In the beginning, there was a place of magnificent splendor was known as Pangaea where mankind was born. It consumed all of the earth’s land mass and was also the birthplace of civilization. Today, we know it, the center anyway, as Africa. Since the evolution of human existence, there have been many tribes, nations, countries, and cultures to dot its landscape. By virtue of its wealth, many of these civilizations of great stature have altered the course of the world.
So for the purposes of this historical narrative exploring the African American Diaspora, succinctly, I must start at the beginning. To take you on a journey that I believe is the greatest story ever told. I will begin at a time that is significant to the African American plight around 500 AD.
The region was on the coast of West Africa where there were three might empires that flourished. The empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai had powerful army’s and controlled great wealth that included large quantities of gold, fine manufactured goods, thriving agriculture, and enormous profits from trading.
Their empire’s economic strength and centralized political control made it easy to suppress revolts. The rulers of these nations were strong, surrounded by competent, loyal government officials, and military commanders who were able to unify empires composed of diverse peoples with different languages, cultures, and geographic locations.
Ghana’s ascent to great power was directly related to its acquisition of gold. The name Ghana meant “warrior king,” used to refer to the empire because of its gold. It was written that Ghana’s gold was so abundant that the king’s dogs wore gold collars. Al-Bakri, an Arab geographer, wrote that the king owned a nugget of gold so big that he could tether his horse to it. At its height of power, Ghana had a functioning judiciary system and other institutions to govern the nation’s people. The empire was ruled by a king supported by several provincial governors and viceroys. Ghana dominated the Sudan for three hundred years.
The empire of Mali differed considerably from the Ghana. It became a mighty nation in the seventh century when the small Mandingo state on the upper Niger River was transformed by two great African leaders – Sundiata Keita and Mansa Musa. Although Sundiata Keita began to transform the state into a great empire, its growth was slow until Mansa Musa became its ruler.
Mansa Musa, a devout Muslim, set out in 1324 on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city for Muslims. His entourage included about sixty thousand persons, including twelve thousand servants. As many as five hundred servants each carried a staff of pure gold weighing six pounds. Eighty camels carried an average of three hundred pounds of gold each. These riches were to be distributed as alms and gifts.
Upon his returned from his pilgrimage, Mansa Musa directed his architect to design buildings in Timbuktu and other cities under his control. At times, Mali’s empire numbered far more than one hundred thousand people. During this time, Timbuktu itself had a population of more than one hundred thousand people. It was a busy place where merchants displayed their merchandise to local and international consumers. Caravans from distant places frequently came to Timbuktu to exchange their exotic goods for gold.
Timbuktu is believed to be the first great university, rising to its highest level of development during the Songhai’s empire between 1493 and 1529. During this time, the University of Timbuktu produced more than forty books on subjects ranging from logic, theology, ethics, mathematics, and rhetoric. Akmed Baba was the last chancellor of the University and was considered one of the great intellectuals of the sixteenth century.
In his thirty-six-year quest to make Songhai the most powerful empire in the world, Askia Mohammed embarked on an effort to expand trade to include European countries. He eventually controlled most of West Africa, an area larger than Europe. The Europeans took notice to its wealth and Askia’s greed or naiveté creating an inhumane partnership of destruction. It is my opinion and would argue this was a pivotal point in the history of our past because it was during his rule that the sale of Black slaves became a major business.
The decline of the Songhai Empire marked the end of the great West African empires. I believe it was as a result of entering into an unholy alliance to participate in the slave trade where millions were sold into bondage – never to return. As a result of this atrocity a new breed of human was created by European’s that became known as “Negro.” The great history of these people was erased and stolen from their consciousness thereby rendering them a lost people; A nation of people living in a nation without a nationality. This was the greatest crime the world has ever known!
There are others who claim that the collapse came from the collision of two great religions Islam and Christianity. To that point, I would like you to pay attention as we travel through the Chronicles with respect to the roles each of these religions played upon a naive people. Let me ask that you mindfully remind yourself that there was no word “GOD” in any African language before the coming Europeans nor was there a word “Allah” before the coming of Muslims.
Knowing that this group of people, who has endured so much degradation, now referred to as African Americans, stand on the shoulders of giants, should unite, stand proud and tall for we are the Alpha and the Omega! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…