I know I'm three days late on this so I will be adding four biographies on Notable Muslims of African descent.
Nana Asma'u (1793-1864)
Nana Asma’u came from an illustrious and pious Muslim family and was the daughter of Usman dan Fodiyo. She was born in what is known today as Northwest Nigeria. Her father, Usman dan Fodiyo was the caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate. During 1804-1830, her father launched a campaign to purify Islam from cultural deviances. She was fluent in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa and Tamachek. She was also quite knowledgeable in the Sunnah, Hadith literature and had committed the Qur’an to memory. Her family belonged to the Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani (may God be pleased with him) tariqa or Qadiriyya tariqa. Because her father was the head of the community, the responsibility of educating the women rested upon her shoulders. She was their leader and promoted literacy by teaching Hausa women the Qur’an and writing important Islamic concepts in Hausa and Tamachek. She was named after that wonderful daughter of one of the rightly-guided caliphs, Abu Bakr al-Siddique (may God be pleased with them).
You can read more about her on my blog.
The Essential Nana pdf file from Yantaru.org
Yantaru--a Muslim women's group established in the spirit of Nana Asma'u own class of women students. And their interview on Living Tradition.
One Woman's Jihad: Nana Asma'u, Scholar and Scribe by Beverly Mack and Jean Boyd
Umar Tal (1797-1864)
While doing this research, I've run into Black Orientalism and plain old Orientalism. I can say that you should proceed with caution.
Tokolar War of Umar Tal
The war of 'Umar Tal... The third major western African war of the 19th century was that of al-Hajj 'Umar Tal (c. 1797-1864), a Tukulor scholar from the Fouta-Toro.
About 1838 'Umar arrived home in the Fouta-Toro, where he quickly became estranged from the local scholar. In 1848 he moved away with such followers as he had to Dinguiraye, on the borders of the Fouta Djallon. There he built up a community of his own, attracting and training military and commercial adventurers as well as religious reformers. His community traded with the Upper Guinea coast for firearms and was consciously conceived as the nucleus for a new state. In 1852 the Dinguiraye community came into conflict with the adjacent Bambara chiefs. A militant expedition was launched northward through the gold-bearing valleys across the upper Sénégal, where in 1854 the Bambara kingdom of Kaarta fell.
'Umar then turned west down the Sénégal toward his own homeland and the French trading posts. But he was repulsed by the French, and after 1859 he sought to join with the Fulani of Macina in the conquest of the more powerful Bambara kingdom of Segu. The Macina Fulani were opposed to the idea of a Tijani power advancing into their own Qadiri zone in the Niger valley and even gave some aid to Segu. After 'Umar's forces had conquered Segu in 1861, they continued eastward, and, finding that Ahmadu's somewhat autocratic and intolerant regime had estranged the longer established Muslim communities, they established 'Umar's hegemony as far as Timbuktu (1863). In less than 10 years al-Hajj 'Umar's armies had conquered an empire almost as large as that of the Sokoto Fulani.
The founder of the empire, al-Hajj 'Umar (c. 1795-1864), was a Tukulor scholar of the austere Tijaniyah tariqa who about 1848 moved with his followers to Dinguiraye (now in Guinea), on the borders of the Fouta Djallon region, to prepare to found a new state that would conform to the stringent moral requirements of his order. He thus set about training an elite corps in which religious, military, and commercial considerations were combined. Equipped with European firearms, this force was ready by about 1850 to embark on a war against his neighbours. It first came into conflict with the Bambara chiefdoms to the north, then two years later moved northward again across the upper Sénégal River to conquer the Bambara kingdom of Kaarta. Checked by the French in their westward return down the Sénégal River, the Tukulor quickly overran the Bambara kingdom of Segu (1861) and thereafter conquered Macina. They then extended their dominion as far north as Timbuktu (now in Mali).
The other two bios are coming soon.