Africa before Slavery

 Africa's History did not start with Slavery

It takes more than a horrifying transatlantic voyage chained in the filthy hold of a slave ship to erase someone's culture - Maya Angelou

Africa's history did not begin in slavery, and despite the peculiarity, horror, and duration of enslavement of Africans, slavery occupies a minor time-frame.

African people

Beyond cotton fields and civil rights in the 120,000 years of African history (0.5% of African history). In the last 50 years much has been done to combat the 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. Unfortunately the Eurocentric take on Africa and Eurocentric linguistics has distorted how some African scholars see Africa. Even those claiming to be progressive, discuss Africa as history's perceptual victim—without any agency. Relegated to a simple disparaging color—black or Negroid, without even the ability to define anything in reality—even one's self. But this is how they made Africans into slaves. By destroying/fracturing/interrupting that connection to Africa's great past, and because there is no connection Africans globally have accepted being thugs and ho*es in someone else's society. Pimps and dealers as opposed to Sultans and Kings. Builders of drug networks as opposed to builders of civilization. After all "education" shows Africa as nothing more than a primitive place over run by cannibal savages.

African kingsMany people have this view of Africa sitting still and being imposed on from outside. They forget that Africa was an active trade partner with Arabia, and China. There is even a special section in Israel for Orthodox Christian Ethiopian monks for 100's of years for when they make pilgrimage. Africans have been to China before the European— not as slaves—but as partners. Africans discovered Europe before Europe "discovered" us (Islamic Spain etc). History, right now, needs to be put into perspective.

Many have been draining the African historical record by boxing in what is, and what does not constitutes an authentic African experience. Eurocentric terminologies place certain concepts outside of the African domain with this habit of "tribalizing" Africa; dark, pagan, licentious, unorganized, base and emotive. The legacy of washing out Africa's historical record can be summed up by the racist words of the Scottish philosopher David Hume:

I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences - David Hume

‘”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. The legacy of the African Holocaust has made a profound affect on African studies, where the default attitude is to deny African have contributed anything to what is considered civilization. Africans are playing on a chessboard where all the pieces are white. The volumes of publish works by the Hitler's of the African Holocaust is impossible for Africans to gain any foothold and authorities stance in their history." So Ethiopia is a great civilization so it must be "outside of African origin", Great Zimbabwe, Ancient Egypt, Moorish (Islamic Spain) are categorically denied as having anything African in them.

Africa had a history, long before the Europeans came to our shores. But the Europeans came to our shores and because they were attracted by what those who came first found (in our case it's gold), and the first European establishment which established in Ghana was established at a place called El Mina, (The Mine), because gold was so abundant and they came with their manufacturing products in exchange for gold. So the Europeans initially came to our country to trade! As partners. It is perhaps the error of the slave trade which changed the perceptions of Europeans about Africans, when our own people were regarded as commodities - Issac Osei (500 Years Later)


African kingdomsAfrica produced a plethora of advanced civilizations. The most notable of these is the Nile Valley civilization From 3,000 BCE (founding of the First Dynasty), all the way until it was conquered by Persia around 525 BCE. So about 2,500 years. This was followed by the great civilizations of Axum and D'mt, and later by the great Islamic civilizations of the Sahel (Mali, Songhai, and the last in the later Sokoto). The famous Hajj of Mansa Musa in the 13th century was so profound it altered the currency of every country he passed through with his entourage. Later the Sokoto Caliphate is an Islamic spiritual community in Northern Nigeria, led by the Sultan of Sokoto . It was founded during the Fulani War in 1809 by Usman dan Fodio. Throughout the 1800s, it was one of the largest and most powerful empires in sub-Saharan Africa until British conquest in 1903.

Despite the new wave of myths regarding Nubia and Kemet (Ancient Egypt) It is clear that Kemet and Nubia were neighboring African Civilizations just as Aksum and Nubia. Difference does’t mean Nubia was a ‘black race’ and Kemet wasn’t. Both groups were ethnic groups of indigenous African origin. The ethnic differences were no more significant than Ethiopians versus Kenyans. The largest empire in Ancient African history was the Songhai empire with its iconic leader Askia. The Aksum empire was the 3rd largest African empire at 1.25 million sq km. In the sixth century, the kingdom of Aksum (Axum) was doing what many elsewhere had been doing: pursuing trade and empire. Its exports of ivory, glass crystal, brass and copper items, and perhaps slaves, among other things, had brought prosperity to the kingdom.

Also see | African Kingdoms


African type'Blackness' fails at every level in both the historical and political context. Africans are the natural people of Africa: The hair, the skin, are all specific adaptations to living in the African landscape. The Motherland of these adaptations and the cultures is primarily Africa; hence the relevance of the name.

Black history is the history of enslavement, African history is the history of humanity. If there are no White people, could there be Black people? For over 40,000 years there were only native people of Africa on the planet, and since there were no "White" people there could not have been Black people, since everyone would have been "Black." And if all the "White people" vanished from the Earth, would the remaining "Black" people still be Black? So the older group must define itself relative to the European newcomers? Would it not make far more logical, historically, linguistically, and social to describe people by their land of origin. Negro = Negroid = Colored = Nigger = Black (all associated with color, none are connected to a continent). Now compare this to Asiatic, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid (all are tied to land, all can be located on a map-- but not so Negroid/Black). Black and White are therefore debunked as regressive incomplete terms for describing people. <For all of recorded history we see in every conflict a central theme -- that of "land." So critical as humans need land to grow crops on, to source water from (see Golan Heights), they need a place to build cities and a place to harvest mineral wealth from. So attaching your identity to land makes sense: Attaching your identity to an abstract color, does not. Black and African are not interchangeable in any logical sense.


trade medival africaFor the vast civilizations that existed in Africa. Christianity existed in Ethiopia long before there was the "Church of England". Islam existed in Africa before it even reached outside of what is today the hinterland of Saudi Arabia. Libraries and universities existed in Islamic cities such as Timbuktu, where advance mathematics and astrology were studied. In Ethiopia for 100s of years the Kebra Negast was written in the only surviving African native script Ge'ez. Ethiopia was the only African nation to actively repel colonialism and is one of the world oldest continuous civilizations.

Africa has always been part of the Biblical, Jewish and Islamic world. It was a common site to see Ethiopians in Rome or anywhere in the "known" world. Modern day Israel was also a site for Ethiopian pilgrimage and Mecca was for Muslim Africa. The historical trip of Kanka Musa was said to alter the economy of every state he passed through on his way to Mecca. So the story of Africa we are still clinging to is Victim Victim Victim. Mansa Musa clearly and utterly demonstrates not only that Africans were powerful, but also international. Mansa Musa remains the only man in recorded history to singularly control the gold value of the entire Mediterrian and was one of the richest men in history.

Some of the most notable civilizations in human history come out of the Nile Valley in Africa, of these we know KMT (Ancient Egypt) and Nubia. Still today Western historians, as in the past, have tried to deny the African identity of these kingdoms, which are geographically located in Africa. Yet no one has seriously said Greece was not a European civilization, or Ancient China was not an Asian civilization. So this double standard is the legacy of the white washing of Africa history to satisfy the myth that Africa is outside of humanity, civilization and thus suitable for harvest by more advanced nations.

The denial of African agency has had a profound impact on how the world sees general history in the context of the African agent. Christian history is African history (Aksum ). The history of World civilizations is the history of Africa. The history of Islam is the history of Africa (1st Hijirah, Sokoto, Islamic Spain), you cannot divorced one from the other. The history of humanity is an African history.

History and development didn't happen in isolation of African agency. Slavery and Colonialism did victimized Africans but Africans are not histories perpetual victims. Africans in antiquity had agency and made conscious choices which contributed to the development of humanity. In Aksum the course that Ezna took to make Christianity the state religion was based on his sovereign agency.

Regardless of orientation, to believe Africans have been on the receiving any of other people's whims is to deny African human agency. Agency swings both ways and as much as it holds us accountable it also defines our station in civilization.


Religion is a fundamental, perhaps the most important, influence in the life of most Africans - J. O. Awolalu

Most spiritual systems practised by Africans, whether native or mainstream, are organized religions. The rituals of Voodoo, Orisha, Serer, etc are all highly organized, and without exception, function in communal setting. They all have degrees of a priest class, ceremony, immolation, libation, religious holidays, creation stories, saints, divine systems of punishment and reward.

before Christianity came EgyptThe key difference is most native or traditional faiths are usually ethno-specific and generally lack a written tradition, and a prophet. (Awolalu) They also are less proselytizing compared to Islam and Christianity.. Beyond this even Indigenous beliefs systems share elements in common with each other, as well as with the Abrahamic faiths and other indigenous belief systems around the world.African spirituality is the spirituality of African people, independent of the naming systems given to the cultures/rituals of those spiritual beliefs. African spirituality lives and is applied within of Islam (e.g. Tijāniyyah), Judaism (e.g. Hebrew Israelite), Christianity (e.g. Tewahedo) as much as it does inside of Vodon, or Odinani.

Outside of the Abrahamic faiths, and perhaps faiths found in the Diaspora, many African religions are inseparable from the ethnic identity and culture. So the religion of the Serer is historically part of Serer identity, the religion of the Masaai is part of Masaai cultural identity.

One erroneous idea is that all Africans had one "pagan" religion at some point in time. There is no " original" religion for an entire continent of people, which is static over 60,000 years of African history. Religion all over the world is invariable tied to lifestyle so as people move from nomadic to sedentary, from chiefdoms to city state, from hunters to agriculturist—religion evolved to suit. There is also a profound relationship to culture, and more often than not, cultures are not destroyed by new faiths but modified to accommodate the tenants of the new religion. We see this in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The greater the cultural agency of the group, the more they Africanize the incoming faiths into their political-cultural domain.

See also | African Belief |Traditional Healing | Islam and Africa | Vodon | African Christian


Ancient Africa had a predominately, but not exclusively, oral tradition. But Ethiopia for 1000's of years has used, and still uses a Ge'ez based native script.

And apart from Ajami (Arabic script for African languages), West Africa had Vai and Nsibidi. Not to mention the obvious Nile-Valley (Ancient Egyptian and Nubian) scripts at the beginning of civilization.

See | Scripts of Africa


In 522, before Khosrau's reign, a group of monophysite Ethiopians led an attack on the dominant Himyarites of southern Arabia. The local Arab leader was able to resist the attack, and appealed to the Sassanians for aid, while the Ethiopians subsequently turned towards the Byzantines for help. The Ethiopians sent another force across the Red Sea and this time successfully killed the Arab leader and replaced him with an Ethiopian man to be king of the region.[Frye Ancient Iran] In 531, Justinian suggested that the Ethiopians of Yemen should cut out the Persians from Indian trade by maritime trade with the Indians.The Ethiopians never met this request because an Ethiopian general named Abraha took control of the Yemenite throne and created an independent nation. After Abraha's death one of his sons, Ma'd-Karib, went into exile while his half-brother took the throne.

After being denied by Justinian, Ma'd-Karib sought help from Khosrau, who sent a small fleet and army under commander Vahriz to depose the current king of Yemen. After capturing the capital city San'a'l, Ma'd-Karib's son, Saif, was put on the throne. Justinian was ultimately responsible for Sassanian maritime presence in Yemen. By not providing the Yemenite Arabs support, Khosrau was able to help Ma'd-Karib and subsequently established Yemen as a principality of the Sassanian Empire.

See | Kebra Negast

Africa before the Transatlantic Slave Trade

slavery holocaustThe African Holocaust is the greatest continuing tragedy the world has ever seen. It was also the most impacting social event in the history of humanity. Not only in terms of scale but also in terms of legacy and horror. It is a Holocaust which is constantly denied, mitigated and trivialized. The African Holocaust is white-washed and Africans denied their human value and treated as a people only suitable for slavery.

The Maafa reduced humans with culture and history to a people invisible from historical contribution; mere labor units, commodities to be traded. From this Holocaust/Maafa the modern racial-social hierarchy was born which continues to govern the lives of every living human where race continues to confer (or obstruct) privilege and opportunity.

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, colonialism and apartheid. Not only is this reality in the social-economic spectrum, it is also experienced in the academic and political value the Maafa receives compared to the Jewish genocide.

However, It is estimated that 40 -100 million people were directly affected by slavery via the Atlantic, Arabian and Trans-Saharan routes. Some historians conclude that the total loss in persons removed, those who died on the arduous march to coastal slave marts and those killed in slave raids, exceeded the 65–75 million inhabitants remaining Africa at the trade's end. But no one knows the exact number: Many died in transport, others died from diseases or indirectly from the social trauma left behind in Africa. Not only was Transatlantic Slavery of demographic significance, in the aggregate population losses but also in the profound changes to settlement patterns, epidemiological exposure and reproductive and social development potential. And perhaps one profound difference between Arab and European systems was that Africa's development potential was being experienced outside of Africa, as opposed to inside Africa

The perpetuators of the African Holocaust, as do their descendants, slept snuggly in their bed with the comforting ideology of an inferior African and a super European. And while the ramifications are different into days societies still a large percentage of the ideology which shapes the modern world is articulated via this lens of White supremacy. This perception is acted out in all areas of people activity and imbedded in the mainstream ideologies of European descendants today.

Evidence is the ongoing untreated stench of global anti-African sentiment which poisons and pollutes African development.


Some say, Africa was a foreign name given to us, if this is true, it was given to us by our contemporaries not our conquerors. However the word has Berber Tunisian origins meaning " A sunny place" - Ifriqiya . Some claim Romans appropriated this word from which it is believed the modern word Africa came about the describe the entire continent. In addition, Africa is a unique name of a place and Africans are simply people who are native to that place. And over the course of history different names such as Habesha and Takruri were used to refer to African people of various regions, Ethiopia and West Africa respectively.

“Black” as an identity ultimately sets Africans outside of their connection to history and culture. Black does not connect us to Kemet, it only goes back 500 Years ago. Hence, “black” people are an “urban” people/culture and “urban” people's history is 5 minutes old. In addition, because it is a term placed on us, we have no bases for its control, and hence they are able to say; “Ancient Egyptians weren't black.” Black has no meaning; except the meaning they place on it, if and when they chose.

Africa , the birthplace of humanity

We now know We now know that 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.

See Ethiopia


Africa, in European writings was considered the Dark Continent; it existed on the fringes of European comprehension, however, Europeans were very late in terms of contact with Africa. A vibrant international trade was in existence thousands of years before their arrival. China in the 10th and 11th centuries traded with East Africa which boomed during the Ming Dynasty under the leadership of the Chinese Muslim seafarers Cheng Ho. East African emissaries visited China during this period to pay homage to the Chinese Emperor. Africa's interface with Europe is also very ancient; Islamic Spain was ruled and governed for nearly 800 years by a condominium of African Moors from North and West Africa and Arabs  in the 7th century. During this period African leaders such as Yakub Al-Mansur, stood undefeated in his conquest of Andalusia, he sold European prisoners of war to chiefs in his native Africa. 800 years past until the Afrikans and Arabs were expelled in 1492 around the time Cristóbal Colón made his maiden voyage.

Prior to Islamic Spain there were 2500 year old African mask found in Cadiz, this testifies to an ancient international trade of equal civilisations. The legend of African Hannibal Baraca assault on the Romans makes it clear that Afrikans in fact discovered Europe long before Europe discovered Africa. Afrikans have always populated Europe; it was commonplace to see Ethiopians going about their business in ancient Rome. Up until 1550 10 % of Portugal was African but intermarriage has absorbed the African presents in the population.


For far too long, a majority of Africans have been indifferent to misrepresentations about who they are. They have remained 'objects' of the ill-informed caricatures of a once glorious heritage disfigured by colonial and post-colonial predators - Chido Nwangwu

Regardless of what is said, the destruction of African civilizations in the physical and now in the historical records is an ongoing enterprise.

There is a mental tool kit that the African student needs to engage anytime studying history. Unlike everyone else when an African speaks he is fighting two battles; proving he is valid as a human to contribute and then proving he is right. This double burden is due to the historical disinheritance created by racism.

When history is reduced from all the pages to the underlining conclusion, we find regardless of if the author is British liberal, American conservative, or Australian the conclusion is the same: Africa has fostered nothing the Western World considers artifacts of civilization. With few exceptions, this is the underlying summarization on Africa, the pathology of discrediting and take-away. Eurocentric scholarship would rather credit Arabs, Indians, Chinese and even aliens for the pyramids rather than native Africans. The real difference between the liberal and the conservative is that the conservative will control you by external mechanisms (sanctions/war), the liberal will control you by internal mechanism.(charities/missionaries, agenda setters). Both have an adverse reaction every time African agency lifts its head up.

My decision to destroy the authority of the blacks in Saint Dominque (Haiti) is not so much based on considerations of commerce and money, as on the need to block for ever the march of the blacks in the world
- Napoleon Bonaparte

Ethiopia – Not of African Origin
Egypt – Not of African origin
Sudan – Not of African origin
Mali – Not of African origin
The Moorish Empire – Not African
Ancient Zimbabwe – Not of African origin

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things - 1 Corinthians 13

There is nothing glorious in Africa that has not been reassigned to “White” ownership. And some are confused about terms like Arab, but Arabs from the perspective of Eurocentric history are a “Middle-Eastern Caucasoid,” so quite happily will they reassign Ancient Egypt or Islamic Spain to Arab people. W. E. B. Du Bois was right when he said:

We cannot if we are sane, divide the world into whites, yellows, and Blacks, and then call Blacks white."He might have said that it would be equally as strange to call them "Mediterranean," "Hamitic," or a hundred other euphemisms taking authorship outside the racial property of African people."Black" in the North American context - Du Bois

The "social "construction of race in America does not rely on skin color. "African Americans," as Asante notes, " constitute the most heterogeneous group in the United States biologically, but perhaps one of the most homogeneous socially.

Karenga notes that it "is . . . playing Europe's racial game to concede that Egyptians are white or Asian if they don't look like a Eurocentric version of a West African." Furthermore, "Ethiopians and Somalis, perhaps, resemble the ancient Egyptians and ancient Nubians more than any other peoples and they are, even by Eurocentric standards, African." Unless we revive the hoary "Hamitic" Myth."

The question for the discerning student of history is; why do all the conclusions always serve to empower Europeans and disempower Africans. It does not matter if they use archeology or genetics, linguistics or reasoning the conclusions always make a deposit towards the greatness of Europe, and a deduction from the glory of Africa.

Who ended the slave trade- Europe
Who stopped the Arab trade – Europe
Who was the greatest Abolitionist – A European
The greatest scientist, thinker, architect, composers, inventors – Europeans
Who invented modern civilization – Europe
Who invented everything good – Europe
Who is the most civilized - Europe
Who knows what is best for Africans? - Europeans
The question that should be put to these historians is “What has indigenous Africa contributed to the world?” Because the history of take-away has reduced Africa to nothing, thus implying the old statement “Africa is of no historical significance.” So how are today’s scholars any different from David Hume and Kant? If all their conclusions reduced all the nobility of Africa to given, borrowed or stolen.

The Eurocentric opinions of Orientalist scholarship has been copied into Africanist europhone writings. These attitudes reflect a failure to account for the full complexities and heterogeneity of Islam and its history in Sub-Saharan Africa - Bangura, Islam and the West African

African Slave Systems

Slavery was not only an aspect of history, today Slavery is still a World problem; millions of people are trapped in domestic slavery from China to USA. The line that defines what is and isn't slavery is blurred and there is no secret that when ethnic groups and nationalities fought in wars the vanquished where given into a system of subservience to the victors: askew rules of war.

However, let not the word "slavery" allow an analogue to what happened on the plantations of Jamaica, Brazil  and America. In Africa, There were no fields filled with men and women tolling away to the crack of a whip. There was no place where so-called slaves outnumbering their enslavers. Chattel Slavery did not exist within Africa but serfdom, servitude or vassalship did, as it did in most of Europe and the rest of the world. In addition, this vassalship was scattered and infrequent; it was never the commerce of the land. Most non-free people could amass wealth and upward mobility was very frequent. Some, as in the case of Ali Kolon ascended the ranks to become rulers. Many enslaved people were employed in high government office with virtually no restrictions on their native language, religion etc.

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.

See |  African Kingdoms

How Europe learned from Africa

Some of the world's other great civilisations, such as Kush, Aksum , 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 12 th 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 14 th 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 15 th 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 13 th and 14 th centuries and aroused the interest of Europeans in western Africa . An early historian in the 9 th 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 11 th 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 14 th 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 traveler 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 16 th 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.

European views before the Slave Trade

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 earring s in their ears.'

A Dutch traveler 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.


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