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Dear Editor: The African legacy of Tobago’s Davidsons and Denoons

“[…] With a family tree consisting of thousands of relatives, this important aspect of our history—which was researched and confirmed by Dr Jeff Davidson, former leader of the Tobago House of Assembly—was told to me as a child, and narrated during our great family reunions over in Tobago. 

“Knowing our history has worked positively for the Kisa-Davidson clan, as it maintained the connection to our great lineage, giving us social identity and definition. It also helped us to understand our present…”

This letter to the editor, describing how a prince from Sierra Leone sent his family to Tobago circa 1862, was submitted to Wired868 by Dr Hatshepsut Nolene Kisa-Davidson, a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine:

Image: African family tree.
(Copyright R Hart Studio and Gallery)

From 1834 onwards, when the shortage of labour was already a problem for planters in the West Indies—case in point, Trinidad and Tobago—decisions were made to import labourers from other countries, one of them being Sierra Leone, West Africa. 

That was the window of opportunity (circa 1862), for the two sons and one daughter of Prince Hunga Kisa of the Kissi clan in Sierra Leone, to go westward for work, which landed them as artisans in Tobago.  

Re-named Slaney Davidson, one of the Kisa men worked on the plantation belonging to Ernest Davidson, a lawyer from Aberdeen, Scotland. The other Kisa brother worked on the plantation of a Mr Denoon, where he was renamed Prescod Denoon. Their sister acquired the name Lydia, but her colonial last name is not clear. 

Not being slaves, their meagre wage, was one penny a week, while the name change facilitated the estate to which they were attached. Thus, the Davidsons and the Denoons of Tobago are descendants of two African brothers.

This is the genealogy, which was orally passed on to me by my father Noel Gordon Davidson, who was our family archivist and genealogist. He got it from his father, John Malcolm Davidson (Pappy), who in turn got it from his father, John Brown Davidson (who married Alice Nancis), of Tobago.  

Photo: African Family Tree of Life.
(Copyright Daniel Hagerman)

For this, as well as for his work in community development, Noel was enstooled Chief Kewulay Hunga Kisa II. With a family tree consisting of thousands of relatives, this important aspect of our history, which was researched and confirmed by Dr Jeff Davidson, former leader of the Tobago House of Assembly, was told to me as a child, and narrated during our great family reunions over in Tobago.

Knowing our history has worked positively for the Kisa-Davidson clan, as it maintained the connection to our great lineage, giving us social identity and definition. It also helped us to understand our present, as well as to chart a positive course for the future. 

Additionally, it brought a special sunlight into our lives, absent in many black families because of their lost history.

Kisa-Davidsons have majored in professions such as law, governance, community development, teaching, medicine and music. That is in our blood. 

Photo: Haiti midfielder Shad San Millan (foreground) is knocked off his feet by Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kassidy Davidson during Concacaf U-20 Championship action in San Pedro Sula on 19 June 2022.
(via TTFA Media)

We are a functioning family mega-clan, with matriarch, patriarch and elders, which has brought us spiritual, professional, skilled and financial wealth, as we engage in the continuous emancipating of spirit and mind.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, elders and cousins continue to play their part. While a few have fallen in defeat, and some youths may show no interest, we still celebrate and encourage them, because their lives serve to remind us of our overall responsibility to family and community. 

Africans in diaspora need to understand that their lineage is still there to be rediscovered, and to be documented. Celebrate family, our extended families! 

Happy Day of emancipating ourselves.

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