Africa before slavery

Africa’s history did not start with slavery

Despite the peculiarity, horror and duration of African enslavement, slavery occupies a minor time frame (0,5%)  in the 120,000 years of African history.Africa in art The Transatlantic Slave trade not only distorted Africa’s economic development, it also distorted views of the history and importance of the African continent itself. It is only in the last fifty years that it has been possible to redress this distortion and to begin to re-establish Africa’s rightful place in world history.


In most parts of Africa before 1500, societies had become highly developed in terms of their own histories. They often had complex systems of participatory government, or were established powerful states that covered large territories and had extensive regional and international links.


Many of these societies had solved difficult agricultural problems and had come up with advanced techniques of production of food and other crops and were engaged in local, regional and even international trading networks. Some peoples were skilled miners and metallurgists, others great artists in wood, stone and other materials. Many of the societies had amassed a great stock of scientific knowledge, some of it stored in libraries such as those of Timbuktu, and some passed down orally from generation to generation.


The African continent continued on its own path of development, without significant external intervention until the fifteenth century of our era. Some of the world’s other great civilisations, such as Kush, Axum, Mali, and Great Zimbabwe, flourished in Africa in the years before 1500. In this early period Africans participated in extensive international trading networks and in trans-oceanic travel. Some African states had established important trading relations with India, China and other parts of Asia long before these were disrupted by European intervention.


Before 1600, a massive regional and international trading system stretched from the coast of West Africa, across the Sahara to North Africa and beyond. It was sustained by the mining of gold in West Africa, as well as the production of many other goods there. For many centuries, it was dominated by powerful empires such as Ghana, Mali and Songhai, which often controlled both gold production and the major trading towns on the southern fringes of the Sahara.


A 9th-century historian wrote: ‘The king of Ghana is a great king. In his territory are mines of gold.’ When al-Bakri, the famous historian of Muslim Spain, wrote about Ghana in the 11th century, he reported that its king ‘rules an enormous kingdom and has great power’. He was also 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, which was larger than western Europe, was reputed to be one of the biggest, richest and most powerful states in the world.


Highlighted African empires:

National Geographic cover copy Egypt was the first of many great African civilisations. It lasted thousands of years and achieved many magnificent and incredible things in the fields of science, mathematics, medicine, technology and the arts.Who were these original Egyptians? The Latin historian Ammianus Marcellinus said “the men of Egypt are mostly brown or black with a skinny desiccated look.” The Greek historian Herodotus  described the Colchians of the Black Sea shores as “Egyptians by race” and pointed out they had “black skins and kinky hair.” songhai Between 1450-1550, the Songhai kingdom grew very powerful and prosperous. It had a well organised system of government, a developed currency and it imported fabrics from Europe. Timbuktu became one of the most important places in the world. Libraries and universities were built and it became the meeting place for poets, scholars and artists from other parts of Africa and the Middle East. ghana empire In the west of Africa, the kingdom of Ghana was a vast Empire that spread across an area the size of Western Europe. Between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, it traded in gold, salt and copper. It was like a medieval European empire, with a collection of powerful local rulers, controlled by one king or emperor. Ghana was highly advanced and prosperous. It is said that the Ghanaian ruler had an army of 200,000 men. Unidentified African potentate The kingdoms of Benin and Ife were led by the Yoruba people and sprang up between the 11th and 12th centuries. The Ife civilisation goes back as far as 500BC and its people made objects from bronze, brass, copper, wood and ivory. Studies of the Benin show that they were highly skilled in ivory carving, pottery, rope and gum production. mali From the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, the kingdom of Mali spread across much of West and North-East Africa. At its largest, the kingdom was 2000 kilometres wide and there was an organised trading system, with gold dust and agricultural produce being exported north. Mali reached its height in the 14th century. Cowrie shells were used as a form of currency and gold, salt and copper were traded. Marcus Garvey

africanholocaust.net
liverpoolmuseums.org.uk
abnmuseum.org
nationalarchives.gov.uk

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40 Comments Add yours

  1. Mowafag says:

    In Roots by Alex Haley the phase was “Violence begets violence” which personally meant a lot to me, hence I felt that we are always abode by the laws of our motherland, that is not to cause harm to those who harms us and never to treat them in the same manner they treated us.

    Africa for me was and IS the mother of all nations, biologically and historically, hence she endowed us with greater tolerance towards abuse and suffering but never blind revenge. So by time the rest of the world would know what they are doing, and eventually come to their natural senses and realize that a mother is far from hurting her kids no matter what they do to her, they will undoubtedly regret all the pain they cause her ignorantly and seek her forgiveness, which she always gives unconditionally.

    Hence in Europe most discriminating countries I have been to, I survived and watched – with joy – the change taking place. Though not really a religious person myself, I still saw how those around me where gradually moving from hatred and ignorant prejudice towards an acceptance and even love in some cases.

    I started to see the world from a new new point of view. Always remembering what my grandmother used to say,,, all human stuff come and go, but nature will always be there and her laws remain.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on crocolungsblog and commented:

    Beautiful.

    Like

  3. 9jastyles says:

    Reblogged this on 9jastyles and commented:

    This is a must read for everyone one of African Origin and anyone whoever wonders why Black is Beautiful

    Like

  4. Eileen says:

    My father in law traveled extensively in Africa and it was only in sorting through his photos and writings that I discovered the amazing history of Timbuktu. We in the U.S. A. are criminally ignorant about the history of anything other than our own and western Europe. I am delighted to find your blog and particularly this informative post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I was a child, we studied the kingdoms of Benin, Mali, and Ghana in school. I recall reading about Mansa Musa in two of my textbooks (different years.) Perhaps I attended a special school. 🙂 Most people are very ignorant about the history of the African continent–almost nobody knows about the pyramids of Sudan!–so I thank you for this post.

    I have just one bit of caution: the slave trade did not start in 1500. The Roman Empire was trading for African slaves back in its day; until quite recently, wherever there have been wars and armies, people have been captured and enslaved. Today, sadly, there are still many people enslaved throughout the world.

    African history started long before colonialism and shouldn’t be viewed through the colonialist lens. I have much left to learn. 🙂

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      Thanks so much for that addition! And you are right, the slave trade did not start in 1500, that’s why it was not mentioned as such in this post. However, a lot of things rapidly started to change during the 1500’s, this is why place emphasis that period, as it marked the beginning of a new era in African History in so many ways. Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Like

  6. Kaayaman says:

    Well written….its a mystery how the cradle of mankind became what it is now….!

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      Thanks Kaayaman. And yes, it sure is!

      Like

  7. locz4lyfe says:

    Hi, you’ve been nominated for the Premio Dardos Award! Peace and blessings!

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      Why Thank You! I am humbled! Blessings to you too dear.

      Dixi

      Liked by 1 person

  8. lyndarogle says:

    Reblogged this on lyndaroglebooks and commented:
    Wake up Africans you’ve slumbered too long!

    Like

  9. ianmoore3000 says:

    There is also Ethiopia, which has a continuous history since antiquity. Among other things, Ethiopians developed their own writing system.

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      Thanks ianmoore3000, that is very true!

      I mentioned Ethiopia in the 15th century as (Aksum) Axum by its historical name for its great empire and accomplishments.

      Thank you for reading!

      From Dixi

      Like

      1. ianmoore3000 says:

        Sorry, I missed Axum. Doh.

        Like

  10. I’ve read a book called “Black Genesis” by Robert Bauval that is fantastic. It provides a theory and proof of advanced African civilizations, even before Dynastic Egypt. Hopefully, education, especially in the West, will tell the true story about the history of humanity.
    Take care,
    Rob

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      Hi Rob,

      I doubt that we will see the full picture of Africa’s history any time soon in the West. But it helps to share as much as possible in order to educate those who want to know the truth and the full picture.

      Glad you passed by and thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      From Dixi

      Liked by 1 person

  11. zestyjazz says:

    Do you know what really fuels the developing world? The idea that everything non-European is savage, primal and un-developed. Think of “third-world country”…. In fact, most cultures who were decimated and destroyed were powerful entities who functioned at high-performing levels…colonialism poisoned the richness and fluidity and wholesomeness of those communities with the want of material goods that the natives already had. OR they just ransacked and tore apart the foundations of the community systematically. Relearning the history of the self, will inevitably restore the self-preserving and environmentally sustainable (pre-EPA etc) ways of early earthlings. Great article. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dixi says:

      You have made some very valid points Jasmine, and trust me, i understand where your frustration comes from!

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      From Dixi

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Caleb Gee says:

    Beautiful article with some amazing and stunning illustrations.

    Like

  13. dara40 says:

    I saw something on PBS about the black pharaohs, I wanted them to keep talking about it! Hope to learn more, we need this.

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      Great that you are eager to learn more about the history of Africa. National geographic has a documentary on black pharaohs as seen on one of the images in this post. Of course there should be many others. It is harder to find information about Africa before slavery when outside of Africa but I assure you, it is there! I will think about doing another post with more information.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Dixie with love

      Like

      1. dara40 says:

        Thanks, I will be reading more of your posts.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. ReddPeace says:

    Reblogged this on Love Thy Self and commented:
    This History of Africa before the break down. We can rebuild my people! We shall come together. ONE heart. ONE mind. HEAL THYSELF! It begins within not without!

    Like

  15. abdulwahhabx says:

    Winston Churchill once said that “History is written by the victors”. When the narrative of history is controlled by those who control others, we are only shown anything not only non threatening, but a show of power by the ruling class. Africa is slavery and the people and fueling international trade. Native Americans were a people almost wiped out. India is poverty and ‘strange’ Gods. The histories of non European civilzations are amazing when researched properly. Great article!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dixi says:

      How stories are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told — are really dependent on power.

      Show a people as one thing — as only one thing — over and over again, and that is what they become. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

      I don’t know if Chimamanda heard of Winston Churchill’s thoughts on this matter as you have quoted, but their perception is the same. There is so much to be said on this subject…but where to start right?!

      Thank you for your input abdulwahhabx, i appreciate your time spent on my little blog.

      The danger of a single story #TED :http://on.ted.com/i0Sm2

      From Dixi with love

      Liked by 1 person

  16. akeem54 says:

    Reblogged this on African Apparells for exports and commented:
    This is not just educative and historical but an eye opener.

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      I appreciate your thoughts and thank you for sharing!

      Like

      1. akeem54 says:

        You are welcome

        Liked by 1 person

  17. suchled says:

    ………is like a tree without roots” This is a great statement. For someone white and not African being ignorant of another people’s history is like being a dead tree in a dying forest.

    Like

    1. Dixi says:

      That is a great way to look at it aswell. I agree as it applies to all of us. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Like

  18. longrik says:

    Nope. They dont teach you this in school

    Like

    1. zestyjazz says:

      Why would “they” the key to staying on top is by telling the same damn stories over again. In America the only story with a black person in it that wins a nomination is about slavery…gee I wonder why? Don’t come to me and say that 12 Years a Slave was a “great” movie! Why!?!? Because I want to see a movie that features a black lead NOT being a slave and winning a nomination. Ugh. Didn’t mean to rant, but that just pisses me off -Jasmine.

      Like

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