Manely Firm - December 2019

211 Roswell St. NE Marietta, GA 30060 (866) 687-8561


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The Original Afro-Samurai

From bonded slave to honored warrior in a foreign land ...

Japan’s most legendary daimyo, or warlord, Oda Nobunaga. Well on his way to unifying Japan, Nobunaga was deeply curious about the black man who had been brought to his court. Having never encountered people from Africa, the samurai lord thought Yasuke was covered in ink and insisted he scrub his skin. But as Nobunaga got to know Yasuke, who now spoke conversational Japanese, a friendship kindled between the two men from different worlds. Contemporary records claim Nobunaga loved learning about the world outside Japan through Yasuke’s stories, and the two often conversed together. F rom S amurai to I con Nobunaga not only valued his conversations with Yasuke, but he also recognized his friend’s military prowess. The daimyo raised Yasuke to the honored rank of samurai, giving him his own residence and katana, the ceremonial sword of Japan’s warrior- elite. Yasuke fought alongside Nobunaga in battle and is even rumored to have taken the warrior’s sword to Nobunaga’s son after his death. In Japan today, the legend of the African samurai lives on through stories, such as in the children’s book “Kuro-suke” by Kurusu Yoshio, and the Emmy-nominated series “Afro Samurai: Resurrection.”

If you think this sounds like the plot of an action movie, you’re not alone, but Yasuke, the 16th century servant-turned-samurai, was very real. He lived a life that blurred the line between history and legend. The story of the sole recorded African to join the Japanese warrior class is surprisingly seldom-told. Although, an upcoming movie starring “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman aims to change that. F rom S hadows of the P ast Little is known about Yasuke’s early life. Historians theorize he was kidnapped from Mozambique and trained as a slave and child soldier in India, but the details are hazy. What we do know is the man who would come to be called Yasuke was purchased by Jesuit missionaries and acted as the valet and bodyguard to the leader of a delegation to Japan. The island nation was in dire straits itself, reeling from seemingly endless wars between rival clans. In this political turmoil, Yasuke found his place in history. F rom C uriosity to C onfidant While protecting European missionaries, Yasuke was brought to Kyoto, home to

T he L egend of Y asuke Japan’s Afr ican Samurai


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