Guinea-Bissau, Domingos Ramos

Domingos Ramos, a commander in the conflict against European Portugal for the independence of Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau), is featured on our banknote.

Ivory Coast – Queen Pokou’s Remarkable Story

Western Africa CFA franc

The capital letter “A” adjacent to the serial number, above, is the indicator that this banknote is for the Ivory Coast, officially the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. The West African CFA franc is the currency for eight west African states, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Each is distinguished by a single letter adjacent to the serial number.

The banknote features a symbol of the Ashanti people. It is a bronze, sawfish – shaped, weight utilized by the people for measuring out gold. Beside and behind aresymbols of science, medicine and educations.

Western Africa CFA franc

The Ashanti people, also spelled Asante, dwell in south-central Ghana and Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. A former Asante state1 had for its capital Kumasi, a city currently in Ghana, the neighbor of the Ivory Coast. The Asante empire arose in the 17th century where several tribes united under King Kumasi. 2 In the 18th century, some of the tribe moved to the Ivory Coast under the leadership of Princess Pokou. She established the Akan tribe in the Ivory Coast which is prominent to this day.3.

In the 18th century, one tribe decided to depart from the main Asante tribe that had been brought together under the reign of king Kumasai in Ghana in the 17th century. A story is told that an endeavor to further consolidate power among the already united tribes, was a catalyst for one tribe to break off and depart. The dispute over power erupted into a war; and a portion of the people broke away and fled westward toward Ivory Coast in search of new land. The breakaways departed under the leadership of Princess Pokou.

Pokou had been born into royalty as Princess Ewurabena Pokou early in the 18th century. She was a niece of a co-founder of the Ashanti empire. She was given the name abena, the name traditionally given to a girl born on a Tuesday, as signifies that she will grow to be a bold independent and powerful woman. And so it was. She was accompanied by many people, together with her priest.

Pursued by the Asante warriors, they continued westward until their progress was blocked by a river full of agitated crocodiles. Pressed by warriors behind and blocked by crocodiles ahead, the Princess sought guidance from her priest, who informed her that, to pass unmolested, she must sacrifice the thing most dear to her in life. Weeping, she cast her son into the river and the hippopotami arose holding back the crocodiles. A pathway opened, and the Queen and her tribe passed through unmolested. Then the hippopatami submerged, the crocodiles returned, and the pursuing warriors reached the river’s edge. Seeing that they could not cross, the warriors abandoned the pursuit, and the new tribe was safe in their new land.4 On the far bank of the river, the distraught Queen could only utter one word, “baouli”, which means the child is dead, and so the tribe has been known ever since.

“A powerful kingdom called Bhaooree, which has hitherto successfully resisted the Ashantees, was described to be westward,”5 so records the journal of British historian in 1817. The Baoule6 continued to grow and propser, and, today, is one of the greatest in the Ivory Coast to this day. The first president of Ivory Coast was drawn from their ranks. Their farms are among the most prosperous and industrious. The Baoule are renowned for their arts.

By many accounts Queen Pokou ruled her people with wisdom and grace, renowned for he abilities in resolving the disputes common among any peoples, and guiding her people into peace and prosperity.


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The flag of Benin and the coat of arms are illustrated above.

Mauritania – ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata

Cow in front of ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti,
Tichitt and Oualata
Ardin harp

Ksour (plural) or Ksar (singular) is a North African Arabic terms meaning signifying a castle or a village. Often they included withing a single surrounding fortified wall houses and granaries, shops, baths and mosques. They became the seeds of flourishing communities and centers of Islamic development in the region.

There were four such ksour in Mauritania and they are remembered on this banknote. They are Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata. These have now been designated UNESCO world heritage sites.


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Guinea Bissau

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The flag and coat of arms of Guinea Bissau are shown above.

The region experienced European visitations as early as the mid 15th century.1 2

Cape Verde

Cape Verde 2000 escudos front 2015
Cape Verde 200 escudos back 2015


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Ghana….her flag and coat of arms are illustrated above.

The prime meridian passes through Ghana, and only 7 other countries 1 in the world. The equator lies just 4 degrees south of Ghana, far nearer than any of those other 7 states, making Ghana nearer to that notional global center2 of the world than any other country.

For stories from Ghana, select any of the banknote icons above.

The prime meridian has a somewhat interesting history, and is a marker of the scientific progress of nations, not dissimilar from the monolith on the moon documented3 in 2001 A Space Odyssey; a first place medal we might say, in a specific, albeit antiquated, race. But, finally, it is entirely arbitrary. The equator, however, was established by God.4.

Ghana was formerly known as the Gold Coast. The name hearkens back to the colonial era when European nations were racing to capture resources for growth world wide. And the gold of that land is good.


Ghana 2 cedis front 1979
Ghana 2 cedis back 1979


Ghana 1 cedi front 1979
Ghana 1 cedi back 1979


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The Place where the King lives; 1 so means the name and so named is this country, the remnant of an empire as magnificent as its wealth was unimaginable. Stretching from the Atlantic Ocean two thousand miles inland, beyond Timbuktu, and encompassing the mighty Niger River bend, for four hundred years the Mali empire continued, the largest and richest in the history of West Africa.

Sundiata Keita, the Lion Prince2, the founder of the empire, was born a cripple, and therefore his life was spared. The king was suspicious of Sundiata’s father and had eleven of his sons, Sundiata’s brothers, put to death to prevent challenges to his rule. But the king did not fear a cripple, and so Sundiata was spared. Exiled, Sundiata began wearing iron leg braces at age 7, and, after long and painful effort, he became able to walk unaided in his mature years.

His countrymen prevailing upon him to return from exile and deliver his people, Sundiata returned, and, with talented generals and the secret aid of his sister3, overthrew the evil king, Symangurur, and founded the empire that would last four centuries and astonish the world with its accumulated wealth.

A hundred years later, Musa ascended the throne becoming known as Mansa Musa I4. While Islam had been introduced into the region for generation, Mansa Musa I became the first ruler of Mali to truly embrace the religion. In 1324 he embarked on his first, and what has become subsequently world renowned, pilgrimage to Mecca. As noted in the 2019 Smithsonian exhibition, Musa brought with him on his journey 8,000 courtiers, 12,000 slaves, and 100 camels each carrying 300 pounds of gold5 “The streets were littered with gold”, says Thad Morgan, writer for “This is the richest guy anyone has ever seen, that’s the point,” says Rudolph Ware, associate professor of history at the University of Michigan .7

Guinea-Bissau 1000 Peso 1993 banknote back (3), featuring allegory “Apoteose ao Triunfo”, which translates from the Portuguese as, the “Glorification of Triumph”

Guinea-Bissau the Glorification of Triumph

Guinea-Bissau 1000 Peso Banknote – Face and Back

Portuguese Guinea was a West African colony of Portugal from the late 15th century until 1973 when it declared independence from Portugal as Guinea-Bissau.  The Glorification of Triumph is celebrated in this beautiful banknote.

Guinea-Bissau 1000 Peso Banknote back, featuring the allegory named “Apoteose ao Triunfo”

The beautiful artwork on the back of this banknote is the allegory named “Apoteose ao Triunfo”, which translates from the Portuguese as, the “Glorification of Triumph”.  In the foreground are men and women and children bringing forth in celebration the bounty of the land.  And in the background, as if illustrating what is in their minds as they celebrate, are universal images of triumph and glory.  In the foreground, the man standing on the right is holding an arade, a classic farming instrument of the region.  Everywhere there is bounty.  In the lower right there is a chicken and a goat.  In the center foreground there are baskets abounding with the tropical fruits of the land.  Standing on the right, a woman is holding a basket of fish, while seated on the left, one is pouring a cup of nectar.  All the while, musical instruments are being played.

Guinea-Bissau 1000 Peso Banknote front
1000 pesos banknote of Guinea-Bissau

From 1975 to 1997, the peso was the currency of Guinea-Bissau from 1975 to 1997.  In 1997 Guinea-Bissau switched to the West African CFA franc.

map of Giuinea-Bissau
map of Giuinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau is on the West coast of Africa immediately South of Senegal.  It’s complex coastline, as seen in the image2

at the left, with its numerous islands bays and inlets, was attractive to the early Portuguese explorers.  They claimed the territory and named it Portuguese Guinea in 1446.

Portuguese Guinea became a major export port for the Portuguese Atlantic Slave Trade.

Nigeria 5 Naira 2015 banknote back (2), featuring Nkpokiti Drummers

Nigeria – Nkpokiti Drummers

Nigeria 5 Naira Banknote, Year 2015 – Face and Back
Nigeria 5 Naira Banknote, year 2015 back
Nigeria 5
Nigeria 5 Naira Banknote, year 2015 front
Nigeria 5
closeup of portrail on Nigeria 5 Naira Banknote, year 2015 front
Detail from front
closeup of dancers on Nigeria 5 Naira Banknote, year 2015 back
Detail from Nigeria 5 Naira Banknote
Nigeria 10 Naira 2011 banknote back (2)

Nigeria – 2011

Nigeria 10 Naira Banknote, Year 2011 – Face and Back
Nigeria 10 Naira Banknote, year 2011 back, featuring women carrying
Nigeria 10
closeup detail of women on Nigeria 10 Naira Banknote, Year 2011, back
Nigeria 10 Naira Banknote, Year 2011, front, featuring portrait
Nigeria 10
closeup detail of women on Nigeria 10 Naira Banknote, Year 2011, back
closeup detail on Nigeria 10 Naira Banknote, Year 2011, front
closeup detail of portrait on Nigeria 10 Naira Banknote, Year 2011, front
Guinea 100 Franc 1960 banknote front (2)

Guinea – 1960

Guinea 100 Francs Banknote – Face and Back
Guinea 100 Francs Banknote  back, featuring banana harvest
Guinea 100 Francs Banknote front

October 2, 1958, Guinea declared independence from France.

In 1959, the Guinean franc banknote was issued to replace the CFA franc.  In 1960, 1st Mars, the date of our banknote, the 2nd issue of the Guinean franc was issued.1

Historically, the Guinea region was one of the first parts of Africa to trade with Europeans.

In 1478 (during the War of the Castilian Succession), a Castilian armada of 35 caravels and a Portuguese fleet fought the battle of Guinea in the waters off Elmina, for the hegemony of the Guinea trade (gold, slaves, ivory and black pepper). The war ended both with a Portuguese naval victory and the official recognition by the Catholic Monarchs of the Portuguese sovereignty over most of the African territories in dispute (Treaty of Alcáçovas, 1479).[9][10] This was the first colonial war among European powers. Many more would come. After the Portuguese and Castilians came the Dutch, French and British.

The extensive trade in ivory, gold, and slaves made the region wealthy, with a number of centralized kingdoms developing in the 18th and 19th centuries. These were much smaller than the large states of the wide-open Sahel, but they had far higher population densities and were more centralized politically. The cohesion of these kingdoms caused the region to show more resistance to European incursions than other areas of Africa. Such resistance, combined with a disease environment hostile to Europeans, meant that much of Guinea was not colonised by Europeans until the very end of the 19th century2

map of Guinea togo and slave coast 2
The Region of Guinea, Negroland and Guinea with the European Settlements”Herman Moll, 1727, published in Wikipedia article, nea
French West Africa 5 Francs 1941 banknote front (2)

French West Africa 5 Franc – June 1941

French West Africa 5 Franc Banknote, Year 1941 – Face and Back
French West Africa 5 franc banknote 1941 front, featuring portrait of a leader
French West Africa, 1941, front, 5 francs

June 3, 1941 is the date on our French West African banknote, colonies of France.

June 3, 1941, is just about one year after Germany began to effectively “colonize” France in 1940 with its invasion at the commencement of WW2.  And it’s just about 3 years before June 6, 1944, D-Day, when the Allied invasion in French Normandy commenced, leading to the Independence of France from its colonizers.

Our banknote is a glimpse into French West Africa, during the time that its colonizer was being colonized.

French West Africa 5 franc banknote 1941 back
French West Africa, 1941, back, 5 francs

The back of our banknote illustrates a weaver at his trade in French West Africa,  There is a glorious tradition to the craft worldwide, and Africa is prominent.1


Our banknote is a relic of the sins of the past.  It is testament to changing sensibilities that the story of this banknote would stun many in our modern word.  But, none the less, that same story, represented by this banknote, haunts a billion people to this day.


French West Africa, or, in the French language of our banknote, Afrique Occidentale, is the name of the late 19th century and early 20th century administrative grouping of African states under French colonial rule.2

  A common currency was utilized through much of this period.

Historical Context

European political and economic rivalries led to what has come to be known as The Scramble for Africa3

in the concluding decades of the 1800s.  With the advances in the Age of Industrialization, the formerly challenging logistics of transportation and communication and resource development became simpler, and consequently, more far reaching.  Nations vied with one another for resources and safe trade routes and secure lines of communication.  Military bases were sought to secure those routes, such as Britain’s to its colony in India.  In addition to such hard assets, politicians coveted colonial possessions for prestige on the world stage and as negotiating chips in the world game. To avoid war over territories, Bismarck of Germany, prompted by the Portuguese and supported by the British, called a meeting of interested nations to resolve differences and competing interests.  This became known as the Berlin Conference of 1884.4

The Berlin Conference delineated procedures by which nations could claim territory in Africa as their own colony.  In addition to recognizing several historic colonial claims, the Principle of Effective Occupation5

was promulgated which was to have rapid impact and lasting effect on the continent.  Essentially, it would be henceforth considered insufficient to simply place one’s flag on the coast and claim an entire continent for the King as had been done by nations in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Under this Principle, it was necessary to have established some form of administration, treaties with inhabitants, policing force and other elements of occupation.

With the establishment of the Principle of Effective Occupation, the Conquest of Africa having already accelerated in the previous decade, now intensified into the Scramble for Africa.  Expeditions were launched into the interior, treaties were established and often coerced from the natural inhabitants, and settlements were established.  Within a short time essentially all of Africa was subdivided into colonial territories under European control.6

New boundary lines, enforced by European politics, crisscrossed the continent.  These new lines had no connection to history, traditional hunting grounds, migration routes, sacred burial grounds.

21st Century

European colonialism of Africa collapsed following WW2, but the colonial boundaries remain.  The generation of leaders in Africa arising with the post war independence movements, generally adhered to the established stated boundaries in hopes of avoiding new conflicts among the peoples.  The boundaries, though, have no regard for traditional separations or commerce of the local ethnicities of the natural inhabitants of the land. This is one significant reason for separatist movements in Africa.7

The region formerly known as French West Africa, is today occupied by the following countries: Ivory Coast, Benin, Mali, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo and Nigeria.

Togo 50 Franc banknote front (2), featuring 3 women

Togo – 50 Francs – Era 1958

Togo 50 Francs Banknote, 1958 – Face and Back

The name Togo is translated from the Ewe language as “land where lagoons lie”.1.  The Ewe are perhaps the largest of about 30 ethnicities inhabiting Togo.

Togo 50 Francs Banknote, 1958 front, featuring 2 women and 1 man
Togo 50 francs circa 1958

The Portuguese arrived in 1490, two years before Columbus set sail to the West, and, thus, just on the cusp of the colonial age. In a few short decades the colonial era took off, and with it, the Atlantic Slave Trade. Togo and its neighboring regions earned the infamous name “The Slave Coast”.

Togo 50 Francs Banknote, 1958 front, featuring man in feathered headress
Togo 50 francs circa 1958


The Map below is found in the Wikipedia article on the Slave Coast of Africa.2  Outlined in yellow towards the left of the map is Togoland, the name given to Togo during the period in which it was a German protectorate.  The concave Atlantic Coast below is known as The Bight of Benin and bears the name Slave Coast in this map.

Togoland became a German protectorate following the Berlin Conference of 1884, which effectively launched the Scramble for Africa.3  Just about a decade prior to the Berlin Conference, about 10% of Africa was under formal European control.   It was about 90% under formal European control about 3 decades after the conference.  During those few decades, European governments channeled their national ambitions and martial energies into Africa.  But they weren’t exhausted as evidenced by WWI.

The German protectorate was invaded and taken by French and British forces early in WWI and subdivided into British Togoland and French Togoland.

map of togo and the slave coast
“Togoland” and ‘The Slave Coast” map.   The Slave Coast is still marked on this c. 1914 map by John Bartholomew & Co. of Edinburgh. dated 1914, see Wikipedia article.
Biafra 1 Pound banknote face featuring palm tree in foreground before rising sun

Biafra – 1 Pound Note

Biafra 1 Pound Banknote – Face and Back

Biafra 1 pound banknote front, featuring palm tree
Biafra 1 front

The image of the rising sun beyond the palm tree features prominently on the front of our banknote.  Biafra adopted the song The Land of the Rising Sun1 as its anthem.  The words were written by Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, and, regarded as the father of Nigerian nationalism.

Biafra 1 pound banknote back
Biafra 1 back

The coat of arms of Biafra is featured on the back of our banknote.  As is appropriate, the symbols are full of meaning.2

closeup of coat of arms on Biafra 1 pound banknote back
Biafra 1 back

The eagle: Sovereignty, Pride and Self-Esteem

The horn of the cow: Cultural heritage

The shield: the map of Biafra

The rising sun: Expectation

Eleven Rays of sunshine: the original 11 provinces of Biafra

Three rings: Three patriarchs of Biafrans

Two Leopards holding the shield: Defenders

The field of green: Natural resources

Biafran 5 Pound banknote back closeup of 4 Biafran girls smiling

Biafra – 5 Shillings

Biafra 5 Shillings Banknote – Face and Back
Biafra 5 shillings banknote front, featuring palm tree
Biafra 5 front

The Palm Tree stands in front of the Rising Sun.  The national anthem of Biafra is “The Land of the Rising Sun”1, written by Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, and considered the father of Nigerian nationalism.

Biafra 5 shillings banknote back, featuring 4 smiling girls
Biafra 5 back
map of Biafra
Biafra Map, from wikipedia

The Republic of Biafra is the name of a 1960s secessionist state in Western Africa.  The Ibo people, sometimes called Igbo, predominantly occupied the coastal region of southeastern Nigeria including the delta of the mighty Niger River.2

Economic, cultural and religious tensions issued in a secessionist movement which led to the Nigerian Civil War lasting from July 1967 until January 1970.  The independence of Biafra was recognized by a number of surrounding nations and was supported by with arms from France.  Most of the rest of the world supported Nigeria’s claim to control over the region.  Nigeria was further supported with supplies of military arms from Britain and the United States.3

The international movement known as Medicins Sans Frontieres, or, Doctors Without Borders, was born in response to the crisis in Biafra.4

A fuller history can be read here.

Senegal French West Africa 5 Francs 1949 banknote front (2) featuring woman

Senegal – 5 Francs – Year 1949

Senegal 5 Francs Banknote, Year 1949 – Face and Back
French West Africa 19xx 5 front
French West Africa

The CFA franc was introduced in 1945.  The letter “K appearing twice on the front of our banknote is the distinguishing mark that identifies Senegal as the country of origin.  The other countries sharing the CFA franc, with their identifying marks are: Côte d’Ivoire / Ivory Coast “A”; Benin “B”; Burkina Faso “C”; Mali “D”; Niger “H”; Togo “T” and Guinea-Bissau “S”. Senegal, as stated, has “K” as the identifying mark.1

Senegal 5 Francs banknote French West Africa 19xx 5 back
French West Africa

The back of our banknote features canoes, men, and, the river.  It is thought by many that the origin of the word “Senegal” is an early word in a local dialect meaning “our canoe”.  This meaning, although disputed by some technicians, has nevertheless become popular today, being used commonly in phrases with meanings to the effect: “we are all in the same canoe.2

French West Africa was a federation of 8 states existing from 1895 until 1960.3

Senegal’s Capt-Vert projects its triangular point 4 directly into the Atlantic Ocean, the westernmost point of the grand collective landmass termed Afro-Eurasia.5  Also known as Cape Verde, it is roughly equidistant between the mouths of two great rivers, the Senegal and the Gambia, about 100 kilometers from each.  These became the early colonial outposts of the Europeans.

map of senegal rivers
Senegal and Gambia Rivers on either side of Cape Verde

Middle 1400s Portuguese explorers, decades before the voyage of Columbus, reached the Senegal first (being the northernmost river of the two and closer to Portugal), rounded Cape Verde and explored the Gambia second (map image6 right).  Two hundred years later, the French and the British, emerging from their own borders with global ambition, established trading posts, and then settlements, and, eventually, forts in the region, the French at the Senegal River and Cape Verde area, and the British at the Gambia river.  In the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries between the French and the British, these West African settlements changed hands again and again.  But by the time of the late 19th century “scramble for Africa”, the French found themselves in the better position.

map of senegal
map of Senegal shown surrounding The Gambia

The British found themselves occupying a relatively thin strip from the ocean, inland along the banks of the Gambia River.  France occupied the regions along the Senegal River, the region of Cape Verde, and the land completely surrounding the British on both banks of the Gambia and inland.  These boundaries remain unto this day; and that’s why the map looks the way it does.

Senegal celebrates its Independence Day on April 4th.  On April 4, 1959, Senegal joined with French Sudan to form the Mali Federation, which became independent from France the following year, April 4, 1960 with the signing of a Transfer of Power Agreement.  Due to internal political differences, that federation swiftly dissolved and the two nations declared separate independences in August of the same year.  Senegal retained its name Senegal, and the former French Sudan adopted the name Mali.  Mali celebrates its Independence Day September 22, that date in 1960 being the day it emerged independent from the Mali Federation.

Liberia 50 Dollars 2016 banknote front (2) featuring president Samuel K. Doe

Liberia – 50 Dollars – Year 2016

Liberia 50 Dollar Banknote, Year 2016 – Face and Back
Liberia 50 dollar banknote year 2016 front, featuring portrait of President of Liberia, Samuel K. Doe.
Front of 50 dollar banknote, Liberia, 2016

The front of our year 2016 banknote features one time President of Liberia, Samuel K. Doe. 1, the first native Head of State in the history of Liberia. 2 The story of President Doe incarnates the dichotomy of Liberia. Samuel K. Doe, born in 1950, become Head of State in 1980 at age 30, died by assassination in 1990 at age 40, and honored on our banknote twenty-six years after that.

Liberia 50 dollar banknote year 2016  back
Back of 50 dollar banknote, Liberia, 2016

For 133 years previous, the government of Liberia was dominated by the pioneering founders of the country and their descendants. In 1980, that all changed.

The generations-long brew of resentment among indigenous inhabitants of Liberia and the descendants of American transplants informed the thinking of young Samuel Doe. Having joined the army at age 18, and having displayed talent, in 1980, at age 30 he led the squadron which took the palace and killed the President. Naming himself general, Samuel Doe became Head of State at age 30, the first native Head of State in the history of Liberia.


liberian flag
Flag of Liberia

The flag is modeled after that of the United States of America.  Liberia’s 11 stripes represent the 11 signers of the Lberian Declaration of Independence.  The single star symbolizes African unity.

Coat of Arms of Liberia

The Coat of Arms for Liberia contains numerous symbols of the country’s founding and aspirations.

The sailing ship represents the arrival of freed slaves from the United States.  The plow and the shovel represent dignity and labor.  The palm tree represents royalty; and the rising sun, the birth of the country.  The white dove symbolizes the breath of peace.  The motto of the nation is bannered across the top of the shield, The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here.3


The colonial era began with the voyage of Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic ocean in 1492.  What has become known as the Atlantic slave trade, commenced almost simultaneously, and grew with the growth of colonialism.  In 1494, the Pope blessed the Treaty of Tordesillas which effectively divided the New World, outside of Europe, between Spain and Portugal, an indicator of just who were the dominating world powers at that time.  For the next one and one third centuries, the colonial era was largely the story of the Spanish and the Portuguese; and so was the story of the Atlantic slave trade.

Within 10 years of Columbus’ first voyage of 1492, the first African slave arrived in the new Spanish colony.  The year was 1501.  The place was Hispaniola, now known as The Dominican Republic.  The Portuguese began to colonize Brazil in 1532.  Although the Portuguese initiated their slave operations in the new world later than Spain, it wasn’t long before they exceeded Spain in the slave trade.  In fact, by the time of the final abolition of the African Slave Trade, the Portuguese had imported more African slaves into Brazil than any other country did into any other colony.  An estimate has 4 million slaves from Africa arriving in Brazil, 40% of the total number of slaves from Africa in the New World.4  Another million arrived in Spanish colonies.

With the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, ‘the image of Spain’s invulnerability in the Atlantic’5 was also overthrown.  Soon other European nations embarked on colonization programs and, building upon the established economic model, expanded the Atlantic Slave Trade.  These nations included Great Britain, France, Holland and Denmark.  The Dutch transported their first slaves to colonies in 1637 and the British in 1641.  And then the British were among the first nations to abolish slavery in1808, followed soon by Holland in 1814.6Spain abolished slavery in 1818 and Portugal in 1858.  Approximately 4% of the total Atlantic slave trade arrived in the territories now under the governance of the United States.

Slaves were transported to the United States territory, both before and after the founding of the country.  Modern estimates from various sources often range around 400,000 souls in total7 8 9., with about 25% arriving following the ratification of the Constitution, and 99% of that latter number to the southern states of the country.10

The spreading views of The Enlightenment combined with Christian sentiments to fuel political movements against slavery in the early history and prehistory of the United States. These views rang out in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson in 177611 and the 2nd Inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln12 almost 100 years later.
In the early years after the founding of the United States of America, a movement developed out of concern for the slavery dilemma. By this time, slavery as an institution was well established, particularly in the agricultural oriented states of the South. And, in the natural evolution of things, there were people who defended slavery, people who attacked slavery, people who were slaves, and people who were free men now and formerly slaves. What to do? What is to be Done? Liberia was an early answer to this question. Liberia. The very name means Liberty. Liberia.

An early movement was known as American Colonization Society led directly to the founding of our nation Liberia.  In 1822 the ACS formed a colony on the West coast of Africa with the intent to found a nation for free African Americans.  The concept was that freedom there would be better than emancipation within the United States.  The concept had supporters and detractors across the spectrum, but the colony was established and in 1847 declared independence as the country of Liberia, about a decade and a half before the American Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War.  By 1867, just after the end of the American Civil War, 13,000 people had emigrated to Liberia from the United States..


The map below is from the website database  Select tab “Assessing the Slave Trade”, and, from the drop down menu, select “Introductory Maps“, and got to Map 9: Volume and direction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from all African to all American regions

map of liberia slave trade
Map 9: Volume and direction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from all African to all American regions

I would sincerely welcome your suggestions for improvement to this article.  Thank you.

Benin 500 Francs Banknote, Year 1994

Benin – 500 Francs – Year 1994

Benin 500 Francs Banknote, Year 1994 – Face and Back
West african CFA 500 franc banknote front
Benin CFA franc
West african CFA 500 franc banknote back
Benin CFA franc

This CFA franc originates in Benin.  The country code on the front of the banknote, top right corner and lower left, indicates this.  The country codes are as follows: A – Ivory Coast; B – Benin; C – Burkina Faso; D – Mali; H – Niger; K –  Senegal; T – Togo; S Guinea-Bissau.1

The first two digits of the serial number indicate the year the banknote was issued.  This banknote was issued in 1994.

The CFA franc began on December 26, 1945.2

West Africa 500 Franc 1994 banknote back (2) featuring man on garden tractor

West African CFA 500 Franc

West African CFA 500 Franc Banknote – Face and Back
West african CFA 500 franc banknote front
Benin CFA franc

The italicized text below is taken entirely from Wikipedia (reference at end) and is in this website for reference.

The West African CFA franc (XOF) is known in French as the Franc CFA, where CFA stands for Communauté financière d’Afrique (“Financial Community of Africa”) or Communauté Financière Africaine (“African Financial Community”). It is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, i.e., “Central Bank of the West African States”), located in Dakar, Senegal, for the eight countries of the UEMOA (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, i.e., “West African Economic and Monetary Union”):
Burkina Faso
Ivory Coast
These eight countries have a combined population of 102.5 million people (as of 2013), and a combined GDP of US$78.4 billion (as of 2012).” 1

West african CFA 500 franc banknote front

Benin CFA franc.  The letter “B” in the upper right corner and the lower left of this banknote is the country code.  This letter, “B”, indicates that this banknote originated in the country of Benin.

The banknotes generally utilize the same images both on the front and the back.  The country of issuance is identifiable by a country code, a single letter.  The country codes are as follows:

A – Ivory Coast
B – Benin
C – Burkina Faso
D – Mali
H – Niger
K – Senegal
T – Togo
S – Guinea-Bissau

Burkina Faso 5000 Francs 2002 banknote back (2) featuring women at market scene

Burkino Faso – 5000 Francs – Year 2002

Burkino Fasso 500 Francs Banknote – Year 2002 – Face and Back

Burkina Faso 5000 francs 2002 banknote front
Burkina Faso (2002) 5000 francs front

The capital letter “C” in the top right corner and on lower left area of our banknote is the indicator that this West Africa banknote originates in Burkina Faso.  This CFA franc is backed by the treasury of France and is a common currency for 8 West African countries.  These countries as of the date of this post are Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

The artwork is striking and sets these banknotes among the most beautiful in the world.   The artist is Pierrette Lambert, who developed the art for numerous banknotes.1

In the background center is a uranium smelting plant.

Burkina Faso 5000 francs 2002 banknote back featuring women in market scene
Burkina Faso (2002) 5000 francs

On the reverse of our banknote we are treated to a typical local market scene.

Sierra Leone 1000 Leone 2013 banknote front (2) featuring warrior Bai Bureh

Sierra Leone – 1000 Leones – Year 2013 – Bai Bureh

Sierra Leone 1000 Leones Banknote – Year 2013 – Face and Back
Sierra Leone 1000 leones banknote year 2013 front featuring Bai Bureh, the great Warrior of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone 1000 leones banknote date 2013

Bai Bureh, the great Warrior of Sierra Leone, is named and featured on our 2013 banknote of Sierra Leone.

To me, his image on our banknote is quite striking, more so than the images of most any other leader on most any other banknote I have observed.  Bai Bureh’s image resembles that of the classic jester of the courts of Europe of the middle ages.  Sometimes it was only the jester that could be sufficiently daring to point out the folly of the ruler; and Bai Bureh, perhaps more than anyone in Africa, caused their overlords, the British to turn in circles.  At the end of this post, the reader will find the only known photograph of Bai Bureh, taken in 1898 as he sits peacefully, under arrest, with his unmistakable impish grin.  One can sense that his guard adores him.  He is revered to this day in Sierra Leone.

In his youth, his father sent him to a nearby small village for training in the craft of warriors.  His training elders recognized in young Bai superior innate abilities.  They named him Kebalai, the Warrior who never tires of War.  Not long after his return to his village he was named ruler of the village.  In succeeding years he defeated this and that territory and led his followers to victory over invaders and afterwards restoring the territory to the rightful inhabitants.  The people recognized in Bar Bureh a true leader and rallied around him and crowned him leader of Northern Sierra Leone in 1886.  He was 46 years of age.

As the British extended their power and during the Scramble for Africa, Bar Bureh continually resisted and evaded them.  He refused to acknowledge their treaties and he refused to pay their taxes.  Bar Bureh wanted the British to go home to Britain and let the Sierra Leone’s manage their own affairs.  Soon the British sent the military after him, but his superior knowledge of the terrain and innate brilliant skill allowed him to evade the British time and time again.

His humor delighted his followers and appears to have charmed his enemies.  Upon the British governor’s offer of 100 pounds for information leading to the capture of Bai Bureh, Bureh issued an offer of 500 pounds for the capture of the British governor.

The story is told that upon his capture, the British treated him as a political prisoner, rather than a military captive.  Subsequently, rather than executing in the manner routine in that era, he was sent into exile in a neighboring country, some historians suggesting that all of this treatment indicated the respect of Mr. Bai Bureh by the British army.

Today, Bai Bureh is considered by many military historians as the pioneer of modern guerilla warfare methods.

Sierra Leone 1000 leones banknote year 2013 back featuring satellite dish
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leon (from wikipedia) Bai_Bureh_(1898)
Bai Bureh, seated, upon his arrest in 1898
photo public domain

The photo at left is the only known photo of Mr. Bai Bureh, the Great Hero of Sierra Leone.  A remarkable and delightful article on the recent discovery and authentication of this sole photograph is online here, and I certainly urge the reader to read that article.

The photo above is from wikipedia and attributed as public domain

By Lieutenant Arthur Greer –

Sao Tome and Principe 5000 Dobra 2013 banknote front (2) featuring Rei Amador

Sao Tome & Principe – 5000 Dobras – Year 2013 – Rei Amador

Sao Tome & Principe – 5000 Dobras Banknote – Year 2013 – Face and Back
sao tome e principe 5000 dobras 2013 banknote front featuring Rei Amador and papa figo bird
Sao Tome & Principe

Rei Amador, an inspiring symbol of freedom and self-determination, is named and featured on our 2013 banknote.  In 1595 Rei Amador led the slave rebellion, known as the Maafa Revolt, on San Tome against the Portuguese.  On July 9, 1595, boldly, in the face of the Portuguese invaders, he raised a flag and proclaimed himself as king of Sao Tome and Principe.  Half of the enslaved population rallied to him and fought against the Portuguese, but the superior weaponry of the Portuguese overmastered the rebellion.  Rei Amador is considered the forerunner of all of the African Abolitionists; the predecessor of Toussaint Louverture of Haiti, Nzumbi of Brazil, Samory Toure of Guinea and Francois Makandal of Saint-Domingue.

The beautiful papa figo bird adorns the same side of our banknote.

sao tome e principe 5000 dobras 2013 banknote back
Sao Tome & Principe 5000 banknote
closeup detail of coat of arms on sao tome e principe 5000 dobras banknote  2013 front (3)

The national coat of arms is represented on the front of our banknote.

The central shield is upheld by a falcon on the left and a parrot on the right.

A star rests above the shield.

The banner below the shield displays the motto of the nation: Unity, Discipline, Work.

Gambia 5 Dalasi banknote front a featuring young girl

The Gambia – 5 Dalasis

The Gambia 5 Dalasis Banknote – Face and Back
Gambia 5 dalasis banknote front featuring girl and kingfisher bird

A young Gambian lady graces the front of this banknote of Gambia.  Adjacent to her is an image of the giant kingfisher bird of Gambia.  The giant kingfisher, pictured at rest, and also in flight in a smaller image to the left, can be 18 inches long and resides throughout sub-Sahara Africa.

Gambia 5 Dalasi banknote back (2) featuring cattle and herdsman

A scene with cattle and herders, in a meadow with palm trees in the background, is on the back of our banknote.

The Gambia River with outline of The Gambia

Properly called The Gambia, (like The Bahamas), Gambia is completely surrounded by Senegal, except for a brief Atlantic Ocean coast.  The land of The Gambia is completely dominated by the mighty Gambia River flowing due West into the Atlantic ocean from the mountains in the East.  The river is navigable for almost 1000 kilometers inland from the ocean and thus invited early explorers.  The Portuguese, the earliest known European explorers, traveling South from Portugal, first encountered and explored the somewhat parallel running Senegal River in the North.  A decade later, they rounded Cape Verde, the westernmost point of the African continent and encountered and began the exploration of the river Gambia.  A century or so later, the French and the British exploratory endeavors began to overshadow those of the Portuguese and Spanish, and the French settled the regions around the Senegal River and the British settled the Gambia River territory.

The island in at the mouth of the river, now known as Kunta Kinteh Island, has been designated as a world UNESCO heritage site.  The first European settlers arrived in the late 1500s from Holland, but in 1664 the island was ceded to the British.  Thereafter, if not before, it became integral to the African Slave Trade.  The island itself became well known through the influential Alex Haley broadcast Roots.  Kunte Kinteh is the name of a character described in Roots.

The date of our banknote not known exactly, but the features on the front and back were known to occur on 1996 and 2006 issues of the 5 dalasis banknote, and therefore likely all of the intervening years too..  The 2015 issue of the 5 dalasis banknote is pretty much the same on the front and back except that the image of the happy young lady is replaced with the image of the then president, Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh seized power in 1994 in a coup d’e’tat and ruled for 22 years until he fled the land in 2017 following an electoral defeat.  So the 2015 banknote image shows him near the conclusion of his reign.  Today his administration stands accused of perpetrating violence against the people including executions tortures and rapes.  A truth and reconciliation commission was established October 15, 2018 to further the healing of the nation.