Americans such as myself had been taught only the American side of the treatment of the African diaspora, which is one fraught with slavery and brutality. However, that appeared to be only one side, since there were exceptions that defied the customs and beliefs of the time. This was especially shown by Abram Petrovich Gannibal, who was a military engineer under Peter the Great who was originally an African prince.
His original name and even his birthplace have been lost to time; however recent research suggests that he may have been born in what is today Cameroon. He was among many children in an Animist household headed by a local prince. After the Ottoman Empire invaded in their search for slaves, Abram was taken and sold to the Sultan. However, while in Istanbul, he would be purchased by a Russian dignitary who had been ordered by Czar Peter the Great to take with him the clever African slaves that surrounded the Sultan.
Abram Petrovich Gannibal
During the journey to Russia, he was baptized as Abram. Under the guardianship of Peter the Great, he was baptized as Abram Petrovich. While he was in exile in Siberia, he would later take the surname Gannibal after the Carthaginian general Hannibal. It was clear that Gannibal loved Peter the Great as a father, which was where the patronymic came from. He also seemed to emulate the general Hannibal, who led his forces through Africa and Europe in an attempt to conquer the Roman Republic in order to show great endurance.
One of his descendants is the famous writer Alexander Pushkin, who has written extensively about his great-grandfather.
Image Attribution: Ludushka. “Петровский парк.” Wikipedia. October 8, 2011. CC BY-SA 3.0. Changes include cropping.
Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy; Nicole Svobodny; Ludmilla A. Trigos, eds. (2006). Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness. Northwestern University Press. pp. 31, 47–49, 56, 63, 74. ISBN 0810119714. Retrieved 7 January 2015.