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Posts by Sylviane A. Diouf

A Decade for People of African Descent

On December 9, ambassadors, UN dignitaries, students, and others, gathered in the Langston Hughes atrium for a pre-event to Human Rights Day and to the official takeoff of the International Decade for People of African Descent, both happening the following day. Read More ›

Africans in India: Then and Now

The Schomburg Center's exhibition Africans in India: A Rediscovery recently opened in New Delhi, India's capital, against a backdrop of racist attacks against Africans. The contrast between the African experience of yesterday and that of today could not have been greater and the exhibition could not have come at a more appropriate time.Read More ›

12 Years a Slave. What About 15 Years in a Cave?

We’ll know in one month if Steve McQueen’s film gets an Oscar. But one thing is sure: the heretofore largely unfamiliar Solomon Northup has become a household name.Read More ›

My Mandela Moments

I learned of Nelson Mandela’s passing while waiting for my delayed flight at Atlanta Airport. I thought how much his painful and extraordinary life had exposed the terrible danger that faced those who fought for the rights, the dignity and the freedom of people of African origin or descent. That despairing reality was made all the more vivid because I was coming back to New York after several days spent with Kathleen Cleaver, immersed in documents and photographs from the Black 

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The Americas' First Muslims

This week, 1.5 billion Muslims will celebrate Eid-al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, or Tabaski as it is known in West Africa. Very few among them will have a thought for the hundreds of thousands of enslaved West Africans who, during almost four centuries, practiced Islam in the Americas. Although they left significant marks of their faith, cultures, and traditions, the Africans who first brought Islam to these shores have been mostly forgotten.Read More ›

Asia's Africans

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. What better time to discover or learn more about Afro-Asians? As our groundbreaking exhibition Africans in India shows, some became navy commanders, army generals, and founders of dynasties. In Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, they left an impressive architectural legacy. Today, 

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Africans in India: From Slaves to Generals and Rulers

Generals, commanders, admirals, prime ministers, and rulers, East Africans greatly distinguished themselves in India. They wrote a story unparalleled in the rest of the world — that of enslaved Africans attaining the pinnacle of military and political authority not only in a foreign country but also on another continent. Come discover their extraordinary story in a groundbreaking exhibition at the Schomburg Center — on view from February 1 to July 6 — and on March 21, join Dr. Faeeza Jasdanwalla, a descendant of the African dynasty of Janjira for a conversation on this 

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Clicks to the Black World

Digital Schomburg's online exhibitions on various aspects of the black experience have truly become a global phenomenon. They are attracting visitors from all over the world. From Argentina to Zimbabwe and Montenegro and the Maldives in between. What do they know that perhaps you don't?

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience remains the most visited curated exhibition of The New York Public Library. With a few clicks, visitors from 206 countries and territories, including Kazakhstan, Tonga, Suriname, Mongolia and Malawi, 

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A Poem A Day

April is National Poetry Month, and I promised myself to read a poem a day. Some poets of the black experience immediately came to mind: Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, Sonia Sanchez, Audrey Lorde, to name a few. But then I decided to venture unto new territory and immerse myself into recent works.

I selected four great poets — and distinguished scholars training new generations — who published collections in 2010 and 2011. I found history, current events and the future in their works; and grace, beauty, heartache, struggles and 

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Survivors: Sand Island

July 31, 1761: The French ship l'Utile, illegally transporting 160 Africans from Madagascar to Ile de France (Mauritius), approaches Sand Island. Because the captain worries about a potential revolt, he orders the hatches to be nailed shut. In the night, the ship runs into a reef and capsizes. 

What follows is, arguably, the most extraordinary story of survival ever documented.

More than 70 Africans trapped in the hold died that night, while 123 French crew and passengers (18 had died) escaped. Only 

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Bollywood and Africa: A Love Story

Few people in the West have heard international superstar Akon's new hit. But tens of millions throughout the rest of the world have been dancing to Chammak Challo for weeks. Why? Because the catchy tune is the musical centerpiece of the latest Bollywood sci-fi blockbuster Ra. One, whose (super) hero is no other than Shahrukh Khan, the most popular actor in the (rest of) the world. That Akon, a Senegalese,

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Sannu Niger!

ferdinandreus on flickrThe capture last week of Saif al-Islam Qaddafi who, disguised as a Tuareg, was trying to flee to Niger — where one of his brothers and some high-ranking officials have found refuge — has turned a spotlight on a country few people have heard of.

Niger? You mean

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Nikky Finney Wins National Book Award in Poetry

On November 16, Nikky Finney received the 2011 National Book Award in Poetry for her book Head Off & Split. Political, sensual, historical, imaginative, Finney’s poems speak of struggle, beauty, love, and race with passion and tenderness. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where she has been teaching for several years, congratulates her on 

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Gold, Freedom, Faith, and Baroque in Brazil

I had not slept for 34 hours. After a bad flight and two long bus trips, I was hiking, ecstatic, in a muddy mine. I touched the walls from top to bottom. Perhaps “he” had put his hands there too. I was walking in the steps of Galanga, renamed Francisco, and known as Chico Rei (King Chico).

Story -or legend-has it that 270 years ago, Chico Rei, believed to have been a ruler in Congo, his family, and others were forced aboard a slave ship. The Middle Passage took his wife and children, but he and one son survived. They landed in Brazil and were sent to Vila 

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The Autobiography in Arabic of a Senegalese Enslaved in North Carolina

In 1831, Omar ibn Said, a Senegalese trader and Qur'anic teacher enslaved in North Carolina, wrote his autobiography in Arabic. It is the only known surviving slave narrative written in that language in the Americas. On October 13, at 6pm at the Schomburg Center, Yale Professor Ala Alryyes will present A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said, which features 

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