A distinguished African American poet, Countee Cullen, began his poem "Heritage" with the question: "What is Africa to me?" In order to understand Africa, we must extend the question by asking, "What is Africa to the Africans?" and "What is Africa to the world?" With these questions we will be calling attention to the need for a total reexamination of African history. Considering the old approaches to African history and the distortions and confusion that resulted from these approaches, a new approach to African history must begin with a new frame of reference which will help us better analyze the issues of slavery, colonialism, imperialism and nation-building among black people.
We must be bold enough to reject such terms as "Black Africa" which presupposes that there is a legitimate, "White Africa." We must reject the term "Negro Africa" and the word "Negro" and all that it implies. This word, like the concept of race and racism, grew out of the European slave trade and the colonial system that followed. It is not an African word and it has no legitimate application to African people. For more details on this matter, I recommend that you read the book, The Word NegroIts Origin and Evil Use, by Richard B. Moore. In a speech on "The Significance of African History," the Caribbean writer, Richard B. Moore observed:
The significance of African history is shown, though not overtly, in the very effort to deny anything worthy of the name of history to Africa and the African peoples. This wide-spread, and well nigh successful endeavor, maintained through some five centuries, to erase African history from the general record, is a fact which of itself should he quite conclusive to thinking and open minds. For it is logical and apparent that no such undertaking would ever have been carried on, and at such length, in order to obscure and bury what is actually of little or no significance.
The prime significance of African history becomes still more manifest when it is realized that this deliberate denial of African history arose out of the European expansion and invasion of Africa which began in the middle of the fifteenth century. The compulsion was thereby felt to attempt to justify such colonialist conquest, domination, enslavement, and plunder. Hence, this brash denial of history and culture to Africa, and indeed even of human qualities and capacity for 'civilization' to the indigenous people of Africa.
Mr. Moore is saying, in essence, that African history must be looked at anew and seen in its relationship to world history. First, the distortions must be admitted. The hard fact is that most of what we now call world history is only the history of the first and second rise of Europe. The Europeans are not yet willing to acknowledge that the world did not wait in darkness for them to bring the light, and that the history of Africa was already old when Europe was born.
Until quite recently, it was rather generally assumed, even among well educated persons in the West, that the continent of Africa was a great expanse of land, mostly jungle, inhabited by savages and fierce beasts. It was not thought of as an area where great civilizations could have existed or where the great kings of these civilizations could have ruled in might and wisdom over vast empires. It is true that there are some current notions about the cultural achievements of Egypt, but Egypt was perceived of as European land rather than a country of Africa. Even if a look at an atlas or globe showed Egypt to be in Africa, the popular thought immediately saw in the Sahara Desert a formidable barrier and convenient division of Africa into two parts: one (north of the Sahara) was inhabited by European-like people of high culture and noble history; the other (south of the Sahara) was inhabited by dark-skinned people who had no culture, and were incapable of having done anything in their dark and distant past that could be dignified by the designation of "history." Such ideas, of course, are far from the truth, but it is not difficult to understand why they persisted, and unfortunately still persist, in one form or another in the popular mind.
To understand how these ideas came about we must examine African history and its relationship to world history before and after the slave trade and the colonial period. Then we must deal with a recurring theme in the African peoples struggle to regain a definition of themselves and their role in world historyPan-African Nationalism. African people are both jealous and envious of other people who possess a culture container called, nation. They want the same thing for themselves and all African people on the face of the earth. African political activists are asking, and trying to answer the question: "How did we become so scattered and fragmented and how can we unite to save ourselves?" The formula that a large number of African people agree on most is Pan-African Nationalism. This formula bridges all political lines, religious and cultural lines, and geographical boundaries, or should do so.
The following definition of Pan-Africanism and its meaning is extracted from one of my books in preparation, Pan-Africanism: A Brief History of An Idea in the African World. "Pan" movements are not new in the world. These movements existed long before the use of the preface "Pan" was a part of a group's organizational name. Any movement by an ethnic group to recover and reclaim their history, culture and national identity, after slavery, war or migration, forced or otherwise, can be called a "Pan" movement.
The largest number of these movements existed in the United States, a nation of immigrants. In this country these movements were mainly historical and cultural societies whose objectives were to preserve the history of the United States and the respective history of each immigrant group.
Pan-Africanism, often thought of as a movement conceived and developed by Africans living outside Africa, was in fact, a world-wide movement, affecting Africans in every part of the world. Generally, we think of it as a twentieth century phenomenon. In fact, this world-wide movement used different approaches, depending on the political climate in the countries where African people lived in large numbers. In Africa itself, Pan-Africanism was often expressed through armed resistance to slavery and colonialism.
There is need for an operational definition that witl explain PanAfricanism's many manifestations in different places, under different circumstances. All over the world, Africans have been fighting to restore what slavery and colonialism took away from them. No matter what their circumstances, their objectives have been the same. Slavery and colonialism strained, but did not completely break, the cultural umbilical cord between the Africans in Africa and those who, by forced migration, now live in what is called the Western World. A small group of African American and Caribbean writers, teachers and preachers, collectively developed the basis of what would be an African-consciousness movement over one hundred years ago. Their concern was with Africa in general and Egypt and Ethiopia, and what we now called the Nile Valley, in particular.
In the years before emancipation of the slaves in the United States and in the Caribbean Islands, these "free" blacks had barely mastered their conqueror's language. However, in spite of their lack of formal training, their first writings reflected a concern for Africa as their homeland. W.E.B. DuBois, the great African American scholar, and elder statesman among African Americans, describes the situation in this manner:
From the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, the Africans imported to America regarded themselves as temporary settlers destined to return eventually to Africa. Their increasing revolts against the slave system, which culminated in the eighteenth century, showed a feeling of close kinship to the motherland and even well in the nineteenth century they called their organizations "African" as witness the "African Unions" of New York and Newport, and the African Churches of Philadelphia and New York. In the West Indies and South America there was even closer indication of feelings of kinship with Africa and the East.
In referring to the importance of African people in world history, he tells us that:
Always Africa is giving us something new.. On its black bosom arose one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of self-protecting civilizations, and grew so mightily that it still furnishes superlatives to thinking and speaking men. Out of its dark and more remote forest vastnesses came, if we may credit many recent scientists, the first welding of iron, and we know that agriculture and trade flourished there when Europe was a wilderness.
He notes fiuther that:
Nearly every human empire that has arisen in the world, material and spiritual, has found some of its greatest crises on the continent of Africa. It was through Africa that Christianity became the religion of the world. In Africa, the last flood of Germanic invasions spent itself within hearing distance of the last gasp of Byzantium, and it was again through Africa that Islam came to play its great role of conqueror and civilizer.
Egypt and the nations of the Nile Valley were, figuratively, the beating heart of Africa and the incubator for its greatness for more than a thousand years. The human traffic from the South renewed the creative energy of Egypt and helped it meet one of the greatest challenges in history. She gave birth to what later became known as Western Civilization, long before the greatness of Greece and Rome.
In essence, Pan-Africanism is about the restoration of African people to their proper place in world history. The Arab slave trade in East Africa (that started before the trans-Atlantic slave trade in West Africa) shattered the foundations of African nations and cultures. These catastrophes would scatter African people to the four corners of the earth. Further, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Europeans began to colonize most of the world: they not only colonized the world but they colonized information about the world. And in order to create a rationale for the Atlantic slave trade, Africans were left out of the respectfull commentary of history.
The objective of Pan-Africanism is not only the restoration of land and nationhood: it has as one of its aims the restoration of respect. The major PanAfricanist theoreticiansW.E.B. DuBois, H. Sylvester Williams, C.L.R. James and George Padmoregave the concept form and substance. This concept was old before they were born. The main roots of Pan-Africanism (both action and social thought) were nourished by the events of the fifteenth centurythe second rise of Europe, the beginning of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and Western colonialism. During the period referred to here, Africans lost their nation-structure, war was declared on their culture, both by the European and the Arab and the African was removed from the commentary of world history.
The three major religions of that day, Judaism, Christianity and Islam found a rationale for slavery that they could live with. Slavery was practiced and the Africans were scattered throughout the world as though they were a people outside of the grace of God. Because Africans lost more than any other people in human history have lost, they have more to restore than any other people. Although some things will never be restored. In the Arab slave trade, that started before the rise of Islam, and the European slave trade, that started in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the colonialism that followed, Africa has suffered through more than five hundred years of foreign domination.
These Europeans and Arabs impressed upon the African mind the fact that Africans could not manage nations. Most Africans in Africa and throughout the world do not know enough about their history to know that they managed nations, exceptionally well, for thousands of years, before the first European wore a shoe or lived in a house that had a window.
Education for a new reality in the African world will have to begin with a total view of the role of Africans in world history and their interaction with societies, nations and cultures down through the ages. It is generally conceded in most scholarly circles that mankind originated in Africa; this makes the African man the father and the African woman the mother of mankind. This is where we begin our assessment of the role of Africa and its people in world history.
Early men in Africa became geniuses at surviving under harsh circumstances. Present-day archaeologists have dug up and preserved the evidence of their achievements. They found that they made hooks to catch fish, spears to hunt with, stone knives to cut with, the bola with which to catch birds and animals, the blow-gun, the hammer and the stone axe. In his pamphlet, "The African Contribution," the writer John W. Weatherwax gives us this additional evidence: today's cannon, long-range missiles, ship propellers, automatic hammers, gas engines, and even meat cleavers and upholstery tack hammers have the roots of their development in the early African use of power. Africans gave mankind the first machine; it was the fire stick. It is the making of tools that sets man apart from, and in a sense, above all living creatures. Africans started mankind along the tool-making path. Canoes made it possible for man to travel farther and farther away from his original home. They began to explore the many rivers in Africa like the Nile, the Congo and the Niger. It was in this way that the early peopling of Africa started and that organized societies began. At some time years later, Africans, driven by curiosity or some force of nature, began to leave Africa in large numbers. They became the most widely dispersed of all people. Evidence of their presence, at some time in history, has been found in nearly every part of the world. Africa was already old when what we now call Europe was born. The Ghanaian historian, Joseph B. Danquah, called attention to this fact in his Introduction to the book, United West Africa or Africa at the Bar of the Family of Nations, when he said:
By the time Alexander the Great was sweeping the civilized world with conquest after conquest from Chaeronia to Gaza, from Babylon to Cabul, by the time this first of the Aryan conquerors was learning the rudiments of war and government at the feet of philosophic Aristotle; and by the time Athens was laying down the foundations of modern European civilization, the earliest and greatest Ethiopian culture had already flourished and dominated the civilized world for over four and a half centuries. Imperial Ethiopia had conquered Egypt and founded the XXVth Dynasty, and for a century and a half the central seat of civilization in the known world was held by the ancestors of the modern Negro, maintaining and defending it against the Assyrian and Persian Empires of the East. Thus, at the time when Ethiopia was leading the civilized world in culture and conquest, East was East but West was as yet to be held. Rome was nowhere to be seen on the map, and sixteen centuries were to pass before Charlemagne would rule in Europe and Egbert becomes first king of England. Even then, history was to drag on for another seven hundred years before Roman Catholic Europe could see fit to end the Great Schism, soon to be followed by the disturbing news of the discovery of America and by the fateful rebirth of the youngest of world civilizations.
The French writer, Count C.F. Volney in his book, Ruins of Empires, made a similar statement after observing the evidence of what was once a great Ethiopian Empire. This was his observation:
A people now forgotten discovered, while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected for their sable skin and frizzled hair founded, on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.
The present search for the place of African people in world history and the Black Power Revolution that produced the Black and Beautiful concept out of which the Black Studies Revolution emerged, is part of a chain reaction to the absence of African people from the accepted commentaries of world history. This also means that we, as an African people, rejected the rejection referred to in Count Volney's observations, and we are now demanding that other people acknowledge our contribution to world history, and their indebtedness to us.
It can be said with a strong degree of certainty that Africa has had three Golden Ages. The first two reached their climax and were in decline before Europe as a functioning entity in human society was born. Africa's first Golden Age began at the beginningwith the birth of man and the development of organized societies.
In his book, The Progress and Evolution of Man in Africa Dr. L.S. B. Leaky states, "In every country that one visits and where one is drawn into a conversation about Africa, the question is regularly asked, by people who should know better: 'But what has Africa contributed to world progress?' The critics of Africa forget that men of science today, with few exceptions, are satisfied that Africa was the birthplace of man himself, and that for many hundreds of centuries thereafter, Africa was in the forefront of all human progress."
In the early development of man, the family was the most important unit in existence. Through the years the importance of this unit has not changed. The first human societies were developed for reasons relating to the needs and survival of the family. The early African had to make implements with which to catch fish and animals for the family table. He searched for new ways of building shelter, gathering and raising food, and domesticating animals. Our use of fire today simply continues the process started by the early Africansthe control of fire.
With the discovery of metals and how to use them, all Africa took a great leap forward. Man had learned how to take iron from the ground and turn it into spears and tools. Iron cultures spread rapidly across Africa and there were very few parts of Africa that were not influenced by these iron age cultures. Iron cultures had their greatest development in the area of Africa that is now the Eastern Sudan, in the great city-state of Meroe. The use of iron accelerated every aspect of African development and introduced a new dangerthe eventual use of iron weapons in warfare.
The Nile River became a great cultural highway, bringing peoples and culture out of inner Africa. These migrations by river led to the establishment of one of the greatest nations in world history, Egypt. In his book, The Destruction of African Civilization, Great Issues of A Race From 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D., the African American historian, Chancellor Williams, refers to Egypt as "Ethiopia's Oldest Daughter" and calls attention to evidence to prove the southem African origin of early Egyptian people and their civilization.
Egypt first became an organized nation about 6000 B.C. Medical interest centers upon a period in the Third Dynasty (53456307 B.C.) when Egypt had an ambitious pharaoh named Zoser, and Zoser, in turn, had for his chief counselor and minister a brilliant commoner named Imhotep whose name means "He who cometh in peace." Imhotep constructed the famous step pyramid of Sakkarah, near Memphis. The building methods used in the construction of this pyramid revolutionized the architecture of the ancient world. Egypt gave the world some of the greatest personalities in the history of mankind. In this regard, Imhotep is singularly outstanding. In the ancient history of Egypt, no individual left a deeper impression than the commoner Imhotep. He was the world's first multi-genius. He was also the real father of medicine. In his book, Evolution Of Modern Medicine Sir William Osler refers to Imhotep as "the first figure of a physician, to stand out clearly from the mists of antiquity."
The period in Egyptian history from the Third Dynasty to the first invasion of Egypt by the Hyksos, or Shepherd Kings, in 1700 B.C. is, in my opinion, the apex of the first Golden Age. The western Asian domination over Egypt lasted about one hundred and twenty years and was ended by the rise of Egyptian nationalism during the Seventeenth Dynasty. During this period the pharaohs at Thebes consolidated their powers and began a united campaign to rid lower Egypt of the Hyksos invaders. When the invaders from western Asia were finally driven out by the Pharaoh Ahmose I, the splendid Eighteenth Dynasty was established and Egypt's second Golden Age began. Egypt's Golden Age did not belong to Egypt alone but included other nations in Africa, mainly Kush and Ethiopia (which at certain periods in history were one and the same). These nations farther to the south were the originators of the early culture of Egypt. Egypt at this juncture in history was no longer dependent on her cultural parent and was once more the most developed nation in the world.
Again rulers of monumental status were coming to power. Two of the best known rulers of this period were the female pharaoh Hatshepsut and her bruther Thothmose III. Great temples were built throughout the country, and the consequent employment of hundreds of artists and craftsmen prepared the way for the artistic glories which were still to come.
During the reign of Thothmose II, the influence of Egypt was once more extended to western Asia, now referred to as the Middle East. The age of grandeur continued. This age underwent a dramatic and lasting change in 1386 B.C. Around that time, Queen Tiy of Egypt gave birth to a boy who was first named Amenhates after this father. Very little is known of his childhood except that he was sickly from birth and developed an interest in art, poetry, and religion. His closest companion was said to be Nefertiti, who later became his wife.
Akhenaton, often referred to as the "Heretic King," is one of history's most extraordinary monarchs. Thirteen hundred years before Christ he preached and lived a gospel of love, brotherhood, and truth. He has been called the world's first idealist; the first temporal ruler ever to lead his people toward the worship of a single God.
When Akhenaton came to the throne more than 3000 years ago, Egypt dominated the world.
Egypt's Golden Age gradually waned and the pride and splendor that had marked the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties gave way to internal strife and confusion. Wars of conquest and colonization had drained much of her military and economic strength. In the meantime, as the nations to the south grew more powerful, they became predatory toward Egypt, which had once been their master.
The nation that is now called Ethiopia came back upon the center stage of history around 960 B.C. It was then represented by a queen who in some books is referred to as Makeda, and in others as Belkis. She is better known to the world as the Queen of Sheb~ In his book, World's Great Men Of Color J. A. Rogers gives this description: "Out of the mists of three thousand years emerge this beautiful love story of a black queen, who, attracted by the face of a Judean monarch, made a long journey to see him..." In Ethiopia, A Cultural History, Sylvia Pankhurst tells the story of this journey: "The history of the queen of the South, who undertook a long and arduous journey to Jerusalem, in order to learn of the wisdom of King Solomon, is deeply cherished in Ethiopia as part of the national heritage, for she is claimed as an Ethiopian Queen, Makeda, 'a woman of splendid beauty,' who introduced the religion and culture of Israel to her own land."
By the tenth and the ninth centuries B.C., Egypt had been weakened by outside attacks and by bitter disputes between its priests and the royal families. This had allowed the Kushites to the south to gain a measure of independence. They now had the confidence to move northward and conquer their former masters. In spite of the war of conquest, these Kushite (or Ethiopian) kings brought Egypt her last age of grandeur and social reform. There is a need to make a serious study of this act of internal African colonization and what it achieved at the end of the Golden Age for the two great nations of Egypt and Kush.
These Kushite kings restored the declining culture and economy of Egypt and took it to unprecedented heights of leadership in the way it cared for its people. Though a colony, Egypt was once more a world power.
The Assyrian invasion of 671 B.C. drove the Kushite forces to the south and began the harshness and misrule that destroyed the grandeur that once was Egypt. Egypt continued to decline while a young nation on the other side of the MediterraneanGreecebegan to gather its power, around 500 B.C. In the year 332 B.C., Alexander the Great, a student of Aristotle, invaded Egypt. This was the first purely European invasion of Africa. The aftermath of this invasion, and the new European interest in dominating the trade of the Mediterranean world, led to the Punic Wars and the invasion by the Romans.
In Egypt a strong and shrewd young girl tried to deal with the plight of her country under the threat of Roman domination. Her name was Cleopatra.
In the sixth and seventh centuries A.D., Roman rule began to lose its hold on North Africa and the Middle East. African genius for state building and for bringing new societies into being was reborn in the Western Sudan (inner West Africa), where the third and last African Golden Age began.
The first of the great empires of the Western Sudan to become known to the outside world was Ghana. It began as a small settlement during the second century of the Christian era. It would later develop into a state with a known history of more than a thousand years. In Europe and in the Arab countries, Ghana was known as the country rich in gold. This was a natural attraction for the Arabs and later the Europeans. The country reached the height of its greatness during the reign of Tenkamenin, one of its greatest kings, who came to power in 1062 A.D. The king lived in a palace of stone and wood which was built to be defended in time of war. The empire was well organized. The political progress and social well-being of its people could be favorably compared to the best kingdoms and empires that prevailed in Europe at this time. The country had a military force of 200,000 men.
In one of a number of holy wars, or Jihads, Ghana was invaded by the Almaravids under the leadership of Abu Beku of the Sosso Empire in 1076 A.D. This conquest brought an end to Ghana's age of prosperity and cultural development. The character of the country was slow to change. Nearly one hundred years later the Arab writer El Idrisi wrote of it as being "the greatest kingdom of the Blacks." In a later account, El Idrisi said: "Ghana...is the most commercial of the Black countries. It is visited by rich merchants from all the surrounding countries and from the extremities of the West."
In 1087 the country regained its independence, without regaining its old strength, state organization and grandeur. The ruins of the Empire of Ghana became the Kingdoms of Diara and Sosso. The provinces of Ghana became a part of the Mali Empire and were later absorbed into the Songhay Empire.
The great drama of state-building, trade and commerce, and power brokerage unfolded at Timbuctoo, queen city of the Western Sudan. Two hundred miles down the Niger from Timbuctoo the competing city of Gao stood. It was founded about the seventh century and was the capital of the large black empire of Songhay.
The famous emperor of Mali, Mansa Musa, stopped at Timbuctoo on his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324. He went in regal splendor with an entourage of 60,000 persons, including 12,000 servants. Five hundred bondsmen, each of whom carried a staff of pure gold and marched in front of the entourage. Two hundred eighty camels bore 2,400 pounds of gold which this African monarch distributed as alms and gifts. Musa returned from Mecca with an architect who designed imposing buildings in Timbuctoo and in other parts of his realm. To the outside world of the late medieval period, the Emperor Mansa Musa was more than an individual. He was Africa. He conquered the Songhay Empire and rebuilt the University of Sankore. He figured, by name, on every map. In his lifetime he hecame, in person, the symbol of the mystery and of the fabulous wealth of the unknown African continent. He was the most colorful of the black kings of the fourteenth century. He still held this position nearly two centuries after his death.
After the death of Mansa Musa, the empire of Mali declined in importance. Its place was taken by Songhay, whose greatest king was Askia the Great (Mohammed Toure). Askia came to power in 1493, one year after Columbus discovered America. He consolidated the territory conquered by the previous ruler, Sonni All, and built Songhay into the most powerful state in the Western Sudan. His realm, it is said, was larger than all Europe.
The German writer Henry Barth, in his famous work, Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa, calls Askia the Great, "One of the most brilliant and enlightened administrators of all times." He organized the army of Songhay, improved the system of banking and credit, and made the city-states of Gao, Walata, Timbuctoo, and Jenne into intellectual centers. Timbuctoo, during his reign, was a city of 100,000 people"People filled to the top," said a chronicler of that time, "with gold and dazzling women."
Askia encouraged scholarship and literature. Students from all over the Moslem world came to Timbuctoo to study grammar, law and surgery at the University of Sankore; scholars came from North Africa and Europe to confer with learned historians and writers of this black empire. A Sudanese literature developed and many books were written. Leo Africanus, who wrote one of the best known works on the Western Sudan, says: "In Timbuctoo there were numerous judges, doctors and clerics, all receiving good salaries from the king. He pays great respect to men of learning. There is a big demand for books in manuscript, imported from Barbary (North Africa). More profit is made from the book trade than from any other line of business."
Askia has been hailed as one of the wisest monarchs of the Middle Ages. Alexander Chamberlain, in his book, The Contribution of the Negro to Human Civilization, says of him: " In personal character, in administrative ability, in devotion to the welfare of his subjects. in open-mindedness toward foreign influences, and in wisdom in the adoption of enlightened ideas and institutions from abroad, King Askia was certainly the equal of the average European monarch of the time and superior to many of them."
After the death of Askia the Great in 1538, the Songhay Empire began to lose it strength and control over its vast territory. When the Songhay Empire collapsed after the capture of Timbuctoo and Gao by the Moroccans in 1591, the whole of the Western Sudan was devastated by the invading troops. The Sultan of Morocco, EI-Mansur, had sent a large army with European firearms across the Sahara to attack the once powerful empire of Songhay. The prosperous city of Timbuctoo was plundered by the army of freebooters. A state of anarchy prevailed. The University of Sankore which had stood for over five hundred years was destroyed and the faculty exiled to Morocco. The great Sudanese scholar of that day, Ahmed Baba, was among those exiled. Baba was a scholar of great depth and inspiration. He was the author of more than forty books on such diverse themes as theology, astronomy, ethnography and biography. His rich library of sixteen hundred books was lost during his expatriation from Timbuctoo.
Timbuctoo provides the most terrible example of the struggles of the West African states and towns as they strove to preserve what was once their Golden Age. The Arabs, Berbers and Tuaregs from the north showed them no mercy. Timbuctoo had previously been sacked by the Tuaregs as early a 1433, and they had occupied it for thirty years. Between 1591 and 1593, the Tuaregs had already taken advantage of the situation to plunder Timbuctoo once more. Between 1723 and 1728, the Tuaregs once more occupied and looted Timbuctoo. Thus Timbuctoo, once the queen city of the Western Sudan, with more than 200,000 inhabitants, and the center of a powerful state, degenerated into a shadow of its former stature.
Now, West Africa entered a sad period of decline. During the Moorish occupation, wreck and ruin became the order of the day. When the Europeans arrived in this part of Africa and saw these conditions they assumed that nothing of order and value had existed in these countries. This mistaken impression, too often repeated, has influenced the interpretation of African and African American life and history for over four hundred years.
Africa's time of tragedy and decline started both in Europe and in Africa itself. For more than one thousand years Africans had been bringing into being empire after empire. The opening of Europe's era of exploration, Africa's own internal strife, and the slave trade, turned what had been Africa's Third Golden Age into a time of troubles. The "independence explosion" that started with Ghana in 1957 was a signal to the world that Africans were breaking away from the effects of slavery and colonialism, and were determined to reenter the mainstream of history.
The splendor and the genius in state building that I have been referring to in this short paper is as much a part of African history as slavery, if not more so. In the re-education of African people to take their place in the world of the future, Africans must be clear about the role that they have already played in the world of the past. This is essential if African people are to shape their world of the future.