The Tukulor ethnic group (or Tokolor as they are sometimes known) make up less than 1% of the population of Gambia. They are Muslim sedentary farmers, cattle herders and fisherman. Today they are fairly widespread in Upper Volta, Mali and Ivory Coast. Their name is from the Arabic word Takrur which was a kingdom an 11th century central Senegal River valley. They are closely related to the Fula.
The Tuklor tribe traditionally had 3 distinct groups made up of 'castes' which have largely remained untouched by their religious faith. First there is the ruling class or Torodbe. Then there are the free-born made up of agriculturalists, artisans, traders and clerical workers. At the bottom are the 'slaves' (in name only). Marriage is confined to the 'caste' in which you belong and there system of governing their villages is carried out by a council of elders from the ruling class.
The Tukulor are thought to have their origins in Futa Toro in present-day Senegal. One theory is that they are a branch of the Fula called the Torodbe. Much of their language (Haalpullar), customs, history and geographical dispersion is similar to the Fula. Another theory is that they are the offspring of unions between the Serer and Wolof tribe.
Up to 1776 the Brakna Moors collected yearly taxes in the form of grain called muddu hormma in Futa Toro. Partly because of this resentment and the desire to spread Islam a militant Jihadistmovement emergedunder Sulayman Bal, a Torodbe. In the 1760s and 1770s he won a number of military victories in the valley of the middle Senegal River against the pagan Fulani ruling dynasty, the Denianke, under Suleyman-Bubu. Futa Toro eventually became a Muslim theocracy in 1776 ruled by the almamys and a Muslim council.
It was their desire to spread Islam that resulted in them migrating to the north bank of Gambia as well as other West African countries such as Mali and Hausaland in Northern Nigeria. In Gambia, under the leadership of Maba Jakhou Bah, they established a theocratic state in Baddibu. These migrations into Gambia continued through to the early 1900s. Indeed they claim that it was their ruler, the War Jabi, who was the first black African ruler to convert to Islam and that the Tekrur Empire was was founded by their people.
The French had however, through a number of treaties taken over control of Futa Toro in 1891 after the murder of the Almamy named Abdul Bokar Khan. By the end of the 19th century all Tukulor states in Senegambia had lost their independence to the French.