Could Borans be part of early American history? Where are these people and their descendents now?

Could Borans be part of early American history? Where are these people and their descendents now?

 Borana immigrants 1902us_ellis_3_black_people


Ellis island 

 Ellis Island

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States as the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1925. Augustus F. Sherman, a clerk at Ellis Island, created hundreds of images documenting the new arrivals to America at the Island. Two of his photographs were a portrait posted above. Who are this people and how did they arrive in Ellis Island, New York. Some analysts suggest that they have been taken to New York as a part of exhibition of different ethnic groups from Africa.

The interesting observation from the portrait is a presence of young children in the group. This makes it more unlikely that the group brought as slaves. At the same time it is not clear what kind of exhibition would involve children of this age and demand them to travel that far by the means of transportation available during 1905, which is seemingly not an airplane? However the script under this portrait suggests this people as immigrants. This is interesting for they are not identified as slaves. Even if the suggestion above is taken in to consideration and they were part of an exhibition, it is interesting to know what kind of agreement existed between these group and their sponsors. Are they brought in to the business forcefully or willingly? What was their destiny after the exhibition?

 Although, their identity, how they got to New York and their destiny was not clearly known, the description on the portrait above indicates as these people were Borans from Southern Ethiopia. According Boranas calender, 1902 is duringre the regime (Gadaa) of Adi Doyo Jillo, governed Rabaa Gadaa from 1896 to 1904. His administration came 31 Gadaas or 248 years after Abbay Babo Horo who led the Borans to territories up to Mombas in Kenya and Hargesa in Somalia. Thus we can see that practically the Borans had been occupying this region that started from the coastal area of Mombasa or even Lamu to regions that stretched deep into the coastal area of Somalia that boarder the Indian Ocean. If Borans were occupying this area around 1902, then could it be possible that the group may got access to ships transporting goods from this region? Still it is interesting at that time a group of people (which looks like a family) decide to board a stranger ship willingly and traveled that far. If they did, there should be a reasonable motivating factor that resulted in that risky journey. What could it be?

Although there are hundreds of possible questions out there concerning this group, the biggest of all is whether their descendants do still exist, perhaps in the US. If they do and could be located, then part of or possibly the entire mystery could be solved.



4 thoughts on “Could Borans be part of early American history? Where are these people and their descendents now?

  1. Could Boranas be parts of early American history?” Yes, that is wonderfully stated.
    Talking of who helped shape American history and brought it to its mightiness, could be our people Borana/Oromo too. During those sweeping social revolution in American history, our people might have added their Gada’s system democratic values and wisdoms in to the American democratic system. The democracy USA is enjoying might be from our owns.

    Great job everybody for bringing this to the light and let’s keep searching for more.

    • Waro: Note that America [USA] has in part been built on black man’s slavery & their notion of democracy is intended to benefit mainly white Americans [like Apartheid South Africa]. As such, American’s model of governance has far more in common with Ethiopian feudal & racist system of governance than Borana’s more or less egalitarian system of governance. If you need a proof, just ask yourself why white Americans reject Obama’s universal health care policy for all Americans? The answer is because they don’t want their tax dollars to benefit sick people in the USA that happen to include blacks & latinos!

  2. These Borana-oromo people may have been used/performed in “Human Zoos” in the USA. Human zoos were basically a 19th century phenomenon in Europe and America where whites captured indigenous tribespeople from all over the world including India, Africa, Papua New Guinea, the Amazon jungle and brought them to Europe/America for the amusement of white people. These poor people were put into “Human Zoos” for white families to go & see them in the same way people visit zoos to see wild animals. Often, such “Human Zoos” were located at the same spot as zoos for wild animals & the tribespeople put on display were called “savages”. They also constructed models of their “huts” & forced to sing/dance as part of their show. They were basically slaves of their captors & most died due to bad treatment & cold weather of Europe/USA. As you can see in the story linked below, ethnic oromos were also enclosed in an American “Human Zoo” with zebras. I read somewhere how “Gallla families” [aka Borana oromo] were captured and brought to Ellis Island to be put on mobile “exhibitions” in various Human Zoos in the USA/Canada. It is likely that the Borana of the Ellis Island were the same people referred to in that article. In a way, their story is an illustration of white people’s racism & the way they degraded other races in those days. For more, here is the link.

  3. From the pictures it is not clear where they were taken. There could however be another explanation. The Borana were visited by Arthur Donalson Smith, an American, medical decotor and expolor, who passed through Borana between 1895 and 1896. He is the one to whom the Borana refer to as gaaf Lichoo Boru Galgallo feerenjiini fuude. He had taken many photographs then. As he made collections for the Simonsian Museum, could the photos be from that time?

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