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The Kingdom of Mali was an African hub of wealth, trade and education for over 225 years. Mali is an Arab version of the Mandinka word that means, “Where the king dwells”, and was vitally important in spreading trade, education, religion and culture along the Niger River. The rise of Mali into an Empire occurred in the early 13th century, when Sundiata defeated his enemies and won control of the West African gold mines. In 1312 Mansa Musa became ruler of Mali. During his reign which was known as Mali’s, “Golden Age”, he introduced Islamic beliefs to many communities along the Niger and enhanced education after his historic pilgrimage to Mecca. Mali’s rise was attributed to the Trans-Saharan Trade routes leading to and from Western and Eastern Africa. These trade routes contributed to the rise and fall of powerful African Kingdoms for hundreds of years, but for 250 years, Mali was the crown jewel of Africa.
STORIES AND TRADITIONS
The fall of Ghana left a power vacuum that in 1050, the Almoravids, Muslims of North Africa tried to fill, but were ultimately taken over by the rising Kingdom of Mali. The man, who laid the foundations for the Mali Empire, was Sundiata, who belonged to the Keita Clan of the Malinke people in the Kingdom of Kangaba. Sundiata had 12 royal brothers who were heirs to the throne, but Sumanguru, the ruler of the neighboring state of Kaniaga, overran the Kingdom of Kangaba. Sumanguru had every one of Sundiata’s brothers murdered, but spared Sundiata due to his sickly appearance. This was a huge mistake by Sumanguru, as Sundiata would grow strong and eventually assemble an army that would challenge him and Kaniaga. In 1235, Sundiata would have his revenge, defeating Sumanguru at the Battle of Kirina. After forcing them to recognize him as ruler, he set his sights on Kumbi, the former capital of the Sudanese empire of Ghana, capturing the city in 1240, cementing the symbolic change of empires. The remainder of his reign and until his death in 1255, Sundiata would expand the Mali Empire to the Southern edges of the Sahara and the gold fields of Wangara. Sundiata consolidated land and provided peace within the empire, attracting merchants and traders. He was the true founder of the Kingdom of Mali.
Mali would continue to grow after Sundiata’s death in 1255, but would go through what was called Mali’s Golden during the reign of Mansa Musa. Mansa Musa, the Grandson or Grandnephew of Sundiata came to power in 1307 and quickly grew the empire. His armies secured the rich gold mines of Bondu and Bambuk to the south and the essential salt supplies of Taghara. He pushed west to the Atlantic Ocean and north, conquering many cities. Controlling areas of caravan trade routes, gave rise to great trading cities like Timbuktu. Mansa Musa would eventually convert to Islam, although he worked hard to ensure peace, law and order within his empire. He based his laws and justice...