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Middle Passage  

Anita Rupprecht

The term “Middle Passage” invokes the unparalleled experience of dispossession, suffering, community, and resistance associated with the global and globalizing history of forced African transportation and racial enslavement between the 16th and 19th centuries. Over nearly four centuries, an estimated 12.5 million Africans endured this sea passage, and nearly two million Africans died. “Middle Passage” is freighted with multiple allusions, however, having been first popularized in the late 18th century by European abolitionists campaigning against the horrors of the slave trade and latterly appropriated as a powerful political and cultural symbol for the historical travails of African diasporic peoples. It still carries older Eurocentric meanings, even as Black Atlantic cultural memory and Africanist scholars have shifted its historical and cultural references.

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The History of Angola  

Jeremy Ball

Angola’s contemporary political boundaries resulted from 20th-century colonialism. The roots of Angola, however, reach far into the past. When Portuguese caravels arrived in the Congo River estuary in the late 15th century, independent African polities dotted this vast region. Some people lived in populous, hierarchical states such as the Kingdom of Kongo, but most lived in smaller political entities centered on lineage-village settlements. The Portuguese colony of Angola grew out of a settlement established at Luanda Bay in 1576. From its inception, Portuguese Angola existed to profit from the transatlantic slave trade, which became the colony’s economic foundation for the next three centuries. A Luso-African population and a creole culture developed in the colonial nuclei of Luanda and Benguela (founded 1617). The expansion of the colonial state into the interior occurred intermittently until the end of the 19th century, when Portuguese authorities initiated a series of wars of conquest that lasted up until the end of the First World War. During the 20th century, the colonial state consolidated military control over the whole territory, instituted an infrastructure of administration, and developed an economy of resource extraction. A nationalist sentiment developed among Luso-African thinkers in the early 20th century, and by the 1950s these ideas coalesced into a nationalist movement aimed at independence. Simultaneously, anticolonial movements developed among mission-educated elites in the Kikongo-speaking north and in the Umbundu-speaking central highlands. Portugal’s authoritarian New State leaders brutally suppressed these disparate nationalist movements during more than a decade of guerrilla war. A revolution in Portugal in 1974 ushered in negotiations leading to Angolan independence on November 11, 1975. Competing nationalist movements, bolstered by foreign intervention, refused to share governance and as a result plunged Angola into a brutal civil war that lasted until 2002.