"AND SO IT GOES"
The "Be Attitudes of Inclusion” ©
"No, Black People Did Not Benefit from Slavery!"
Some of you may know that I previously taught history. In fact, I have been a history lover since I was a kid. And it was my best subject in school.
I love that old adage that you will repeat history if you don't know history.
A recent disturbing narrative coming out of Florida, that Black people benefitted from slavery, has me once again dusting off my history chops, to help set the record straight.
So, if you will indulge me in a few history lessons, I'd like to talk about the African continent's pre-colonialism and pre-invasion history.
First, however, to say that being Black in America is a monolith means you have no understanding of being Black in America.
Being Black in America means you were stolen, trafficked, and taken from many different regions on the continent of Africa. But it also means you may have come here as a Spanish Moor, not as a slave, or were here before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade begin.
There is historical evidence that those with black and brown skin lived here among, and peacefully alongside Native Americans long before Christopher Columbus and other European explorers.
When you make a blanket statement that who we now call Black Americans benefitted from slavery, you simply show your own ignorance of who and where those with black skin originated from and immigrated to.
Africa is also the cradle of civilization and is recognized as the birthplace of humanity.
The first cities and civilized communal living were developed on the African continent. And this was more than five-thousand years ago along the Nile River Valley.
We know through history that the world's greatest civilizations came from Kush, Axum, Mali, and Great Zimbabwe which flourished in Africa in the years before the1500's.
Did you know that African nations participated in extensive international trading and trans-ocean trading? And that African states had established important trading relations with India, China, and other parts of Asia. And this was done in peace before European invasion.
Gold and greed would disrupt the future state of these flourishing African empires. The existence of great kingdoms and empires, such as Mali in the west and Ethiopia in the east were exceptional rather than typical.
Even in the European nations there was not the existence of societies where wealth and power were shared. And while it's held that the Greeks started democratic systems of government, in these African nations governments were formed by councils of elders and created these democratic traditions of government.
These societies were also inclusive and diverse in religious and philosophical beliefs. And many of these nations had developed the science of agriculture, metallurgy, had skilled tradesmen, well-stocked libraries (such as the one at Timbuktu,) and great artists, and woodworkers.
Let's look at a few of these African nations (where the world benefitted from black brilliance) before the invasions.
The Kingdom of Ghana - Spread across parts of what is now Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali. This African kingdom was an important stop along the trans-Saharan trade route which connected African societies in the Sahel to the markets found along the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea and the trans-Saharan gold trade. They specialized in gold and the kola nut - which Coca Cola used as its secret trade ingredient centuries later.
The Kingdom of Kush - often overshadowed by Egypt in the history book, the Kingdom of Kush was a powerhouse in Africa for over a thousand years. This Nubian empire reached its peak in the second millennium B.C. when it ruled over a vast swath of territory along the Nile River in what is now Sudan. What is known about Kush indicates that it was an economic center that operated a lucrative market in ivory, incense, iron, and especially gold.
The Kingdom of Zimbabwe - ruled over a large chunk of modern-day Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Rich in cattle and precious metals its people were farmers, herders and were connected to trade routes along gold fields with ports on the Indian Ocean coast. The remains of artifacts such as Chinese pottery, Arabian glass and European textiles indicate that it was once a well-connected mercantile and economic center.
It's important to know history and equally important to know that history didn't begin in the US, nor is America even close to the importance of these great civilizations that existed for centuries in peace, prior to the invasion of the slave trade which stole the people, the ideas and the prosperity from the continent. Leaving it a vast wasteland that is often disparaged and left with a narrative of having Third World nation status.
But the continent and Africans today, along with African Americans and others of the diaspora are helping to change that narrative and reclaiming their rightful place in history.
The other day I was riding my Peloton bike and the immersive video I was riding along with was of the sights of Nairobi, Kenya. It struck me as I was preparing for this blog post that I saw a bank of most corners, luxury cars, children holding hands walking to school, people heading to work, thriving businesses...and not one homeless person with a sign standing on a corner.
Don't get me wrong...the continent has a long way to go to right the wrongs of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. But, to say that Black people benefitted from slavery is ludicrous as most of the world's innovation was stolen from the continent.
I believe as a society we have many lessons to learn from these great civilizations. Lessons of inclusion and diversity and, government of the people and by the people.
And if we don't learn these lessons, we run the risk of repeating that old adage..."a people who don't learn history are destined to repeat history."
And So It Goes...
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