It’s “Black History Month”, the shortest month of the year dedicated to the history of Black people in America.

As a child of Cape Verdean immigrants, some may say that I don’t have a direct connection to the history of Blacks in America, slavery, Jim Crow or even the Civil Rights Movement.

To those people AND my fellow Cape Verdean-Americans, here’s a little reminder…

Cape Verde was once the hub of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Where do we think some of the enslaved Africans who worked tobacco and cotton fields came from??? They were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and cousins to the very ancestors that worked sugar cane and coffee plantations in Santiago and Fogo and salt mines of Maio and Sal. Come on now, People!!!

And while I haven’t (yet) found a direct ancestor who picked cotton in the fields of Mississippi, I do know of my great-grandmother who picked cranberries and blueberries for pennies a week in Cape Cod. I know that she and other Cape Verdeans weren’t allowed to live in certain areas, use certain bathrooms or sit in certain seats. And they certainly weren’t allowed to vote.

Cape Verdeans were here before America was America. Cape Verdeans helped build this country and defend it in the same segregated military. It was a Cape Verdean who was the first Black representative of the Maryland Assembly in 1642! It was a Cape Verdean who became the first black Federal Judge, Hon. George Leighton (Leitão from Brava), and who was considered for appointment to the US Supreme Court along with Thurgood Marshall, who was later selected!

So the truth of it is, Black History month is about our history as well.

But what do I know… I’m just the proud daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants 😊

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7 Comments on “Just A Thought…

  1. To me, 1) Black history month can also be about the global impact blacks have ( Alexander Dumas; Simon Bolivar,etc) because as the “master” or the USA say 1% black makes you black; your other percentages do not matter; so by USA definition many globally important poeple are black; not just those descended of USA slaves. 2) African-Americans are those descended of those who do not know where in Africa they came from so they they claim the whole continent; people from Italy, Spain are not called Euro- Americans. 3)To be black in USA means to be African-American, what I reference in 2); Cape should be able to claim , be proud of and bolster their ethnicity, not simply a race, as other groups. Verdeans, black Cape Verdeans, for we know that the CV census DOES list people of various races being CV,. 4) Native Americans, Irish Americans, etc. went through and still go through similar societial challenges, 5) I am waiting for the day when we teach our children and society about wonderful Cape Verdean authors, literature, poetry and the proud heritage we share as the only people, other than the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, to come and go to and from USA on OUR OWN SHIPS/BOATS. 5) That we are mixed through unions/marriages not soley by RAPE! as many African American., whites ,etc . erroneously point out; and that pointling out our culture, Cape Verdean and OUR unique history and culture history does not negate our race, or makes us or any others less or better, though they m, others may think so. ^) I wish everyone would stop confusing, mixing and incorrectly using race, nationality, culture and ethnicity to define themselves/us/. AND as my wonderful grandpa taught me we are a group of many different people racially, culturally, etc. that went to island place, and I am referring to Brava, because thatwas were he lived, and created a new people rthrough love and sharing; we were not a conquered people we were a newly created populace and in Portuguese the verb to create or raise is CRIAR ; to for the past tense of this verb or created we drop the letters AR and have CRI to this we add OU which gives us CRIOU; we add LO (masc) or LA (FEM) SO we are either CRIOULA or CRIOULO; NOT KRIOULO; also we are not Hatian or from Louisiana, CREOLE; we are NOT Portuguese CREOLE; WE ARE / I AM CRIOULA/CRIOULO/CRIOULOS ! WE DEFINE OURSELVES and what it is is what it is! I /We do NOT need nor should we want to be so ignorant of our rich history that we would have our identity dictated to us by others. Greek, Italia, etc all are caucasian but proud and have recognized cultural histories, customs, similar yet unique. We CAPE VERDEANS that is who we are; that is our culture; lets celebrate this as well as the many other cutures in the black race, not only the culture of blacks descended of the USA who came on someone elses boats.They are rightfully proud of their strengths and heroes, so are WE and we can c educate and contribute greatly to BLACK HISTORY by recognizing our culture and its MANY contributions. Under Portuguese rule Cape Verdean did not learn of Cape Verde/Crioulos as a people and under the one culture rule/African Americans in the USA we are again negated as a people.

    • MARIA–My family is African-American and we discovered our Portuguese origins solely through
      genetic testing. I suspect that our family is but “the tip of the iceberg” of the millions of us African-Americans who share Portuguese descent with our Cabo Verdeano cousins! 🙂 I have been conducting an ethnographic study of our family, and three of us began the genetic testing process to find out our various African origins. We already knew of our Native American origins but I wanted to identify our African genetic heritages.

      1. Your article points out many factors of African origins including rape, and it is equally true that not
      all African-Americans here descended from rape between colonial European males and enslaved African women. Consensual unions/marriages between Europeans, Native Americans and Africans in the New world were often NOT documented, and were “illegal” in the United States. One of the prevailing “myths” concerning African-Americans is that we were “only from West Africa.” The fact is,
      the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade involved the ENTIRE African continent, not just West Africa. People
      conveniently “forget” that although many slaves were shipped from West Africa, there were huge
      numbers of slaves shipped from EAST AFRICA. The Africans on those slave ships, however,
      came from THE ENTIRE CONTINENT of Africa. This shows up whenever we African-Americans
      get genetic testing. My own genetic profile, for example, contains multiple African genetic lines
      from North, West, and East Africa, in addition to a huge contribution of Middle Eastern/Levantine
      heritage, including Arab Israeli, Yemenite and Lebanese.

      2. My mother’s genetic profile was heavily Southern and Eastern African, including TIKAR, which is
      a catch-all term for several ethnic groups (Bamileke and Ewondo, et al) which settled in Cameroon
      in the 1200’s-1300’s AD. However, these groups were originally Jews/Hebrews of Egypt and Sudan,
      who had fled southwest across the African continent. In fact, the bulk of African-Americans, like
      their Cabo Verdeano counterparts, are descendants of various groups of African Hebrews, who
      populated not only North and West Africa, but also Central Africa, East Africa and Southern
      Africa. As you correctly observed, African-Americans often claim the entire continent, until we get
      genetic testing and can then more accurately pinpoint specific origins and ethnic heritages.
      However, it is equally true that we can claim the entire African continent, because African-Americans LITERALLY come from the entire African continent, NOT just West Africa.

      3. Just as most Cabo Verdeano families derive from Portuguese Sephardic Jews (in addition to their
      numerous African genetic lines), many African Americans also derive from not only Portuguese
      Sephardic Jews, but also the ancient African Hebrew populations that were concentrated in various
      regions of the African continent, including North, East, West, Central and Southern Africa.
      The Portuguese Jews were themselves descendants of Afro-Asiatic populations that had dispersed
      throughout the Mediterranean, Western Asia, North and Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the ancient Afro-Asiatic Jews that settled in the Iberian peninsula, the Portuguese imported over 150,000 to 400,000 Africans into Portugal between 1444 and 1492. These Africans were also from North,
      West, Northwest and East Africa and they were gradually assimilated into the Iberian Portuguese
      populations.

      Note: You may wish to use genetic testing services to ferret out all the African groups in which you
      have genetic heritage. We used these services: African Ancestry; DNA Tribes and DNA Ancestry.
      Both African Ancestry and DNA Ancestry can test your Mitochondrial line (maternal X chromosome)
      and Y-DNA lines (paternal Y chromosome). To get the Y-DNA line in your family, you will need to
      test a male sibling or your father. Your autosomal DNA is the combined 23+23 chromosomes of both your mother and father, and this will yield the additional African, European and Middle Eastern
      genetic origins in your family on both sides.

      4. There is also the unique Cabo Verdeano contribution to African-American populations, particularly here in the Northeastern and New England states. There were two men of Cabo Verdeano
      origin in my own Black Pentecostal church here in Connecticut–they identified themselves
      at that time( 1950’s–1970’s) as “Portuguese”, as did many other Black citizens of Cabo Verdeano descent. However, I suspect that this identification came also from their distinct linguistic profile as speakers of Portuguese and Kriolu. (Although the Iberian Portuguese did not want to regard
      African peoples as equally “Portuguese”, it is also true that Cabo Verdeano people were legally
      Portuguese citizens until the Portuguese finally gave up their empire in 1975.)

      The history of African peoples in the New World is a complex and complicated tapestry woven
      from multiple strands of genes, chromosomes, languages, cultures and ethnic groups impacted
      by not only the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, but also the migrations of our families across the
      continents and oceans, and across the millenia of time!

    • SHELLEY–Please see what I wrote in reply to Maria. I began genetic testing with my family, and there are different kinds of tests that reveal different genetic information. You have two kinds of DNA–your Mitochondrial and Y-Dna, which specifically corresponds to the X chromosome of the maternal line, and Y chromosome of the paternal line; and autsosomal DNA, which is the combined 23+23 chromosomes of your DNA, You will have a mixture of ethnic groups, which will include your African,
      European, Native/Indigenous American (if that is in your family) and Middle Eastern/Levantine
      groups. Different tests offered by different countries yield different results, depending upon what they
      test for, and also, depending upon how many ethnic groups are represented in their databases.
      Some tests–such as DNA Ancestry–will give you genetic matches to other people who have tested with the company. These will be your distant relatives from several generations. Other tests only
      focus upon the specific X or Y Dna, which is your most ancient DNA.

  2. I grew up not really knowing where my roots were from.. As a 5 year old child I can recall my mother telling me that I was “human” in response to “What am I??”. It wasn’t until preteen year that I figured out that she was Puerto Rican. However, I had no clue why my skin was darker than hers. Or why we were not raised as being such. I later was introduced to a cousin from my father’s side who told me that I was also Cape Verdean. Groing into my teenage years, I moved in with my Dad. We frequented trips home to New Bedford, Ma. So, naturally with such a culture rich enviornment, I learned more and more about my roots. However, more recently, I stumbled into the deeper, somewhat darker history of our ancestors. I learned of Lancados and their purpose of creation. It saddened me, mostly because my Cape Verdean relatives boasted of being the only descendants from Africa coming to the US free of will.. Knowing my great grandfather hated for my father, uncles and cousins to identify with the black race. What excited me about this article was learning about the first black Judge that you spoke of, Judge Leighton (Leitao). I know for a fact that my great grandmother’s maiden name was Leitao. she, prided her name so much that my Nana and some great aunts and uncles carry Leitao as their middle names. This, nturally lead to to the belief that we possibly come from the same family. Entirelly possible, considering my great grandparents would have been born in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. I would love to find out how close these connections could actually be.

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