What is Sub-Sahara’s social structure before modern European imperialism?
Ancient and Medieval Africa.
Humans originate in central Africa. The meaning of the term,
"race," and the factor of skin color as it relates to the geography
of the sun's rays. The Sahara desert as a barrier and the 5,000
mile Nile which breaks that barrier, linking Egypt and sub-Sahara
Africa. The false image of Africa as dark, backward. Ancient
African civilizations are characterized by achievement, stability,
wealth, and power. The Kush in Sudan (700 BC-300 AD). Ghana
(300-700 AD), much larger in this period, derived its great wealth
from mining gold and salt. The Empire of Mali (1200-1400s AD), also
much larger in this period, becomes Muslim, and in turn, is overcome
by Muslim Sungai (1400-1500s AD), known for its city of Timbuktu, a
major academic center. The Sungai are subdued in the 1500s by the
Christians with advanced weapons. In Ashanti society the leader is
responsible for the public good.
Tribal Sub-Sahara Africa
Impact of European contact.
Europeans promote the view that they are advanced; the Africans are
backward. How this plays out as a pattern in gender status,
attitudes toward children, the nature of the family, the character
of language, the structure of music, the senses appealed to by art,
the fabric of daily life, the nature and value of work, attitudes
toward the marketplace, and religious precepts and practices.
The resistance by Native Americans in the Western Hemisphere to
slavery and its impact on the slave trade in West Africa. The
nature of pre-existing slavery in Africa compared to the European
slave trade. The compelling motivations for tribal chiefs'
to participate in the European slave trade. The devastating impact
of the 300 year slave trade on West Africa then and up to the
present. Why "Middle Passage" across the Atlantic is a terrifying
experience for the slaves. England ends its slave trade in the
beginning of the 1800s and the U.S. after the Civil War. Only 10
years later the European onslaught in sub-Sahara Africa continues in
a new form.
Modern Economic Imperialism.
European countries divide up Africa by military force to secure
materials and markets for its industrial products. The notion that
they are bringing civilization to Africa is questioned. A theory
about what underlies England's and others' powerful contempt for
black Africans. The sharp contrast between English way of life and
traditional African way of life. Why minerals are exploited, but
not food. The fabric of the tribe is broken as men are taken to
work in distant mines, causing an enforced dependency on its
colonial master. African societies begin to ape European ways
including patriarchal social structure, dog-eat-dog interactions,
The British are capable of great brutalities, gain enormous power in
Africa. They educate a native upper class bureaucracy, including
India, to buffer their rule. The Zulu War is an example of
resistance to the British but is crushed by modern weaponry.
King Leopold treats the Congo as his own personal land. He milks
the country of its resources, is extremely brutal, provides no
semblance of benefits. This continues after his death.
Independence and the Neo-Colonial Period
Weakening of the Colonial Powers.
After World War I, the Colonial powers are weakened but hold onto
their colonies. Further weakened by World War II, they begin to
lose control. Independent nations begin to emerge in the 1950s and
1960s, but neo-colonialism, the legacy of European imperialism,
emerges, with economies controlled by outside countries.
Becomes independent. Belgium leaves but maintains economic control
using native rulers who are corrupt and will do business with them.
Patrice Lemumba, a more independent leader, is assassinated.
Boundaries created to benefit England's colonial exploitation of
resources combines tribes hostile to each other. This leads to
later chaos and violence.
Formerly part of the Portuguese Empire, with significant natural
resources. A current leftist government wants to control its own
economy. Perpetual civil war, fostered by outside powers, diverts
it from this objective. The insidious use of land mines.
History of British control, the Zulu Wars. The wealth of diamonds,
gold and other materials. Arrival of Dutch settlers, the
Afrikaners, who compete with the British and are defeated in the
Boar War at the end of the 19th century. The British leave later.
The Afrikaners become the dominant force, introduce apartheid where
4 million whites dominate 20 million blacks. The blacks become a
permanent underclass and are suppressed brutally. Under the
leadership of Nelson Mandela a bloodbath is averted. The Afrikaner
president, De Clerk, agrees to free elections. White flight is
avoided by Mandela's Commission of Reconciliation which offers an
amazing sense of forgiveness. At present, there is still need for
much economic development, and its future remains uncertain.
Some countries become partly democratic, others not. Growth of
dictatorships, corruption following one-person rule. Hostility of
ethnic tribes erupts in horrible violence. Modern life changes
result in devastating health problems, with a bleak outlook. Major
economic issues remain. Continued foreign control in collusion with
corrupt local officials. Raw materials are still the basis of
economies, restricting development of finished goods, and
maintaining economic distortion. The effect of the U.S. supporting
military leaders during the Cold War and current war on terror.
Civil wars rage on, fueled by abundance of weapons from outside
powers, while the world largely looks on. The future of sub-Sahara
Africa is not bright. It has not fulfilled the hopes and dreams of