West African Kingdoms Essay

996 words - 4 pages

West African Kingdoms

It is generally accepted by scholars and scientists today that Africa is the original home of man. One of the most tragic misconceptions of historical thought has been the belief that Black Africa had no history before European colonization. Whites foster the image of Africa as a barbarous and savage continent torn by tribal warfare for centuries. It was a common assumption of nineteenth-century European and American Whites - promoted by the deliberate cultivation of pseudoscientific racism - that Africans were inferior to Whites and were devoid of any trace of civilization or culture.

It is only recently that more reliable studies have brought to light much information about great civilizations that developed in Africa while Europe was in the period often referred as the Dark Ages. The earliest of these mature civilizations were in West Africa. In a vast region south of the Sahara, Africans organized kingdoms which in time became great empires. This region is called the Sudan (a word meaning "land of the Blacks" in Arabic) The Sudan was important in the early history of Black Africa because the Africans first practiced agriculture in this region, and thus became the first people south of the Sahara to fashion and use iron tools and weapons. They were also among the first people in Africa to organize viable political systems. The Sudanic Blacks had learn to domesticate crops long before the coming of Christianity, and their grain production furnished food for an expanding population.

The first West African state of record was Ghana which had been ruled by over forty kings by the year 300 A.D. The early Ghanaians were a peaceful and prosperous people who developed an economy based on agriculture and mining. The power and prosperity of Ghana, and the two other descendant empires of Mali and Songhay, arose from the following factors: (1) the agricultural base in the Niger River Valley; (2) their control of trade as middlemen between the North African Arabs, the Saharan salt mines, and the gold mines of the Guinea forests; (3) the existence of the open Savannah (a treeless plain) which their armies could traverse quickly to hold the empires together; and (4) their eventual adoption of the Islamic faith. Islam contributed the Arabic script and language to the Sudanic empires, which became known as centers of learning and culture. The invasion of Ghana by the Muslems along with a disastrous series of droughts that dried up the vital Bagana and Wagadu Rivers helped to plunge the empire into economic decline; and it became easy prey for hordes of conquerors who completed its destruction by the thirteenth century.

After the fall of Ghana, a Black state called Mali became the successor power in West Africa. The king of Mali formed alliances with other Islamic rulers, and this military and religious strength made him the most powerful ruler in Africa. Mali was founded by the Mande people of the upper Niger River, famous...

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