Africanus Princeps? The Emperor Caracalla and the Question of His African Heritage

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2018-03-20 02:25Z by Steven

Africanus Princeps? The Emperor Caracalla and the Question of His African Heritage

Journal of Black Studies
First Published 2018-03-12
DOI: 10.1177/0021934718760219

Alex Imrie
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

This article responds to a recent publication in the Journal of Black Studies regarding the emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire between AD 211 and 217, following the murder of his younger brother, Geta. In addition to offering an exploration of his career, the recent essay attempts to investigate the importance of Caracalla’s African heritage to the historical portrait of him that survives into modernity, claiming that both ancient sources and modern scholars have downplayed the emperor’s origin and ancestry. Unfortunately, the publication is beset by factual errors that serve to undermine its case. This article addresses these shortcomings and attempts to explain the scholarly approach to Caracalla’s ethnicity, showing that there was some recognition of Caracalla’s African roots, even in antiquity. Furthermore, this article considers the question of modern Africa’s relationship with the emperor, noting the symbolism of the Severan family within Libya under the dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Read or purchase entire article here.

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Interrogating the African Roman Emperor Caracalla: Claiming and Reclaiming an African Leader

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2018-03-20 02:10Z by Steven

Interrogating the African Roman Emperor Caracalla: Claiming and Reclaiming an African Leader

Journal of Black Studies
Volume 47, Issue 1, January 2016
pages 41–52
DOI: 10.1177/0021934715611376

Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of African American Studies
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Shaza Ismail
Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt

This essay provides an interrogation into the historical and personal contradictions in the character of the Roman Emperor Caracalla. As an emperor of African origin who once ruled the world, the nature of his rule, in its political and social dimension, has not been adequately studied. In fact, the scholarly sources that focused on Caracalla as a powerful ruler hardly mention his African origin and in some cases outright deny the fact that he was African. On the other hand, many European writers who do understand his political significance refer to his military achievements ignoring his origin. This work seeks to place Caracalla in the historical setting that befits his adventure as emperor during the time of Rome’s incessant leadership crises. While we know that Caracalla’s life was a series of bold and cruel actions as well as creative achievements, this work discusses his life in the context of his humanity more than to itemize his imperial achievements. The idea is to reveal through the literature and history as much as we can of his complex character in amid the challenging circumstances that surrounded his life and career.

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First Encounters: Chi-Chi Nwanoku and Keith Pascoe

Posted in Articles, Arts, Europe, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-12-20 23:02Z by Steven

First Encounters: Chi-Chi Nwanoku and Keith Pascoe

The Irish Times

Frances O’Rourke

Chi-Chi Nwanoku

‘Ireland brought us back together’

Chi-Chi Nwanoku is a double bassist and a founder member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The eldest of five children of a Nigerian father and an Irish mother, she pursued a career in music after injury ended a promising athletics career. She grew up in Kent and Berkshire and now lives in London

The first time I saw Keith was when we were college students in our early 20s. He seemed incredibly composed, confident, like a good fun guy – he had a mischievous twinkle in his eye which I liked. We weren’t in each other’s social circles but I registered Keith as a kindred spirit.

I’d only started playing the double bass when I was 18, after an athletics injury. When I came out of hospital, my A Levels music teacher said, you have music coursing through your veins – now that your sprinting career is over, if you pick an unpopular orchestral instrument, you could just possibly have a career. I’d played piano since I was seven but I’d never played in an orchestra before. A few years later I got into the Royal Academy of Music

…I had been in Ireland just once before when I’d taken my mother there in 1986. She hadn’t been back to Ireland in 36 years, didn’t know how she’d be received: she was born in Cappamore in Limerick, grew up in Thurles, but was kind of abandoned by her family after she met and married my father, an Igbo from east Nigeria, in London. We grew up with lots of wonderful stories and memories that she gave us but she had a very very tough time. In London in the 1950s, it was “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs” – it was as much as my parents could do to find a roof over their heads…

Read the entire article here.

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National Identity, Citizenship, and Belonging: Afro-descendants in Spain and Catalonia – Agnes

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Europe, Media Archive on 2017-12-05 22:07Z by Steven

National Identity, Citizenship, and Belonging: Afro-descendants in Spain and Catalonia – Agnes

The Afropean: Adventures in Afro Europe

Abena Wariebi

The second excerpt from interviews taken from a Master’s thesis carried out by Abena Wariebi at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain.

Entitled “National Identity, Citizenship, and Belonging: Afro-descendants in Spain and Catalonia”, the thesis is an investigation of black identities in Barcelona, specifically exploring what it means to be black and Spanish, or black and Catalan.

These interviews represent a small part of the black community in Barcelona. This thesis is in no way conclusive or overall encompassing. It does not represent the views or opinions of all Afro-descendants in Barcelona or Spain. Nevertheless, these accounts are powerful, enriching, and demonstrate the unquestionable solidarity that exists within the diaspora.

Name: Agnes
Age: 20
Profession: Teacher and Photographer

Agnes, teacher and photographer

“I think my mum is the only person in the world who thinks I’m Spanish. Because when I go out on the street, when like a policeman comes and they see my passport or whatever they keep asking ‘oh but where are you from? This says Spain; this says you were born in Barcelona but where are you from? Where is your dad from? Where is your mum from? So, I feel like, I don’t want to be Spanish.

I really feel like I’m Cameroonian. And in a way my dad always tried to raise me to feel like I’m not Spanish, I’m Cameroonian.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Being Black: Still a multi-front struggle

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2017-12-05 01:19Z by Steven

Being Black: Still a multi-front struggle


Theodor Wonja Michael

A particular excerpt of the DW documentary “Afro.Germany” went viral: the touching testimony of one of the oldest Afro-Germans born in Berlin. Here’s what can be learned from social media users’ hundreds of reactions.

“I am an African – I didn’t even know Cameroon and Togo were German colonies,” said one social media user, reacting to an online video clip about the life and times of Theodor Wonja Michael, one of Germany’s oldest contemporary witnesses.

The clip is an excerpt from “Afro.Germany,” a documentary project by Deutsche Welle, which aims to chronicle the diversity of Black experiences in Germany and challenge the historical amnesia surrounding Germany’s colonial past.

The video narrates Michael’s extraordinary experiences as a Black person in Germany.

Born in Berlin in 1925, Michael was forced to act in “human zoos” during his childhood. He survived the Nazi era and later became an actor and author

A further challenge: fluid identities

However, subsequent analysis by researchers such as E. P. Johnson, has drawn attention to the more troubling implications of Black identity politics.

Black pride can inadvertently promote the problematic notion of Black authenticity – that is to say, it can construct an image of the the “real Blacks” and the “real” Black experience, to which the individuals must conform and relate. This line of thinking can hinder efforts geared towards separating identity from race.

For example, one commentator insisted on referring to Michael as “mixed-race” and denounced the acceptance of “trans-racial crap.”

Race does not define us, but it does influence our experience of the world. Needless to say, “Black” includes a spectrum of peoples whose experience of race varies depending on the interaction of other factors, such as class, culture, gender, nationality, etc. For many people, race is not a black and white issue, but a multi-front struggle for inclusion in their “own” communities.

“My mother was French, my father was American […] Being light skinned, I fought blacks because I wasn’t dark enough. I fought whites because I was colored. Fought Spanish, Puerto Ricans because they said I was a ‘wanna be’ and fake,” said one commentator…

Read the entire article here.

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Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken

Posted in Africa, Audio, Europe, History, Interviews, Media Archive on 2017-12-05 00:36Z by Steven

Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken

The New Book Network

Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884-1960 (Cambridge University Press 2015)

“There were black Germans?”

My students are always surprised to learn that there were and are a community of African immigrants and Afro-Germans that dates back to the nineteenth century (and sometimes earlier), and that this community has at times had an influence on German culture, society, and racial thinking that belied its small size.

Germany’s role in colonizing Africa has received increased attention lately, with an exhibit on German colonialism appearing at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in October and recent headway on a deal for Germany to pay reparations to the descendants of Herero and Nama genocide victims in Namibia. In Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Disapora Community, 1884-1960 (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken supply a part of the colonial story that gets even less attention than that of Germans in Africa: what about Africans in Germany? Focusing primarily on a community of West-African-born black Germans and their families, Rosenhaft and Aitken trace the groups evolution in the nineteenth century through its persecutions by the Nazi state and postwar existence.

Download the interview (00:25:27) here.

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Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names

Posted in Articles, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2017-11-20 04:46Z by Steven

Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names

Dublin Inquirer

Emma Dabiri

Illustration by Rob Mirolo

Do you think Irish black people are woke? What’s being woke? Is there any civil-rights movement? You’re mixed race, so are you black? Africa: would someone like yourself get the culture? What did you get culture-wise from your father’s side? Irish people come across as just trying to look for one person they can say… Yes, here is our black successful person, as opposed to uplift black Irish people in general […] In Dublin, Pavee Point has a centre. The LGBT community has Outhouse. Why do you think ethnic minorities don’t have such a place?

Cheeky! This is like 10 questions but I like ‘em, so let’s go. Let’s start with explaining “woke”. “Staying woke” refers to questioning the dominant paradigm, and occupying a state of awareness about structural oppressions.

The phrase “staying woke” has some early references in the 1960s, it was then further popularised in the 2008 song “Master Teacher” by Erykah Badu, but really caught on following the wave of protest after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the subsequent rise of Black Lives Matter. In 2016, “woke” entered into the Oxford Dictionary

…Am I black? Gosh you aren’t shying away from the big questions, now are ye? But yes, I identify as black. The thing is, despite being told I was black (and often not so politely) my whole damn life, and often being reminded that I wasn’t “really Irish”, my claiming of my blackness still elicits occasional cries of “But what about your ma?” or “You’re erasing your Irishness!” Blah blah di blah blah blah.

I think what we really need to look at is why a person with a white parent can identify as black, but why a person with a black parent can rarely, if ever, identify as white. We have to stop acting as though racial constructions are rational or ordered. They are not. I always say that you cannot be “half white”. You are either white or you’re not. And I’m not…

Read the entire article here.

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Review: Identity in Passing: RACE-ING and E-RACE-ING in American and African American History

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-18 01:19Z by Steven

Review: Identity in Passing: RACE-ING and E-RACE-ING in American and African American History

The Journal of African American History
Volume 101, No. 3, Summer 2016
pages 344-355
DOI: 10.5323/jafriamerhist.101.3.0344

Thomas J. Davis, Professor of History
Arizona State University, Tempe

Passing is a long-standing theme in American and African American history.1 Indeed, because identity has been an ever-present element in history, passing has been an ever-present element in history generally. Distinguishing between and among groups and categorizing individual members has again and again prompted questions about who is who, about what exactly distinguishes one from another, and about who belongs where. But passing is about more than contested and oft-disputed categories. When it reaches to lived-experience, passing is about self and society, about individual image and imagining, about self-image and self-imagining, about social image and social change. Passing is about the scope, source, substance, and control of individual identity.

Despite its centrality, identity appears in historical narratives typically as a given, or at least as taken for granted. Except for persons cast as “others,” group labels conveniently cover flawed lines of distinction. Our focus concentrates on identity only when it becomes contested, when uncertainty or ambiguity raise doubts; when identity becomes an issue of power, when such questions as “who…

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We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family’s Search for Home Across the Atlantic World

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2017-11-18 00:56Z by Steven

We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family’s Search for Home Across the Atlantic World

Oxford University Press
224 Pages
32 illustrations
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780199978335

Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History
University of Pennsylvania

This colored Creole story offers a unique historical lens through which to understand the issues of migration, immigration, passing, identity, and color-forces that still shape American society today. We Are Who We Say We Are provides a detailed, nuanced account of shifting forms of racial identification within an extended familial network and constrained by law and social reality.

Author Mary Frances Berry, a well-known expert in the field, focuses on the complexity and malleability of racial meanings within the US over generations. Colored Creoles, similar to other immigrants and refugees, passed back and forth in the Atlantic world. Color was the cause and consequence for migration and identity, splitting the community between dark and light. Color could also split families. Louis Antoine Snaer, a free man of color and an officer in the Union Army who passed back and forth across the color line, had several brothers and sisters. Some chose to “pass” and some decided to remain “colored,” even though they too, could have passed. This rich global history, beginning in Europe–with episodes in Haiti, Cuba, Louisiana, and California–emphasizes the diversity of the Atlantic World experience.


  • Preface
  • Chapter I: Becoming Colored Creole
  • Chapter II: Becoming Americans
  • Chapter III: Family Troubles
  • Chapter IV: Fighting for Democracy
  • Chapter V: Becoming “Negroes”
  • Chapter VI: Opportunity and Tragedy in Iberia Parish
  • Chapter VII: Mulattoes and Colored Creoles
  • Chapter VIII: Just Americans
  • Chapter IX: At Home or Away: We Are Who We Say We Are
  • Epilogue: Becoming “Black”
  • Notes
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“Race, Identity, and the Boundaries of Blackness”

Posted in Articles, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2017-11-16 22:55Z by Steven

“Race, Identity, and the Boundaries of Blackness”

U.S. Embassy & Consulates In Germany

Thomas Chatterton Williams, fellow at the American Academy Berlin, read from his thought-provoking essay “Black and Blue and Blond” published in the Virginia Quarterly Review and anthologized in The Best American Essays 2016 which is now the basis of a book project. With journalist Rose-Anne Clermont he pursued the question where race fits in the construction of modern identity. Both reflected upon their own biographies and what it means living in Germany, France and the U.S. as a mixed-race family. The mainly young high-school age audience engaged in a lively, well informed discussion on defining and questioning identity, challenging stereotypes and expanding our notions of family and community.

Read the entire article here.

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