Africa was known for a long time in Europe as the ‘dark continent’

Herodotus in the 5th century B.C. passed on stories of men with dogs’ heads and men without heads but eyes in their chests

Strangely, many Europeans believed these stories for centuries


à There are two Africas – north of the Sahara and south of the Sahara


8000 B.C. – Sahara is fertile region of wooded hills, lush valleys, and great rolling plains

But as the Sahara dries up, civilization goes east to Nile River valley, south, and north to Mediterranean


Northern Africa

-         Now (after 3000 B.C.), in northern Africa, the only habitable regions are Nile River delta and Mediterranean coastline

-         Around 500 B.C., camels are introduced into the region


Southern Africa


-         African south of the Sahara lived largely in nomadic, hunter-gatherer groups up until 200 BC. As a result, African populations were very sparse.

-         Bottom 2/3 of Africa – Organized states and communities with gold mines (in W and SW Africa)

-         Oldest civilizations are simultaneous with Africa – some last until 15th century and others until 1800s

-         By 500 B.C., the Africans learn how to mine and work metals (iron)

o       Spreads their knowledge of iron-working and their language, Bantu, south and east

-         Nearly all of the people to south of equator were illiterate until contact with Arabs and Christians

-         African socities never invented the wheel

-         They have left few buildings because of lack of suitable stone

-         African states ruled by chiefs or kings who we believed to be gods

-         Each person had an appointed place in society


Spread of Christianity


-         Christianity first arrived in North Africa, in the 1st or early 2nd century AD.

-         The Christian communities in North Africa were among the earliest in the world.

-         Legend has it that Christianity was brought from Jerusalem to Alexandria on the Egyptian coast by Mark, one of the four evangelists, in 60 AD.

o       This was around the same time or possibly before Christianity spread to Northern Europe.

-         Once in North Africa, Christianity spread slowly West from Alexandria and East to Ethiopia.

-         Through North Africa, Christianity was embraced as the religion of dissent against the expanding Roman Empire.

-         In the 4th century AD the Ethiopian King Ezana made Christianity the kingdom's official religion.

-         In 312 Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

-         In the 7th century Christianity retreated under the advance of Islam, but it remained the chosen religion of the Ethiopian Empire and persisted in pockets in North Africa.

-         In the 15th century Christianity came to Sub-Saharan Africa with the arrival of the Portuguese. In the South of the continent the Dutch founded the beginnings of the Dutch Reform Church in 1652.

-         In the interior of the continent most people continued to practice their own religions undisturbed until the 19th century.

o       At that time, Christian missions to Africa increased, driven by an antislavery crusade and the interest of Europeans in colonising Africa.

o       However, where people had already converted to Islam, Christianity had little success.

-         Christianity was an agent of great change in Africa. It destabilised the status quo, bringing new opportunities to some, and undermining the power of others.

o       With the Christian missions came education, literacy and hope for the disadvantaged.

o       However, the spread of Christianity paved the way for commercial speculators

o       In its original rigid European form, it denied people pride in their culture and ceremonies.

-         Africa has more than 250 million Christians, making Christianity the second most prevalent faith on the continent


Islamic Invasions


-         In 646 A.D. (12 years after Muhammed’s death), the Muslims conquered Egypt and quickly spread across northern Africa

-         From northern Africa, they invaded Spain in 711

-         By 711, the Muslims had conquered the Middle East, Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, northern Africa, and had just entered Europe.

o       Notice the difference – Islam is a religion of conquest, Christianity is a religion of peace

-         The initial spread of Islam is the single most dramatic cultural change in the history of the world, and it loomed large in the subsequent history of African civilizations.

-         Beyond religion, there are several important cultural practices that the Arabic culture of Islam gave to Africa.

o       The first is literacy. Egypt and the Nilotic kingdoms of the Kushites and the Nubians had long traditions of writing, and the Ethiopians had acquired it through their ties to the Semitic peoples of southern Arabia. But these writing systems did not spread throughout Africa. Islam, however, as a religion of the book, spread writing and literacy everywhere it went. Many Africans dealt with two languages: their native language and Arabic, which was the language of texts. However, this gradually changed as Africans began using the Arabic alphabet to write their own languages. To this date, Arabic script is one of the most common scripts for writing African languages.

o       With literacy, the Arabs brought formal educational systems. In North Africa and the Sahel, these systems and institutions would produce a great flowering of African thought and science. In fact, the city of Timbuktu had perhaps the greatest university in the world.



Nubia (Sudan)


-         Egyptians know of this land as Kush

o       Longstanding contact between Egypt and black African nations to the south

o       South raided for ivory, skins, ebony and hardwoods

o       Controlled gold fields

-         Egyptians called Kush the “Land of the Bow” because of the fame of their archers

-         Kush attained its greatest power and cultural energy between 1700 and 1500 BC during the Third Intermediate period in Egypt.

o       The domination of Egypt by the Hyksos allowed Kush to come out from under the hegemony of Egypt and flower as a culture

o       This period ended, however, when the New Kingdom kings, having thrown the Hyksos out of Egypt, reconquered Kush and brought it under Egyptian colonial rule

-         When the New Kingdom collapsed in 1000 BC, Kush again arose as a major power by conquering all of Nubia.

o       The conquest of upper Nubia, which had been in the hands of the Egyptians since the fourth millenium, gave to Kush wealthy gold mines.

-         Last for 1000 years as a great civilization

-         The Kushites by and large considered themselves to be Egyptians and the proper inheritors of the pharoanic titles and tradition.

o       They organized their society along Egyptian lines, assumed all the Egyptian royal titles, and their architecture and art was based on Egyptian architectural and artistic models.

o       Their pyramids were smaller and steeper and they introduced other innovations as well, but the Napatan culture does not on the surface appear much different than Egyptian culture.

-         By 8th century B.C., rulers of Kush conquer Egypt (25th Dynasty), but driven back by Assyrians in 676 and 666 B.C.

-         Assyrians show Kushites how to use iron for weapons and tools

-         Nubian culture is a mixture of Egyptian, Hellenistic, Arabian, and possibly even Hindu influences

-         The Kushite religion closely resembled Egyptian religion. It was polytheistic and contained all the major Egyptian gods.

-         At height of its power, Kush/Nubia is incredibly rich in gold and iron

-         Controls extensive trade routes

-         By 300 A.D., Nubian kingdom was overtaken by desert nomads and ultimately the emperor of Axum, a rising power on the Ethiopian plateau to the south

-         Christianity spread South from the North of Egypt to Nubia in 500s A.D.

-         Christianity was a religion of the poor people to begin with and only later became popular with the elite.

-         A missionary who came to Nubia from Constantinople found everybody well versed in Christian doctrine in 580.

-         Initially the Nubian Church developed under the control of the Egyptian Coptic church. When Islam swept through the North of the continent in the 7th century, the Nubian rulers sought help from the Christian Emperor in Constantinople.

-         The Arab forces did their best to conquer Nubia but were forced back by the skills of the Nubian archers.

"One day they arrayed themselves against us and were desirous to carry on the conflict with the sword. But they were too quick for us and shot their arrows, putting out our eyes. The eyes they put out numbered 150. We at last thought the best thing to do with such a people was to make peace."
The Arabic writer al-Baladhuri

-         The Arabs agreed a peace treaty with the Nubians, which allowed the Nubian kingdoms to flourish as a Christian state for 700 years.

-         The two northern kingdoms, Nobadia and Makuria merged into one - Dongola. Dongola entered something of a golden age; the bible was translated from Greek into Nubian and beautiful churches were built throughout the Nile Valley.

-         The Church in Nubia finally yielded to Islamic conversion in the 14th century and the massive Cathedral in Dongola was converted into a mosque in 1317.


à “In the 1960's, a dam was constructed at Aswan, Egypt. It created a 300-mile-long lake which permanently flooded ancient temples and tombs was well as hundreds of modern villages in Nubia. While thedam was under construction, hundreds of

archaeologists worked in Egypt and Sudan to excavate as many ancient sites as possible. The Oriental Institute worked in Nubia from 1960-68. Today, the 5000 Nubian objects in the collection of The Oriental Institute Museum and thousands

of objects in other museums are our sole resource for recovering the rich civilization of northern Nubia, for the sites themselves are lie beneath the waters of Lake Nasser. In contrast, expeditions from many countries are working in southern Nubia.” (1992 Nubian Exhibition, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago)


Axum (Ethiopia)


-         Early settlers influenced by Judaism – Jewish community there to this day – and Christianity

-         One of highest literacy rates in Africa

-         Aksum lay dead in the path of the growing commercial trade routes between Africa, Arabia, and India

-         An indication of this cosmopolitan character can be found in the fact that the major Aksumite cities had Jewish, Nubian, Christian, and even Buddhist minorities.

-         Legend that Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon

o       As told in the Old Testament, she travelled from Aksum to Jerusalem to meet the famed King Solomon (King of the Israelites) in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:1-2)

o       African legend is that she bore Solomon’s son, David, who became emperor of Ethiopia, ruling as Menelik I

§         royal line of the Lion of Judah

§         all Ethiopian emperors claim this descent

-         By 100 A.D., a strong modern empire emerges based on capital city of Axum and port of Asulis

-         Wealth based on ivory, as Kush’s was based on gold

-         Axum is a city of palaces and temples (obelisks)

-         It was a polytheistic religion that believed that the gods controlled the natural forces of the universe.

-         King Ezana of Axum, who overthrew Kush, was converted to Christianity

-         Syrian Christian named Frumentius

o       The story goes he was on his way to India when he was kidnapped in Aksum.

o       He obviously made a good impression, because he ended up being the tutor to the future King Ezana.

o       The King adopted Christianity as the official religion in 333 AD.

o       Fremnatos was rewarded for this by being consecrated Bishop of Aksum at a ceremony in Alexandria.


-         First Christian nation in the history of the world

-         Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian empires in the world

-         because of their Semitic origins, the Ethiopians believed that they were descendants of the Hebrews

-         They traced their origins all the way back to David

-         The Ethiopic Church claims to have the Ark of the Covenant, which is the chest in which the Decalogue was kept by the Hebrews

-         Wasn’t conquered by Islam, as was land to north and eastern coast

-         However, because the Axumites had sheltered Muhammed's first followers, the Muslims never attempted to overthrow Axum as they spread across the face of Africa

-         Cut off from outside world until the arrival of the Portugese around 1500


à in western Africa, there were also great kingdoms


Along the Coastline


-         Since the Third Punic War, the Romans controlled all the coastline of northern Africa.

-         In the fourth century, however, the Romans gradually pulled out of their northern African provinces and territories.

-         The power vacuum that they left was filled by desert Berbers, an indigenous African people

o       Saint Augustine, born in Carthage, may have been part Berber

o       The Berbers were primarily a nomadic people and would eventually play a crucial role in the spread of Islam across northern Africa.

o       In the fifth century, they formed a new kingdom, called Ghana


Trade across the Sahara




-         The single most important development in the history of northwestern Africa was the use of the camel as a transport vehicle.

-         Around 750 AD, under the influence of Islamic peoples, northern and western Africans began to use the camel to transport goods across this forbidding terrain.

o       Camels do several things exceptionally well:

§         they can carry unbelievably heavy loads for impossibly long distances

§         they can keep their footing on sandy terrain.

-         In ancient times, the Egyptians and Carthaginians engaged in just a trickle of commercial trade with West Africa, even though West Africa was rich in gold, precious metals, ivory, and other resources.

o       The reason for this was the imposing barrier of the Sahara, which in Arabic simply means "The Desert."

-         Ghanaians conquered local chieftaincies and required tribute from these subordinate states. This tribute, however, paled next to the wealth generated by the commerce of goods that passed from western Africa east to Egypt and the Middle East. This trade primarily involved gold, salt, copper, and even human beings.


à "The King adorns himself like a woman wearing necklaces round his neck and bracelets on his forearms and he puts on a high cap decorated with gold and wrapped in a turban of fine cotton. He holds an audience in a domed pavilion around which stand ten horses covered with gold-embroidered materials; and on his right, are the sons of the vassal kings of his country, wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold. At the door of the pavilion are dogs of excellent pedigree. Round their necks they wear collars of gold and silver, studded with a number of balls of the same metals." (10th century geographer Al-Bakri)

à army of 200,000 – including 40,000 archers



-         The kingdom of Ghana never converted to Islam, even though northern Africa had been dominated by the faith since the eighth century

-         The Ghanaian court, however, allowed Muslims to settle in the cities and even encouraged Muslim specialists to help the royal court administer the government and advise on legal matters.

-         Ghana was the most powerful empire in Western Africa, but it was not an Islamic kingdom.

o       By the 900s, Muslims controlled most of the desert oases along the commercial routes

o       Because of this economic power, they were able to force the king of Ghana to divide his capital city into two distinct districts, one for Muslims and one for non-Muslims


à “"The city of Ghana consists of two towns situated on a plain. One of these towns, which is inhabited by Muslims, is large and possesses twelve mosques in one of which they assemble for the Friday prayer. There are salaried imams and muezzins, as well as jurists and scholars. The king's town is six miles distant from this one. The king has a palace and a number of domed dwellings all surrounded with an enclosure like a city wall. Around the king's town are domed buildings and groves and thickets where the sorcerers of these people, men in charge of the religious cult, live. In them too are their idols and the tombs of their kings." (Al-Bakri)



-         The most important source of gold for Europe (currency on the gold standard since mid-13th century Florence) was gold from kingdom of Mali, with Arab intermediaries in the mix à whole economy of Europe depends on Mali – otherwise, currency is devalued and inflation results

-         Hard labor in the gold mines was done by slaves



-         The Berbers who had originally formed the state ultimately proved to be its demise. Unlike the Ghanaians, the Berbers, calling themselves Almoravids, fervently converted to Islam and, in 1075, declared a holy war, or jihad, against the state of Ghana.

-         We do not know exactly how this affected the kingdom.

o       In one scenario, the Almoravids destroy the kingdom.

o       In another, the Ghanaians also convert to Islam and join the Almoravids in their attempt to spread Islam across Africa.

-         Nonetheless, Ghana ceases to be a commercial or military power after 1100; for a brief time (1180-1230), the Soso people, who were rabidly anti-Muslim, controlled a kingdom making up the southern portions of the Ghanaian empire, but the Almoravid revolution effectively halted the growth of kingdoms and empires in the Sahel for almost a century.

-         In 13th century, Kingdom of Ghana was absorbed by empire of Mali and extended west to Atlantic Ocean




-         As with Ghana, Mali was built off of the monopolization of the trade routes from western and southern Africa to eastern and northern Africa.

-         The most lucrative of these monopolies was the gold trade.

-         Mali was located farther south than Ghana; the Malians lived in an agriculturally fertile land. Mali was also located along the upper Niger river, while Ghana had been located to the west.


à July 17, 2002: scientists found a beautifully preserved 2,000-year-old city built around a huge temple that is dedicated to the ram-headed fertility god Amun, known as the hidden one, to which the Nubians had a singular devotion.

à Meroitic, the Nubian hieroglyphic language and the second-oldest written language in Africa, is one of the few remaining undeciphered ancient languages. And a city such as Dangeil, which was occupied and then abandoned in the latter half of the Meroitic age, might contain the Nubian version of a Rosetta Stone, a bilingual record that would lead to decoding the mysterious language and shed more light on Nubian culture.

(See Krista Foss, “Discovery May Unlock Mystery of the Nubians,” The Globe and Mail [17 July 2002])



-         The bulk of the gold trade proceeded up the Niger river, so this gave Mali a firmer grip on this lucrative monopoly

-         The historical founder of Mali was the magician, Sundjata, one of the most legendary figures in African history

o       Ruled Mali from 1230-1255

o       began as a royal slave and magician

o       seized the major territories through which gold was traded and so built the foundation off of which Mali would be built.

o       also introduced into the region the cultivation and weaving of cotton

-         A significant king, Abubakar II, goes down in history as the king who wanted to cross the Atlantic Ocean

-         The most significant of the Mali kings was his successot, Mansa Musa (1312-1337)

o       expanded Mali influence over the large Niger city-states of Timbuktu, Gao, and Djenné.

o       a devout Muslim who built magnificent mosques all throughout the Mali sphere of influence

o       his gold-laden pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 made him an historical figure even in European history writing

§         Sold slaves to finance his voyage

o       Sat on an ebony throne encircled by elephant tusks and guarded by warrior slaves


à “The king has a rich treasure of coins and gold ingots. One of these ingots weighs 970 pounds…The king has about 3,000 horsemen and infinity of foot-soldiers armed with bows made of wild fennel [?] which they use to shoot poisoned arrows…Many hand-written books imported from Barbary are also sold. There is more profit made from this commerce than from all other merchandise.” (Leo Africanus, Description of Timbuktu [1526])


à Ibn Batuta noted the almost total absence of crime and the religious nature of the people


-         Famed capital is Timbuktu, on the Niger River

o       one of the major cultural centers not only of Africa but of the entire world

o       vast libraries were built and madrasas (Islamic universities) were endowed

o       became a meeting-place of the finest poets, scholars, and artists of Africa and the Middle East

o       Even after the power of Mali declined, Timbuktu remained the major Islamic center of sub-Saharan Africa.

o       By 16th century, it was a town of 6000 houses with a splendid royal court

o       Thatched roofs

o       Citizens keep many slaves (from lively slave market in neighboring town of Gao)

o       Peope are “gentle and cheerful” and “exceedingly rich”

§         King had a royal scepter made of gold that weighed 1300 lbs. (more than ½ a ton!)

o       Got European goods via Morocco

o       1591 – captured by invading Moroccan forces




-         After 1350, Mali was overtaken by expanding empire of Songhay

-         Songhay would not fully eclipse Mali until the reign of the Sunni king, Sonni Ali, who reigned from 1464-1492

o       based his military on a cavalry and a highly mobile fleet of ships

o       With this military, he conquered the city of Timbuktu

-         With literally several thousand cultures under its control, Songhay was the largest empire in African history.

-         While the urban centers were dominated by Islam and Islamic culture, the non-urban areas were not Islamic. The large majority of the Songhay people—around 97%—followed traditional African religions.

-         Maintained Timbuktu and created prosperous new capital at Gao

-         The Moroccans defeated Songhay in 1591 and the empire quickly collapsed.

-         In 1612, the cities of Songhay fell into anarchy and the greatest empire of African history came to a sudden close.




-         To east of Songhay, this empire survives simulatanously with Songhay

-         Around Lake Chad in central Africa, immediately south of the Sahara Desert

-         Survives 1000 yrs, from 800-1800 A.D.

-         It was originally a confederation of black tribes, but by 1100, a group of tribes called the Kanuri settle in Kanem

-         in the thirteenth century the Kanuri began to conquer the surrounding areas   

-         The wealth of Kanem derived from the ability of its rulers to control trade in the region. Their main exports were ostrich feathers, slaves and ivory. Their exports were crucial to their power and ability to dominate their neighbor. They rode horses, which they imported from the north.

-         They were led by one of the great figures of African history, Mai Dunama Dibbalemi (1221-1259), who was the first of the Kanuri to convert to Islam.

o       Dibbalemi declared jihad, or "holy war," against surrounding chieftaincies and so precipitated one of the most dynamic periods of conquest in Africa.

o       At the height of their empire, the Kanuri controlled territory from Libya to Lake Chad to Hausaland.

o       These were strategic areas: all the commercial traffic through north Africa had to pass through Kanuri territory.

o       As a result of the military and commercial growth of Kanem, the Kanuri slowly changed from a nomadic to a sedentary people.


à “Their king despite the feebleness of his authority and the poverty of his soul, who has an inconceivable arrogance; despite the weakness of his troops and the small resources of this country, he touches with his banner the clouds in the sky. He is veiled from his people. None sees him save at the two festivals, when he is seen at dawn and in the afternoon. During the rest of the year nobody, not even the commander-in-chief speaks to him, except from behind a screen." (14th century Syrian scholar Al-Umari)


Hausa city-states


-         Never a united empire

-         Exist between Songhay and Kanem-Bornu

-         Hausa cities – Kano, Katsina, and others – were rich and industrious

-         Produced outstanding leather goods known in Europe as Moroccan leather, even though Morocco was hundreds of miles to the northwest!


à These kingdoms were visited by Islamic traders who eventually converted the locals to Islam

à On the east coast, there was another flourishing trade network with Europe, India, and East – long before European settlers set foot on the continent

-         Cities along the east coast were independent Muslim city-states founded by Muslim traders

o       Malindi

o       Mogadishu (modern-day Somalia) – pious and polite to strangers – custom for arriving traders to be invited to stay in the homes of local merchants – Ibn Batutu says “one of these people eats as much as several of us. It is their custom. They are extremely fat.”

§         1993: U.S. force ordered into Somalia (Black Hawk Down)

o       Kilwa – greatest medieval East African city – Great Mosque of Kilwa is largest on EA coast

§         “Addicted to the jihad” (Leo Africanus)

§         Gold from south (modern-day Zimbabwe)

§         Ivory from interior

§         Trading ships set out for southern Arabia, India, and China

o       Zanzibar

-         They were more like competitive companies or corporations each vying for the lion's share of African trade

-         The chief exports were ivory, sandalwood, ebony, and gold.

-         These cities were also culturally cosmopolitan: they were formed from a cultural mix of Bantu, Islamic, and Indian influences, but commerce brought Chinese artifacts and culture as well as Indian culture.

-         Bantu-speaking Africans mingle with Arab traders to create Swahili culture

o       Swahili is now common language of East Africa

-         By 13th century, Muslim rulers were stretching into India, Indonesia, and Malaysia


Lake kingdoms


-         Situated near the lakes in central Africa

-         One of earliest kingdoms there was Buchwezi (now central Uganda)

o       Extensive kingdom by 15th century

-         Successor of Buchwezi was Buganda, with royal drums

o       Through rhythm of drums, kings summon their ancestors

o       The larger drum a king had, the more powerful he was believed to be

o       Some drums were 12ft across




-         In the forestlands of western Africa south of the Sahelian states (the Sahel is the area immediately south of the Sahara), Africans lived in small villages that were tribal and ruled over by chiefs

-         Sometime between 1000 and 1500 AD, many of these villages began to consolidate into larger units and eventually formed powerful and centralized states

-         The largest and longest lasting of these centralized states was Benin.

-         In modern-day Nigeria

-         At its height from 15th to 17th centuries

-         Bronze sculpture

-         Benin was ruled by the oba, a divine ruler at the head of the political system of titled chiefs

-         Under royal support, a number of craftsman's guilds produced brass, ivory, and wood sculptures and embroidered cloth which have become prized by museums and command high prices on the art market

-         Ivory symbolized royalty and the continuity of dynastic rule.

-         White was the color of ritual purity, so ivory was often worn by the oba on ceremonial occasions.

-         Such was the skill of ivory carvers that they worked the pieces without any preliminary sketches.

-         Was one of the longest lasting civilizations in western Africa

-         It was still a powerful and imposing state when European powers began zealously seizing colonial territory in Africa in the nineteenth century

-         Of all the peoples the Europeans tried to subdue, the Benin were the most difficult, but the British finally invaded and dismantled the Benin state in 1897


African culture



Slave Trade


The barbarous “triangle trade” began shortly after Europeans began exploring the west coast of Africa. Ships leaving Europe first stopped in Africa where they traded weapons, ammunition, metal, liquor, and cloth for captives taken in wars or raids. The ships then traveled to America, where slaves were exchanged for sugar, rum, salt, and other island products. The ships completed the triangle loaded with products popular with the European people, and were ready to begin their journey again.


Some groups are calling for reparations for slavery. Does this make sense?


à The definitive account of the slave trade is Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade – 1440-1870 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).



à Salim Muwakkil, “African Slavery and Its Denial by Blacks” Chicago Tribune [7 May 2001])



Christian Missionaries


-         Sierra Leone and Liberia, both colonies set up by freed slaves, became important centers of Christian practice in West Africa by the 1830's. The freed slaves who arrived in these colonies, who came from America, were already Christians when they arrived.

-         Liberia's first President, J. R. Roberts, was a man of Christian piety as well as enterprise.



South Africa

(excerpted from



The Boers


-         In 1652, a group of people from the Netherlands settled in South Africa

-         These settlers came to be known as Boers because Boer is the Dutch word for farmer

-         The Boers thought that their new home was empty, but it was a homeland for nomadic Bantu people

-         The Bantus attempted to fight for their land, but their spears were no match for the Europeans’ guns.

-         The Boers enslaved many of the Bantus and forced them to work on the colonists’ farms.

-         Great Britain assumed control of South Africa in 1795, after the Napoleonic Wars in Europe

-         The Dutch settlers were unhappy with British rule and became even angrier when the British outlawed slavery in 1835

-         The British government paid owners for their slaves, but the Boers complained the payments were too small.

-         Gold and diamonds were discovered in South Africa in 1867, causing a large number of people from Great Britain to move to the colony.

-         Tensions between the parties led to the “Boer Wars” from 1899 to 1902, where the British soundly defeated the Boers




-         The British granted South Africa independence in 1910, but gave power only to white people

-         In 1948, the National Party gained office in an election where only white people were allowed to vote.

-         The party began a policy of racial segregation known as apartheid, which means “apartness”

-         The Population Registration Act classified the people as Bantu (black Africans), coloured (people of mixed race), white (the descendants of the Boers and the British), and Asian (Indian and Pakistani immigrants)

-         The Group Areas Act established separate sections for each race. Members of other races were forbidden to live, work, or own land in areas belonging to other races.

-         Pass Laws required non-whites to carry a “pass” to prove they had permission to travel in white areas.

-         The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act created several small “nations” within South Africa for black South Africans.

-         All black South Africans, regardless of where they lived, were made citizens of the homelands and thus were excluded from participating in the governing of South Africa.

-         Other South African laws forbade most social contacts between races, authorized segregated public facilities, established separate school systems with lower standards for non-whites, and restricted each race to certain jobs.

-         More than eighty percent of South Africa’s land was set aside for its white residents, despite the fact that they comprised less than ten percent of the population.

-         South Africa’s black majority had resisted apartheid for many years. They began rioting in 1976, when the South African government tried to force black children in the Soweto township to learn Afrikaans, one of the languages of the white minority.

-         The rioting continued for the next fourteen years until the apartheid laws were repealed.

-         The world community made South Africa a pariah because of its racial policies. The nation was forced to leave the Commonwealth, an alliance of former British colonies, in 1961. In 1985, both the United Kingdom and the United States imposed restrictions on trade.

-         White South African yielded to world pressure and domestic violence in 1990 by repealing most of the apartheid laws.

-         Three years later, a new constitution gave people of all races the right to vote


Nelson Mandela


-         The following year [1994] South Africans elected a black man, Nelson Mandela, as president.

-         Mandela's government had its critics. Crime increased during his term, but the violent war between the races ended.

-         Mandela was initially opposed to violence, but after a massacre of unarmed black South Africans in 1962, he began advocating acts of sabotage against the government.

-         In 1962, Mandela began a twenty-seven year stay in prison. Most of his confinement was spent during hard labor at the notorious Robben Island maximum-security prison.

-         During his imprisonment, Mandela became a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement among South Africa’s black population and among the international community that opposed apartheid.

-         Mandela rejected several government offers to allow him to leave prison on the condition that he renounce violence.

-         Mandela was released from prison and instantly became an international celebrity.

-         Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F.W. deKlerk, South Africa’s last white president. Their combined efforts ended apartheid and brought about a peaceful transition to nonracial democracy in South Africa.

-         Three years after his release, South Africans of all races were allowed to vote for the first time in a national election. They selected Mandela as their president, giving him 62% of the vote.

-         Supporter of Castro, Khadafi, Mugabe

-         Now under his successor, Tabo Mbeki –

o       each South African day sees an average of 59 murders, 145 rapes and 752 serious assaults out of its 42 million population

o       Twelve percent of South Africa's population is HIV-positive, but President Mbeki says that HIV cannot cause AIDS

o       Currency falls 70% since ANC in 1994




Like slavery, it is not an exclusively Western phenomenon:


Those who identify colonialism and empire only with the West either have no sense of history or have forgotten about the Egyptian empire, the Persian empire, the Macedonian empire, the Islamic empire, the Mongol empire, the Chinese empire, and the Aztec and Inca empires in the Americas.” (Dinesh D’Souza, “Two Cheers for ColonialismChronicle of Higher Education [10 May 2002])


Muslim nations had colonies for centuries – Ottoman Empire, for example, colonized other lands for 600 years – parts of Greece and Italy, as well as Turkey, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia


Was bad in some respects, but in others it was good. It brought Western civilization, such as education, reducing or eliminating slavery, a written language, hospitals, introducing Christianity, and public works projects like roads and railroads. It also introduced the idea of nations, which led to nationalism in 1930s, which led to the ouster of the colonial rulers by end of WWII to 1960s.



Berlin Conference (1884-1885)


Conference laid down ground rules for further imperial claims. To register

claims nation must:

  Give formal notice to other European powers

  Back notice with effective control over territory

Accelerated final Partition of Africa


By 1900, most of Africa had been carved up:


Britain’s Colonies: Egypt (1922), Sudan (1956), Kenya (1963), South Africa (1961), Nigeria (1960), Ghana (1957), Sierra Leone (1961), Gambia (1965), Zimbabwe (1980), Rhodesia, Botswana.


France’s Colonies: West Africa, Algeria (1962), Morocco (1956)


Italy’s Colonies: Libya (1951), Ethiopia (1941), Somalia (1960)


Portugal’s Colonies: Angola (1975), Mozambique (1974), Guinea-Bissau (1974)


Dutch’s Colonies: Western Sahara (1975)




-         A number of African nations have been implicated in supporting Al Quaeda and Bin Laden

o        Somalia

§         U.S. government officials say that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network supported Somali radical Islamists, organized training camps in Somalia, and threatened American troops in Somalia who were there on a U.N. humanitarian mission in the early 1990s

o       Libya

o       Egypt

o       Sudan

o       Algeria


Africa’s Future


After colonial governments withdraw, those who took their place began to equate colonialism with capitalism. Therefore, the bias was toward socialism, and the Communists walked right in the opening.


Other post-colonial nations have thrived while Africa has suffered:


Talk to me about Africa's legacy of European colonialism, and I'll give you Malaysia and Singapore, ruled by the British and occupied by Japan during World War II. Or Indonesia, exploited by the Dutch for over three hundred years. And let's toss in Vietnam, a French colony later divided between North and South, with famously tragic consequences. Like Africa, most Asian countries only achieved true independence in the postwar years; unlike the Africans, the Asians knew what to do with it.” (Keith Richburg, Out of America)


“Colonial masters never committed anything near the murder and genocide seen under black rule in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Somalia and other countries, where millions of blacks have been slaughtered in unspeakable ways, which include: hacking to death, boiling in oil, setting on fire and dismemberment.” (Walter Williams, “South Africa After Apartheid: Black Rule Alone is No Guarantee for Black Freedom” [25 Junuary 2002)


à Rwanda: Majority Hutu (80%) – Tutsi (19%) rebels take control in 1994 – official estimates of 800,000-850,000 Tutsi died in Rwandan government genocide


Africa has lots of problems:

-         AIDS is rampant

-         extreme hunger prevalent – over 1 million starving in Zimbabwe after Mugabe seized white-owned farms

o       was once the breadbasket of Africa

-         corruption endemic

-         animal species endangered


One commentator wrote:


“In Sierra Leone, children have had their arms lopped off by rebels…South Africa is so besieged by rapists that celebrities are cutting public-service ads asking young men to refrain. In Zimbabwe, the  government has declared war on white farmers who produce most of the food for the country. In nation after nation, warlords and rebel generals harass and murder by the thousands — motivated by no discernible ideology except clannish ambition, cruelty, and greed. There has been a holocaust rolling across Africa for decades, and nobody cares. By my rough calculation, AIDS and malaria kill more Africans in one year than handguns have "killed" Americans in the history of the US. Half of all Zambians are expected to eventually die from AIDS. Somewhere between 13% and 50% of Zambian children have been orphaned by the disease. One of the reasons that Africa has such high infection rates is that many African men believe they can be cured of the disease by having sex with a young virgin.”


- ”Of the more than 50 independent states that emerged in Africa from the colonial period, most are now tyrannies of one kind or another, nearly all have had their per capita income slashed…” (Paul Johnson)


Some wonder whether there is even such a thing as Africa:


-         Not a single political, cultural, or economic entity like Asia, Europe, or Latin America

-         53 states

-         almost all are post-colonial or recent inventions

-         French, Portugese, Arabic, English

-         Mostly black or some Arab or mixed populations

-         Some Christian, some Islamic, some mixed

-         A few democracies, most autocracies

-         All but a few are among the poorest in the world



Many problems, but what are some solutions?


1.      Stop aid and lower tariffs to goods from Africa

a.       The agricultural and textile and apparel sectors are labor-intensive and do not require sophisticated machinery or large amounts of capital to make a profit. What they do require, and what developing countries have an abundance of, is people.” (Heritage Foundation, May 2000)

b.      Cotton exporters would have made additional $250 million a year if U.S. would stop the subsidies to American producers

c.       Africa can provide some goods cheaper if there was a level playing field

                                                               i.      Agriculture

                                                             ii.      Textiles – end import quotas!

2.      Condition debt forgiveness upon not taking more foreign aid in the future, which only swells their debt

a.       Would promote sound economic policies domestically


3.      Restore colonialism??

a.       “The basic problem is obvious but is never publicly admitted: Some states are not yet fit to govern themselves. There is a moral issue here: The civilized world has a mission to go out to these desperate places and govern. By "civilized world we ought eventually to include among potential trustees not only Germany and Japan, which will soon be eligible for permanent membership in the Security Council, but countries such as Singapore, which have proved models of public administration.

There must be several models of trusteeship, ranging from the provision of basic government where none exists to setting up internal security networks and mandatory economic management.

If done firmly and confidently, such state-building will prove popular. It is important, therefore, that the first pilot projects should be carefully chosen and their trustees experienced. Somalia is an obvious choice. So is Liberia and perhaps Haiti. Zaire, where the crumbling Mobutu tyranny will be followed by anarchy, is another candidate.

The only satisfaction will be the unspoken gratitude of millions of people who will find in this altruistic revival of colonialism the only way out of their intractable miseries.” (Paul Johnson, "Colonialism is back, and not a moment too soon," New York Times Sunday Magazine [18 April 1993])


b.      The U.N. Security Council would vote to declare a territory, such as Somalia, where government no longer exists and international terrorists flourish, a "failed state" and direct one of its members to exercise sovereignty there until such time as it became possible to create an effective government from the local population.” (Paul Johnson)