Closing the loop

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From my friend Mike

Thomas Fuller, African slave and mathematician
Thomas Fuller was an African, shipped to America as a slave in 1724. He had remarkable powers of calculation, and late in his life was discovered by antislavery campaigners who used him as a demonstration that blacks are not mentally inferior to whites. The place of his birth appears to have been between present day Liberia and Benin. Known as Negro Tom, we know that he was described as a very black man and also we know that he lived in Virginia after being brought to the United States as a slave. Certainly late in his life he was the property of Elixabeth Coxe of Alexandria. Thomas Fuller, known as the Virginia Calculator, was stolen from his native Africa at the age of fourteen and sold to a planter. When he was about seventy years old, two gentlemen, natives of Pennsylvania, viz., William Hartshorne and Samuel Coates, men of probity and respectable characters, having heard, in travelling through the neighbourhood in which the slave lived, of his extraordinary powers in arithmetic, sent for him and had their curiosity sufficiently gratified by the answers which he gave to the following questions: First, Upon being asked how many seconds there were in a year and a half, he answered in about two minutes, 47 304 000. Second: On being asked how many seconds a man has lived who is 70 years, 17 days and 12 hours old, he answered in a minute and a half 2 210 500 800. One of the gentlemen who employed himself with his pen in making these calculations told him he was wrong, and the sum was not so great as he had said - upon which the old man hastily replied: stop, master, you forget the leap year. On adding the amount of the seconds of the leap years the amount of the whole in both their sums agreed exactly.Another question was asked and satisfactorily answered. Before two other gentlemen he gave the amount of nine figures multiplied by nine. … In 1790 he died at the age of 80 years, having never learned to read or write, in spite of his extraordinary power of calculation. Present day thinking is that Fuller learnt to calculate in Africa before he was brought to the United States as a slave. Supporting evidence for this comes from a passage written by Thomas Clarkson in 1788 describing the purchase of African slaves: It is astonishing with what facility the African brokers reckon up the exchange of European goods for slaves. One of these brokers has ten slaves to sell , and for each of these he demands ten different articles. He reduces them immediately by the head to bars, coppers, ounces… and immediately strikes the balance. The European, on the other hand, takes his pen, and with great deliberation, and with all the advantage of arithmetic and letters, begin to estimate also. He is so unfortunate, as to make a mistake: but he no sooner errs, than he is detected by this man of inferior capacity, whom he can neither deceive in the name or quality of his goods, nor in the balance of his account. Despite Fuller’s calculating abilities he was never taught to read or write and again this is evidence that he did not learn to calculate while in the United States. When someone who had witnessed his calculating abilities remarked that it was a pity he had not been educated, Fuller replied: ‘It is best I got no learning; for many learned men be great fools.' 

He died on 1790 in Alexandria, Virginia, USA

(from History of Mathematics)

image: portrait of a slave (author unknown)

Thomas Fuller, African slave and mathematician

Thomas Fuller was an African, shipped to America as a slave in 1724. He had remarkable powers of calculation, and late in his life was discovered by antislavery campaigners who used him as a demonstration that blacks are not mentally inferior to whites. 

The place of his birth appears to have been between present day Liberia and Benin. Known as Negro Tom, we know that he was described as a very black man and also we know that he lived in Virginia after being brought to the United States as a slave. Certainly late in his life he was the property of Elixabeth Coxe of Alexandria. 

Thomas Fuller, known as the Virginia Calculator, was stolen from his native Africa at the age of fourteen and sold to a planter. When he was about seventy years old, two gentlemen, natives of Pennsylvania, viz., William Hartshorne and Samuel Coates, men of probity and respectable characters, having heard, in travelling through the neighbourhood in which the slave lived, of his extraordinary powers in arithmetic, sent for him and had their curiosity sufficiently gratified by the answers which he gave to the following questions: First, Upon being asked how many seconds there were in a year and a half, he answered in about two minutes, 47 304 000. Second: On being asked how many seconds a man has lived who is 70 years, 17 days and 12 hours old, he answered in a minute and a half 2 210 500 800. One of the gentlemen who employed himself with his pen in making these calculations told him he was wrong, and the sum was not so great as he had said - upon which the old man hastily replied: stop, master, you forget the leap year. On adding the amount of the seconds of the leap years the amount of the whole in both their sums agreed exactly.

Another question was asked and satisfactorily answered. Before two other gentlemen he gave the amount of nine figures multiplied by nine. … In 1790 he died at the age of 80 years, having never learned to read or write, in spite of his extraordinary power of calculation. 

Present day thinking is that Fuller learnt to calculate in Africa before he was brought to the United States as a slave. Supporting evidence for this comes from a passage written by Thomas Clarkson in 1788 describing the purchase of African slaves: 

It is astonishing with what facility the African brokers reckon up the exchange of European goods for slaves. One of these brokers has ten slaves to sell , and for each of these he demands ten different articles. He reduces them immediately by the head to bars, coppers, ounces… and immediately strikes the balance. The European, on the other hand, takes his pen, and with great deliberation, and with all the advantage of arithmetic and letters, begin to estimate also. He is so unfortunate, as to make a mistake: but he no sooner errs, than he is detected by this man of inferior capacity, whom he can neither deceive in the name or quality of his goods, nor in the balance of his account. 

Despite Fuller’s calculating abilities he was never taught to read or write and again this is evidence that he did not learn to calculate while in the United States. When someone who had witnessed his calculating abilities remarked that it was a pity he had not been educated, Fuller replied: ‘It is best I got no learning; for many learned men be great fools.
He died on 1790 in Alexandria, Virginia, USA
image: portrait of a slave (author unknown)

(Source: a--fri--ca, via dynamicafrica)

Before Africa, there was South East Asia. Vietnam was the last of the countries in that region I visited in 2008. This woman sold chilis in a market on the border of China.

Missing Africa today…very much.

awkwardsituationist:

in sierra leone, criminal responsibility begins at age ten (in contravention of the convention on the rights of the child), and children - many orphaned and homeless from a decade of civil war - often spend years in freetown’s pademba road prison awaiting trial for little more than misdemeanor offenses. unable to afford a lawyer, most eventually end up with harsh sentences.

photographer fernando moleres was awarded the 2012 tim hetherington grant, presented on behalf of world press photo and human rights watch, to help document their plight; this includes boys as young as 13, falsely charged with murder and, unable to defend themselves in court, given life sentences; other kids, unable to pay bribes, are sentenced to years for stealing food or smoking marijuana.

in a prison built for 220 but houses 1300, food and water are scarce, violence is a constant threat, and hygiene is non existent. one outdoor toilet (third photo) is shared by inmates who have to rely on the rain to wash (sixth photo). death from basic infection is not uncommon.

when released, most are left without anyone to take them in or skills with which to find work. so moleres, a former nurse, founded free minor africa, which provides the kids with bail and lawyers to help keep them out of prison, with medicine and teachers while in prison, and with education and training to help reintegrate them back into society once freed (last photo).

“i can’t just go in there, take these pictures…and leave them behind. i need to do something for them. …they are not a lost cause and a little bit of help can make a big difference,” he said. “if you give them an opportunity to work they will get ahead and establish themselves. they just want a normal existence; i want to demonstrate that and show, with my photography, how the boys can change.”

(via dynamicafrica)

Remembering South Sudan - Jonglei, January 2012

“Between 2006 and 2011, [Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] granted more than a third of Liberia’s land to private investors to use for logging, mining and agro-industrial enterprises. Today, more than seven million acres have become forestry and agricultural concessions. In 2009 and 2010, Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s government awarded more than 1.6 million acres for palm oil production. The land went to the Malaysian corporation Sime Darby and to Golden Veroleum, a subsidiary of the New York-based Verdant Fund L.P. These concessions come at a delicate time, as violent local-level land disputes both between and within villages are still widespread throughout Liberia.

More than a million people live in the regions where the palm-oil concessions were granted. And roughly 150,000 will be directly affected in the first five years of plantation development. Many could lose access to their homes, farms, cemeteries and sacred sites as well as the forest and water resources they depend on for survival. Yet the government negotiated these deals without consulting those who would bear the greatest burden.

In recent months, Sime Darby has begun developing its first 25,000 acres in Grand Cape Mount County in northwestern Liberia. Already, local communities are raising concerns about environmental degradation, desecration of sacred areas and the company’s failure to pay workers promised salaries. They have filed a complaint against Sime Darby before the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an international certification body. In response, Sime Darby representatives traveled to the area on Jan. 6 and held meetings with villagers. However, according to Liberian newspapers, members of Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf’s government, led by officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, disrupted the negotiations and halted discussions before any resolution was reached.

The president then visited the villagers herself. She told them, “When your government and the representatives sign any paper with a foreign country, the communities can’t change it,” claiming that the Constitution granted the government — and no one else — the right to negotiate with foreign investors. She also told villagers that, in their efforts to hold Sime Darby accountable for its human rights transgressions, ‘You are trying to undermine your own government. You can’t do that. If you do so all the foreign investors coming to Liberia will close their businesses and leave, then Liberia will go back to the old days.’”

—   A Nobel Laureate’s Problem at Home (via rs620)

Let’s boycott Syme Darby

(via dynamicafrica)

Traditional Morocco

Kazuyoshi Nomachi

(via fotojournalismus)

(via dynamicafrica)

3rdeyechicago:


Photo by John Fink: Students having classes in a destroyed school, Angola, 1997

3rdeyechicago:

Photo by John Fink: Students having classes in a destroyed school, Angola, 1997

(Source: womb-dance, via dynamicafrica)

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, then you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito”

—   African proverb