Statue of Yasuke, who became the first African Samurai, after arriving in Japan, 1579.

Samurai were the hereditary military nobility and officer caste of medieval and early modern Japan from the late 12th century until their abolition in the 1870s during the Meiji era. They were the well-paid retainers of the daimyo, the great feudal landholders. They had high prestige and special privileges.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, Yasuke was an African warrior in the employ of Nobunaga, a powerful feudal lord known as the “Great Unifier,” during Japan’s Sengoku period.

The first Black samurai, he was at Nobunaga’s side when the daimyo died; according to popular lore, Nobunaga tasked Yasuke with returning his head to his son.

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