Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brong People of Ghana

In an upcoming episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (24 February 2012), actor Blair Underwood learns that 22% of his genetic ethnicity is related to the Brong people of Ghana.  The Brong people speak one of the languages of the Akan family.  Other Akan-speakers are the Fante and Asante peoples of Ghana. 

During the era of the slave trade, Ghana was known as the Gold Coast.  Akan-speaking Africans were also known as “Coromantees,” even though very few could have come from the small fishing village of Koromanti.  John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998 [1992]), 321-322.

Philip D. Curtin estimated that 16.0% of Africans brought to Virginia from 1710 through 1769 were from the Gold Coast, as were 13.3% of Africans imported to South Carolina from 1733 through 1807.  Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 157.

South Carolinians, in fact, had a strong preference for slaves from the Gold Coast.  On July 17, 1755, South Carolina merchant and planter Henry Laurens explained the preferences of the South Carolina slave market to merchants Smith & Clifton:  “Gold Coast or Gambia's are best….”  James A. Rawley, London, Metropolis of the Slave Trade (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2003), 87.  For more on Blair Underwood's genealogy results, please visit the post here.

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