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Okukenu, Sadipe. Sadipe Okukenu was created by John Bruce and appeared in “The Black Sleuth” (McGirt’s Magazine, Aug. 1907-July/Aug/Sept. 1909).

Sadipe Okukenu is the first major African private detective in mystery fiction. He is a Yoruba from northern Nigeria, and is a successful and skilled member of the International Detective Agency. In Okukenu’s one recorded case he traces a stolen diamond from America to England and then to Africa. Okukenu is an Eton graduate, a linguist, intelligent, physically perfect, but also modest, albeit continually angry at the slights that he and others of African descent suffer through from whites, both in America and Europe.

* I'm including "The Black Sleuth" in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because of its historical importance. The dime novels of the 19th and early 20th century are largely terra incognito to us now; so many of the authors were anonymous and not recorded, or have identities hidden in company records that reveal only a name and an address, that there could easily have been Black authors among them. So it's a little chancy to say that John Bruce was the first Black mystery author; there could very easily have been others. We're on much more secure ground when we state that Sadipe Okukenu was the first major African private detective in mystery fiction. The dime novels sometimes featured Black and even African detective characters, but they only appeared for a single issues, and were, after all, in the much-despised dime novels, while Okukenu appeared in McGirt's, which was an independent Black journal which strove for seriousness and respectability. Okukenu likewise was a serious character, seriously conceived of and seriously expressed, and certainly a landmark character (if an isolated one--Okukenu inspired no imitators) in detective fiction. 

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