9th Atiku Center Lecture: Professor Lovejoy Presents on Said Muhammad Ali, The Borno Slave Who Fought in the US Civil War

On November 24, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History at York University, Professor Paul Lovejoy, delivered the 9th Atiku Center Lecture before a full capacity audience that included President Dekle. 

Prof Lovejoy, who has published over 40 books and 100 articles and chapters in books on African history and African diaspora history, delivered a lecture titled: “Said Nicholas Muhammad Ali: A Bornu Slave who ended up a US Civil War Veteran.”

The researcher said he finds it interesting to share Said’s story “as many people don’t know that there is an important Nigerian that had become important in the world”.

Lovejoy is doing a project on biographies in collaboration with a number of scholars and many students. His team is collecting, processing and putting into a data base the biographies of West Africans born in the 18th to 19th century who had for quite a lengthy period of their lives experienced slavery.

Mr. Said was enslaved in his mid-teenage years when he was in a hunting expedition in Lake Chad against his mother’s advice.

Lovejoy considered him ‘smart’ since he was a multilinguistic. Fortune had an influence in his life since he was very well educated even before being enslaved at about 15. And he not only knew Arabic but also learnt Turkish.

Mohammed Ali Said was known in North America as Nicholas Said.

The researcher said he had a “most astonished career” as a soldier in the US Civil War of the 1860s.

“Thereafter, Said was an unsung hero in the period of reconstruction after the Civil War, again, operating in the Southern US in a period when it was extremely dangerous for anyone, especially if you were Black.”

“My opinion is that he should be a national hero in this country; he should be a national hero in the United States… It is unbelievable for the status of this man to be completely overlooked by history.”

Professor of International and Comparative Politics Bill Hansen described Lovejoy as one of the most widely recognized scholars of slavery. “…an extraordinary prolific scholar.”


Reported by Omorogbe Omorogiuwa

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