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Mon, 08.21.1415

Black History and Colonialism, a story

*Black history and modern colonialism are affirmed on this date in 1415.

The Ancient historical phenomenon of colonization stretches around the globe and across time. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Turks, and Arabs practiced age-old and medieval colonialism. Colonialism, in the modern sense, began in the 15th century with the "Age of Discovery." The Portuguese were expansionists following the conquest of Ceuta, aiming to control navigation through the Strait of Gibraltar.

They spread Christianity, amassed wealth and plunder, and suppressed predation on Portuguese populations by Barbary pirates as part of a longstanding African slave trade; at that point, a minor trade, one the Portuguese would soon reverse and surpass. Around 1450, based on North African fishing boats, a lighter ship was developed, the caravel, which enabled new nautical technology, with the added incentive to find an alternative "Silk Road" after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottoman Empire effectively closed profitable trade routes with Asia. The conquest of the Canary Islands by the Crown of Castile from 1402 to 1496 was the first instance of European settler colonialism in Africa.

Early European exploration of Africa followed the Spanish exploration of the Americas, further exploration along the coasts of Africa, and explorations of West Asia (also known as the Middle East), South Asia, and East Asia.  In 1462, the previously uninhabited Cape Verde archipelago became the first European settlement in the tropics and a site of Jewish exile during the height of the Spanish Inquisition in the 1490s; the Portuguese soon brought slaves from the West African coast.

Because of the economics of plantations, especially sugar, European colonial expansion and slavery would remain linked into the 1800s. The use of exile in penal colonies would also continue. The European "discovery" of the New World, as named by Amerigo Vespucci in 1503, opened another colonial chapter, beginning with the colonization of the Caribbean in 1493 with Hispaniola (later to become Haiti and the Dominican Republic). The Portuguese and Spanish Empires were the first global empires because they were the first to stretch across different continents (discounting Eurasian empires and those with land in Africa along the Mediterranean), covering vast territories around the globe.

Between 1580 and 1640, the Portuguese and Spanish empires were both ruled by the Spanish monarchs in personal union. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, England, France, and the Dutch Republic established their overseas empires in direct competition. The end of the 18th and mid-19th centuries saw the first era of decolonization, when most European American colonies, notably those of Spain, New France, and the Thirteen Colonies, gained their independence from their metropole. The Kingdom of Great Britain (uniting Scotland and England), France, Portugal, and the Dutch turned their attention to the Old World, particularly South Africa and South Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, where coastal enclaves had already been established.    

France and the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804)       

The Haitian Revolution, a slave revolt led by Toussaint L'Ouverture in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, established Haiti as a free, black republic, the first of its kind. Haiti became the second independent nation, a former European colony in the Western Hemisphere after the United States. Africans and people of African ancestry freed themselves from slavery and colonization by taking advantage of the conflict among whites over how to implement the reforms of the French Revolution in this slave society. Although independence was declared in 1804, it was not until 1825 that King Charles X of France formally recognized it. The white English, French, and Dutch wanted financial profit, just as the white Spanish and Portuguese. Their areas of settlement in the Americas didn't have the precious metals found by the Spanish, trade in other commodities and products for a massive profit in Europe.  Yet another reason for crossing the Atlantic was the furs from Canada, tobacco, and cotton grown in Virginia, and sugar in the islands of the Caribbean and Brazil.

Due to the massive depletion of indigenous labor, plantation owners turned to the centuries-old slave trade of West Africa and began transporting Africans across the Atlantic on a gigantic scale – historians estimate that the Atlantic slave trade brought between 10 and 12 million Black African slaves to the New World. The islands of the Caribbean soon came to be populated by slaves of African descent, ruled over by a white minority of plantation owners interested in making a fortune and then returning to their home country to spend it.

The Portuguese had racial prejudice. In the 16th and 17th centuries, they could not be expected to be tolerant of Oriental religions, although they soon recognized that wholesale conversion to Catholicism was impossible. Some Africans and Asiatics became Christians and even entered the clergy, but seldom, if ever, did they rise above the status of parish priests. In other affairs, the Portuguese generally treated dark-skinned people as inferiors. The east coast of Brazil belonged to Portugal by the Tordesillas Pact.

America's colonial existence came from political, religious, and economic motives contributing to the Atlantic seaboard's settling.  Both labor and capital in England had become fluid by 1600, and they were seeking more profitable fields. A sharp rise in prices and living costs made many people restless; the increase in sheep grazing and the fencing of former common lands drove many from the soil; bold young men, including younger sons of the gentry, lost in peace the occupation which the wars with Spain had given them, looked abroad. Many Englishmen saw that the colonization of the New World might contribute to the power and affluence of their homeland. They felt that Spain, Portugal, and other lands should face competition.

Finally, the spread of great commercial trading companies assisted in the work. Financing went through various channels of the English crown. Because members of the first company lived in London, it became known as the Virginia Company of London (Virginia Company); as members of the second dwelt in Plymouth, it was called the Plymouth Company. Shareholders in the companies were to provide settlers and capital and control production and trade. Government, however, was to remain in the hands of the crown, acting through councils. After the Revolutionary War, America's Articles of Confederation enhanced the colonial philosophy by establishing a financial color line for racial preservation.

For much of his career, Abraham Lincoln believed that colonization or the idea that a majority of the African population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America—was the best way to confront the problem of slavery. His two great political heroes, Henry Clay and Thomas Jefferson, had both favored colonization; both were enslavers who took issue with aspects of slavery but saw no way that Black and white people could live together peaceably.  Slavery's abolishment after the American Civil War paused the self-indulgence of Europe and the non-white complicit emperors that they worked with. Globally, the Industrial Revolution stimulated change in Portuguese Africa. It created a demand for tropical raw materials like vegetable oils, cotton, timber, cocoa, and rubber, and it also created a need for markets to purchase the expanded quantity of goods issued from factories.

In Portugal's case, most of the factories were in England, which had had a special relationship with Portugal ever since Philippa, the daughter of England's John of Gaunt, married John of Avis, the founder of the Portuguese second dynasty. Prodded by Napoleon's invasion and English support for the royal family's escape to Brazil, King João and his successors eliminated tariffs, ended trade monopolies, and generally opened the way for British merchants to become dominant in the Portuguese Empire. 

In the 19th century, the Second Industrial Revolution led to what has been termed the era of New Imperialism. The Berlin Conference mapped out increased colonialism, the next phase of empire-building.  This is when the pace of colonization rapidly accelerated, the height of which was the Scramble for Africa, in which Belgium, Germany, and Italy were also participants. Fifteen years following the Berlin Conference, the made-up imperative of civilizing non-whites was expressed in Rudyard Kipling's poem 'White Man's Burden,' which described its racial practice. published in 1899 in McClure's Magazine entitled "White Man's Burden." The philosophy underpinning this burden consisted of the "Three Cs of Colonialism: Civilization, Christianity, and Commerce." Racial theorists like Granville Hall and others used religion and eugenics to justify the practice. There were deadly battles between colonizing states and revolutions from colonized areas, shaping areas of control and establishing independent nations.

In 1896, Ethiopia defeated the Italian colonial army in the Battle of Adwa. This victory signaled the decline of European colonialism in Black Africa.  Also, during the 20th century, the colonies of the defeated central powers in World War I were distributed amongst the victors as mandates. Still, it was only at the end of World War II that the second phase of decolonization began in earnest. Organized Black African push-back started at this time, mainly under the philosophy of Pan-Africanism.  From Marcus Garvey Eslanda Robeson to George PadmoreKwame Nkrumah and others fought to disarm and resist the scheme of dependence on colonial interventionism. Modern colonialism remains motivated by greed through transaction or give and take (more).

The British Empire had a profound impact on the world and its history. One can still see its influence today in many aspects of life, from language to culture to international relations. It was formed over several centuries through colonization, war, and trade, with much of its growth during the 19th century. The philosophy of colonialism was to offer minimal advantages to poverty or class differences between what Europeans had and Africans didn't and mix that with Christianity and wealth to create a fiscal dependency.  At its peak, it covered an estimated 13.71 million mi2, or around a quarter of the Earth's total land area -- making it by far the largest Empire in history in terms of population and territory. People used to say, "The sun never sets on the British Empire" because the Empire consisted of colonies worldwide. However, post-World War II, British imperialism began to wane, and the United Kingdom was forced to give up most of its colonial possessions.

The British Empire's legacy continues to shape modern-day affairs, with Britain being among one of the most influential nations in the world.  Apartheid became a necessary law for Britain to control its colony of South Africa after World War II. France, Belgium, Italy, and others instituted similar, more heinous policies.  Ghana became the first African country to gain formal independence in 1957. One of the last African countries, Zimbabwe, gained recognition as independent from the United Kingdom in 1980. As lofty of an accomplishment as it was, the countries profit from their natural resources, and labor remains under outside control and is not reinvested.

Colonial transaction philosophy reverses the integration of Africa. Integration means fitting something small into something more significant; in these cases, African chiefs and leaders often sell out their people and resources for personal gain.         

Assassinations and military coups.          

 Some policies of independence alienate colonial powers. Transaction European elements include the former ruling class, including the tribal leaders, the governments of France, and its allies. On October 15, 1987, Thomas Sankara was assassinated by troops led by Blaise Compaoré, who assumed leadership of the state shortly after that and retained it until the 2014 Burkina Faso uprising. 

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