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African Musilms in Antebellum America

Apr 12, 2016




A condensation and updating of his African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook (1984), noted scholar of antebellum black writing and history Dr. Allan D. Austin explores, via portraits, documents, maps, and texts, the lives of 50 sub-Saharan non-peasant Muslim Africans caught in the slave trade between 1730 and 1860. Also includes five maps.

  • African Muslims in Antebellum America

  • In the name of God, the merciful! the com-passionate! God bless our Lord Mohammed his prophet, and his descendants, and his followers, and prosper them exceedingly. Praise be to God the Lord of all creatures! the merciful, the com-passionate king of the day of judgment ! Thee we adore, and of thee we implore assistance ! Guide us in the right way, the way of those with whom thou art well pleased, and not of those with whom thou art angry, nor of those who are in error. Amen!

    The Fatiha, the Opening Surah of the Quran, Islam's First Prayer, of Chamo [Chiemo} and Translation, Georgia, c. 1830.

  • African Muslims in Antebellum America

    Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles

    Allan D. Austin

    ROVTLEDCjE New York and London

  • 2 Park Square, Milton ParkAbingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

    711 Third AvenueNew York, NY 10017

    Taylor & Francis GroupRoutledge

    Taylor & Francis GroupRoutledge

    This edition published 2011 by Routledge

  • Contents

    Acknowledgments Vll Preface IX List of Maps and Illustrations Xl

    1. "There Are Good Men in America, 3 but All Are Very Ignorant of Africa"-and Its Muslims

    2. Glimpses of Seventy-Five African Muslims 31 in Antebellum North America

    3. Job Ben Solomon: 51 African Nobleman and a Father of African American Literature

    4. Abd ar-Rahman and His Two Amazing 65 American Journeys

    5. Bilali Mohammed and Salih Bilali: 85 Almaamys on Georgia's Sapelo and St. Simon's Islands

    6. Lamine Kebe, Educator 115 7. Vmar ibn Said's Legend(s), Life, and Letters 129 8. The Transatlantic Trials of Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua 159 9. Mohammed Ali ben Said, or Nicholas Said: 173

    His Travels on Five Continents

    Index 187

  • Acknowledgments

    Early on in the original version of this project-the one I began in the late 1970s thinking it might lead to an article-my mentor and the collector of the widest range of information on African Americans, the late Prof. Sidney Kaplan of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, introduced me to several of the minor African Muslim figures to add to those with whom I was already familiar. The most productive and generous correspondent was Prof. Thomas C. Parramore of Raleigh, North Carolina, who knew more about Umar ibn Said and his writings than anyone else. Parramore also introduced me to papers on Osman and S'Quash. Mary C. Beaty, the reference librarian at the Davidson College Library in Davidson, North Carolina, provided further documents on and a portrait of Umar. Sylvia Lara of the University of Cantin as in Sao Paulo, Brazil, told me about Mahommah Baquaqua making it to England.

    Original translations of manuscripts in Arabic were provided by three busy men: Dr. Elias Saad, scholar interested in fellow scholars from Timbuktu to Baghdad and beyond, Wellesley, Massachusetts; my good friend and Muslim source of inspiration, Dr. Kamal Ali, Westfield State University, Westfield, Massachusetts; and Dr. Abdullah Basabrian, graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the early 1980s, now somewhere in Saudi Arabia. The recent polisher of these early translations, Muhammad al-Ahari, Chicago, an inde-fatigable tracer of lost Muslims, has brought several corrections and additions to this book.

    Because I submitted an acknowledgments page too early to the first version of

  • viii Acknowledgments

    the stories that follow, my African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook (New York: Garland, 1984), I herewith want to belatedly thank my staff-a sort of revolving one, as I remember-of copyeditors eventually under the eye of Phyllis Korper, who made my first collection of old papers, notes, introductions, and photographs into a book.

    I want now to thank Marlie Wasserman, who brought my manuscript to Routledge and gave me some much-needed early guidance, and Connie Oehring, whose precise copyediting has corrected and streamlined my ponderous prose.

    I thank you one and all. Finally, I want also to express my appreciation first to my Humanities

    Department and the faculty members who approved and Vice President Malvina Rau who authorized a sabbatical year from my academic home, Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts; and second to those enthusiastic and wide-ranging scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Richard Newman, and Randall Burkett at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University, where I spent 1994-1995; and, most emphatically, to my wife, Joyce, for financ-ing out of her business that sabbatical year and for staying with me through my several announcements that I was just about finished with the sometimes tortuous extracting and bridging of the original African Muslims in Antebellum America.

  • Preface

    This book is a radical condensation of my African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook (New York: Garland, 1984), an illustrated collection of the majority of then-available documents accompanied by introductions and extensive notes. It is also an update including short notices of about forty more people, four manu-scripts in Arabic, a portrait, and scholarship discovered since 1984. It reprints five of six maps but has thirteen fewer illustrations. Instead of notes and a bibliography, I have provided a Selected Reading list at the end of each chapter. In nearly all cases, the original documents and citations from obscure sources may be found in my earlier book.

    Some names of major figures are changed here. I continue to use the familiar Job Ben Solomon, but I have changed Abdul Rahahman to Abd ar-Rahman, because this is the way he pronounced his name to his earliest interviewers and it is closer to an Arabic standard; Lamen Kebe to Lamine Kebe, because contempo-rary writers were not sure how to pronounce the name and the latter pronunciation better approaches the Serahule standard; and Omar to Vmar, because contempo-raries heard different pronunciations and Vmar is closer to the Arabic standard. I discuss the pronunciation of Bilali in Chapter 5.

  • Maps and Illustrations

    Map 1. The Homelands. Map II. Known American Homes and Travels. Map III. Travels in Africa and to Asia of Mohammed Ali ben Said. Map IV. European and Asian Travels of Mohammed Ali ben Said. Map V. The American Travels of Mohammed Ali ben Said.

    Fig. l. Frontispiece: The Fatiha, the Opening Surah of the Quran, Islam's First Prayer, ofCharno [Chierno} and Translation, Georgia, c. 1830.

    Fig. 2. View of the City of Timbuktu by Visitor Rene Caillie, from Caillie, Travels Through Central Africa to Timbuktu, 1830.

    Fig. 3. Muslim Soldier and Chief in Sangara or Kankan (Guinea), from Alexander Laing, Travels in the Timanee, Kooranko, and Soolima Countries in Western Africa, 1825.

    Fig. 4. Three Muslims in Ghana, from J. Dupuis, Journal of a Residence in Ashanti, 1824.

    Fig. 5. A Muslim of Kong (now Ivory Coast) in a Military Costume, from Dupuis, Journal, 1824.

    Fig. 6. Yarrow Mamout of Georgetown, D.C., from Oil Painting by Charles Willson Peale, 1819; courtesy of Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

    Fig. 7. Fatiha, Surahs ll4-the Last, ll3, ll2, llO by "a Negro Slave of Capt. David Anderson," Sourh Carolina, 1768. Savannah Historical Society.

  • xii Maps and Illustrations

    Fig. 8. Osman [Usuman?}, Runaway in Great Dismal Swamp, North Carolina, 1852, Porte Crayon (pseud. David H. Strother), The Old South Illustrated, 1856, p. 148.

    Fig. 9. Job Ben Solomon, Oil Painting by William Hoare, England, 1733, photo courtesy of Sidney Kaplan.

    Fig. 10. Ibrahim Abd ar-Rahman, Engraving of Crayon Drawing by Henry Inman, New York, 1828, from The Colonizationist andJournal of Freedom, Boston, 1834, frontispiece, photo courtesy of Amherst College.

    Fig. 11. Ibrahim Abd ar-Rahman, Variation on the Fatiha Presented as an Autobiographical Sketch and ar-Rahman's "Translation," October 10, 1828, from John Trumbull Papers, Yale University.

    Fig. 12. Abd ar-Rahman, Variation on the Fatiha Presented as the Lord's Prayer, Philadelphia, December 1828, courtesy of American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.

    Fig. 13. Pages 11 and 10 of Bilali's Book, Sapelo Island, Georgia, c. 1840. Georgia State Library, Atlanta.

    Fig. 14. Thomas Spalding, from E. Merton Coulter, Thomas Spalding of Sapelo, frontispiece.

    Fig. 15 Bilali Descendant Shad Hall of Sapelo, late 1930s, from Drums and Shadows, 1940.

    Fig. 16. Bilali Descendant Katie Brown of Sapelo, late 1930s, from Drums and Shadows, 1940.

    Fig. 17. Salih Bilali Look-alike-According to James H. Couper, 1842, "Native of Hausa" from James C. Prichard, Illustrations to the Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, 1844.

    Fig. 18. Descendant Ben Sullivan, St. Simon's Island, 1938, from Margaret Davis Cate, Early Days in Coastal Georgia, 1955, p. 154.

    19 & 20. John Couper and James Hamilton Couper, Photos of oil portraits, cour-tesy of Mrs. Mary Thiesen, a direct descendant.

    Fig.21. Umar ibn Said, Photograph from a Daguerreotype, 1850s or 1860s, Davidson College Library, Davidson, North Carolina.

    22 & 23. The Earliest Known Ms. (two pages) by Umar, the "inclosed letter" from John Louis Taylor to Francis S. Key, 1819. Franklin Trask Library, Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Newton, Mass.

    Fig. 24 Only Annotated Page (the final p. of Revelation) in Umar's Bible, Davidson College.

    Fig. 25. Umar's Lord's Prayer (mismarked "23rd Psalm"), 1828? John Owen Papers, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.

    Fig. 26. List of Owen Family Names (mismarked "The Lord's Prayer"), John Owen Papers, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.