Saturday, April 12, 2014

NANA OLOMU: THE GREAT NIGERIAN MILLIONAIRE OIL MAGNATE OF THE 19TH CENTURY, NATIONALIST AND AN ITSEKIRI CHIEF WHO WAS THE GOVERNOR OF BENIN RIVER

Nana Olomu (1852–1916) was an Itsekiri chief, Palm Oil Super Magnate, nationalist and a fighter from the Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. He was the fourth Itsekiri chief to hold the position of Governor of Benin River. As a powerful nineteenth Century indigenous entrepreneur and greatest millionaire, Nana who  lived in a creek near the mouth of the Benin River and Oba Ovonramwen of Benin were the two powerful Africans that successfully prevented European penetration of the hinterland of the Benin and the nearby rivers.
Nana Olomu the great Nigerian millionaire entrepreneur, nationalist and Itsekiri chief in Accra after his defeat and deportation there.

Nana was respected and feared for his wealth and power, and the Oba of Benin for his suzerainty and juju power. Most Urhobo people did not believe that the Oba could be, and in fact be captured by the white-man, because of their belief in his juju power to transform himself into a spirit.
Nana Olomu was the last of a series of governors that started with the installation of Chief Idiare in 1851 by John Beecroft who was appointed in 1849 by the British Government as Consul for the Bights of Benin and Biafra.  Chief Idiare, along with Idibofun, Olomu (Nana's father), and a host of other elders subsequently signed a treaty with Beecroft to protect trade in the area. Nana succeeded his father, Olomu of Ologbotsere, as governor. It was a historical fact that Numa of Batere Emaye family who was expected to succeed Olomu, is believed to have raised his son, Dogho (Dore Numa), to avenge the disgrace to his family when Nana got the nod. Dogho (Dore Numa) an imperialist stooge was later to provide valuable help that the British needed to defeat Nana.
Nana`s wealth was an inherited one but he managed to expand his business through his shrewd business acumen by monopolizing trade. As a reflection of the grandeur of his achievements, Nana built a magnificent edifice at the turn of the century. It houses his personal effects and evidence of his contact with the Queen, administrators and traders of the British Empire. Many European Merchants, Missionaries, Explorers and Consular Officers who visited the Benin River in the second half of the last century, and had occasion to meet Chief Nana, had nothing but great admiration for his outstanding personality, intelligence, wealth and hospitality. His ability to speak the Urhobo language coupled with his liberality won for him the favour of practically all Urhobo traders on the River. He, of course, had enough force to bring to submission any one who was so unreasonably stubborn as to interfere with his trade anywhere. For many years, he concentrated his commercial activities on the Urhobo oil markets until he practically established a perfect monopoly over all the oil markets.
Indeed, Nana was credited with having a fleet of 200 trade canoes and another 100 war canoes with the ability to muster 20,000 war boys. In fact, after his defeat in 1884, the arms seized in Ebrohimi included 106 cannons, 445 blunderbusses, 640 guns,10 revolvers, in addition to 1640 kegs of gunpowder and 2500 rounds of machine gun ammunition (Ikime 1966:41). Therefore, there was no doubt that his impressive military machine, enormous wealth and great influence were critical factors in his virtual monopoly of the palm oil trade.
location.....KOKO,DELTA STATE NIGERIA by Tsan
Statue of NANA OLOMU, Merchant prince of the Niger delta at Koko, Delta State,Nigeria.
Governor (GOFUNE) of Benin River......1884-1894
A great itsekiri leader/nationalist and a Nigerian national hero.
This statue was unveiled in the year 1995
During the centenary commemoration of the BRITISH/NANA EBROHIMI WAR.... 1894
BY HIS EXCELLENCY GEN SANI ABACHA
Head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces of the federation of Nigeria


Major Claude Macdonald, the British Commissioner and Consul General for Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1887 who once reported that Nana was “a man possessed of great power and wealth, astute, energetic and intelligent” (Ikime 1966:44), wrongly accused him wrongly accused him of: disrupting commercial activities in the Niger Delta, of terrorizing the Urhobo and turning them against the British, of engaging in the inhuman
traffic in slaves, and the most blatant lie, of practising human sacrifice (Ikime 1980:278). But as it was to be revealed Nana’s real offence, however, was that his wealth, position and power gave him considerable influence over the areas surrounding the Benin River and the Warri district, thereby making the penetration
of British traders to be extremely difficult if not impossible.
By the end of 1893, the Vice Consuls at Benin River had started to accuse the Chief of gross disloyalty to the Government; but his actions, usually through his trading boys, appeared to reach a climax, when in July 1894, his boys seized fifteen Urhobo people (including a local Chief's wife), for an alleged debt of 200 puncheons of palm-oil. It was when Chief Nana refused to surrender those captives, blockading the River instead, that the government was obliged to use force to overthrow him towards the end of 1894.
Nana was therefore captured after a cessation of his  war with the British and was exiled in Gold Coast (Ghana). In Britain in 1899 the Aborigines' Right Protection Society led by some Gold Coast (Ghanaian) ethnic Fante intelligentsia with people like billionaire founder and president Jacob Wilson Sey, J E Casely-Hayford, George Hughes and others complained to the Foreign Office about "the arbitrary treatment" to which the chief had been subjected, the government's failure to carry out "the searching investigation of his case which he had always sought", and appealed for him to be given liberty to conduct his commercial affairs freely even if, for political reasons, he could not be restored to his old position. A letter from Olomu was also enclosed complaining his maintenance was inadequate for him to support himself and five other persons. In his reply the then Prime Minister the Marquis of Salisbury promised to look into the conditions of the chief's maintenance, but ruled out the possibility of a return to his homeland. A month later the question of his treatment was raised in parliament and the government again stated it would be unsafe to allow his return.
To all intent and purposes, as ikime (1966) rightly averred Nana was an African nationalist who refused to yield to British imperialist ambition and so had to be broken. For Nana was reported to have stopped all trade in 1886 and 1892 to force English merchants to pay higher prices. Opposition to Nana, grew not only from the merchants but also from those Itsekiri traders including Dore Numa, who had suffered from Nana's monopoly.
Source:

Nana Olomu of Itsekiri: Palm Oil Super Magnate
Nana Olomu was born about 1852 at Jakpa in the Itsekiri region, and thus become the wealthiest Itsekiri trader of his age. Incidentally, his father, Olomu was also the richest and most powerful Itsekiri merchant during his life time. Nana’s remarkable success was predicated on his inherited wealthy status, his outstanding acumen in the organization of his financial and human resources and also on his formidable military machine (Ikime 1966:40-42). It has, however, been reasonably argued that his career was a striking example of how political advancement was based more on commercial prowess, rather than on inherited status (Soremekun 1985:149; Hopkins 1973:146).
Nana like Jaja was a state builder. He was able to build his kingdom due to his effective control of the trade in palm oil, which unlike the slave trade called for greater organization and financial resources (Law 1993:105). He also greatly developed the new capital at Ebrohimi which had earlier been founded by his father on an almost impregnable site by dumping heaps of sand on a hitherto muddy and swampy location (Isichei 1977:123; Ikpe 1989:53).
Subsequently, he stationed his trading agents who were responsible for the purchase and transportation of oil in the Urhobo hinterland. This arrangement was further enhanced with his decision to take wives from all the leading Urhobo clans with which he traded (Crowder 1968:121; Ikime 1966:40-41). In 1885 he became the Governor of the Benin and Ethiope Rivers.
A British official, Gallwey who toured the Urhobo region in 1892 affirms that:
"In terms of relations with the British, Nana was the Jaja of the
Western Delta. His hold on most of the Urhobo oil markets was
even firmer than Jaja’s. In terms of wealth, Nana was probably
much wealthier than Jaja and like Jaja was able to dictate his
own trade terms and had no need for trust" (Ikime 1977:46).
Correspondingly, Nana also held up palm oil exports between 1886 and 1887 when the price of palm oil suddenly fell by 40% in order to force European merchants to accept the terms and conditions of sale as laid down by local producers and suppliers. This was a strategic way of securing a favorable balance of trade for the Urhobo producers and Itsekiri middle-men (Hopkins 1973:155). In 1891 the British tried to undermine Nana’s economic interests by opening up another Vice-Consulate at Sapele, apart from the one on the Benin River in order to penetrate the hinterland and reduce the trade on the Benin River - the main source of his wealth. However, Nana retaliated by sending his agents to Sapele too. The British were astounded to find out that his agents were in firm control of the trade, and that his trading influence was extremely strong.
Indeed, he was so powerful and sufficiently wealthy to dictate his own trade terms, to hold up trade when it suited his fancy and to refuse to take trust from European firms (Ikime 1980:278).
During the era of treaty signing in Nigeria, Nana Olomu fully understood the immediate import of British imperial intentions in the Niger Delta. Like Jaja, he struck out offensive clauses which stipulated free access to British traders to trade wherever they pleased in his kingdom. These uncooperative tendencies on his part were the precursor to the Ebrohimi expedition of 1894 (Ikime 1980:276; Onabamiro 1983:56).
Thus, Major Claude Macdonald, the British Commissioner and Consul General for Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1887 reported that Nana’s influence was exceedingly widespread and that it would be in the best interest of British traders, missionaries and colonialists to urgently and decisively checkmate Nana’s growing influence and power. Macdonald further reported that at a particular occasion when he met Nana at the Benin River for a crucial meeting, Nana came in a war canoe paddled by about 100 people with four or five similar canoes serving as escorts, and personal bodyguards of twenty armed men with Winchester repeater rifles. Macdonald concluded that Nana was “a man possessed of great power and wealth, astute, energetic and intelligent” (Ikime 1966:44).
Indeed, Nana was credited with having a fleet of 200 trade canoes and another 100 war canoes with the ability to muster 20,000 war boys. After his defeat in 1884, the arms seized in Ebrohimi included 106 cannons, 445 blunderbusses, 640 guns,10 revolvers, in addition to 1640 kegs of gunpowder and 2500 rounds of machine gun ammunition (Ikime 1966:41). Therefore, there was no doubt that his impressive military machine, enormous wealth and great influence were critical factors in his virtual monopoly of the palm oil trade.
Nevertheless, the British wrongly accused him of: disrupting commercial activities in the Niger Delta, of terrorizing the Urhobo and turning them against the British, of engaging in the inhuman traffic in slaves, and the most blatant lie, of practising human sacrifice (Ikime 1980:278). Nana’s real offence, however, was that his wealth, position and power gave him considerable influence over the areas surrounding the Benin River and the Warri district, thereby making the penetration of British traders to be extremely difficult if not impossible. Consequently, in 1894, the British laid siege on Ebrohimi. Nana replied by further fortifying his capital. Henceforth, the resistance put up by him was bitter and daring, and as skillful as it was brilliant. Crowder (1971:2), rightly suggests that as far as military historians are concerned, wars are not assessed solely in terms of the victory or success of the victors, but also on the prowess and ingenuity of the vanquished, in the face of overwhelming odds.
Therefore Nana impressively combined conventional warfare with guerilla tactics, and used to the fullest advantage his superior knowledge of the creeks along the British had to sail to reach Ebrohimi, thereby making what they initially thought would be a casual military expedition, one their most difficult and costly imperial adventures in West Africa. In short, Nana forced the British to build up a large naval and military force off the Benin River, representing virtually the entire British naval strength in West Africa, and the most impressive collection of British forces in the Niger Delta up until that date (Onabamiro 1983:57 and Ikime 1977:47). This action prompted the British to send four warships: the HMS Alecto, HMS Phoebe, HMS Philomel and HMS Widgem to attack all the villages around Ebrohimi, which were destroyed. Yet, Nana
refused to surrender or obey British entreaties to come for a discussion at the Consulate, based on the memory of what happened to Jaja when he acquiesced to such a request (Onabamiro 1983:57).
And thus, all attempts to take Ebrohimi by going up the creek failed, and in fact, Nana successfully repelled the British forces on three occasions so they were forced to withdraw with ‘heavy’ casualties. And even cutting a path through the dense swamp forest also proved an impossible task which was rendered scary and dangerous because of Nana’s cleverly masked batteries. Attacking Ebrohimi by land also failed because of the heavy fire directed against the British by Nana’s forces. However, Nana’s capital eventually fell on September 25, 1894, mainly because, Dogho, (Nana’s local rival) provided the British with logistic and intelligence support and even showed them the best route to Ebrohimi, and as a result, Nana was eventually tried and exiled to Gold Coast (now Ghana). And interestingly, his goods were also sold and the proceeds were used to defray the cost of the expedition, marking the demise of his trading empire (Ikime 1980:278; 1966:47; 1977:47).
It must be noted that in about 2 ½ years before Chief Nana's fall, the Urhobo Chiefs of Abraka, north east of the Benin Consular district had concluded a Treaty of Protection with Her Britannic Majesty's Government placing themselves and their people under British protection. In the south and the south-east of the Urhobo country under Warri district not less than 14 such Treaties had also been entered into. The Treaty making activities were however intensified after the fall of Chief Nana.

Recently one one of the UK National Maritime Museum curators H Finch-Boyer revealed that three of the
Museum's African flags were owned by Nana Olomu who became 4th governor of Benin River in 1884.
Brief descriptions of the flags in the Museum's collection are below.
1. The personal flag of Itsekiri chief  Nana Olomu (1852-1916). The flag
is made wool bunting, with a linen hoist containing a rope and is hand
sewn. The background of the design is white with a  printed Union Flag
inserted (upside down) in the canton. Near the top edge is the name
'NANNA' in dark blue letters, below, the flag is painted with a naked
man shooting a leopard. The flag was captured during the campaign of
1894.

2. Personal flag of Itsekiri chief  Nana Olomu (1852-1916). A green wool
bunting flag with a machine sewn linen hoist with a rope attached. The
flag is hand sewn with applied lettering - in red wool 'NANNA', below in
white cotton 'ALLUMA'S SON'. It is said to have been acquired during the
1897 Benin expedition by F. W. Kennedy.
3. Personal flag of Itsekiri chief Nana Olomu (1852-1916). A red cotton
flag, hand sewn with a printed Union Flag placed vertically in the
canton. The name 'NANNA' is applied in white damask letters in the fly.
There are felt loops along the top edge.and a white strip at the hoist
with small cord loops.

Source: Reference: Rotimi K and Ogen O (2008). "Jaja and Nana in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria: Proto-Nationalists or Emergent Capitalists," The Journal of Pan African Studies, 2008 vol.2, no.7.
http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-africa&month=1002&week=d&msg=w%2BDfZxHL0PWhBdm21J1rWg&user=&pw=

Friday, April 11, 2014

KING JAJA OF OPOBO: NATIONALIST, FIRST NIGERIAN RICHEST MAN AND THE MOST ACCOMPLISHED ENTREPRENEUR OF THE 19TH CENTURY WEST COAST OF AFRICA

Jaja of Opobo (full name: Jubo Jubogha; 1821–1891) was the first known Nigerian richest man, nationalist, a merchant prince and the founder of Opobo city-state which now forms part of Nigeria`s River State. Jaja whose real name was Mbanaso Okwaraozurumbaa was also a savvy political and military strategist, brought to the Bonny Kingdom as a slave, who was perhaps the most troublesome thorn in the flesh of 19th-century British imperial ambition in southern Nigeria.
Portrait of king Jajah from Opobo in the Niger delta in his traditional Juju dress. Circa 1870-1880. As Martha G. Anderson and Lisa Aronson wrote “…he emulates, if not plays, the role of a local priest (a traditional authority figure upon which Ibani Ijo royalty came to be based) by pouring libations. [...] Jaja’s choice of attire [...] was not only appropriate for the role he was playing, but deeply embedded in Bonny royal tradition. The Eastern Ijo imported the Ijebu Yoruba cloth from the opposite side of the Niger Delta and renamed it ikakibite, or ‘cloth of the tortoise’.”

The story of Jaja recounts a man of servile status hurdling intimidating odds to attain wealth and power, and founding in the latter half of the 19th century the most prosperous city-state in the Delta area of Nigeria. He has rightly been described as, perhaps, the most enterprising and accomplished of all African merchant princes on the west coast of Africa in the 19th century (Fajana and Biggs 1976:137-138). He first traded in Bonny but later founded a new flourishing trading settlement in 1869 in Opobo, a site where he felt he could best control the traditional sources of supply of palm oil in the region (Cookey 1974).
As far as Nigerian nationalist historiography is concerned, Jaja`s greatness could be found in his principled resistance to foreign political control. Indeed, Fajana and Biggs (1976:137) describe Jaja as the first Nigerian nationalist of the nineteenth century. Thus, Jaja’s principled oppositions to British influence in the Niger Delta has largely been interpreted by some historians as the precursors to Nigeria’s nationalist struggles.
Portrait of king Jajah with rappa.  "Joja is resting his arm on a British-imported rattan chair, he wears a small-brimmed hat, and sports a suit jacket and shirt over a 'wrapper' a British-borrowed word describing the cloth that covers the lower half of his body. [...] ...the plaid cloths draped over his right shoulder and on the imported rattan chair are unquestionably Indian madras, a type of cloth the British were trading to the Ijo in large quantities after 1850." (Martha G. Anderson and Lisa Aronson in Schneider, Röschenthaler, Gardi: Fotofieber. Basel 2005. Original English version). Circa 1870-1888

However, Rotimi and Ogen (2008) argued that Jaja just like Nana Olomu of itsekiri`s stiff opposition to foreign penetration and the fierce resistance against British imperialism were essentially informed by their fervent desire to protect by all means their considerable commercial interests. Contrasting Jaja and Nana with their contemporaries such as Sultan Attahiru of Sokoto, Oba Ovonramwen of Benin and Awujale Aboki Tunwase of Ijebuland, to mention but a few, who fought relentlessly to defend the corporate existence and political sovereignties of their respective kingdoms (Crowder 1968:134-136; Oduwobi 2004:34-36; Ayandele 1992: 21), Rotimi and Ogen (2008) concluded that "the wars that Jaja and Nana fought were basically trade wars meant for the protection of their trading monopolies. Hence, their greatest significance lies in their roles as entrepreneurs cum super-merchants and not as proto-nationalists."
Whether Jaja was supporting his business interest by fighting against the British or was genuinely fighting for the total emancipation of Opoboland, the end result was that Jaja succeeded in creating serious troubles for the British imperialist by proving that an African is capable of standing up to any man in whatever field of endeavor, irrespective of their race.
Jubo Jubogba, also known as Jo Jo Ubam by the Igbo and as Jaja of Opobo, first, by the Europeans and later by most people, was born about 1821 in Amaigbo village in the Orlu district of Eastern Nigeria (Isichei 1976:98). Though he was originally an Igbo enslaved person, he became acculturated into Bonny society so successfully that even his enemies agreed that his state was one of the best administered entities on the west coast of Africa during the pre-colonial era (Crowder 1968:119). Apart from his outstanding business acumen, he had a keen understanding of Western values. He was fluent in English and even sent one of his sons to a Glasgow school. He also set up a secular school in his capital and lived in a European-style house, as did his chiefs. Jaja’s secular school was under the tutelage of a Kentucky born African American, Emma White who relocated to Opobo and even changed her name to Emma Jaja (Isichei 1976:98; Ayandele 1966:81). In fact, Crowder (1968:119) states that “Jaja, ruler of a small but rich state, was clearly in the process of modernizing it independently of European rule”. A British palm oil merchant, Alexander Cowan
went to Opobo for Alexander Miller Brother and Company in 1887 and made the following
comments:
"There can be no doubt Ja-Ja was the most powerful potentate the
Oil Rivers ever produced. He was just as shrewd and fore-seeing
as he was powerful…He could be stern, and he was strict, but he
was always just, and the form of government he set up was as near
perfect as anything of its kind could be. Every man had the right
of appeal, and, though in effect his own authority was never
questioned, he conformed to his own rules, and governed through
his council of chiefs (Pedler 1974:74)."

"Opobo: King Jaja's wives." Circa 1870 - 1888. (Niger Delta, Nigeria, Opobo) by John Parkes Decker. A group of women sitting and standing in front of a house. The caption states that these women are king Jajah's wives. Three of the women sitting in the front row wear Western (Victorian) style clothes.

Interestingly, Jaja was a man of prodigious ability with a gifted and telling acumen. Within a few years of the foundation of Opobo, he rapidly drew the palm oil trade away from Bonny in his role as middle-man between the European merchants and the produce sellers in the interior (Pedler 1974:75). He also cleverly aligned with only Alexander Miller Brother and Company at the expense of several other British firms trading in the Niger Delta. This move led to fierce commercial rivalries among the British firms.
In 1884 other British firms apart from Alexander Miller felt that Jaja was profiting unduly at their expense. They thereafter came together and unilaterally fixed the price of produce. Thus,Jaja retaliated by breaking into the export trade, hitherto an exclusive preserve of the European firms. He succeeded in shipping his palm  oil to Birmingham, thereby becoming the first Nigerian direct exporter of palm oil (Gertzel 1962:361-6; Pedler 1974:76). Furthermore, Jaja effectively pioneered Nigeria’s indigenous produce export trade.
He utilized his immense wealth from the palm oil trade to acquire enormous political cum military power to the extent that in 1875 he sent some of his soldiers to help the British during the prosecution of the Ashanti War in the then Gold Coast. For this wonderful support, Queen Victoria showed her appreciation by presenting him with a sword of honor (Fajana and Biggs 1976:138).
Painting of King Jaja of Opobo (1821-91) c.1885 

The trade depression in England from the 1880s galvanized the British traders into assuming that their profits would increase phenomenally if they could checkmate Jaja’s middle-man’s role in the eastern Niger Delta (Isichei 1976:99). In order to achieve this objective, they systematically sought the assistance of the British Consul. Thus, in 1884, Consul Hewett asked Jaja to sign a treaty placing his territory under British protection. Jaja agreed, but only on the condition that the clauses which stipulated free trade and free access to all parts of the territory for Europeans traders should be expunged (Cookey 1974). Consul Hewett reluctantly agreed and deleted the offensive clauses, but a year later the British declared a Protectorate over the territory of the Gulf of Guinea. Apart from frowning at this Declaration, Jaja completely rejected the provisions for free trade (Pedler 1974:76-77 and Fajana and Biggs 1976:138).
Thereafter, the British accused Jaja of terrorism, of organizing armed attacks and of obstructing trade and the waterways. In 1887, the new Vice-Consul, Harry Johnston recommended his deportation which was immediately approved by the British Foreign Office. Johnston later invited him to a naval vessel for discussions and promised that Jaja would be free to leave whenever he wished, but he dishonorably broke his pledge. Jaja was taken to Accra where he was tried. The sentence was deportation for five years in the West Indies. Jaja appealed against the deportation order through the assistance of a British Officer, Major Macdonald who felt that Jaja had been unjustly treated. He won the appeal, and his sentence was revoked but his anticipated triumphal home-coming could not be actualized; he died on the way (Fajana and Biggs 1976:138-9; Pedler 1974:76-7). Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister deeply regretted the treatment meted to Jaja, and insisted that in civilized lands, those that deported him would have been tried for kidnapping (Crowder 1968:121).
Jaja’s novel and entrepreneurial prowess is significant in many respects. Though political historians are ready to situate his resistance to British imperialism within the purview of the history of Nigeria’s nationalist struggles, and to underscore the fact that he was the first Nigerian nationalist of the nineteenth century (Fajana and Biggs 1976:137); this present study is, however, more interested in Jaja’s display of a remarkably high quality of economic wizardry and entrepreneurship. As noted earlier, he was daring and adventurous in his decision to ship palm oil direct to England. He also refused to allow British traders any access to his hinterland markets and insisted on levying duties on British merchants trading in his kingdom. At a point, there was complete stoppage of trade with British traders in his kingdom until one British firm,
Alexander Miller, agreed to trade on his terms (Crowder 1968:120; Pedler 1974:76-7).
His trading policies alarmed other British firms trading in the Niger Delta with the exception of Alexander Miller Brother and Company, which prospered and had stations throughout southern Nigeria partly because it co-operated with Jaja. It is, however, instructive to note that the other eight firms that were virulently opposed to his policies ‘ganged’ up to form the African Association which was incorporated in 1889. Hence, it was this African Association and a few other firms that eventually formed the United African Company (UAC) in 1929 (Pedler 1974:1, 78 and 139). Thus, the history of the origins of the UAC would not be complete without adequate reference to the intense commercial rivalries between Jaja and the firm of Alexander Miller who were contemptuously referred to as the agents of Jaja by the other firms, on the one
hand, and the other eight British firms in opposition to Jaja, on the other (Ogen 2006:20).

Jaja in council
Reference: Rotimi K and Ogen O (2008). "Jaja and Nana in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria: Proto-Nationalists or Emergent Capitalists," The Journal of Pan African Studies, 2008 vol.2, no.7.


                  Biography of Jaja Opobo 
Jubo Jubogba, also known as Jo Jo Ubam by the Igbo and as Jaja of Opobo, first, by the
Europeans and later by most people, was born about 1821 at Úmuduruõha, Amaigbo village in the Orlu district, now Imo State of Eastern Nigeria (Isichei 1976:98). At birth he was given a native Igbo name Mbanaso Okwaraozurumba and was the third son of his parents, the Okwaraozurumba.
According to different oral sources, Jaja  was sold into slavery in the Niger Delta under circumstances which are far from clear. One version of the oral traditions says that he was sold because, as a baby, he cut the upper teeth first, an abominable phenomenon in traditional Igbo society. Another version claims that he was captured and sold by his father's enemy. Regardless, he was bought by Chief Iganipughuma Allison of Bonny, by far the most powerful city-state on the Atlantic coast of Southeastern Nigeria before the rise of Opobo.

                                  Painting of Jaja of Opobo, anheuser-busch.com

To follow the Ja Ja story or, indeed, revolution, an explanatory note is necessary. Until the end of the 19th century, the Delta communities played a crucial role in European and American trade with Nigeria. Acting as middlemen, these communities carried into the interior markets the trade goods of European and American supercargoes stationed on the coast and brought back in exchange the export produce of the hinterland, basically palm oil. As the Delta is dominated by saline swamps and crisscrossed by a labyrinth of creeks and rivers, the canoe was indispensable for trade.
The Delta society was organized in Canoe Houses. A Canoe House was the pivot of social organization and also, notes K.O. Dike, "a cooperative trading unit and a local government institution." It was usually composed of a wealthy merchant (its founder), his family, and numerous slaves owned by him. A prosperous house could comprise several thousand members, both free and bonded, owning hundreds of trade canoes. In this intensely competitive society, leadership by merit - not by birth or ascriptions - was necessary if a house was to make headway in the turbulent, cut-throat competition that existed between houses. Any person with the charisma and proven ability, even if of servile birth, could rise to the leadership of a house, but could never become king. Ja Ja would achieve this, and much more.
Finding young Ja Ja too headstrong for his liking, Chief Allison made a gift of him to his friend, Madu, a chief of the Anna Pepple House, one of the two houses of the royal family (the other being the Manilla Pepple House). Ja Ja was slotted into the lowest rung of the Bonny slave society ladder, that of an imported slave, distinct from that of someone who was of slave parentage but born in the Delta.
As a youth, he worked as a paddler on his owner's great trade canoes, traveling to and from the inland markets. Quite early, he demonstrated exceptional abilities and business acumen, quickly identified with the Ijo custom of the Delta, and won the hearts of the local people as well as those of the European supercargoes. It was unusual for a slave of his status to make the transition from canoe paddling to trading, but Ja Ja - through his honesty, business sense, and amiability - soon became prosperous.
For a long while, Ja Ja turned his back on Bonny politics, concentrating his immense energies on accumulating wealth through trade, the single most important criterion to power in the Delta. At the time, Bonny politics were volatile as a result of the irreconcilable and acrimonious contest for supremacy between the Manilla Pepple House and the Anna Pepple House to which Ja Ja belonged. Coincidentally, both houses were led by remarkable characters of Igbo slave origins - Oko Jumbo of the Manilla House and Madu (after him Alali his son) of the Anna House.
In 1863, Alali died, bequeathing to his house a frightening debt of between £10,000 and £15,000 owed to European supercargoes. Fearing bankruptcy, all of the eligible chiefs of the house declined nomination to head it. It was therefore a great relief when Ja Ja accepted to fill the void. With characteristic energy, he proceeded to put his house in order by reorganizing its finances. Conscious that the palm-oil markets in the hinterland and the wealth of the European trading community on the coast constituted the pivot of the Delta economy, he ingratiated himself with both sides. In a matter of two years, he had liquidated the debt left behind by his predecessor and launched his house on the path of prosperity. When less prosperous and insolvent houses sought incorporation into the Anna House, Ja Ja gradually absorbed one house after another.
By 1867, his remarkable success had become common knowledge throughout Bonny. The British consul to the area, Sir Richard Burton, had cause to remark that although Ja Ja was the "son of an unknown bush man," he had become "the most influential man and greatest trader in the [Imo] River." Predicted Burton: "In a short time he will either be shot or he will beat down all his rivals."
Burton's words proved prophetic. Ja Ja's successes incurred the jealousy of opponents who feared that, if left unchecked, his house might incorporate most of the houses in Bonny and thereby dominate its political and economic arena. Oko Jumbo, his bitterest opponent, was determined that such a prospect would never materialize.

                                  Statue of King Jaja

Meanwhile, two developments occurred in Bonny, serving to harden existing jealousies. First, in 1864, Christianity was introduced into the city-state, further polarizing the society. While the Manilla House welcomed the Christians with a warm embrace, the Anna House was opposed to the exotic religion. Not surprisingly, the missionaries sided with the Manilla House against the Anna House. Second, in 1865, King William Pepple died and, with this, the contest for the throne between the two royal houses took on a monstrous posture.
Three years later, in 1868, Bonny was ravaged by fire, and the Anna House was the worst hit. In the discomfiture of his opponent, Oko Jumbo saw his opportunity. Knowing that the fire had all but critically crippled Ja Ja's house, he sought every means to provoke an open conflict. On the other side, Ja Ja did everything to avoid such a conflict, but, as Dike states, "Oko Jumbo's eagerness to catch his powerful enemy unprepared prevailed."
On September 13, 1869, heavy fighting erupted between the two royal houses. Outmatched in men and armament, though not in strategy, Ja Ja pulled out of Bonny, accepted defeat, and sued for peace with a suddenness that surprised both his adversaries and the European supercargoes. Peace palaver commenced and dragged on for weeks under the auspices of the British consul. This was exactly what Ja Ja planned for. It soon became doubtful if the victors were not indeed the vanquished.
Ja Ja had sued for peace in order to gain time to retreat from Bonny with his supporters with little or no loss in men and armament. A master strategist, he relocated in the Andoni country away from the seaboard at a strategic point at the mouth of the Imo river, the highway of trade between the coastal communities and the palm-oil rich Kwa Iboe and Igbo country. There, he survived the initial problems of a virgin settlement as well as incessant attacks of his Bonny enemies.
In 1870, feeling reasonably secure, Ja Ja proclaimed the independence of his settlement which he named Opobo, after Opubu the Great, the illustrious king of Bonny and founder of Anna House who had died in 1830. As Dike writes:
[I]t is characteristic of the man that he had not only a sense of the occasion but of history… . Kingship was impossible of attainment for anyone of slave origins in Bonny. Instead he sought another land where he could give full scope to his boundless energies.
Long before the war of 1869, Ja Ja had been carefully planning to found his own state. The war merely provided him with the occasion to implement his design.
In naming his new territory Opobo, Ja Ja was appealing to the nostalgia and historical consciousness of his followers while giving them the impression that he was truly the heir of the celebrated king. That this impression was widespread and accepted by most Bonny citizens may be judged from the fact that of the 18 houses in Bonny, 14 followed Ja Ja to Opobo.
To no avail, the British consul tried to coerce Ja Ja to come back to Bonny. Against the admonition of the consul, and in the face of Bonny's displeasure, many British firms began to trade openly with Opobo while others transferred their depots there. By May of 1870, the Ja Ja revolution had driven the death-knell on Bonny's economy. British firms anchoring there are said to have lost an estimated £100,000 of trade by mid-1870. The city-state fell from grace to grass as Opobo, flourishing on its ashes, became in Ofonagoro's words, "the most important trade center in the Oil Rivers," and Ja Ja became "the greatest African living in the east of modern Nigeria."
For 18 years, Ja Ja ruled his kingdom with firmness and remarkable sagacity. He strengthened his relations with the hinterland palm-oil producers through judicious marriages and blood covenants which bound the parties into ritual kingship. He armed his traders with modern weapons for their own defense and that of the state. He thus monopolized trade with the palm-oil producers and punished severely any community that tried to trade directly with the European supercargoes.
In 1873, the British recognized him as king of independent Opobo, and Ja Ja reciprocated by sending a contingent of his soldiers to help the British in their war against the Ashanti kingdom in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Queen Victoria expressed her gratitude in 1875 by awarding him a sword of honor. It seemed a honeymoon had developed between Opobo and Britain.
Ja Ja's reign has been described as a striking instance of selective modernization. He retained most of the sociopolitical and cultural institutions of Bonny, such as the house system, and stuck steadfastly to the religion of his fathers, arguing that Christianity was a serious ferment of societal destabilization. While recognizing the value of Western education and literacy, he objected to its religious component. Thus, he sent his two sons to school in Scotland but insisted they acquire only secular education. He established a secular school in Opobo and employed an African-American, Emma White, to run it. An Englishman who visited Opobo in 1885 stated that the standard of the pupils in the school compared quite favorably with that of English children of the same age.
The honeymoon between Ja Ja and the British turned out to be meteoric: the ultimate ambitions of the two ran at cross-purposes. Ja Ja guarded his independence jealously, had a tight grip on the interior markets and confined British traders to Opobo, away from these markets. He made sure that the traders paid their comeys (customs and trade duties) as and when due.
But in the 1880s, the clouds of British imperialism were closing in menacingly on Opobo, the overthrow of indigenous sovereignties having been initiated by John Beecroft, the first British consul to Nigeria (1849-54). British imperialism had begun to assert itself forcefully; British officials on the spot were increasingly ignoring indigenous authorities, while British traders had begun to insist on trading directly with the hinterland palm-oil producers. Ja Ja tackled these formidable problems judiciously and with restraint.
In July 1884, fearing German intrusion in the Delta, the British consul, Edward Hewett, rushed to the area, foisting treaties of protection on the indigenous sovereignties. With a veiled threat from a man-of-war, Ja Ja too was stampeded into placing his kingdom under British protection. But unlike the other African monarchs, this was not before he had sought explanation for the word "protectorate," and had been assured by the consul that his independence would not be compromised. Hewett wrote to Ja Ja informing him, inter alia (among other things), that:
the queen does not want to take your country or your markets, but at the same time she is anxious that no other nation should take them. She undertakes … [to] leave your country still under your government; she has no wish to disturb your rule.
At Ja Ja's insistence, a clause providing for free trade in his kingdom was struck off before he agreed to sign the treaty.
The following year, European powers entered into the Treaty of Berlin which set the stage for the scramble and partition of Africa among themselves, without regard to the wishes of Africans. The treaty provided for free navigation on River Niger and other rivers, such as the Imo, linked to it. On the basis of this, the British consul asserted that British firms were within their rights to trade directly in the interior palm-oil markets. That same year, 1885, Britain proclaimed the Oil Rivers Protectorate, which included Ja Ja's territory. Sending a delegation to the British secretary of states for the colonies to protest these actions by right of the treaty of 1884, Ja Ja's protest fell on deaf ears. A man of his word, he was shocked at Britain reneging on her pledge.
Worse times were yet to come as political problems were compounded by economic dispute. The 1880s witnessed a severe trade depression that ruined some of the European firms trading in the Delta and threatened the survival of others. The surviving firms responded to the situation in two ways. First, they reached an agreement among themselves, though not with complete unanimity, to offer low prices for produce. Second, they claimed the right to go directly to the interior markets in order to sidestep the coastal middlemen and reduce the handling cost of produce.
As would be expected, Ja Ja objected to these maneuvers and proceeded to ship his own produce directly to Europe. The British consul directed the European firms not to pay comey to Ja Ja anymore, arguing that in shipping his produce directly to Europe, he had forfeited his right to receive the payment. Once again, Ja Ja sent a delegation to Britain to protest the consul and the traders' action. Once again, this was to no avail.
Under a threat of naval bombardment, Ja Ja signed an agreement with the British consul in July 1887 to allow free trade in his territory. By now, he knew that Britain's imperial ambition was growing rapidly, and he began transferring his resources further into the Igbo hinterland, his birthplace. But as Elizabeth Isichei points out, "he was confronted with a situation where courage and foresight were ultimately in vain."
Harry Johnston, acting vice-consul, a young hothead anxious to advance his colonial career, imagined that Ja Ja would be a perfect stepping-stone to attain his ambition. Arriving at Opobo on a man-of-war, Johnston invited Ja Ja for a discussion on how to resolve the points of friction between Opobo and the British traders and officials. Suspicious of Johnston's real intentions, Ja Ja initially turned down the invitation but was lured to accept with a promise of safe return after the meeting. Said Johnston:
I hereby assure you that whether you accept or reject my proposals tomorrow, no restrictions will be put on you - you will be free to go as soon as you have heard my message.
tourists dressed in traditional Ijaw dress at the Statue of King Jaja of Opobo

But again the British reneged on their pledge: Ja Ja would not return to his kingdom alive. Once on board the warship Goshawk, Johnston confronted him with a deportation order or the complete destruction of Opobo. Nearly 18 years to the day when he pulled out of Bonny, Ja Ja was deported to the Gold Coast, tried, and declared guilty of actions inimical to Britain's interest. Still afraid of his charm and influence on the Gold Coast, even in captivity, Johnston saw to it that he was deported to the West Indies, at St. Vincent Island.
With the exit of Ja Ja, the most formidable obstacle to Britain's imperial ambition in Southeastern Nigeria had been removed. But the circumstances of his removal left a sour taste in certain British mouths. Lord Salisbury, British prime minister, could not help criticizing Johnston, noting that in other places Ja Ja's deportation would be called "kidnapping." Michael Crowder describes the event as "one of the shabbiest incidents in the history of Britain's relations with West Africa." Among the indigenous population, it left a deep and lasting scar of suspicion of Britain's good faith and, for a long time, trade in the area all but ceased.
In exile, Ja Ja is said to have borne himself with kingly dignity. He made repeated appeals to Britain to allow him to return to Opobo. In 1891, his request was granted, belatedly as it turned out: Ja Ja died on the Island of Teneriffe en route to Opobo, the kingdom built with his sweat and devotion. His people gladly paid the cost of repatriating his body and spent a fortune celebrating his royal funeral.
Today, an imposing statue of Ja Ja stands in the center of Opobo with the inscription:
A king in title and in deed. Always just and generous.
Further Reading
Burn, Alarn. History of Nigeria. George Allen & Unwin, 1929.
Dike, Kenneth O. Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885. Oxford University Press, 1956.
Isichei, Elizabeth. A History of the Igbo People. Macmillan, 1976. Ogonagoro, Walter I. Trade and Imperialism in Southern Nigeria, 1881-1929. Nok Publishers, 1979.
Source:http://www.answers.com/topic/ja-ja-of-opobo

women of Opobo

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NAOMI SIMS: THE CELEBRATED FACE OF "BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL" MOVEMENT IN FASHION INDUSTRY

Naomi Ruth Sims (March 30, 1948 – August 1, 2009) was an American modeling and fashion legend as well as an astute businesswoman and author. Sims has an enviable record of being one of the first successful black models while still in her teens, and achieved worldwide recognition from the late 1960s into the early 1970s, appearing on the covers of prestigious fashion and popular magazines.She was the second black famous supermodel after the great Donyale Luna of Detroit before the term supermodel was coined.
Naomi Sims, the modeling and fashion legend who was the first African-American (black) model to appear on the cover of Ladies' Home Journal in November 1968.


Naomi Sims was the first African-American (black) model to appear on the cover of Ladies' Home Journal in November 1968. Her appearance on the cover page that year was a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement. She went on to design successful collections of wigs and cosmetics for black women under her name and she has been sometimes widely credited as being the first African-American supermodel. “Naomi was the first,” the designer Halston told The New York Times in 1974. “She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.”

Prior to Sims 1968 fame, the August 27, 1967 Gosta Peterson's photos of her pushed Sims into the history books as she became the first black woman to get the cover of the "Fashion of Times", a supplement to The New York Times. According to Essence magazine, “Never had a model so dark-skinned received so much exposure, praise, and professional prestige.”
Naomi Sims, pioneer black supermodel

In 1969 and 1970, Naomi received the Model of the Year award. In 1972 she received the Woman of Achievement Medal and then the Top Hat Award in 1974. In 1976, Naomi Sims created the Naomi Sims Company. She brought to black woman of various skin tones beauty products that were not so easily attainable at the time. The company produces a both body and skin care lines in addition to the Naomi Sims wigs collection. She was awarded the NYC Board of Education award for teaching underprivileged children in Bedford Stuyvesant. And in 2003, she was honoured in New York with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Fashion & Arts Xchange.
Naomi Sims

Naomi Sims authored several books including: All About Health and Beauty for the Black Woman, How to Be A Top Model and All About Hair Care for the Black Woman.
Portrait of Naomi Sims

On her personal life, in August 1973, she married art dealer Michael Findlay. Findlay and Sims caused a stir as Findlay was white and interracial marriage in 1973 was still considered taboo. Findlay and Sims were both, profiled separately in the February 1, 1970, issue of Vogue before they met and married. They had one son, Bob. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1991
Sims died on Saturday, August 1 of breast cancer,  in Newark, New Jersey. She was 61 and is survived by her son, Bob Findlay, a granddaughter, and her elder sister, Betty Sims. Her eldest sister, Doris, died in 2008. Her Times Fashion Magazine cover and images of her in Life Magazine are still on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Naomi Sims, Circa 1970

Sims was born in Oxford, Mississippi, the youngest of three daughters born to John and Elizabeth Sims. Her father (whom she never knew) reportedly worked as a porter, but Sims' mother later described him "an absolute bum" and her parents divorced shortly after she was born.
 Naomi Sims with sport sky-colored eye makeup. Sims, who is known as "The First Black Supermodel" paired black mascara and smokey eyeshadow with a bright blue liner (draw on the lower rim of her eyes)

At 13, Naomi already measured 5'10. She left Mississippi for better schooling opportunities in Pennsylvania. Often teased because of her height and southern accent, she felt alone. Mrs Sims later moved with her three daughters to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Naomi's mother was forced to put her child into foster care. She attended Westinghouse High School. There due to her height, she was ostracized by many of her classmates. She accredits her catholic faith for teaching her to walk with pride and dignity from an early age.
Sims began college after winning a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, while also taking night classes in psychology at New York University. Needing more money to finance her studies, she launched her modelling career in 1967 on her own. After running low on money she atarted posing for illustrators and through established agencies but was also frustrated by racial prejudice, with some agencies telling her that her skin was too dark.
Naomi Sims

Naomi's perspicacity and drive started a revolution in the fashion world and in the beauty industry. One day, she by chance came across a photographer's agent. He wrote down three names and urged her to go see the photographers. With no agent, she contacted the renowned photographer Gosta Peterson, who was also known for his innovation. It also just happened that Peterson' was married to Pat Peterson, the fashion editor of The New York Times and of its "Fashion of the Times" bi-yearly supplement. Peterson's photos of her pushed Sims into the history books. On August 27, 1967 Sims became the first black woman to get the cover of the "Fashion of Times", a supplement to The New York Times.
The Legendary Naomi Sims | 1975 Photo: The Legendary Anthony Barboz

With her recent groundbreaking accomplishments, Sims soon learned that being a pioneer in the US market was not easy. She approached all the top modelling agencies in New York City including Ford. Eileen Ford refused to meet with her directly. Former model Sunny Harnett, who now worked at Ford as an assistant, delivered the news to her. After being informed that Ford already had too many models of "her kind", Sims went on over to the newly organized Wilhelmina Models. Wilhelmina refused to take her onto her books.

Sims’ elegant looks, with her signature ballerina bun, in the late sixties won her covers on Life and Ladies' Home Journal and threw away the notion that all Black models had to be typecast as wild and exotic.
(Photo: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

 However, Naomi managed to convince Wilhelmina to allow her to use the agency's contact information on the card that she attached to the Times cover that she sent to every ad agency in the city. Days later, Sims returned home to discover a message under her door. It read, "CANNOT REACH YOU BY TELEPHONE. URGENT YOU CALL US." It was a telegram and had been sent by Wilhelmina. Fearing that she had done something wrong, Naomi did not respond. Another telegram came for Sims and she again did not respond. Then, Wilhelmina sent a third telegram to Naomi explaining that she needed to come into the agency because they had lots work for her.
Naomi Sims and Tamara Dobson in Giorgio di Sant' Angelo (via Afrolistas and the City)

Naomi's ingenuity and initiative paid off. By helping herself, she simultaneously cracked a hole in the modelling industry through which other models like Beverly Johnson, Pat Cleveland, Grace Jones and Bethann Hardison would soon follow. She posed for fashion pages in Vogue and was a spokesperson for national Virginia Slims billboard campaigns. "The editors would call for more fantasy. I gave them elegance and regality. We were reaching for the stars…", Sims went on to say.

Naomi Sims at the “Harlem Homecoming” benefit show for the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1972. Image via Bettmann/Corbis

Naomi's face became the muse for the "Black is Beautiful" movement in 1967, which taught black and ebony skinned women to cherish their individual beauty. Before her, no model of such dark skin had ever been so widely exposed. In 1968, she broke through to Middle America in capturing the cover of the Ladies Home Journal. She followed that up with her simple and stunning cover of Life Magazine. By this time, she was a tender 19 years old and had been recognized both domestically and internationally as a celebrity. Others would follow for McCall's, Essence and Cosmopolitan. The latter topped off her retirement as a fashion model. In 1968 Sims told Ladies' Home Journal:
"It helped me more than anything else because it showed my face. After it was aired, people wanted to find out about me and use me."

In 1967, she had been offered the role of Cleopatra Jones, but soundly turned it down. Naomi was shocked and disappointed at the way Hollywood chose to represent black women. However, Hollywood would go on to emulate Sims' beauty in the 1975 movie, Mahogany. It goes without saying that Dianna Ross' makeup and allure bore striking resemblances to famous photos previously done of Sims.
Naomi Sims-Italian Vogue 1969

Naomi admits that others found her haughty and even "too grand". However, she was reclusive and wasn't able to canalise all the pressures that accompanied the inherent racism that came along with the territory of being one of America's first black supermodel. Giving back, she used her prestigious image to help other in the African-American community. She gave of her time to work with drug addicts, Vietnam veterans, black civic groups and various charitable organisations. Naomi is an active member of the NAACP and the Northside Center for Child Development.

Yale Joel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images; Naomi Sims crosses the street in Halston, 1972. (CNP Archives)

i admits that others found her haughty and even "too grand". However, she was reclusive and wasn't able to canalise all the pressures that accompanied the inherent racism that came along with the territory of being one of America's first black supermodel. Giving back, she used her prestigious image to help other in the African-American community. She gave of her time to work with drug addicts, Vietnam veterans, black civic groups and various charitable organisations. Naomi is an active member of the NAACP and the Northside Center for Child Development.
Naomi Sims, 1969

Backstage gossip, drugs in the industry, gossips and racial quotas disenchanted her with the industry. Naomi was intelligent and admitted that she sculpted her career in such a way that she worked less, but always for prestigious clients, who paid her well. In 1973, she officially retired. She went into retirement in grand style making the cover of Cosmopolitan!

In 1969 and 1970, Naomi received the Model of the Year award. In 1972 she received the Woman of Achievement Medal and then the Top Hat Award in 1974. In 1976, Naomi Sims created the Naomi Sims Company. She brought to black woman of various skin tones beauty products that were not so easily attainable at the time. The company produces a both body and skin care lines in addition to the Naomi Sims wigs collection. She was awarded the NYC Board of Education award for teaching underprivileged children in Bedford Stuyvesant. And in 2003, she was honoured in New York with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Fashion & Arts Xchange.

In addition to being an occasional contributor to Redbook, Essence, Encore and other periodicals, Naomi Sims has authored several books: All About Health and Beauty for the Black Woman, How to Be A Top Model and All About Hair Care for the Black Woman.
Model Naomi Sims, getting off of a bus wearing suede jacket and pants, and carrying a fur coat. (June 1972, www.wmagazine.com)

Sims died on Saturday, August 1 of cancer. She was 61. Her Times Fashion Magazine cover and images...
Source:http://www.thefashioninsider.com/supermodels/29.html?lang=EN&meta=Biography-EN-Naomi-Sims-Supermodel-Second-Black-Supermodel


Naomi Sims, 61, Pioneering Cover Girl, Is Dead
By ERIC WILSON
Published: August 3, 2009
Naomi Sims, whose appearance as the first black model on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in November 1968 was a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement, and She went on to design successful collections of wigs and cosmetics for black women under her name, died Saturday in Newark. She was 61 and lived in Newark.
She died of cancer, said her son, Bob Findlay.
Ms. Sims is sometimes referred to as the first black supermodel.

“Naomi was the first,” the designer Halston told The New York Times in 1974. “She was the great ambassador for all black people. She broke down all the social barriers.”

Ms. Sims often said childhood insecurities and a painful upbringing — living in foster homes, towering over her classmates and living in a largely poor white neighborhood in Pittsburgh — had inspired her to strive to become “somebody really important” at a time when cultural perceptions of black Americans were being challenged by the civil rights movement and a renewed stress on racial pride.

When Ms. Sims arrived in New York on a scholarship to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1966, there was very little interest in fashion for black models and only a handful who had been successful, like Dorothea Towles Church, who starred in the couture shows in 1950s Paris, and Donyale Luna, who was named Vogue’s model of the year in 1966.

                                                                1969
In need of money, Ms. Sims, with her heart-shaped face and long limbs, was encouraged by classmates and counselors to give it a try. But every agency she approached turned her down, some telling her that her skin was too dark.

Undeterred, Ms. Sims decided to approach photographers herself. Gosta Peterson, a photographer for The Times, agreed to photograph her for the cover of its August 1967 fashion supplement, then called Fashions of The Times.

The agencies were still not interested, so Ms. Sims, showing a dash of enterprise that would later define her career, told Wilhelmina Cooper, a former model who was starting her own agency, that she would send out copies of the magazine to advertising agencies with Ms. Cooper’s number attached. Ms. Cooper could have a commission if anyone called back.

Within a year, Ms. Sims was earning $1,000 a week and had been hired for a national television campaign for AT&T, which showed her and two other models — one white and one Asian — wearing fashions by Bill Blass.
Naomi Sims

“It helped me more than anything else because it showed my face,” Ms. Sims told Ladies’ Home Journal the following year, when she appeared on its cover, the first time a black model was featured so prominently in a mainstream women’s publication. “After it was aired, people wanted to find out about me and use me.”

Ms. Sims was suddenly in high demand, modeling for top designers like Halston, Teal Traina, Fernando Sánchez and Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, and standing at the vanguard of a fashion movement for black models that would give rise to runway stars of the 1970s, including Pat Cleveland, Alva Chinn and Beverly Johnson.

Two images of Ms. Sims — one from the 1967 Times fashion magazine cover and the other from a 1969 issue of Life — are in the current Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “The Model as Muse.” In a catalog, the curators Harold Koda and Kohle Yohannan wrote, “The beautifully contoured symmetry of Sims’s face and the lithe suppleness of her body presented on the once-exclusionary pages of high-fashion journals were evidence of the wider societal movement of Black Pride and the full expression of ‘Black is Beautiful.’ ”

But Ms. Sims, in interviews, often said she held the industry in low regard because of the way male executives treated her and, more generally, she said, “because people have the idea that models are stupid.”

After five years, she gave up modeling and started a wig-making business with styles designed for black women. It eventually expanded into a multimillion-dollar beauty empire and at least five books on modeling and beauty.
Naomi Sims(March 30, 1948 – August 1, 2009) "She personified the slogan 'Black Is Beautiful' with equal emphasis on deep color and high value.

“There is nothing sadder than an old, broke model, and there are many models who have nothing at the end of their career,” Ms. Sims told The Times in 1969.

Naomi Ruth Sims was born on March 30, 1948, in Oxford, Miss., the third of three daughters of John and Elizabeth Sims. Her father was a porter. Her parents divorced shortly after she was born, and all she knew of her father, she told Ladies’ Home Journal, was “that my mother told me he was an absolute bum.”

The family moved to Pittsburgh, where her mother became ill and Ms. Sims was placed in foster care. She remained close with her sisters, and followed the next oldest, Betty, to New York after graduating from Westinghouse High School.

Her 1973 marriage to Michael Findlay, the Manhattan art dealer, ended in divorce in 1991. Besides their son, Bob, who lives in Seattle, she is survived by Betty Sims, who lives in Manhattan, and a granddaughter. Doris Sims, her oldest sister, died in 2008.

In addition to pursuing studies at F.I.T., Ms. Sims took night courses in psychology at New York University but gave them up when her modeling career took off and she became a celebrity, running in a glamorous crowd that included Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.
Naomi Sims

She retained, however, the sense of propriety that her foster parents had instilled in her. In 1972, the producers of the movie “Cleopatra Jones” sought to cast Ms. Sims in the title role, but she turned it down because, she said, she was offended by its racist portrayal of black people. (The role went to the model Tamara Dobson.)
Naomi Sims in her classic 1970 Houbigant advertisement

In 1973, Ms. Sims decided to start her own business. As a model, she often did her own hair and makeup, since many studio assistants were unfamiliar with working with darker skin. And she noticed that most commercially available wigs were designed for Caucasian hair, so she began experimenting with her own designs, baking synthetic hairs in her oven at home to create the right texture to look like straightened black hair. Within five years, her designs, produced by the Metropa Company, had annual sales of $5 million.

She also began writing books, including “All About Health and Beauty for the Black Woman,” “How to Be a Top Model” and “All About Success for the Black Woman,” as well as an advice column for teenage girls in Right On! magazine.

In the 1980s, she expanded the Naomi Sims Collection to include a prestige fragrance, beauty salons and cosmetics, but by the end of the decade she had become less involved with its daily operations. Many images of Ms. Sims from that period are still used to promote the products that bear her name.

Ms. Sims often attributed her success to using her race as an advantage.
Naomi Sims

“It’s ‘in’ to use me,” she said early on, “and maybe some people do it when they don’t really like me. But even if they are prejudiced, they have to be tactful if they want a good picture.”
Source:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/fashion/04sims.html?_r=0




Beautiful Naomi Sims wearing Halston



Photo Henry Clarke for Vogue, July 1961


THIS PHOTO of Sims was taken at the AJC studio.


Dec. 1972: Interview cover with Andy Warhol

circa 1969

Vintage Bazaar Dec 1968, Naomi Sims


1971, Naomi Sims



"From LIFE magazine (17 October 1969), this is of course Naomi Sims (1948-2009)". 4 1 ·


News Photo: American model Naomi Sims and her husband art