A Fulani Woman
The Fulani are traditionally a nomadic, pastoralist, trading people, herding cattle, goats and sheep across the vast dry hinterlands of their domain, keeping somewhat separate from the local agricultural populations.
Origins and Spread
The early origin of Fulani People is most fascinating and deepened in mystery with widely divergent opinions. Many scholars believe that they are of Judaeo-Syrian origin. However, it is generally recognized that Fulani descended from nomads from both North Africa and from sub-Sahara Africa.
They came from the Middle-East and North Africa and settled into Central and West Africa from the Senegal region they created the Tekruur Empire which was contemporary to the Ghana Empire. Then, they spread in all the countries in West-Africa, continuing to lead their nomadic life style.
They created here and there mixed states where they sometimes were the dominant group. But more often, they were absorbed by the indigenous population whom they had dominated.
While some have speculated over the origin of Fulani people, current linguistic and genetic evidence suggests an indigenous West African origin among the Peul. The vast majority of genetic lineages associated with them reflect those most commonly seen in other West Africans.
Their language is also of West African origin, most closely related to that of the Wolof and Serer ethnic groups. Historical and archaeological records indicate that Peul-speakers have resided in western Africa since at least the 5th century A.D. as well.
Interestingly, rock paintings in the Tassili-n-Ajjer suggests the presence of proto-Fulani cultural traits in the region by at least the fourth millennium B.C. Scholars specializing in Fulani culture believe that some of the imagery depicts rituals that are still practiced by contemporary Fulani people.
The Fulani were the first group of people in West Africa to convert to Islam through jihads, or holy wars, and were able to take over much of West Africa and establish themselves not only as a religious group but also as a political and economic force. They are the missionaries of Islam and continued to conquer much of West Africa.
The Fulani are primarily nomadic herders and traders. Through their nomadic lifestyle they established numerous trade routes in West Africa. Many times the Fulani go to local markets and interact with the people, getting news and spreading it through much of West Africa.
The History of the Fulani?
The history of the Fulani seems to begin with the Berber people of North Africa around the 8th or 11th century AD. As the Berbers migrated down from North Africa and mixed with the peoples in the Senegal region of West Africa the Fulani people came into existence. Over a thousand year period from AD 900 – 1900, they spread out over most of West Africa and even into some areas of Central Africa. Some groups of Fulani have been found as far as the western borders of Ethiopia. As they migrated eastward they came into contact with different African tribes. As they encountered these other peoples, they conquered the less powerful tribes.
Along the way many Fulani completely or partially abandoned their traditional nomadic life in favor of a sedentary existence in towns or on farms among the conquered peoples. The nomadic Fulani continued eastward in search of the best grazing land for their cattle. Their lives revolved around and were dedicated to their herds. The more cattle a man owned, the more respect he was given. Today, some estimate as many as 18 million Fulani people stretch across the countries of West Africa. They remain to be the largest group of nomadic people in the world.
Rise to Political Dominance
Distribution of Fulani
in West Africa
Beginning as early as the 17th and 18th centuries, but mainly in the 19th century, Fulas and others took control of various states in West Africa. These included the Fulani Empire founded by Usman dan Fodio (which itself included smaller states), Fouta Djallon, Massina and others. M. Delafosse suggested that with the expansion of the Fulani from Futa to Darfur, all this region became known to the Arabs as Takrur.
Culture & Language
The language of Fulas is called Pulaar or Fulfulde depending on the region, or variants thereof. It is also the language of the Tukulor. All Senegalese who speak the language natively are known as the Halpulaar or Haalpulaar’en, which stands for “speakers of Pulaar” (“hal” is the root of the Pulaar verb haalugol, meaning “to speak”). In some areas, e.g. in northern Cameroon, Fulfulde is a local lingua franca.
With the exception of Guinea, Fulas are minorities in every country they live in (most countries of West Africa). So some also speak other languages, for example:
Portuguese and Kriol in Guinea-Bissau
French and Arabic in Mauritania
Hausa and French in Niger
French and English in Cameroon
Wolof and French in Senegal
Sango and French in Central African Republic
Bambara and French in Mali
English, Hausa and Ghanaian languages in Ghana
English and some indigenous languages in Sierra Leone, particularly Krio, that lingua franca.
Hausa, other Nigerian languages and English in Nigeria
Fula are primarily known to be pastoralists, but are also traders in some areas. Most Fula in the countryside spend long times alone on foot, moving their herds; they were the only major migrating people of West Africa, though most Fula now live in towns or villages.
[As they conquered different towns and peoples, they would take captives from those tribes. Those captives became their slaves, adopting the language and lifestyle of the Fulani, and working their fields for them. Today, although no longer officially slaves, the ex-slave caste (rimaaybe or maccube) has no sense of their original ethnicity. Although distinct ethnically from the true Fulbe, their identity is now so intertwined with them that they are themselves called Fulani.
Over 99% of Fulani are Muslims. It is said that to be a Fulani is to be a Muslim. There are a small group of Fulani called the Mbororo, or Wodaabe, found in Niger and Cameroon, who resisted Islam, and have kept much of their pre-Islamic way of life and beliefs. And in different places, small groups of Fulani are choosing to follow the way of Christ. However, the vast majority are Muslims, most practicing a version of folk Islam, integrating animistic practices into their Muslim religious duties.] Source: Under the Acacias
[In 1804 Usuman Dan Fodio, a studious and charismatic Muslim Fulani scholar, began to preach the reformist ideology in the Hausa kingdoms. His movement became a revolution when in 1804, seeing himself as God's instrument, he preached a jihad against the Hausa kings whom he felt were not following the teachings of the Prophet. A great upheaval followed in which the Fulani took control of most of the Hausa states of northern Nigeria in the western Sudan.
A new kingdom, based on the city of Sokoto, developed under Dan Fodio's son and brother. The Fulani expansion was driven not only by religious zeal but by political ambitions, as the attack on the well-established Muslim kingdom of Bornu demonstrated. The result of this upheaval was the creation of a powerful Sokoto state under a caliph, whose authority was established over cities such as Kano and Zaria and whose rulers became emirs of provinces within the Sokoto caliphate.
By the 1840s the effects of Islamization and the Fulani expansion were felt across much of the interior of West Africa. New political units were created, a reformist Islam that sought to eliminate pagan practices was spread, and social and cultural changes took place in the wake of these changes. Literacy, for example, became more widely dispersed and new centers of trade, such as Kano, emerged in this period. Later jihads established other new states along similar lines. All of these changes had long-term effects on the region of the western Sudan.
These upheavals - moved by religious, political, and economic motives -were not unaffected by the external pressures on Africa. They fed into the ongoing processes of the external slave trades and the development of slavery within African societies. Large numbers of captives resulting from the wars were exported down to the coast for sale to the Europeans, while another stream of slaves crossed the Sahara to North Africa. In the western and central Sudan the level of slave labor rose, especially in the larger towns and along the trade routes.
Slave villages, supplying royal courts and merchant activities as well as a sort of plantation system, developed to produce peanuts and other crops. Slave women spun cotton and wove cloth for sale, slave artisans worked in the towns, and slaves served the caravan traders, but most slaves did agricultural labor. By the late 19th century regions of the savanna contained large slave populations - in some places as much as 30 to 50 percent of the whole population. From the Senegambia region of Futa Jallon, across the Niger and Senegal basins, and to the east of Lake Chad, slavery became a central feature of the Sudanic states and remained so through the 19th century.] Source: Africa And The Africans In The Age Of The Atlantic Slave Trade
[People whom historians identify as Fulani entered present-day Senegal from the north and east. It is certain that they were a mixture of peoples from northern and sub-Saharan Africa. These pastoral peoples tended to move in an eastern direction and spread over much of West Africa after the tenth century.
Their adoption of Islam increased the Fulanis' feeling of cultural and religious superiority to surrounding peoples, and that adoption became a major ethnic boundary marker. The Toroobe, a branch of the Fulani, settled in towns and mixed with the ethnic groups there. They quickly became noted as outstanding Islamic clerics, joining the highest ranks of the exponents of Islam, along with Berbers and Arabs. The Town Fulani (Fulbe Sirre) never lost touch with their Cattle Fulani relatives, however, often investing in large herds themselves. Cattle remain a significant symbolic repository of Fulani values.
The Fulani movement in West Africa tended to follow a set pattern. Their first movement into an area tended to be peaceful. Local officials gave them land grants. Their dairy products, including fertilizer, were highly prized. The number of converts to Islam increased over time. With that increase, Fulani resentment at being ruled by pagans, or imperfect Muslims, increased.
That resentment was fueled by the larger migration that occurred during the seventeenth century, in which the Fulani migrants were predominantly Muslim. These groups were not so easily integrated into society as earlier immigrants had been. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, revolts had broken out against local rulers. Although these revolts began as holy wars (jihads), after their success they followed the basic principle of Fulani ethnic dominance.
The situation in Nigeria was somewhat different from that elsewhere in West Africa in that the Fulani entered an area more settled and developed than that in other West African areas. At the time of their arrival, in the early fifteenth century, many Fulani settled as clerics in Hausa city-states such as Kano, Katsina, and Zaria. Others settled among the local peoples during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By the seventeenth century, the Hausa states had begun to gain their independence from various foreign rulers, with Gobir becoming the predominant Hausa state.
The urban culture of the Hausa was attractive to many Fulani. These Town or Settled Fulani became clerics, teachers, settlers, and judges—and in many other ways filled elite positions within the Hausa states. Soon they adopted the Hausa language, many forgetting their own Fulfulde language. Although Hausa customs exerted an influence on the Town Fulani, they did not lose touch with the Cattle or Bush Fulani.
These ties proved useful when their strict adherence to Islamic learning and practice led them to join the jihads raging across West Africa. They tied their grievances to those of their pastoral relatives. The Cattle Fulani resented what they considered to be an unfair cattle tax, one levied by imperfect Muslims. Under the leadership of the outstanding Fulani Islamic cleric, Shehu Usman dan Fodio, the Fulani launched a jihad in 1804. By 1810, almost all the Hausa states had been defeated.
Although many Hausa—such as Yakubu in Bauchi—joined dan Fodio after victory was achieved, the Fulani in Hausaland turned their religious conquest into an ethnic triumph. Those in Adamawa, for instance, were inspired by dan Fodio's example to revolt against the kingdom of Mandara. The leader was Modibo Adamu, after whom the area is now named. His capital is the city of Yola. After their victories, the Fulani generally eased their Hausa collaborators from positions of power and forged alliances with fellow Fulani.
For the fully nomadic Fulani, the practice of transhumance, the seasonal movement in search of water, strongly influences settlement patterns. The basic settlement, consisting of a man and his dependents, is called a wuru. It is social but ephemeral, given that many such settlements have no women and serve simply as shelters for the nomads who tend the herds.
There are, in fact, a number of settlement patterns among Fulani. In the late twentieth century there has been an increasing trend toward livestock production and sedentary settlement, but Fulani settlement types still range from traditional nomadism to variations on sedentarism. As the modern nation-state restricts the range of nomadism, the Fulani have adapted ever increasingly complex ways to move herds among their related families: the families may reside in stable communities, but the herds move according to the availability of water. Over the last few centuries, the majority of Fulani have become sedentary.
Those Fulani who remain nomadic or seminomadic have two major types of settlements: dry-season and wet-season camps. The dry season lasts from about November to March, the wet season from about March to the end of October. Households are patrilocal and range in size from one nuclear family to more than one hundred people. The administrative structure, however, crosscuts patrilinies and is territorial. Families tend to remain in wet-season camp while sending younger males—or, increasingly, hiring non-Fulani herders—to accompany the cattle to dry-season camps.
Town Fulani live in much the same manner as the urban people among whom they live, maintaining their Fulani identity because of the prestige and other advantages to which it entitles its members. In towns, Fulani pursue the various occupations available to them: ruler, adviser to the ruler, religious specialist, landlord, business, trade, and so forth.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities: The Fulani form the largest pastoral nomadic group in the world. The Bororo'en are noted for the size of their cattle herds. In addition to fully nomadic groups, however, there are also semisedentary Fulani—Fulbe Laddi—who also farm, although they argue that they do so out of necessity, not choice. A small group, the Fulbe Mbalu or Sheep Fulani, rely on sheep for their livelihood.
The Toroobe are outstanding clerics in the Sunni branch of Islam. They have generally intermarried with Hausa and no longer speak Fulfulde. They are found practicing other urban trades: teaching, serving in government positions, engaging in legal activities, renting property, financing trade, and so forth.
Many of the other Town Fulani were actually slaves of the Fulani who now identify with the group because of their high prestige. These urban dwellers engage in all the trades one finds in Hausa towns from crafts to long-range trade throughout Africa and the world.
Industrial Arts: The Fulani are not particularly noted for industrial arts, except for those associated with cattle. They do engage in leatherworking and some craft production. Many of their former slaves who have assumed Fulani ethnicity follow the basic crafts of other West Africans: silver- and gold-smithing, ironworking, basket making, and similar crafts.
Trade: The Fulani are engaged in long-distance trade, generally involving cattle, with their Hausa colleagues. Often the Hausa are also butchers who control West African cattle markets by controlling access to Fulani cattle.
Division of Labor: Herding cattle is a male activity. Tending and milking cattle, however, are women's work. Women may also sell dairy products; their graceful movement with containers of milk or cheese is a common sight in West African towns. Adolescent males traditionally have been in charge of moving the herds, whereas their elders deal with the political decisions and negotiate with sedentary people for the safe movement of the herds through farmlands.
Land Tenure: Land is held by—and inherited through—the patrilineage. As the Fulani have become increasingly sedentary—generally as a result of the pressure of the modern nation state and its centralized control—rights in land have become increasingly important.] Source: The Encyclopedia.com
Middle Eastern Origins
of the Fulani
[The Fulani who are nomadic pastoralists that speak a Niger-Kordofanian language and reside across central and western Africa do not cluster with other Niger-Kordofanian-speaking populations. Moreover, the Fulani are distinguished from other African samples in Tishkoff et al.’s STRUCTURE analysis (Tishkoff SA, et al. (2009) The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans, 1035–1044).
Morphological analyses of the Fulani have been interpreted to suggest a Middle Eastern origin for the Fulani (Ehret C (2008) The Early Livestock Raisers of Southern Africa, 7–35.), and there has been some speculation based on linguistic data that the Fulani migrated to central Africa from northern Africa or the Middle East.]
[The clustering of the Baggara near the Fulani is also consistent with Tishkoff et al., who report that the Baggara share ancestry with the Fulani and with the Chadic speakers.] source: PNAS
Origins of the Fulani according to Jamtan.com
[Some believe that they are from a Semitic origin. According to the tradition, the ancestors of Fulani is Jacob son of Israel, son of Issac, son of Abraham When Jacob left Canaan and went to Egypt where Joseph was established. The Israelites prospered and grew in population while living in Egypt. Fulani people descended from them. After a long time a new Pharaoh who did not know about Joseph's fame in Egypt, came to power. He made the Israelites work hard at slave labor.
The Pharaoh oppressed the people, including Fulanis who were rich in cattle. They emigrated from Egypt, some of them went back to Palestine and Syria under Moses guidance and the other crossed the Nile with their cattle and headed west. They took the name of fouth or foudh meaning those who left. A group from the latter moved along the edges of the Sahara to Touat-Air and then to West-Africa.
Those who came to Masina (in present day Mali) spread to the neighboring regions where they were rejoined by Fulani groups from Morocco. It has established that about 700AD, Fulani groups from Morocco, moved southward, and invaded the regions of Tagout, Adrar, Mauritania, and Fuuta Tooro.
The cradle of the Fulani group is situated in the Senegal River valley, where Fulanis established kingdoms. Until the beginning of the IX th Century. Around that period they continued their migration in the regions of Bundu, Bambouk, Diomboko, Kaarta, and Bagana. Finally those who were concentrated in the Ferlo from the XI to the XIV century moved in various groups to the Fuuta Jalon, to the Volta river basin, to the Gurma, to the Haussa land, and to the Adamawa, Boghirme,Ouadai
Other versions of the Fulani origin include:
a- The mixing between the proto-Berber from North Africa, and the Bafur (the people who populated the Sahara)
b- Issued from Asiatic pastoral tribes that invaded Africa, crossed the Sahara and dispersed through all the West-Africa Sahalian zone
c- The Anthropologists declare that the study of many Fulbe cranian structure has indicated that they are intimately linked to the Ethiopians and that both types are very similar to the Egyptian crane structure. According to the eminent Anthropologist Mr. Verneau, the Fulbe origin has to closely link the Egypt.]
The theories of the origin of Fulani
* Jewish or Arab Syrian origin and suggested a migration westwards along the North African littoral, southwards into the West-Africa and, thence, in historical times, eastwards. According to Some writers (e.g. Guiraudon, 1888; Delafosse, 1912; Morel, 1902)
* Fulani were North African Berbers, According to. Passarge, 1895; Meyer, 1897; Crozals, 1883
* Hindu Origins According toGolberry, 1805; Binger, 1892), Malayo-Polynesian (EichTall, 1841
* Gypsy theories complete the list of elaborate surmises on Fulani origins.
What about the Wodaabe?
A very interesting and useful article was written by David B and published on April 03, 2004 at Gene Expression “Wodabout the Wodaabe?”
[I was planning to write a critique of Geoffrey Miller’s The Mating Mind (Vintage, 2001), but I got sidetracked by an intriguing passage about the Wodaabe tribe of North Africa. In Miller’s account:
“Perhaps human aesthetics emerged through runaway sexual selection, with aesthetic tastes evolving as part of female mate choice... Something like this still happens among the Wodaabe people (also known as the Bororo), cattle-herding nomads who live in the deserts of Nigeria and Niger.
At annual gere wol festivals, hundreds of people gather, and the young men spend hours painting their faces and ornamenting their bodies. The men also dance vigorously for seven full nights, showing off their health and endurance. Towards the end of the week-long ceremony, the men line up and display their beauty and charm to the young women. Each woman invites the man she finds most attractive for a sexual encounter.
Wodaabe women usually prefer the tallest men with the whitest teeth, the largest eyes, the straightest nose, the most elaborate body-painting, and the most creative ornamentaion. As a result, Wodaabe men have evolved to be significantly taller, whiter-toothed, larger-eyed, straighter-nosed, and better at self-decoration than men of neighboring tribes. This divergence probably happened within the last few hundred or few thousand years, illustrating runaway’s speed...” (pp.276-7)
On reading this, two problems occurred to me. One was that the process described by Miller would lead only to a one-to-one pairing of males and females, with no reproductive advantage to the most attractive males, unless the females who chose the most attractive males happened to be the most fertile. The other was that the Wodaabe, like all other ‘primitive’ peoples, must have an elaborate system of kinship and marriage, and Miller gives no indication how the selection process fits into this.
So I decided to find out what I could about the Wodaabe...
This is easier said than done. Miller gives no references for his statements about the Wodaabe, and searching bibliographies for the Wodaabe hits the problem of variant names and spellings. I soon found that one alternative spelling is ‘Wodhaabhe’, but a bigger problem is that the Wodaabe are just a subgroup of the Fulani, and the Fulani are also known as the Fula, the Fulahs, the Fule, the Fulbe, the Felaata, the Peuls, and doubtless other variants. But a search of the online British Library catalogue turned up half-a-dozen promising references, and two of these proved to be right on the button:
Derrick J. Stenning: Savannah Nomads: A study of the Wodaabe pastoral Fulani of Western Bornu Province, Northern Nigeria, 1959
Marguerite Dupire: Peuls Nomades: Etude descriptive des Wodaabe du Sahel Nigerien, 1962.
The following is based on these excellent anthropological studies.
The Fulani consist of a few million people speaking dialects of the Fulfulde language, and are spread across several countries of North-West Africa. Traditionally they were nomadic cattle herders, moving around the grasslands of the savannah south of the Sahara. Over the past few hundred years many Fulani have settled down as farmers and intermarried with other peoples of the region. But some Fulani remain as nomads, and the Wodaabe [singular: Bodaado] are one of the largest tribes of these ‘pastoral’ Fulani. The Fulani, including the Wodaabe, are now at least nominally Muslims, though the Wodaabe have retained many of their pagan traditions.
From early times explorers and anthropologists have been intrigued by the appearance of the Fulani, which differs from that of the Negroid peoples around them. According to Stenning: “The Fulani are not basically of Negro stock, although it is clear that through the centuries Fulani populations have interbred in various degrees with the Negro populations among whom they are dispersed…[the pastoral Fulani] retain non-Negroid physical characteristics to the greatest extent, speak the purest Fulfulde, and in general have been the least amenable to conversion to Islam… The desirable physical qualities of a Fulani are a light colour, slight bone structure, straight hair, thin lips, and, above all, a long narrow nose…” (pp. 2-4 and 56; see also Dupire, pp. 1-10, but Dupire points out that only a minority of Wodaabe have all of these features).
These are obviously ‘Caucasian’ characteristics, and the natural explanation is that the Fulani have a partly Caucasian ancestry, either from East Africa (e.g. Ethiopean) or more likely from the North (e.g. Tuareg). The Fulani themselves believe they are related to the Tuaregs and Arabs. They despise the Black populations to their South, describing them as ‘hyenas, apes, and asses’ (Dupire, p. 322). Intermarriage with Blacks is deplored, and described as ‘eating the fruit of the bitter black plum tree’ (Stenning, p. 57). (Sorry, that’s not very PC, but don’t blame me, blame the Wodaabe!)
The social organisation of the Wodaabe is based on patrilineal (agnatic) lineages. The Wodaabe depend entirely on their cattle, feeding on their meat and milk, and trading for other commodities with the settled people around them. According to Stenning, ‘The traditional aim of a Bodaado elder was, and still is, to pass on more cattle to more sons than his father was able to do’ (p.46).
Marriage practices reflect these interests. A man may have up to four wives. A man with more cattle can marry and keep more wives. If he loses cattle, his wives may divorce or desert him. Divorce by both men and women is relatively easy, though compensation may be required.
There are two main forms of marriage. The most prestigious form is by betrothal (kooggal). In kooggal marriage the boy and girl are betrothed as children and marry when the girl reaches puberty. The marriages are arranged by their paternal relatives. Various exchanges of cattle and gifts are required. To keep cattle within the lineage, there is a strong preference for betrothal between close patrilineal relatives, often cousins. The great majority of first marriages are by kooggal.
Subsequent marriages, by people who are divorced or widowed (or by men acquiring an extra wife) are usually by contract (teegal). In contrast to kooggal marriage, teegal marriage is usually between lineages not closely related (or between Wodaabe and non-Wodaabe). In principle, teegal involves an element of hostility (the wife is regarded as being ‘stolen’), so it is not thought desirable among closely related lineages.
So where, if anywhere, does the gere wol dance come into this?
The gere wol is a ceremony involving two unrelated maximal lineages (clans). At irregular intervals the elders of a clan will decide ‘time for a gere wol’, and choose another clan to visit, the choice depending on how long since they last met, whether there is a duty to reciprocate, and so on. Clan leaders will then take the young men (above puberty but not yet heads of families) on a visit. The ceremony itself is described thus by Stenning:
“Gerewol… is a dance before the elders: youths dressed in their finery… dance to a slow stamping rhythm unaccompanied by drums, while praising in song the charms of the maidens [of the other clan]. In this way the girls are graded in an order of beauty. Meanwhile the maidens, who dance in a circle nearby, choose the most handsome and best-dressed youth and point him out by oblique references in song. This goes on until three or four of the best-looking youths and maidens have been paired. At the hirde [evening] gathering which now takes place, the couples are expected to spend the evening together, the rest of the dancers pairing off as they may.
“Although the gerewol is connected with courtship it does not regulate or determine betrothal and first marriage, which have been decided on, often some years previously, by the parents or guardians of the partners. Gerewol has the effect of ranging the youths and maidens of a particular age group into a generally recognized order of physical desirability by which the status of a young man or woman in that age group is assessed. But after marriage this status is unimportant, for that of men – and in reciprocal terms that of women – is measured by the number of cattle and children they possess.” (Stenning p. 157; see also the more elaborate account in Dupire, pp. 312-19).
From this description it is clear that gere wol can have at most a marginal effect on the reproductive success of Wodaabe men. It does not affect the normal course of marriage arrangements, and the selection of the most handsome men in itself has little impact, since they get only one partner for the evening.
(It is all rather reminiscent of the Senior Prom in an American high school, as portrayed in countless teen dramas!) This is not to say that the gere wol meetings have no effect at all. According to Dupire, they provide opportunities for flirtation and adulterous affairs, which may lead to divorces and sometimes to teegal marriages between members of the unrelated clans. But there seems to be no basis for Miller’s claim that sexual selection at the gere wol is responsible for the distinctive physical appearance of the Wodaabe.
This is more simply explained by their mixture of Caucasian and Negroid ancestry. The gere wol may however have some indirect influence by reinforcing Wodaabe conceptions of beauty, which emphasise precisely those aspects of Fulani appearance, such as a narrow nose, which differentiate them from the neighbouring Negro populations. The gere wol would therefore help to perpetuate the Wodaabe preference for mating among themselves, and prevent or delay their merging into the surrounding gene pool.]
When Antonio was still a baby, a Dutch sea captain named Jan de Fries came to New Amsterdam to help fight the Indians. Traveling sea captains were often given special treatment, and this may be why Dorothy and Paulo became the Captain's slaves for a time.
In 1644, Paulo and a group of other slaves petitioned the Company for their freedom, and won. The Company’s director, Willem Kieft, freed the men and their wives, but they weren't completely free. Former slaves were required to pay a yearly tax, to work for the colony when needed, and their children would always be slaves. This was called half-freedom.
These men and their wives received the title to land in an area north of the town, where they would act as a buffer against attack from Native Americans. Black farmers soon owned a two-mile long strip of land from what is now Canal Street to 34th Street in Manhattan, which became known as the Land of the Blacks.
The leadership of the Dutch colony clearly recognized the value of the African population. They still had to pay the tax, and could be called to work for the Dutch West India Company at any time. But they had homes of their own, and the chance to establish one of the first free black communities in North America.
The freed slaves weren't treated as if they were white, but they were land owners living in a community of their peers. Blacks who were still slaves could look at Dorothy and Paulo and take hope. There was a way out of slavery.
From New Amsterdam's earliest years, enslaved people were black and free people were white, but the lines between the two were not as sharply drawn as they became later. There were cases of Dutch and African people marrying in the Dutch Reformed Church. Captain de Fries had a son, named John, with a mixed-race woman.
After the captain died, Dorothy and Paulo were put in charge of young John's money and property. Dorothy may have helped to raise him as well, as she raised Antonio.
Dorothy's story illustrates how the lives of blacks and whites intersected during the Dutch colonial period in New Amsterdam.
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