The Zong massacre


The Zong massacre was the mass murder of 133 African slaves by the crew of the slave ship Zong in the days following 29 November 1781. The Gregson slave-trading syndicate, based in Liverpool, owned the ship and sailed her in the Atlantic slave trade. As was common business practice, they had taken out insurance on the lives of the slaves as cargo. When the ship ran low on potable water following navigational mistakes, the crew threw slaves overboard into the sea to drown, partly in order to ensure the survival of the rest of the ship’s passengers, and in part to cash in on the insurance on the slaves, thus not losing money on the slaves who would have died from the lack of drinking water.
After the slave ship reached port at Black River, Jamaica, Zong’s owners made a claim to their insurers for the loss of the slaves. When the insurers refused to pay, the resulting court cases held that in some circumstances, the deliberate killing of slaves was legal and that insurers could be required to pay for the slaves’ deaths. The judge, Lord Chief Justice, the Earl of Mansfield, ruled against the syndicate owners in this case, due to new evidence being introduced suggesting the captain and crew were at fault.





Beethoven: The Black-a-Moors of Europe – by ReelDeel Frederick Hertz, German anthropologist, in “Race and Civilization,” refers twice to Beethoven’s “Negroid traits” and his “dark” skin, and “flat, thick nose.” (pp. 123 and 178). Frau Fischer, an intimate acquaintance of Beethoven, describes him thus, “Short, stocky, broad shoulders, short neck, round nose, blackish-brown complexion.” (From r. H. Schauffler, The Man Who Freed Music, Vol. I, p. 18, 1929).


The First International Congress of Negro Writers, september 19, 1956


60 years ago, on september 19, 1956 in Paris at the Sorbonne The First International Congress of Negro Writers and Artists took place.

Alioune Diop who initiated this prestigious gathering (of literary, artistic and intellectuals companions) including such personalities as Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Jacques Rabémananjara, Cheikh Anta Diop, Frantz Fanon,James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Richard Wright, and Jean Price-Mars was able to convene an international cultural meeting whose principles have since established the importance of culture as a means of self affirmation. In addition to the support Présence Africaine received from André Gide, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Théodore Monod for this first Congress, the organizers also benefited from expressions of solidarity by Roger Bastide, Basil Davidson, Michel Leiris, George Padmore, among others. Picasso drew a portrait of a black man, which became the official poster of the Congress. The 1st International Congress of Black Writers and Artists deserves to be commemorated in order to prevent this important moment of history from falling into oblivion and so that the younger generations, through their knowledge of it, would have at their disposal a capital link in the awareness of their identity



Hamilton Naki (1926-2005)

Hamilton Naki, a laborer who became a self-taught surgeon of such skill that Dr. Christiaan N. Barnard chose him to assist in the world’s first human heart transplant in 1967, but whose contribution was kept secret for three decades because he was a black man in apartheid-era South Africa.
hamilton_naki_unfairly_underrated_surgeon_640_16Hamilton Naki was born in 1926, in a poor rural village in Transkei, South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. At 14, lacking the money to continue his education, he hitchhiked to Cape Town to find work. The university hired him to tend its grounds and tennis courts. He spent five decades working at the University of Cape Town. Originally hired as a gardener there in about 1940, he acquired his formidable surgical skills through years of silent observation and covert practice at the university’s medical school. Dr. Barnard began to acknowledge Mr. Naki’s work only after the end of apartheid in 1991. In an interview shortly before his death in 2001, he called Mr. Naki « one of the great researchers of all time in the field of heart transplants. »In an interview with The Guardian of London in 2003, Mr. Naki expressed little bitterness about a lifetime spent working in the shadows. « I was called one of the backroom boys, » he said. « They put the white people out front. If people published pictures of me, they would have gone to jail. »In 2002, Mr. Naki was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe, one of South Africa’s highest honors, for outstanding contribution to medical science.In 2003, the university awarded Mr. Naki an honorary master of science degree in medicine. Although South Africa’s apartheid laws forbade blacks from performing surgery on whites, Mr. Naki’s skills were so esteemed that the university quietly looked the other way. He worked alongside Dr. Barnard for decades as a lab technician, perfecting his craft and assisting in many operations on people. Operating on animals, Mr. Naki also taught surgical techniques to generations of medical students. Mr. Naki learned to anesthetize animals, and eventually to do surgery on them, operating on rabbits, pigs, dogs and even a giraffe. Many of the animal surgeries he performed, including coronary bypasses and heart and liver transplants, helped to perfect techniques that were later used on humans. Hamilton had better skills than Dr Barnard but because of his race, Mr. Naki’s role in the world’s first heart transplant on a young white South African woman remained unknown for years. During his years at the university, Mr. Naki lived on the outskirts of Cape Town in a one-room shack without electricity or running water. When he retired, he was paid a gardener’s pension, far less than a lab technician’s. He died  in 2005.