, organisation and political genius.
Whoever your favourite hero is, learn their stories. In learning their stories, you too can become empowered.
Please subscribe to my mail list to learn more about your history. I’ll send you regular emails to keep you informed of our journey.