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- ANCIENT AFRICA
- >>African Kingdoms>>Ptahhotep of Egypt
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- African Kings and Queens
- African Marriage
- ICC & Africa
- Intellectual Property
- African Fundamentalism
- Capitalism or Socialism
- Facts About Africa
- War and Religion
- Death of African Languages
- Garvey Economics
- Cabral Theory
- NGO and Development
- Garvey Legacy
- Malcolm OAAU
- Garvey Legacy
- Ethics of the Reparations
- Afrocentrism Pseudohistory?
- Marley Film Review
- Abolition and Wilberforce
- Black Panther Critique
- Jews and Slavery
- Gay Rights
- Failure Of African Leadership
- Capitalism or Socialism?
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Failure to Engage
- Libya Invasion
- Dubois: Souls of Black folk
- Slavery in America
- Amilcar Cabral
- Agency and Africa
- Mis-Education of the Child
- African Revolt
- The Flag of African Cinema
- The Politics of Liberation
- White Supremacy
- The Horrors of 500 Years
- Africa and the Rise of Islam
- Why Kwanza
- Seen But Never Heard
- African Classical Music
- South Africa: 10 Years On
- Music and Dance in Religion
- White Abolition of Slavery
- A Threat to Black Studies
- Art of Revolution
- African Influence in Barbados
- Origins of Voodoo
- Black Out White Wash
- Ethiopian Slave Trade
- Darfur Report
Until lions tell their tale, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter
– African Proverb
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will
– Frederick Douglass
The most pathetic thing is for a slave who doesn't know that he is a slave
– Malcolm X
Every man is rich in excuses to safeguard his prejudices, his instincts, and his opinions.
– Ancient Egypt
Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it political? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right.
– Dr. Martin L. King, Jr
What kind of world do we live in when the views of the oppressed are expressed at the convenience of their oppressors?
– Owen 'Alik Shahadah
We are not Africans because we are born in Africa, we are Africans because Africa is born in us.
– Chester Higgins Jr.
Leave no brother or sister behind the enemy line of poverty.
– Harriet Tubman
If we stand tall it is because we stand on the shoulders of many ancestors.
– African Proverb
If we do not stop oppression when it is a seed, it will be very hard to stop when it is a tree.
– ' Alik Shahadah
If the future doesn't come toward you, you have to go fetch it
– Zulu Proverb
It makes no difference what language Africans speak if our first language is not Truth
– Hilary Muhammad (NOI)
And in the 21st century the legacy of enslavement manifest itself in the social-economic status of Africans globally. Without a doubt Africans globally constitute the most oppressed, most exploited, most downtrodden people on the planet a fact that testifies to the untreated legacy of Slavery.
Millions of Africans were torn from their homes, deported to the American continent and sold as slaves. Triangular Trade The transatlantic slave trade, often known as the triangular trade, connected the economies of three continents. It is estimated that between 25 to 30 million people, men, women and children, were deported from their homes and sold as slaves in the different slave trading systems. In the transatlantic slave trade alone the estimate of those deported is believed to be approximately 17 million. These figures exclude those who died aboard the ships and in the course of wars and raids connected to the trade. The trade proceeded in three steps.
The ships left Western Europe for Africa loaded with goods which were to be exchanged for slaves. Upon their arrival in Africa the captains traded their merchandise for captive slaves. Weapons and gun powder were the most important commodities but textiles, pearls and other manufactured goods, as well as rum, were also in high demand. The exchange could last from one week to several months. The second step was the crossing of the Atlantic. Africans were transported to America to be sold throughout the continent. The third step connected America to Europe. The slave traders brought back mostly agricultural products, produced by the slaves. The main product was sugar, followed by cotton, coffee, tobacco and rice. The circuit lasted approximately eighteen months. In order to be able to transport the maximum number of slaves, the ship's steerage was frequently removed. Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England and France, were the main triangular trading countries.
Racist views of Africa
In the last 50 years much has been done to combat the entirely false and negative views about the history of Africa and Africans, which were developed in Europe in order to justify the Transatlantic Slave Trade and European colonial rule in Africa that followed it. In the eighteenth century, such racist views were summed up by the words of the Scottish philosopher David Hume, who said, ‘I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences”. In the nineteenth century the German philosopher Hegel simply declared ‘ Africa is no historical part of the world.’ This openly racist view, that Africa had no history, was repeated by Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of History at Oxford University , as late as 1963.
Africa , the birthplace of humanity
Far from having no history, it is likely that human history actually began in Africa . The oldest evidence of human existence and that of our immediate ancestors has been found in Africa . In July 2002 further evidence of the existence of early hominids in Africa was found with the discovery of the fossilised remains of what has been called Sahelanthropus tchadensis, thought to be between 6-7 million years old, in Chad. The latest scientific research points to the fact that all human beings are likely to have African ancestors.
Trade, Cultures and Civilisations in Africa
Africa ’s great civilisations made an immense contribution to the world, which are still marvelled at by people today. Ancient Egypt , which first developed over 5000 years ago. is one of the most notable of these civilisations and one of the first monarchies anywhere in the world. However even before the rise of this civilisation, the earlier monarchy of Ta Seti was founded in Nubia , in what is today the Sudan . Egypt of the pharaohs is best known for its great monuments and feats of engineering (such as the Pyramids), but it also made great advances in many other fields too. The Egyptians produced early forms of paper and a written script. They developed the calendar too and made important contributions in various branches of mathematics, such as geometry and algebra, and it seems likely that they understood and perhaps invented the use of zero. They made important contributions in mechanics, philosophy, irrigation and architecture. In medicine, the Egyptians understood the body’s dependence on the brain over 1000 years before the Greek scholar Democritus. Some historians now believe that ancient Egypt had an important influence on ancient Greece , and they point to the fact that Greek scholars such as Pythagoras and Archimedes studied in Egypt , and that the work of Aristotle and Plato was largely based on earlier scholarship in Egypt . For example, what is commonly known as Pythagoras’ theorem, was known to the ancient Egyptians hundreds of years before Pythagoras’ birth.
How Europe learned from Africa
Some of the world’s other great civilisations, such as Kush, Axum , Ghana , Mali , and Great Zimbabwe, also flourished in Africa and some major scientific advances were known in Africa long before they were known in Europe . Towards the middle of the 12th century, the north African scientist, Al Idrisi, wrote, ‘What results from the opinion of philosophers, learned men and those skilled in observation of the heavenly bodies, is that the world is as round as a sphere, of which the waters are adherent and maintained upon its surface by natural equilibrium.’ Africans were certainly involved in trans-oceanic travel long before Europeans and there is some evidence to suggest that Africans crossed the Atlantic and reached the American continent, perhaps even north America , as early as 500 BC. In the 14th century, the Syrian writer, al-Umari, wrote about the voyage of the Emperor of Mali who crossed the Atlantic with 2000 ships but failed to return. Africans in east and south-eastern Africa also set up great civilisations that established important trading links with the kingdoms and empires of India and China long before Europeans had learned how to navigate the Atlantic ocean . When Europeans first sailed to Africa in the 15th century, African pilots and navigators shared with them their knowledge of trans-oceanic travel.
It was gold from the great empires of West Africa , Ghana , Mali and Songhay, which provided the means for the economic take off of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries and aroused the interest of Europeans in western Africa . An early historian in the 9th century wrote ‘the king of Ghana is a great king. In his territory are mines of gold.’ When the famous historian of Muslim Spain, al-Bakri wrote about Ghana in the 11th century, he reported that its king ‘rules an enormous kingdom and has great power’. The king of Ghana was said to have an army of 200,000 men and to rule over an extremely wealthy trading empire. In the 14th century, the west African empire of Mali was larger than western Europe and reputed to be one of the largest, richest and most powerful states in the world. The Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta wrote about his very favourable impressions of this empire and said that he found ‘complete and general safety’ there.
When the famous emperor of Mali , Mansa Musa visited Cairo in 1324, it was said that he brought so much gold with him that its price fell dramatically and had not recovered its value even 12 years later. The empire of Songhay was known, amongst other things, for the famous university of Sankore based in Timbuctu. Aristotle was studied at Sankore and also subjects such as law, various branches of philosophy, dialectic, grammar, rhetoric and astronomy. In the 16th century one of its most famous scholars, Ahmed Baba, is said to have written more than 40 major books on subjects such as astronomy, history and theology and he had his own private library that held over 1500 volumes. One of the first reports of Timbuctu to reach Europe was by Leo Africanus. In his book, published in 1550, he says of the town: ‘There you will find many judges, professors and devout men, all handsomely maintained by the king, who holds scholars in much honour. There too they sell many handwritten north African books, and more profit is to be made there from the sale of books than from any other branch of trade.’
African knowledge and that of the ancient world, was transmitted to Europe as a result of the North African or Moorish conquest of the Iberian peninsular in the 8th century. There were in fact several such conquests including two by the Berber dynasties in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Muslim invasion of Europe, and the founding of the state of Cordoba , re-introduced all the learning of the ancient world as well as the various contributions made by Islamic scholars and linked Europe much more closely with north and West Africa . Arabic numerals based on those used in India were introduced and they helped simplify mathematical calculations. Europe was also introduced to the learning of ancient world mainly through translations in Arabic of works in medicine, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics and philosophy. So important was the knowledge found in Muslim Spain, that one Christian monk - Adelard of Bath - disguised himself as a Muslim in order to study at the university at Cordoba . Many historians believe that it was this knowledge, brought to Europe through Muslim Spain, which not only created the conditions for the Renaissance but also for the eventual expansion of Europe overseas in the 15th century.
Before the devastation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade important diplomatic and trading partnerships had developed between the rulers of European countries and those of Africa who saw each other as equals. Some of the earliest European visitors to Africa recognised that many African societies were as advanced or even more advanced than their own.
In the early 16th century, the Portuguese trader Duarte Barboosa said of the east African city Kilwa: There were many fair houses of stone and mortar, well arranged in streets. Around it were streams and orchards with many channels of sweet water.’ Of the inhabitants of Kilwa he reported, ‘They were finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk, and cotton, and the women as well; also with much gold and silver in chains and bracelets, which they wore on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in their ears.’
A Dutch traveller to the kingdom of Benin in the early 17th century sent home this report of the capital.
‘It looks very big when you enter it for you go into a great broad street, which, though not paved, seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes Street in Amsterdam. This street continues for about four miles and has no bend in it. At the gate where I went in on horseback, I saw a big wall, very thick and made of earth, with a deep ditch outside. Outside the gate there is a large suburb. Inside as you go along the main street, you can see other broad streets on either side, and these are also straight. The houses in this town stand in good order, one close to the other and evenly placed beside the next, like our houses in Holland.’
Africans and the African continent have made enormous contributions to human history just as other peoples and continents have. It is the development of Eurocentric and racist views in Europe that have denied this fact and sought to negate the history of Africa and its peoples.
In the early days of Europe and Africa, trade flourished in a small way in the estuaries of Senegal at the mouth of the Gambia. The kingdom of the Muslim Joloffs stretched as far as Sierra Leon and the Guinea coast, they traded their prisoners, gold, ivory, fine cotton for horses, silver and articles of silk made in Granada. Within 50 years the trade had trebled, but still the slavering component of the trade was not the main interest, for gold was the glory of the enterprise.
COLUMBUS’S NEW WORLD
Cristóbal Colón, a Spanish elite posing as an impoverished Italian, discovered that the land he discovered had been discovered around 30,000 years prior to his arrival. This New World would never be the same again. How one single event could changes the course of history for so many people is hard to comprehend. The New World that was discovered was rich with new opportunities for expansion and trade, but the daunting reality was that to build a new kingdom it would require a work force.
Slavery was a royal enterprise; the kings sponsored slavery and issued assientos, royal slaving permits. These were sold to the elite merchants of the day and become items of value like stocks and shares today. Ovando, the Spanish governor of Hispaniola complained not to export anymore Afrikans as they were aggressive and reinforcing the ranks of resistance among the Native-Americans. These early imported Muslim Afrikans were proving hard to handle but as labor shortage got critical due to the waning of the indigenous population, Ovando reassessed the situation and demanded that Afrikans be sent. Royal decree targeted the Guinea coast in a mandate which was to avoid the Islamic African influence. However, over the duration of the trade approximately 30% of those sent to the New World were Muslims.
Europe’s sweet tooth placed an increasing demand for slave labor. In the late 1400’s the Atlantic islands of Madeira and São Tomé, became leading centres of world sugar production and plantation slavery. By 1530 Portugal had established settlements in Brazil where over 40% of all enslaved Afrikans ended up.
Now that the trade was in full swing and nothing could stop it. It was the backbone of the Spanish-American enterprise. The Spanish King was in receipt of export tax in addition to the licenses which were per head of enslaved person. This heavy taxation lead to wholesale smuggling and distortion of records of Afrikans actually exported from the continent.
Slaving was the most profitable commodity in the 18th century, and Senegambia exported an average of 2,000 to 3,500 s laves each year. The largest market for enslaved people was in the French empire especially in the colony of Haiti. Over nearly 400 hundred years Spain, Portugal, Prussia, France, Holland, Denmark, United States, Brazil and Sweden, would descend like vultures to ripe Africa apart.
BRITAIN AND THE TRIANGLE TRADE
John Hawkins a devout Christian, while stationed in the Cape Verde Islands pondered upon the growing prosperity that was to be had from slave trading. He saw the Afrikans as goods at the first stage of a triangle trade, which procured Afrikans from Africa. This trade then took them to the New World in exchange for sugar, pearls. The trade then voyaged from the New World and terminated in England, where goods for trade with Africa were loaded. Spain and Portugal had a head start to a lethargic Britain who initially opposed slaving. However, Queen Elizabeth the II gradually came around to the prospect of building an empire on the backs of Blacks. English Parliament passed an Act legalising the purchase of slaves in 1545. 100 years prior to this, the Pope declared that possession of slaves was the right of all Christians. In one hand they bore a gun and in the other a Bible. The grand entry into slavery was triumphed as saving heathen souls. In a nutshell God had made Europeans his vicegerents on Earth and the land they took, and the people they traded like cargo was done in the name of Jesus. And ironically the first ship to bring Afrikans to the Americas was called the “Good Ship Jesus.”
As the trade progressed the items traded with Africa were of no sustainable value, while Europe’s wealth increase African merchant toyed with silly trinkets, images of a white god, inferior cloth, cheap alcohol, damp gunpowder, old pots and pans and all forms of assorted garbage not generally fit for European consumption. If Europe and Africa began their ill-fated relationship as near equals, the influx of European goods, particularly of firearms and alcohol, slowly disrupted the equilibrium of West African cultures. To Europe the enslaved workforce brought power and wealth, but to Africa the so-call trade only brought more efficient means to capture their neighbors and alcohol to corrode societies.
When spring water flows into the desert the desert takes it know not of giving- only of taking. The religious and political power structures of West African states were peculiarly susceptible to the corrosive effects of the slave system. In the Niger delta, the priests had traditionally imposed heavy fines on men who offended an oracle; it was relatively easy, on their part, to discover an increasing number of offenses, which could be expiated only by a payment of slaves, who could then be sold profitably to European traders. Royal and vassal, servant and master, Muslim and Ifa, Orisha and Odu Efaa -none were spared. As Europeans depleted the coast those left were faced with the daunting choice sell or be sold.
Slave Market Regions and Participation
Legacies in Africa, Americas , Caribbean
Celebrating or Commemorating?
In 1992 many nations officially celebrated the five hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus' ‘discovery’ of the so-called ‘new world’. For these governments, this was something to celebrate, to be proud of, to honour and respect. But hundreds of organisations marched in the streets, held protests and demonstrations to question this celebration. For these groups, this was a time for commiseration for the indigenous Americans murdered, the Africans kidnapped and enslaved, the indentured servants tricked and manipulated. For them, 500 years of colonialism and enslavement were something to be criticised, not celebrated. These activities demonstrate the gulf that exists between those who see themselves as the beneficiaries of Columbus , and those who see themselves as his victims. Given such opposing views, where and how can we begin to evaluate the effects of the Transatlantic Slave Trade almost 200 years after its abolition? And what are the key aspects of its legacies?
Slavery led to the exploitation and oppression of Africa and Africans. Millions more were kidnapped and enslaved, African societies were ransacked, and entirely new societies built on the labour and lives of Africans. Slavery and colonialism were carried out for the economic enrichment of Europe and its descendants, with the legal and political sanction of presidents, prime ministers and the Church. It was exploitation of African labour that led to the expansion of industry across Britain , the United States and the world. Slavery and colonialism also created the circumstances, which confine Africans and African nations to some of the worst conditions experienced by any people in the world today.
In South America and the Caribbean , in areas that were exploited and abandoned by the nations which profited from the Transatlantic Slave Trade, economies remain underdeveloped and stagnant. People occupy shanty-town dwellings and there is inadequate provision for the educational and health needs of children. Across the USA , the descendants of Africans struggle to survive violent attacks, systematic racial hostility, and the continuing vilification of Africans and 'blackness'. These patterns can be traced directly back to the slave trade and slavery.
Clearly slavery has contributed in fundamental ways to shaping the USA , the Caribbean and South America . The starting point of evaluating its legacy, is the present day situations of descendants of enslaved Africans, or of masters of enslaved Africans. In the USA for example, and across the Caribbean and South America , racial poverty and powerlessness are direct results of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the colonial system which it led to.
The collective memory of enslavement for Africans is very different from that of Europeans and their descendants. To many white people, slavery and colonialism are just a distant memory of a short period in history. In Britain and the United States , many whites believe that slavery did not last particularly long, its benefits went only to a small proportion of white people and the evils of slavery are overshadowed by the role played by British abolitionists.
To people of African descent though, the memory is a very different one. Slavery and colonialism affect everyday lives and evoke poignant and immediate memories of suffering, brutalisation and terror. The memories are of Britain and the USA achieving their economic prosperity on the back of African enslavement. That they may have finally ended the Transatlantic Slave Trade for economic rather than moral reasons, have discriminated against black peoples ever since, and are largely unrepentant about it. Many people believe that the racism that grew out of African enslavement is the reason for today’s racial inequalities. And it is these different interpretations of the effects of slavery that resulted in many groups celebrating Columbus , while so many others condemned him. But why are there such different memories?
As the most advanced industrial capitalist societies in the world, countries like the United States , Britain , France , Spain , Portugal and the Netherlands have all achieved substantial economic development through conquest, slavery and the exploitation of African labour. This labour fed financial accumulation, economic expansion and was the base for the development of capitalism. And after the countries exploited during slavery were abandoned, many of their populations, the descendants of the enslaved, were forced to migrate to the countries of their former colonial masters, to find work.
Racialisation and Racism
'Racialisation' simply means the process by which Africans and Europeans came to be defined as races, beginning during enslavement. Then, racist theories were developed by some of the most distinguished and respected members of European and American societies, who used science to 'justify' oppression, exploitation and injustice. During and after slavery, racist practices decided who was human and who was not, who could be a citizen and who could not, and who could enjoy the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today, different types of racisms exist, but most of them draw on ideas that were developed during enslavement. And despite their so called ideals of freedom, equality, democracy and fairness, countries like Britain and the USA have systematically excluded, and continue to exclude, Africans and their descendants from the benefits of such ideals.
Responsibility of Western Governments
Governments during and since slavery have played a central role in defining ideas around race. For example Western governments promoted racist ideas and practices under apartheid in South Africa . They have been responsible for forced labour of indigenous populations in their African colonies, and more recently for racist immigration legislation and policies in Britain and France . Governments in Brazil and the Caribbean used more subtle means of racism, claiming to be protecting its multi-racial and multi cultural populations, while in practise the laws clearly favour whites and those closest to them in colour and culture (the so called ‘mixed race’). Brazil in particular, encouraged the settlement of hundreds of thousands of whites from Europe , so as to prevent the nation from having a Black majority.
Communities of Resistance
The legacy of slavery has created cultures and communities of resistance everywhere, based on ideas about autonomy and self-determination for people of African descent. From national and international movements such as black nationalism, Pan-Africanism and Negritude, to black organizations and groups. In the Caribbean , from Paul Bogle and George William Gordon to Franz Fanon and Marcus Garvey; from Michael Manley and Maurice Bishop to C.L.R. James. In the United States, from the Negro Academy and the National Association of Colored Women to the Urban League, the Nation of Islam, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Black Panther Party. From Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells to Mary Mcloud Bethune and Mary Church Terrell, and from Rosa Parks to Angela Davis. In Britain , the League of Coloured Peoples, the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination, the West Indian Standing Conference, the Race Today Collective and the Institute of Race Relations. We know the names of the famous, but we should also remember the efforts of those many thousands who struggled without reward, without credit, without fame or fortune, but who made it possible for the famous to become famous.
During the 1990s Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora began to demand reparations for the atrocities, injustices and exploitation carried out against Africa and Africans during slavery and colonialism. An international conference took place in Abuja , Nigeria , in April 1993. It was attended by representatives of the Organization of African Unity, members of African national governments, and distinguished scholars and lawyers. Bernie Grant, then MP for Tottenham in London , put forward a motion in the House of Commons demanding that the issue of Reparations be debated.
Those calling for Reparations demand that Europe and the United States acknowledge the crimes committed during enslavement and the benefits they have enjoyed, and pay for what they have done. Reparations also calls for the return the treasures stolen from African societies and populations that are currently housed in European museums. The German government paid Reparations to Israel for the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Reparations were also made by the United States ' government to the Japanese and Japanese Americans interned during World War II. In the late 1990s, President Clinton considered making an apology for slavery, but was against offering any financial compensation because he felt that too much time had passed. In the end, he did not make an apology either.
Like so many other areas involved in evaluating the legacy of slavery, there are many different views on Reparations. People of African descent seem to overwhelming support Reparations, while whites seem to overwhelmingly reject it. Reparations clearly are not the only way to begin to evaluate and rectify the consequences of slavery. But it is one way of opening up the debate about slavery and its legacies today.
A Simple Timeline
Before Current Era
c3000 Egypt united as one Kingdom
800BCE - CE 250 Kingdom of Kush (including parts of what is now Sudan and Egypt )
500BCE - CE 250 Nok culture in West Africa
700-800 Islam spreads into West Africa across the Sahara desert
c750 Kingdom of Ghana at its strongest
1200-1400 Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe
c1350 Kingdom of Mali
c1400 Kingdom of Ife
1440-1606 Kingdom of Benin
1464 Sonni Ali the Great becomes ruler of the Kingdom of Songhay
1486 Portugese traders make contact with Benin
1640 Beginning of civil war in Benin
1680 Asante states come under the rule of one king
1730 Oyo Kingdom at the height of its power
1818 Shaka becomes leader of the Zulu Kingdom
1874 Capital of the Asante Kingdoms captured by the British
1879 British Army first defeated by Zulu army