Black American Wizard Origins
At the time of the Transatlantic slave trade, many magical African people were shipped as goods to what is now known as the United States. Due to the distressing nature of the trip, the rampant death, starvation, beatings, and separation of tribes and families, many did not make it to shore. However, the surviving community was able to pass down stories, ideas, and lessons in conjuring.
On most plantations, there was said to be two to four conjurers. These brave men and women took it upon themselves to make sure the traditions in magic were passed along. This was very hard to do considering most slave owners did everything in their power to make sure that the enslaved remained ignorant. The extent to which conjuring, also known as hoodoo, could be practiced varied by region and the temperament of the slave owner.
Like their ancestors, most African descended wizards received dream messengers as guides linking them to their magical ability. Upon waking from the dream, most wizards found an inscribed stone near their bed. The stone was usually brought to the conjurer and secret lessons would begin from that point.
Unfortunately, the history and knowledge of dream messengers were largely forgotten for many generations. Black wizards with no knowledge of this phenomenon have been ignoring these dreams for decades. The start of the Civil War brought about a change in group dynamics. Former slaves saw that there was life outside of their plantation homes. Promises of freedom whether gaining it by joining the military or traveling to new, often northern states dispersed familial groups and the knowledge passed down within them. It was only after the discovery of a formerly unknown wizard’s journal from 1921 that dream messaging has become popular knowledge again. The journal belonged to Ezekiel Montgomery, a freedman, who had spent a portion of his adulthood interviewing older relatives of their lives before freedom.
As we moved into the 20th and 21st century, Dream Messengers have been far less common. The African American wizarding organization, commonly known as N.A.A.A.W. , communicates mostly through the postal service and email. However, many young wizards are beginning to see a rise in dream messengers as this portion of history and culture have been revealed to them.
The growing population of Black magical folk was largely missed by slave masters, simply because it started so early, in children who were often overlooked on plantations. It wasn’t until they were of a certain age that they were even considered “useful” by their owners. While some were relegated to servants in the master’s home or companions for the master’s children, most were left to be taken care of by “aunts” or “grannies”, enslaved elders that were no longer able to do hard labor. This allowed those that were being taught by conjurers to have moments alone to practice and refine their magical skills.
The course of study for most children has not changed very much over the last 200 plus years.
Originally, conjurers taught the children how to focus their magical abilities resulting in wandless magic (a useful skill as most Black children and adults often weren’t allowed much in the area of possessions), elixir/ balm making, star charting, and musical language. There was apt opportunity to practice all of these things without being caught. Many children assisted in the healing process of those around them, providing the others with elixirs to end and ward off sickness and balms to heal overworked hands, feet, and bodies that had the unfortunate pleasure of being on the other side of a whip.
Communication between enslaved Blacks became easier as time went on. The diverse group of separated Africans learned English from their kidnappers and masters. This resulted in communal growth and understanding. Much like African Americans today, the enslaved witches and wizards were able to find joy in the direst conditions. Those who showed an aptitude towards language soon discovered an ancestral magic, the language of music. Through song, dance and some instruments, the magical community realized that they were speaking a language that only the other African Americans understood. While their owners saw this as just a bit of song and dance, the enslaved people were actually communicating with the ancestors, delivering messages, and giving each other directions to freedom. “Follow the Drinking Gourd” was a popular song during this time. This magical music language continues to live on and has played a major part in the rise of the current popular music of today across all genres.
Learning to chart the stars was also an essential part of magical education taught to the young wizards. Star charting proved useful in escaping the bondage of slavery. To be able to read the night sky assured that they would be traveling the right way.
The journey to freedom, while often dangerous to those in the southern states, was a call that many followed. Black people both magical and No-Maj headed north to freedom. Those that did make it often found pockets of freedmen and women in communities with one another. A numerous amount of people had been manumitted, some had escaped the southern states to join the rebel military, others had paid for their freedom and were working hard to pay for their families as well. Some had been born free or freedom adjacent, serving a few years of indentured servitude. As these communities of freed blacks grew, so did the swell in the population of magical Black people. Acquiring one’s own freedom led countless others to work for years to help secure freedom for those still in bondage.
To be a person of magical ability didn’t necessarily make freedom easier to acquire. Like, every other Black American, these wizards were known by one thing, the sense of otherness that comes with the color of their skin. The relationship between magical and No-Maj Black folks was and is still a fragile ecosystem. Interactions between No-Maj and wizards depend largely on the families non-magical Black people are raised in. Devout Christians have been known to be somewhat hostile toward wizards in the past since witchcraft is frowned upon (there is a growing change in recent years). Others see the practices as something deeply spiritual, a link to their culture and ancestry. Though there are differences in opinions, one thing remains the same, few people, magical or No-Maj are willing to expose each other to the governing white leaders. Protecting each other is what is most important.
Since its inception, N.A.A.A.W. has been at the forefront of Black wizard and No-Maj relations. Their work extends itself to white and Black wizard relationships as well. Bondage and racial attacks that plagued the majority of the beginnings of this nation played a major role in Black wizards keeping their magical abilities from white wizards. Since the end of Civil Rights Movement, Black wizards have slowly begun to reveal themselves and their abilities to white wizarding kind. Both the New York and D.C. chapters of N.A.A.A.W. have become fully active in larger American wizarding politics and encourage the other chapters to integrate into MACUSA.