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--- The Ashanti Empire --

dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor

The Ashanti Empire also known as the Ashanti Confederacy or Asanteman (independent from 1701-1896), was a pre-colonial West African state created by the Akan people of what is now the Ashanti Region in Ghana. Their empire stretched from central Ghana to present day Togo and Côte d'Ivoire. Today, the Ashanti monarchy continues as one of the constitutionally protected, sub-national traditional states within the Republic of Ghana.

The political, military, and spiritual foundations of the Ashanti nation date to the first Ashanti king, Osei Tutu. He forged the Ashanti Union by bringing together several subgroups from roughly 1670 to the 1690s. He also built a capital, Kumasi; created the legend of the Golden Stool to legitimize his rule; and began celebrating the Odwira, or yam festival, as a symbol of national unity. From 1698 to 1701, the united Ashanti army defeated the Denkyira people, who had conquered the Ashanti in the early 17th century. Over the course of the 18th century, the Ashanti conquered most of the surrounding peoples, including the Dagomba.

By the early 19th century, Ashanti territory covered nearly all of present-day Ghana, including the coast, where the Ashanti could trade directly with the British. In exchange for guns and other European goods, the Ashanti sold gold and slaves, usually either captured in war or accepted as tribute from conquered peoples. As they prospered, Ashanti culture flourished. They became famous for gold and brass craftsmanship, wood carving, furniture, and brightly colored woven cloth, called kente. Although the Ashanti maintained traditional beliefs, Muslim traders and Christian missionaries won some converts among them to their respective religions.

                                             

The ancient Ashanti migrated from the vicinity of the northwestern Niger River after the fall of the Ghana Empire in the 1200s. They were a powerful, militaristic, and highly disciplined people of West Africa. Evidence the migration from Ghana lies mainly along two lines. First the royal courts of the Akan kings processions and ceremonies show remnants of ancient Ghana ceremonies. Ethno linguists have also tracked the migration by tracing word usage and speech patterns along West Africa.

Around the 13th century AD, the Ashanti and various other Akan peoples migrated into the forest belt of present-day Ghana and established small states in the hilly country around present-day Kumasi. During the height of the Mali Empire the Ashanti, and Akan people in general, became wealthy through the trading of gold mined from their territory. Early in Ashanti history, this gold was traded with the greater Ghana and Mali Empires.

The Ashanti Royal political organization centered on various clans, each headed by a paramount chief or Amanhene. One of these clans, the Oyoko, settled Ghana’s sub-tropical forest region, establishing a center at Kumasi. In the mid-1600s, the Oyoko clan under Chief Oti Akenten started consolidating other Ashanti clans into a loose confederation that occurred without destroying the authority of each paramount chief over his clan. This was done in part by military assault, but largely by uniting them against the Denkyira, who had previously dominated the region.

                                               

Golden Stool

Another tool of centralization under Osei Tutu was the introduction of the 'Golden Stool' (sika 'dwa). According to legend, a meeting of all the clan heads of each of the Ashanti settlements was called just prior to independence from Denkyira. In this meeting, the Golden Stool was commanded down from the heavens by Okomfo Anokye, the Priest or sage advisor, to Asantehene Osei Tutu I. The Golden stool floated down, from the heavens straight into the lap of Osei Tutu I. Okomfo Anokye declared the stool to be the symbol of the new Asante Union ('Asanteman'), and allegiance was sworn to the Golden Stool and to Osei Tutu as the Asantehene. The newly founded Ashanti union went to war with Denkyira and defeated it. The Golden Stool remains sacred to the Ashanti as it is believed to contain the 'Sunsum' — spirit or soul of the Ashanti people.

The election of chiefs and the Asantehene himself followed a pattern. The senior female of the chiefly lineage nominated the eligible males. This senior female then consulted the elders, male and female, of that line. The final candidate is then selected. That nomination is then sent to a council of elders, who represent other lineages in the town or district. The Elders then present the nomination to the assembled people.

If the assembled citizens disapprove of the nominee, the process is restarted. Chosen, the new chief is en-stooled by the Elders, who admonish him with expectations. The chosen chief swears a solemn oath to the Earth Goddess and to his ancestors to fulfill his duties honorably in which he “sacrifices” himself and his life for the betterment of the Oman (State).

                                               

This elected and en-stooled chief enjoys a great majestic ceremony to this day with much spectacle and celebration. He reigns with much despotic power, including the ability to make judgments of life and death on his subjects. However, he does not enjoy absolute rule. Upon the stool, the Chief is sacred, the holy intermediary between people and ancestors. His powers theoretically are more apparent than real. His powers hinge on his attention to the advice and decisions of the Council of Elders. The chief can be impeached, de-stooled, if the Elders and the people turn against him. He can be reduced to man, subject to derision for his failure. There are numerous Ashanti sayings that reflect the attitudes of the Ashanti towards government.

"When a king has good counselors, his reign is peaceful"

"One man does not rule a nation"

"The reign of vice does not last"

From 1806 until 1896, the Asante Union was in a perpetual state of war involving expansion or defense of its domain. The Asante's exploits against other African forces made it the paramount power in the region. Its impressive performance against the British also earned it the respect of European powers. Far less known than its Zulu contemporaries, Asanteman was one of the few African states to decisively defeat the British Empire in not only a battle but a war.

                                             

During the 19th century, the Ashanti fought several wars with the British.

Asante-Fante War

In 1806, the Ashanti pursued two rebel leaders through Fante territory to the coast. The war began when the Asantehene of the Ashanti charged some people with robbing graves. The Fante promptly gave refuge to the accused, who were people from Assin, and Osei Bonsu thus sent an army against the Fante. At Abora, four miles from Cape Coast, a battle was fought, in which the Ashanti were able to capture their own people charged for robbing the grave - this was their victory. However, the Fante were but a handful compared to the mighty Ashanti army and still managed to see off the thousand men sent awaiting for a thousand more to come. A British agent representing the African Company of Merchants at Cape Coast sheltered the accused grave robbers, whilst the Ashanti went on to attack the fort at Kormantine (Fort Amsterdam) of their old allies the Dutch.

The British refusal to surrender the rebels led to an Ashanti attack. This was devastating enough that the British handed over a rebel; the other escaped. The British then tried to make friends with the Ashanti, and Colonel Torrane, who was in charge at Cape Coast, most treacherously handed an old and blind Assin king called Kwadwo Otibu to the Asantehene, although he knew the old man would be killed; which he was.

First Anglo-Ashanti War

The First Anglo-Ashanti War was from 1823 to 1831. In 1823 Sir Charles MacCarthy, rejecting Ashanti claims to Fanti areas of the coast and resisting overtures by the Ashanti to negotiate, led an invading force from the Cape Coast. He was defeated and killed by the Ashanti, and the heads of MacCarthy and Ensign Wetherall were kept as trophies. At the Battle of Nsamankow, MacCarthy's troops (who had not joined up with the other columns) were overrun. Major Alexander Gordon Laing returned to Britain with news of their fate.

The Ashanti swept down to the coast, but disease forced them back. The Ashanti were so successful in subsequent fighting that in 1826 they again moved on the coast. At first they fought very impressively in an open battle against superior numbers of British allied forces, including Denkyirans. However, the novelty of British Congreve rockets caused the Ashanti army to withdraw. In 1831, the Pra River was accepted as the border in a treaty, and there were thirty years of peace.

Second Anglo-Ashanti War

The Second Anglo-Ashanti War was from 1863 to 1864. With the exception of a few minor Ashanti skirmishes across the Pra in 1853 and 1854, the peace between the Ashanti and the British Empire had remained unbroken for over 30 years. Then, in 1863, a large Ashanti delegation crossed the river pursuing a fugitive, Kwesi Gyana. There was fighting, with casualties on both sides, but the governor's request for troops from England was declined and sickness forced the withdrawal of his West Indian troops. With both sides losing more men to sickness than any other factor, in 1864 the war ended in a stalemate.

Third Anglo-Ashanti War

A bush fight, Third Anglo-Ashanti War. The Graphic 1874The Third Anglo-Ashanti War lasted from 1873 to 1874. In 1869 a German missionary family and a Swiss missionary had been taken to Kumasi. They were hospitably treated, but a ransom was required for them. In 1871 Britain purchased the Dutch Gold Coast from the Dutch, including Elmina which was claimed by the Ashanti. The Ashanti invaded the new British protectorate.

General Garnet Wolseley with 2,500 British troops and several thousand West Indian and African troops (including some Fante) was sent against the Ashanti, and subsequently became a household name in Britain. The war was covered by war correspondents, including Henry Morton Stanley and G. A. Henty. Military and medical instructions were printed for the troops. The British government refused appeals to interfere with British armaments manufacturers who sold to both sides.

Wolseley went to the Gold Coast in 1873, and made his plans before the arrival of his troops in January 1874. He fought the Battle of Amoaful on January 31 of that year, and, after five days' fighting, ended with the Battle of Ordahsu. The capital, Kumasi, was abandoned by the Ashanti and was briefly occupied by the British and burned. The British were impressed by the size of the palace and the scope of its contents, including "rows of books in many languages." The Asantahene, the ruler of the Ashanti signed a harsh British treaty, the Treaty of Fomena in July 1874, to end the war. Wolseley completed the campaign in two months, and re-embarked them for home before the unhealthy season began. Most of the 300 British casualties were from disease. Wolseley left behind a power vacuum which led to more fighting, as the Asantahene could no longer control the former vassal tribes.

Some British accounts pay tribute to the hard fighting of the Ashanti at Amoaful, particularly the tactical insight of their commander, Amanquatia: "The great Chief Amanquatia was among the killed. Admirable skill was shown in the position selected by Amanquatia, and the determination and generalship he displayed in the defence fully bore out his great reputation as an able tactician and gallant soldier."

Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War

Map from 1896 of the British Gold Coast Colony show the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War was a brief war, from 1894 to 1896. The Ashanti turned down an unofficial offer to become a British protectorate in 1891, extending to 1894. Wanting to keep French and German forces out of Ashanti territory (and its gold), the British were anxious to conquer the Ashanti once and for all. The war started on the pretext of failure to pay the fines levied on the Ashanti monarch by the Treaty of Fomena after the 1874 war.

Sir Francis Scott left Cape Coast with the main expedition force of British and West Indian troops in December 1895, and arrived in Kumasi in January 1896. The Asantehene directed the Ashanti to not resist. Soon, Governor William Maxwell arrived in Kumasi as well. Robert Baden-Powell led a native levy of several local tribes in the campaign. Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh was arrested and deposed. He was forced to sign a treaty of protection, and with other Ashanti leaders was sent into exile in the Seychelles.

War of the Golden Stool
In the War of the Golden Stool (1900), the remaining Ashanti court not exiled to the Seychelles mounted an offensive against the British and Fanti troops resident at the Kumasi Fort, but were defeated. Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen-Mother of Ejisu and other Ashanti leaders were also sent to the Seychelles. The Ashanti territories became part of the Gold Coast colony on 1 January 1902.

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                  News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
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Filmmaker Keith Beauchamp’s The Injustice Files: Sundown Towns on Investigation Discovery refocused attention on what is now known as “sundown towns,” places where blacks were not welcomed “after the sun went down” and, in some instances, purposely driven out altogether. The Grio: ‘Sundown Towns’ under a spotlight in new Investigation Discovery documentary.
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Some of these areas warned black people by signage that, if caught there after dark, they could be killed. Most, however, were known to do so, especially among African-Americans in the area, by rumor and reputation.

In 2005, James W. Loewen, an American sociologist, historian and author who first taught at historically black college Tougaloo in Jackson, Mississippi, explored this practice in his book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. Loewen, best known for his bestselling 1995 book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, insists that the phenomenon of “sundown towns” are largely Northern and not Southern, focusing heavily on his native Illinois.

This idea, however, that Midwestern towns and those in other areas outside the South actively created “sundown towns” has largely been ignored by the media. In the United States, racism is most often viewed as a Southern reality and, thus, the media has largely stuck to that script. In 2006, for example, the one-time CNN show Paula Zahn Now, sparked by Loewen’s book, spotlighted the Texas town of Vidor near Beaumont.

Loewen challenges this notion in his 2009 article “Sundown Towns and Counties: Racial Exclusion in the South,” for the academic journal Southern Cultures  by calling Hollywood out for films like 1997′s Grosse Pointe Blank, which failed to indicate that the Detroit suburb “was off-limits to blacks throughout the era it depicts . . .” and, likewise, the more well-known 1986 film Hoosiers has black players and black people in the stands for a basketball game in Jasper, Indiana in the 1950s when that was highly unlikely.
 


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Public high school students will soon have a new piece of media, along with films like classroom mainstay Roots, to teach about the horrors and legacy of slavery. Shadow and Act: '12 Years A Slave' To Be Taught In Public High Schools Next School Year.
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Since 12 Years A Slave was released last year, director Steve McQueen has spoken about his desire to see Solomon Northup's autobiography of the same name integrated into school curricula. It looks like he'll finally get his wish as the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has partnered with New Regency, Penguin Books, and Fox Searchlight to distribute copies of the 1853 memoir, along with the acclaimed film and accompanying study guide to America’s public high schools.

The initiative, organized by talk show host and NSBA spokesperson Montel Williams, is modeled after a program that Williams developed to integrate the film Glory into public schools years ago.

"12 Years a Slave is one of the most impactful films in recent memory, and I am honored to have been able to bring together Fox Searchlight and National School Boards Association to maximize its educational potential. When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool. This film uniquely highlights a shameful period in American history, and in doing so will evoke in students a desire to not repeat the evils of the past while inspiring them to dream big of a better and brighter future, and I’m proud to be a part of that," said Williams in an announcement released this weekend.

This comes as good news, as media becomes increasingly important to reaching students accustomed to getting their information from the moving image and the web. It would be nice to see other issue-centered films, for example Fruitvale Station, take up this model as well, even in excerpt form.

                '12 Years A Slave'

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The diversity gap at the Academy Awards. The Grio: Few black winners in award show’s 85-year history.
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The biggest night in Hollywood is set to take place this Sunday as the 86th Academy Awards honor the most distinguished individuals in the film industry.

The night also marks the 75th anniversary of Hattie McDaniel taking home the Oscar for best supporting actress in Gone with the Wind – becoming the first African-American in history to win an Academy Award.

However, in the 85 years since the academy was first established, few other African-Americans have been recognized or won. According to research conducted by Lee & Low books, striking information highlights the diversity gap in the Academy Awards since it first formed in 1927.

Since its inception, the academy has been dominated by whites males. Overall, the academy consists of  6,000-plus nominated film industry veterans while active members cast votes to determine annual nominees and winners.

Currently, according to Lee & Low, that voting pool is 94 percent white. Of the remaining 6 percent, research shows that 2 percent of the academy is black, less than 2 percent is Latino and less than 1 percent is Asian and Native American.

As for the diversity – or lack thereof – of Oscar winners, only one person of color has ever been awarded the best actress title and that recognition went to Halle Berry in 2002 for her role in Monster’s Ball.

For the best actor category, only 7 percent of the winners have been minority members including Sidney Poitier (1963), Ben Kingsley (1982), Denzel Washington (2001), Jamie Foxx (2004) and Forest Whitaker (2006).

Academy Award Oscar statuette

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Hollywood can’t handle black actresses. Talking Point Memo: Let’s Stop With The African-American Actress Fade To Black.
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With her first major film role and already-earned legendary spot on the fashion scene, Lupita Nyong’o — best known for her phenomenal performance as Patsey in 12 Years A Slave — has marked her presence in Hollywood. From her endearing award acceptance speeches to her delightful interviews, Nyong’o has proven she can handle stardom with aplomb, but we’ve seen the story of a rising black actress before, only to not hear much of her ever again. Will Hollywood avoid its biases and allow her to continue to shine?

Nyong’o, who isn’t African-American but a Mexican-born Kenyan actress, has become one of the most anticipated stars on any red carpet. Tumblr and Pinterest are filled with Lupita Lookbooks and fan art of her ensembles. She has graced several magazine covers and sat next to Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, during Fashion Week, but even Nyong’o herself wants to make sure people see her as an actress first and fashion figure second. In the press room after winning Best Supporting Actress Screen Actors Guild award, Nyong’o said that she doesn’t feels pressure to be a fashion icon because her first love is acting and she doesn’t want her career to be overshadowed.

It was important for her to issue this gracious yet firm reminder because as of right now, she only has one additional acting credit following 12 Years a Slave, which is the Liam Neeson action thriller Non-Stop. Nyong’o plays a flight attendant named Gwen, but in the trailers, she doesn’t speak, and early reviews suggest she doesn’t have much to do in the film overall. Rather, white actress and Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery, who also plays a flight attendant, features much more prominently in the film’s promotion. Her IMDB page lists no projects in production, and there haven’t been any announcements — official or otherwise — to indicate any pending projects.

So what will Hollywood do with Nyong’o, the breakout star of the season? There are plenty of options for her — if she’s offered roles outside of what’s typically offered black actresses. Academy Award nominee Viola Davis has been vocal about the dearth of expansive roles made available to black actresses. Davis has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, for the films Doubt and The Help, each maddeningly for the role of a domestic worker. Davis vowed never to play a maid again, but the films she has appeared in haven’t carried the same kind of profile as those in the films for which she was nominated.

                 Lupita Nyong’o, picture by John Shearer


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As Haitian President Michel Martelly and Senate President Simon Desras join Pope Francis in Rome to welcome Haiti’s first cardinal some are praying for divine intervention to resolve the political crisis back home. Miami Herald: Global leaders call on Haiti’s feuding factions to salvage talks, elections.
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A high-level delegation of former presidents from around the globe ended a three-day mission to Haiti on Friday, calling on the country’s bickering political factions to sign an accord to salvage the long overdue elections that Haitian President Michel Martelly promised would take place this year.

Cassam Uteem, head of the Club de Madrid leadership forum and former president of Mauritus, said the ongoing disagreement between Martelly and the opposition is leaving social problems unattended, and puts a poverty-stricken Haiti at risk of a social explosion.

Uteem’s sounding of the alarm comes as Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe this week welcomed a $6.3 million emergency development plan to build roads, reenforce health and education and provide micro-credit, food kits and 1,000 goats for the 45,000 people living on Île de la Tortue, hoping to address residents’ desperate plight.

The island shouldering Haiti’s northwest coast is again becoming a popular jumping off point for unscrupulous smugglers promising to take Haitians to the United States, Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. In recent months, dozens of migrants have died at sea trying to make the dangerous voyage.

Haiti

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The President's "My Brother's Keeper" effort aims to break down societal barriers to success for Black male youth Ebony.com: White House Announces Young Black Male Empowerment Initiative.
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[The] White House will launch the "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, in order to empower Black boys and young men of color and to help break down societal barriers to success.  
Citing the disproportionate number of Black male and Latino youth who are lagging behind in school, are suspended or expelled, arrested or incarcerated in juvenile centers and victims of murder, President Obama will gather General Colin Powell, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Adam Silver, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, Magic Johnson and more in the East Room, to begin building a coalition that will work towards solutions to the challenges facing young men of color.

To support this initiative, the President will also sign a Presidential Memorandum today, establishing the interagency My Brother's Keeper Task Force, which will identify and expand upon ideas across the country that are working for young Black males. The task force will assess federal laws and regulations that impact Black boys and young men, provide an online best practices portal for communities to see which strategies are working, create a website to update the public on the progress of the initiative and make suggestions to the President for continued growth and development for future generations of young Black males.

President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013.



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Originally posted to Black Kos community on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 01:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and Support the Dream Defenders.

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