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Bill Fletcher Jr.

COMMENTARY: What about Cape Verdeans?

NNPA NEWSWIRE – The struggle for national liberation for Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde coincided with the energized Black Freedom Movement in the USA. Both of these movements had a profound impact on the thinking of Cape Verdean Americans leading to increasing “Black consciousness” and support for national liberation.

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Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com. And look for his new novel The Man Who Fell From the Sky.

By Bill Fletcher, Jr., NNPA Newswire Contributor

In a previous column I discussed why I chose to write the novel, The Man Who Fell From the Sky. Central to the novel is the Cape Verdean in the USA. But here’s the interesting thing. When I have mentioned Cape Verdeans to many knowledgeable people, they have no idea whom I am discussing. In other words, far too many of us have never heard of Cape Verdeans.

Nearly 400 miles off the coast of Senegal is found the Cape Verdean archipelago. Settled by the Portuguese in the 1600s, they became a transit point for African slaves stolen from the Continent on their way to the New World. The Portuguese settled the islands with prisoners, adventurers, slavers and slaves.

In the 19th century Cape Verdeans became the first post-1492 African population to come to the USA voluntarily. They came initially as whalers and fishermen, though later families migrated, often as a result of the periodic droughts on the Cape Verde islands. But they came as Portuguese colonial subjects speaking Portuguese and having a very different history than those originally brought to the USA as slaves. This created an unusual tension between the two populations of African descent. Should the Cape Verdeans consider themselves “Portuguese”, “Black” or something else?

The struggle for the independence of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde islands (which were considered one territory by the Portuguese colonialists) emerged in the 1950s and ultimately turned to armed struggle when the Portuguese repressed the demands for justice. One of the great leaders of this struggle was none other than the iconic Amilcar Cabral who was, himself, Cape Verdean. The struggle for national liberation for Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde coincided with the energized Black Freedom Movement in the USA. Both of these movements had a profound impact on the thinking of Cape Verdean Americans leading to increasing “Black consciousness” and support for national liberation.

I decided to look at this important population because they are frequently ignored in discussions about Black America. Either they are treated as just another group of African Americans albeit with “strange names” or they are not treated as being African American at all or they are unknown. Cape Verdeans, however, are part of what has made Black America, Black America. African Americans have evolved as a population beginning with those originally brought over as slaves and indentured servants to the influx of Cape Verdean voluntary migrants, to the migrations of Caribbean peoples to the USA and, particularly after 1965, migrants from other parts of Africa and Latin America to the USA. Black America is continuously evolving through the introduction of these new blood lines.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com. He recently published the murder mystery The Man Who Fell From the Sky.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Linda

    January 9, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Thank you for enlighning the public about Cape Verde. We are quite often mistaken for Spanish. We are proud of our African culture, thus we are African Americans

  2. Dinis

    January 10, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for shedding light on those of us who are Cape Verdean. The confusion comes from people assuming we are Portuguese because it is the official language however the majority of folks do not speak Portuguese. The native tongue is Kriolu which is a mixture of African and European languages.
    The other reason for the confusion is the birth certificate of everyone born on the islands prior to the hard-fought independence states country of birth Portugal. And of course the ramifications of being colonized. We are well known in New England.

  3. Gui

    January 10, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Sorry, I’m 100% Capeverdean but so far way of been African American. I’m not I’m Cape verdean and proud to be one I have no interest to be anything else. You must do lot’s of study and understand who are the Cape Verdeans. we are just slaves and slavers that just got to the Island.

  4. Sandra TurnerGlover

    January 18, 2019 at 6:53 am

    I am proud of my Cape Verdean heritage and saddened that we as a people have been “unknown” far too long. What is amazing to me is that our African brothers & sisters are not familiar with Cape Verdeans with the islands being off the coast of the Mother Land. It is my fervent dream to visit the birthplace of my maternal grandparents & meet cousins I’ve never met. Unfortunately, I do not speak the language but this is not a deterrent for the language of love transcends all.

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