The vast majority of Africans in bondage were imported to North America from seven general regions of Africa. The list below includes the region name, estimated percentage of Africans from each region, and location description based on current day national borders:
Senegambia-15% (coast between present day Senegal and Gambia)
Sierra Leone/Winward Coast-16% (most of present day Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast)
Gold Coast-13% (most of present day Ghana)
Bight of Benin-5% (Togo, Benin, and southwestern Nigeria)
Bight of Biafra-24% (most of present day Nigeria and Cameroon)
West Central Africa-26% (present day Congo, Zaire, Angola, Namibia)
Mozambique–Madagascar Swahili States/Southeast Africa (not included in below map)-2%
Senegambia (15%) Senegambia includes that stretch of coast encompassing the present day nations of Senegal and Gambia. Captives from as far away as the upper and middle Niger valleys (present day Niger and Mali) were transported from this coast. Senegambia represented approximately 15% of All African captives transported to North America including: 17 to 19% of the captives sold in South Carolina/Georgia, 15% that were sold in Virginia, and possibly 65% of those sold in Louisiana.
Ethnic groups in Senegambia include: The Mande ethnic branch known as Malinke/Mandinko/Mandingo and the non-Mende Wolof were mainly coastal populations. Further inland were other Mande ethnic groups such as the Sereer, Fulbe/Fulani/Fula, Soninke/Serrakole from the central and upper valleys of the Senegal River. Also the Mande groups of the Bambara and the Fulbe located even further inland in what is now Mali in the floodplain of the upper Niger river.
Sierra Leone/Winward Coast (16%) Sierra Leone, includes the territory from the Casamance to Assini, or what is now Guinea–Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast. Sierra Leone/Winward Coast represented approximately 16% of All African captives transported to North America including: 16 percent who went to South Carolina/Georgia and 12% of captives sent to Virginia.
Gold Coast (13%) Adjoining Sierra Leone is the Gold Coast, occupying what is essentially contemporary Ghana. African captives from the Gold Coast represent approximately 13% of all African captives sold in North America including: 13% of captives sold in South Carolina, and 16% of captives sold in Virginia.
Ethnic groups in the Gold Coast include: The southern half of the Gold Coast was dominated by the Akan ethic groups which include: Asante/Ashanti, Akuapem and Akyem (together known as Twi), Agona, Kwahu, Wassa, Fante (Fanti or Mfantse: Anomabo, Abura, Gomua) and Bono. Subgroups of the Bia-speaking groups include: the Anyin, Baoulé, Chakosi (Anufo), Sefwi (Sehwi), Nzema, Ahanta and Jwira-Pepesa. The Akan subgroups have cultural attributes in common, notably the tracing of descent, inheritance of property, and succession to high political office.
Bight of Benin (5%) Further east the fourth region, the Bight of Benin, consists of what is now the nations of Togo, Benin, and southwestern Nigeria. African captives from the Bight of Benin represent approximately 5% of all African captives transported to North America including: 30% of the captives sold in Louisiana but not in significant numbers to other American ports.
Bight of Biafra (24%) The Bight of Biafra is comprised contemporary southeastern Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon. African captives from the Bight of Biafra represent approximately 24-26% of All African Captives sold in North America including: 37%-40% of Africans sold in Virginia, 9% sold in Louisiana. and 2% sold in South Carolina/Georgia.
West Central Africa (26%) includes Congo and Angola, and the. African captives from the West Central Africa represent approximately 40% of Africans sold in South Carolina, 16% – 17% sold in Virginia, and anywhere from 5% – 36% sold in Louisiana. Also more than 90% of those who came from West Central Africa to Louisiana were from Congo, whereas less than 10% percent were from Angola.
Ethnic groups in West Central Africa include: The Kongo/Bakongo/Kikongo speakers, founders of the kingdom of Kongo, include subgroups such as the Sundi, Bwende, Kamba, and Dondo, who can be further divided into the Mpangu, Ladi, Bembu, Kunyi, Yombe, Lumbu, Bussi, Puno, and Tsangui. Other ethnic groups in West Central Africa include the Bushoong, Ngunde, Pyaang, Bulaang, Bieeng, Ilebo, Idiing, Kaam, Ngongo, Kayuweeng, Kel, Shoowa, Bokila, Ngoombe, Maluk, Kete, Coofa, Cwa, Mbeengi, Leele, and the southern Mongo.
Mozambique–Madagascar (2%) Mozambique–Madagascar, refers to the southern most region of the Swahili coast on the Indian Ocean in southeastern Africa. Captives from this region may have constituted only 2% of all African captives transported to North America including about 4% of Africans sold in Virginia.
Slave Trade Map Bentley/Ziegler. Traditiona and Encounters: A Global Perspevtive on the Past.NY, McGraw Hill.
Sources: (1) The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (http://www.slavevoyages.org/assessment/estimates) accessed 8/3/16. (2) Gomez, Michael A.. Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (p. 141). The University of North Carolina Press. Kindle Edition. (3) familysearch.org (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/African_American_Place_of_Origin) accessed 8/14/2016 (4)Dee Parmer Wootor’s comprehensive book Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African American Genealogy and Historical Identity, especially chapter 14, “The Last African and the First American” (New York: Random House, 1999). (5) Wikipedia (links, images, and some content that is linked to).
In 1914 Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the largest movement across territorial borders among the African peoples during the 20th century. By the early 1920s the UNIA could count branches in almost every Caribbean, Latin America, and sub-Saharan African country with membership swelling to 8 million. Under Garvey’s leadership, the UNIA encouraged entrepreneurship, attracted millions of Black people to buying from Black-owned business.
Established in 1919, the Negro Factories Corporation, one of the UNIA’s ventures, with a capitalization of $1 million, sought to build and operate factories in the big industrial centers of the United States, Central America, the West Indies and Africa. It generated income and provided about 700 jobs by its numerous enterprises: three grocery stores, two restaurants, a laundry, a tailor shop, a dress-making shop, a millinery store, a printing company and doll factory.
Incorporated in Delaware as a domestic corporation on June 27, 1919, the Black Star Line Inc. was capitalized at $10 million. It sold shares individually valued at $5 to both UNIA members and non-members alike. Proceeds from stock sales were used to purchase ships to facilitate the transportation of goods and eventually African Americans throughout the African global economy.
Colored Merchants’ Association
In 1928, the National Negro Business League of Montgomery, Ala., established the Colored Merchants’ Association (CMA), a cooperative organization of Black grocery stores. The purpose of the organization was to reduce the operating costs of Black retailers through mutual support, cooperative buying, and collective marketing — in a harsh market dominated by White-owned chain stores. The CMA model was markedly successful. Associated stores reported increases in business and profits.
The association spread to nearly 18 cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville, Dallas and New York. The CMA built its national headquarters in New York City in October 1929. Chapters were organized in cities with 10 or more stores. CMA members paid $5 per month per store and were required to meet designated standards. By 1930, 253 stores were part of the CMA network.
Members received support services from the association, such as intensive training in merchandising techniques, sales training, advertising, and management resources such as market analysis, inventory and bookkeeping systems, and collection and credit procedures.
Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Federation of Southern Cooperatives was a nonprofit organization of state associations founded in 1967 in Atlanta for the purpose of supporting predominantly Black cooperatives in southern states. The organization later merged with the Land Emergency Fund to become the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund.
Member cooperatives engage in organic farming, marketing, agricultural processing, fishing, sewing, handicrafts, land buying, grocery cooperatives, and credit unions. The organization established six state offices and a rural training and research center. It also engages in state and federal policy advocacy and provides technical assistance to protect Black-owned land and maintain Black land ownership, as well as promotes sustainable family farming and cooperative development.
The Federation also provides emergency services to its members during times of natural disaster. In its 45-year history, the organization has helped to create and/or support more than 200 cooperatives and credit unions mostly in the 11 states where it operates (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and the Virgin Islands).
The Federation owns and runs a rural training and research center in Epes, Ala., that showcases sustainable forestry, provides co-op education, and helps to develop Black youth-run co-ops (such as Sankofa Youth Cooperative). Its headquarters is in East Point, Ga. The FSC/LAF also engages in cooperative development in Africa and the Caribbean.
Without the significant labor to cultivate the land Europeans claimed to have “discovered,” it would have been for naught. The notion of Europeans or Native Americans working the land was not seriously considered. It was the enslaved Africans who were put to work to grow the abundant land into livable housing, farms and other businesses.
1. The Enslaved Were an ‘Investment’
To get an idea of how valued and valuable to the economy the enslaved were, each one represented as much as $130,000 in today’s prices when the South seceded from the Union. Significantly, this was two times as much from 14 years before — a true measure of the impact of the enslaved and the increased demand in the marketplace. According to economists, this alone would crystalize how “investing” in an enslaved person was a money-maker that drove business.
2. Slave Traders Amassed a Fortune Off Black Bodies
According to a BBC report, between 1761 and 1808, British traders hauled across the Atlantic 1,428,000 African captives and pocketed $94.4 million – perhaps $10 billion in today’s money – from slave sales.
3. Cotton Drove U.S. Economic Growth
According to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, cotton provided over half of all U.S. export earnings. By 1840, the South grew 60 percent of the world’s cotton and provided some 70 percent of the cotton used by the British textile industry. Thus, according to the institute, slavery paid for a substantial share of the capital, iron and manufactured goods that laid the basis for American economic growth.
4. Enslaved Africans Represented a Significant Amount of Wealth in the Southern U.S.
When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — which freed enslaved Africans only in the rebellious states and territories of the U.S. — approximately $10 trillion in today’s money was eliminated from the American economy with a stroke of his pen, according to MeasuringWorth.com. The so-called three-fifths compromise in the U.S. Constitution allowed the Southern states to count enslaved people as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of calculating states’ representation in the U.S. Congress. And so, the balance of power between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states turned, in part, on the three-fifths presence of enslaved Africans in the census. Slaveholders were taxed on the same three-fifths principle. Taxes paid on the enslaved supported the national treasury. So, the slavery system in the United States was a national system that touched the very core of its economic and political life.
5. City Work
Enslaved Africans also worked in urban areas, helping build them up. About 10 percent of the enslaved African population in the United States lived in cities like Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; Mobile, Alabama; New York; Philadelphia and New Orleans. All had sizable enslaved populations. In the Southern cities, they totaled approximately a third of the population, meaning they had the numbers to produce lots of work.
6. Value Based on Skills
The scope of jobs the enslaved were forced to do was vast and their value was based on their skills. They were domestics, but also fishermen, coopers, draymen, sailors, masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters and porters. Some were hired out to work as skilled laborers on plantations, on public works projects and in industrial enterprises. And even a small number of the enslaved hired themselves out and paid their owners a percentage of their earnings. According to MeasuringWorth.com, a premium was paid if the slave was an artisan — particularly a blacksmith (+55%), a carpenter (+45%), a cook (+20%) or possessed other domestic skills (+15%). On the other hand, an enslaved person’s price was discounted if the person was known to be a runaway (-60%), was disabled (-60%), had a vice such as drinking (-50%) or was physically impaired (-30%).
7. Global Demand for Cotton
Enslaved workers’ production in cotton was the backbone of the American financial and shipping industries. Same for the British textile industry. Cotton was not shipped directly to Europe from the South. It actually was shipped to New York and then transshipped to England and other centers of cotton manufacturing in the United States and Europe. After the “Panic of 1837,” there was a long depression, according to MeasuringWealth.com. Finally, the almost three-fold increase in prices after 1843 can be explained by several factors, including the rapid increase in the worldwide demand for cotton and increased productivity in the New South attributable to better soil and improvements in the cotton plant. It is clear during this time that the market for enslaved Blacks was active, and they were regarded as more valuable.
8. Bank Profits
Banks and financial institutions benefited by making loans or investments in the cotton plantation businesses, spurring more business and more money for the banks and plantation owners. The economic power of owning one enslaved person was much higher earlier in the century — as high as $8 million. This finding, according to MeasuringWorth.com, is consistent with the history of the period when Southern states exercised great influence on such issues as tariffs, banking and new areas of the country that would allow slavery. The “power measure” of owning a single person declined as time moved on because industrialization and agriculture in the North grew faster than the slave economy.
9. Collateral and Taxation
The actual collection and selling of enslaved Africans represented legal property — a commodity worth at least $400 at the time or $12,000 today. Individually and collectively, they were frequently used as collateral in all kinds of business transactions. They were also traded for other kinds of goods and services. In many cases, the enslaved were used to pay off debts held by the owner. The estimated value of the enslaved was calculated in the value of estates, becoming a tax revenue source for local and state governments. There were also taxes to be paid on slave transactions.
Teachers are some of my favorite people in the world. I mean I really love teachers! They tend to be enthusiastic about changing society, and more often than not, they care so deeply about their work and their students. What’s not to like?
As a former teacher myself, I feel so very fortunate to meet teachers from all over the United States in my work. Despite all of the BS that teachers have to deal with in our political climate, they remain optimistic about the state of education, which honestly blows my mind.
Though I know there are actively racist teachers out there, most White teachers mean well and have no intention of being racist. Yet as people who are inscribed with Whiteness, it is possible for us to act in racist ways no matter our intentions. Uprooting racism from our daily actions takes a lifetime of work.
Thus, as we head into the first weeks of school all over the US, here are 10 ways that White teachers introduce racism into our schools paired with things we can do instead.
1. Lowering or Raising Achievement Expectations Based on Race/Ethnicity
It’s probably best to start with one of the more common and obvious ways that racism can enter teaching practice: our expectations of student ability and achievement.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are constantly inundated with racist messaging about what students can and can’t achieve.
Whether we see media narratives about the math prodigy Asian students or the “ghetto” Black students who are reading 5 grade levels behind, we end up getting pretty clear messages long before we start teaching about what our student can handle.
In my own teaching, I know that I had a hard time actually teaching my students within their ZPDs because I was told from before I even started teaching that they simply weren’t capable of writing complex papers about world events. But they could! All it took was coordinated effort from multiple teachers pushing them as hard as we could!
First, we need to spend some serious time reflecting about our own internalized biases. We all have them (not sure about yours? Consider taking this test!). And if we are working to understand our biases, then we can begin to mitigate their effects.
Second, we need to be sure that we are using effective, non-culturally-biased measures to determine student ability and to push them to their zones of proximal development. By making sure we are basing the ways we push our students in data drawn from legitimate (if limiting) measures, we can hopefully use that data to check some of our own biases.
2. Being ‘Race Neutral’ Rather than Culturally Responsive
In my work with teachers, I sometimes meet teachers who claim that they “don’t see Color,” both in naïve attempts to be “progressive” but also in an ill-advised attempt to avoid tracking students based on race/ethnicity.
But our students don’t need a “race neutral” approach to their education.
There isendless researchabout how students of all races need a culturally responsive education; it’s just that White students who have White teachers are far more likely to receive one.
Culturally responsive teaching is not just a box that we can check with simple changes to curriculum. Instead, it is a pedagogical shift that all teachers must work to cultivate over the course of a career, one that works its way into every aspect of how we teach.
Part of culturally responsive teaching also demands that we not simply focus on the races of our students but, instead, turn the lens on our own racial identity.
Race neutrality lends itself to defensiveness to the ways Whiteness and racism are problematic in our teaching.
Cultural responsiveness demands that we do the difficult work of exploring a different way of being White, one where we see our liberation as bound up with that of our students and their families.
Whether we’re referring to our students as “ghetto” or to their parents as “tiger moms” or saying “if only the parents cared about their kids education,” there are many overt ways that we can introduce racially coded language that devalues and/or otherizes our students and their families.
This is one I know I have done many times. There is no need for me to include details about the harrowing life experiences of my students when talking to friends, yet I do so anyway to express just how “tough” things are for “those kids.”
While we may be able to argue that this is to help our White peers empathize, rarely is this done in any sort of humanizing way.
Rather, we are usually just trying to prove our credentials as a teacher who taught in the “inner city” or “the barrio.”
What to Do Instead
We as educators know the power of language, so we must be extra careful and precise with ours. We need to be hyper vigilant about how we talk about our students and their families/communities.
When we do the work to build relationships and to partner in the areas where we teach, then we see our students and their families as fully-realized human beings, and as a result, we can talk about our students in more humanizing ways.
Thus, we have a responsibility to do more than to just connect with our students. We have a responsibility to act in solidarity toward collective liberation!
4. Intentionally or Unintentionally Mispronouncing Names
One of the more subtle but powerful ways that White teachers inject racism into our schools is in how we engage with names that are different than those we grew up knowing.
Sometimes it shows up in simply not taking the time to learn how to properly pronounce a student’s name – but other times, it’s active resistance.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of teachers saying, “Their names are just too hard for me to pronounce,” so they settle for assigning nicknames.
What we communicate with this microaggression is that the student’s identity ought to conform to the world we know, not that we ought to be responsive to the student.
What to Do Instead
Take the time to learn names. Apologize when you get names wrong, and work really hard to learn names the right way.
Sometimes students who are used to White teachers mispronouncing their name will settle for you doing it “good enough.”
Stress that you don’t want “good enough.” You want to call them by the name they want to be called!
5. Enforcing Harsh Discipline Practices That Disproportionately Impact Students of Color
Describing an incident where he was suspended for threatening a teacher who yelled at him in class, he noted how when “you don’t have anything else to lean on” except the basic respect of others, it means something wholly different than for students from a wholly different cultural context to have a teacher scream in their face.
What to Do Instead
In our own classrooms, we have to be willing to carefully investigate how we dole out discipline and work to change our practices.
Do our management procedures reward students whose cultural backgrounds and expressions of, say, showing excitement reflect our own while punishing those who express these things differently?
Perhaps more importantly, though, this is a problem that must be addressed in community.
If you are great about mitigating racial bias in your management but your school has a zero-tolerance discipline system that sees kids leaving in handcuffs for acting out in school, then we must organize together as educators.
One of the more insidious ways that White teachers bring racism into schools is in how we (often inadvertently) value Whiteness and European ways of being above all others.
Whether we are strictly teaching the “canon” that is almost exclusively White or using examples in math or science problems that are more accessible to White and/or wealthy students than others, White teachers inject Whiteness into our classrooms all the time.
We need to do obvious things like diversifying our curriculum and our materials, but beyond that, we must look inside for the more insidious ways that we value Whiteness.
By questioning all aspects of how we teach to consider whether we are devaluing some people and valuing others, we are taking important steps toward racially just pedagogy.
7. Tokenizing Students’ Cultures to Connect with Them
The other side of the coin that comes with diversifying our curriculum and materials is that it can be done in a tremendously tokenizing way.
If we don’t get to know our students first, then we might assume that our Dominican students and our students from northeastern Mexico all are the same and that they all could relate to a book about the migrant farm struggle in the southwestern US.
Thus, we have to be careful not to tokenize students’ identities in our efforts to connect with them.
What to Do Instead
It’s a lot more work, but we ought to consider waiting to decide on the books we teach or the curricular examples until we’ve had some time to listen to our students and their families.
Ask questions about what they want to learn about, and listen and respond accordingly!
8. Culturally Appropriate in an Effort to Connect with Students
For many of us White teachers who grew up with little-to-know exposure to people and cultures of Color and who don’t have a connection to our own ethnic cultural identities outside of Whiteness (notably, a lack of cultural identity), it can be hard to know how to connect with students.
Unfortunately, this often means appropriating other cultures, particularly those of our students, to try to connect with them.
A friend, mentor, and my co-author in an upcoming piece about White teachers who wish to develop anti-racist ways of being, Shelly Tochluk, cites a time when she wore a lappa (African skirt), an ankh around her neck, and carried a djembe to class in a misguided effort to connect.
Reflecting on the experience, Shelly notes that it would have been far better to “include more African American voices into the curriculum.”
If you’re not sure exactly why this is a problem, perhaps look here and here.
9. Devaluing What Non-Teachers Contribute to the School Community
Everyone is trying to tell teachers how to do their job, and teachers are sick of hearing it from non-teachers.
But from some White teachers, I hear the “if you haven’t taught, don’t tell me how to do my job” mantra used as a blanket for everyone from Bill Gates to the parents and community advocates where they teach.
When we decide that teachers are the gatekeepers to what works in education and when the vast majority of teachers are White, we end up devaluing the insights and knowledge that many people of Color offer.
What to Do Instead
From parents to community leaders to other non-White staff in your building, there’s a lot we can learn if we are willing to humbly listen to people of Color and implement what we learn about race in education.
Actively seek to build relationships across difference and seek input in your classroom.
Hell, invite folks into your classroom to observe and share and teach!
10. Doing Little or Nothing to Advocate for More Teachers and Staff of Color
Finally, and probably most importantly, there’s simply no substitute to teachers of Color teaching students who share their race (see here, here, here, and here).
Unfortunately, many progressive White teachers note that it would be great to have more teachers of Color, but at the end of the day, what are we doing about it?
What to Do Instead
Organize! It’s what teachers do so well! Pressure our unions to make hiring teachers of Color the top priority.
Advocate for alternative licensing options for paraprofessionals and teaching aides (who are disproportionately people of Color, especially in cities). Get on hiring committees at your school and ask hard questions about what we consider “qualified candidates.”
This is somewhere that well-meaning White teachers can have a profound impact if we’re willing to invest our energy.
Regardless of what it looks like, we need more White teachers who are willing to do the hard work of combatting the subtle racism we bring into our schools while working vociferously to change our own pedagogies and make our schools more racially just places!
It is trite to say that the Romans were no great innovators of culture. They mostly copied the so-called “Hellenistic” and Egyptian high culutres. Yes, Rome may have conquered physically but she was conquered culturally. I will show you why.
The religion of the Romans, their gods, their rites originally came from Egypt. There were 5000 year old Egyptian equivalents of Roman gods, 5000 years before Rome was built.
Head of a Roman Boy, Roman, A.D. 150 – 200 Marble
The cultural centre of the Roman Empire was Egypt, specifically Alexandria. There one had the books, the rites, the tradition and the ancient mystery disciplines that had been honned and developed thousands of years before Rome. Up till this day, the arts and sciences encapsulated in those books, are fundamental to the successful construction and sustanance of any human society.
The Greeks who heavily influenced Rome, were at the outset a colony of Egyptians and Phoenicians (neighbours to Egyptians) all from Africa. The first and earliest civilizations of the Creteans, Maltans, Pelasgians, Ionians, and Therans came from Africa. The populace was were predominantly African.
It was only thousands of years later that the Dorians appeared and plunged Greece into the dark ages, before it was eventually revived again by Black Egyptian colonists. Solon the first law giver in Athens was a product of the Egyptian mystery school. Pythagoras one of the greastest Greeks that ever lived was a product of Egyptian mystery school. Socrates and Aristotle were long represented as dark-skinned Afro-Greeks by the Arabs, the Saracens, and the Turks, long before North West Europe became ancient Greek fans.
It was only in the 18th century North-West Europe that the true images of Socrates and Aristotle were hidden, or ignored and replaced by false images of pink-whites some of which were created between 17th and 18th century AD but fraudulently mis-dated.
Greek language, culture and so-called attainments all came from Egypt, contrary to what you may have been told in government schools. Try find the books written by Martin Bernal – The Black Athena; and Prof George J. James: Stolen Civilization, Godfrey Higgins in his book Anacalypsis, as well as books by Gerald Massey, Drussila Houston- The Wonderful Ethiopians of the ancient Cushitic Empire etc. etc.; to understand this very point.
You will come to see that Rome started off as a colony or vassal of the Kartha Hadashians (Carthage), if you were to parse your history very well. It was the influence of the Carthaginians that made Rome. Rome later got its independence and even eventually destroyed Carthage. Yet, Carthage had a thousand years of high culture and pre-eminence before Rome was born. By the time it was destroyed by Romans, Carthage was a thousand year old black African Empire, ruling the then known world through its maritime connections.
Ethiopia and Sudan greatly influenced Rome because it was from therein that the first Christian monks reached Rome and established the monastic culture, which eventually was key to the civilization of the entire Europe. See History of Monasticism
You have to stand on the shoulders of giants to be a giant. The Carthaginians, the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, the Sudanese, were all great African nations, pre-eminent in culture and sciences of their time, waaaay before Romans could read and write.
The Roman numerals, the Roman alphabets, Roman architecture, Roads, system of justice and government, all came from African nations who were in existence thousands of years before Romans knew the meaning of civilization.
So who civilized the other? The Muurs civilized Rome, and the entire Europe. The Muurs are known today as blacks, the Ethiopians, the Sudanese, the African Americans, Jamaicans, South Africans and Nigerians.
In “Independence or Dependence: Psychological Colonization in the French Caribbean” one of the topics that I discuss is a poem titled “The Slave’s Lament” by Haitian poet Massillon Coicou. The poem is interesting for me because, as I explain in that essay, the slave in this poem comes to curse his own blackness rather than curse the oppressive nature of the slave master. As I show in that essay and much of the other books that I have written, self-hatred among African people is largely a reaction to the trauma of being enslaved and being oppressed. Many of us have come to hate our blackness because trauma has made us associate our identities with the traumas that we have endured. This is why so many people of African descent in the French colonies came to view themselves as Frenchmen and Frenchwomen. Even Coicou describes Haiti as a “Black France.” Being African for us is painful so we run from it rather than embrace because we equate escaping from our identities with escaping from the pain and the trauma that we have experienced.
For the last 500 years the African identity has been one that has been intricately linked with violence and oppression. For the last 500 years we have endured being beaten, tortured, raped, lynched, burned alive, and many other forms of violence. African people are still enduring this trauma. Studies have demonstrated that racism does have an adverse psychological impact the mental health of African Americans. Unfortunately for many of us the solution is not to struggle to improve our plight and to overcome our oppression. Many of us wish to escape our blackness or escape our African identity.
During the days of slavery the ability to “pass” for white was something that mixed race people of African descent would use to advance their position in society. In Blake or The Huts of America, Martin Delany wrote about an organization known as the “Brown Fellowship Society.” This was an organization that was comprised of mixed race people who held very negative views towards darker skinned black people. In the Americas there developed what Brazilian psychologist Edna Roland referred to as a “pigmentocracy” in which “one’s hierarchical position would be determined in relation to the darkness of one’s skin.” Slavery has long since been abolished but the mentality that the pigmentocracy has created among African people still persists, as seen by men like Kanye West, Gilbert Arenas, or Ronaldo Nazário. Many of us still see our identities as black people, including our dark complexions, as being something that is negative because we still associate blackness with the trauma of racial oppression. We still think that we have to “pass” for something that we are not in order to be successful.
Running away from our African identity is not and has never been the solution. We have to be honest about our experiences and confront this trauma. We also have to begin the process of collective healing, but we will not heal through engaging in denial about our experiences or denial about out identities.
This post is hosted on the Huffington Post’s Contributor platform
In the last decade, I have seen Nigerian movies pay attention to style more ever than before. Female actors in particular rock the latest trends in fashion, adorned in name brand stilettos even for scenes that do not necessarily require them, in top-notch facial makeover and hair styled in long Brazilian weaves.
For critical viewers like me, it is not hard to conclude that the Nigerian movie industry is paying more attention to details. However, it is also disturbing to notice the prevalence of colourism and false standards of beauty in Nollywood.
In Nigeria in general, light-skinned women are aggrandized, paid more attention and given more privileges. This could be as a result of the narrow societal definition of beauty. It is not very far-fetched as the faces in marketing, media and modeling are usually the fair skinned and slim ladies.
As a matter of fact, there is a preference for fair ladies in recruitment for roles such as front desk officer, air hostess and hospitality management. The movie industry is not excluded as light-skinned actresses seem to be at an advantage compared to their dark complexioned counterparts.
Colourism according to Oxford Dictionary means “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.” A deep dive into the evolution of colourism in Africa shows a link with racism, an offshoot of colonialism.
Alice Walker, a novelist had once explored how colonial slave masters created a social stratum by showing preference for light-skinned slaves as they were allowed to work in the house while the dark-skinned slaves worked in fields. Unconsciously, our society has internalized this false notion of light-skinned persons being better than dark-skinned persons.
This thought is deeply amplified in Nollywood. For a fact, fair girls seem to get more casting roles than dark-skinned girls. The flipside to this is where both shades of skin tone are casted but dark skinned girls seem to get the less desirable or passive roles in movies. It is a known fact success in showbiz is not totally dependent on talent, the look must be complementary. As a result, a lot of actresses overtime see the need to tone their skin, improve their looks through cosmetic surgery to get more lead roles and also conform to the required image as they climb the ladder of success.
The impacts of colourism are rife. First, it is an act of discrimination fuelling the assumption that light-skinned people are better and as such deserve better opportunities particularly in the movie industry.
Second, it underestimates the place of talent and merit where people are considered merely because of their skin colour and not their ability or adaptability to the role in question.
Most importantly, it places undue pressure on aspiring dark-skinned actresses or sometimes crush their careers and prospects in the industry before time.
Mercy Johnson, a popular award winning Nollywood actress mentioned to Punch how difficult it was to get roles in her early days as an actress. In the same light, Keira Hewatch staring as Peace in the popular Nigerian series, ‘Lekki Housewives’ in an exclusive interview with Pulse Nigeria mentioned how she had lost movie roles on account of her dark complexion.
In addition, celebrities wield great influence in all ramification especially fashion and lifestyle. This level of impact is more pronounced for young people who shape their lives after the celebrities they adore. As a result, there is a remarkable tendency for young girls to validate their sense of beauty using metrics such as skin colour and general physical appearance.
Conclusively, it is not enough to start a viral campaign for dark and natural beauty using the popular #MelaninPopping without creating awareness for a fair and equitable system where casting considerations and any job at all are made solely on the basis of expertise.
For this to happen, we might need to start reviewing why ladies on popular adverts are predominantly tall, slim and light-skinned and not the everyday Nigerian girl because in truth, colourism thrives on the assumption that people prefer ladies with lighter skin.
Where does the anti-black racism that exists in the world come from ? If you are African or of African origin, this is a question you have had to ask yourself at least one day in your life. The Black man is badly seen by a large part of humanity. When he is in the Arab Muslim world, he is rejected. When he is in the Western world, despite all his signs of openness, westernization or integration, racism and hatred are never far away in order to call him a bambula, monkey, etc.
Everywhere where he goes he is always the victim of stereotypes which end up seriously harming him (rejections, racisms, hatreds, etc.) as history has shown it on several occasions.
But where does this attitude that other peoples have towards the Black man come from ? What is the historical origin of this rejection ? When did it begin in the history of mankind ?
This may shock some, but anti-black racism originally originated from religious sources, more precisely on the religious bases of the so-called revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).
What is the founding text of this racism ? Well it is the text that is better known as the curse of Ham. This text is in the biblical book of Genesis, more precisely in the story of Noah and his sons, sons representing the ancestors of the nations.
This is what the biblical book of Genesis says in chapter 9, verses 18-19: “The sons of Noah, who came out of the ark, were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah, and it is their posterity that peopled the whole Earth. “
The biblical text explains that they are the ancestors of the nations that populated the earth after the deluge. What are these nations ?
According to the biblical text there are 3 ancestors of the 3 nations that populated the earth after the deluge. These are the nations: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Here is the passage from the bible where the curse is mentioned.
(Genesis 9: 20-27):
” Noah, started to cultivate the soil, and proceeded to plant a vineyard. He drank some of its wine, he became drunk and laid uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body, while doing it, their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
When Noah awoke from his drunkenness and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! May he be the slave of the slaves of his brothers.” He also said, “Praised be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the their slave. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
At first glance, this text does not mention the skin color of the people here. At first glance, one can not say who symbolizes (between Sem, Cham or Japhet) Blacks (Africans), whites (Europeans), etc …
At first sight this text does not say that Ham is cursed, since in this text it is Canaan (son of Ham) who is cursed and struck with slavery and therefore not Ham himself. These are the kinds of arguments often used by the followers of the revealed religions to defend themselves when it comes to this subject.
But how do we know that Ham designates black people ?
Well, it is because in Hebrew (the language in which the book of genesis was written) the term “Ham” refers to the idea of heat, blackness, or burnt. In the Pharaonic language, the term “Kam” means black.
If then these Hebrew people have at some times of their history stayed in Egypt as the Bible says, it means that there were contacts between these Semitic people and African people (blacks). We can then understand where this term Ham (term to designate the physical appearance of Blacks) comes from, which is found in the Bible.
Ham is (by taking account of the contacts between the Semitic people and the African people in antiquity) a distortion of the term Kam or Kem (meaning black, blackened in Pharaonic language) by the editors of the Bible as Cheikh Anta Diop explains it in his founding book Nations Nègres et Culture. It is therefore normal for Ham to be designated in the Bible as the source of black (African) people.
Moreover, the traditions of the so-called revealed religions refer to Ham and his Biblical descendants as the symbolic names to designate the people originating from Africa.
If Ham is the ancestor of the first African (black) people, then his biblical sons Kush (Nubia/Sudan), Misraim (Egypt), Punt and Canaan (Palestine-Syria) were originally African people.
If then the curse concerns (according to the text), only Canaan (son of Cham), how did we pass from the curse of Canaan to the curse of Ham ?
Well, it is in the interpretation and teaching of the religious leaders of the so-called revealed religions (priests, popes, rabbis, caliphs, Imams, etc.)
Thus, according to the rabbinical commentaries (such as Midrash Rabba and Bereshit Rabba), this text is interpreted as the fact that through Noah’s ark during the flood, Cham committed a serious sin of sexual impurity against his Father (what it means to see the nudity of his father). And thus through Canaan, it was Cham who was cursed (turned into black) and his biblical descendants (Kush, Misraim, Punt and Canaan).
In the Midrash Rabba, page 293, Noah said to Cham: “You have made me incapable of doing things in the darkest moment of the night, so your offspring (that is, your descendants) will be naughty and have a Black skin “.
According to these texts, African physical characteristics (being black skinned, having frizzy hair, sometimes thick lips, etc.) all these characteristics are in fact the mark of the curse. According to these texts at the beginning of the creation the first men were not black. And if there are some blacks, it means that they are the children of the devil and the curse. Thus, seeing a black such as one can see in nature (frizzy hair, black complexion, etc…) is seeing someone cursed, it is seeing a demon, the devil himself !!! Even the idea that Blacks would have the most developed and biggest male organ in the world comes from these texts !!! Thus we see how caricatures and stereotypes about the physiognomy of the Black began in history.
Rabbi Maimonides in his book, considered by the Jews to be the greatest in Jewish religious philosophy (The Guide to the lost, Book III, Chapter 51) tells this about black people:
“Their nature is similar to that of mute animals, and in my opinion they do not reach the rank of human beings; among the existing things they are inferior to man but superior to the ape, for they possess in a greater measure than the ape the image and likeness of man.”
Christianity presenting itself as the heir of Judaism, these ideas of the Negro being cursed by God, then passed into Christianity and were used by the church as the justification for the enslavement of Africans, since through the text of the genesis it is written: “Let him be the slave of his brothers’ slaves!” As Guillaume Hervieux shows in his book entitled L’Ivresse de Noé (Noah’s Drunkenness) : The Story of a Curse.
These ideas of the Black being cursed by God then passed into Islam. This is why in the Quran, we find in the Surah Al Imran (the family of Imran) verses 106-107: “106. On the day when certain faces will be illuminated, and others will darken. To those whose faces will be darkened (it will be said): “Have you disbelieved after having faith? “Well, taste the punishment, for having denied the faith.
107. And as for those whose faces shall be enlightened, they shall be in the mercy of Allah, where they shall dwell forever ”
We see that the dark faces are the faces of infidels, pagans, etc … and will face punishment. On the other hand, the “light faces” will have the graces and mercy of God.
In the volume 1 of Tabari’s Chronicle (Imam, Persian historian and exegete of the Koran), Tabari provides an explanation of Ham’s curse by saying: “Yet, may you know that all creatures have gone forth after Noah (may peace be upon him), Shem, Cham, and Japheth. The Arabs, the Persians, the white-faced men, the good people, the jurisconsults, the scholars, and the wise, are of the race of Shem, and this is why:
‘’ One day Noah was asleep; the wind lifted his clothes and uncovered his private parts without his notice. Japhet passed near Noah, whose private parts he saw; He began to laugh out loud, and to turn his father into ridicule, without covering him. Cham, Japheth’s brother, arrived; He looked at Noah, burst out laughing and joking, and passed by, leaving his father in the condition in which he found him. Sem came after his brothers, and seeing Noah in an indecent posture, he turned his eyes away and hid his father’s nakedness. Then Noah woke up and asked Shem what had happened; Having heard that Cham and Japheth had passed him by, and laughed, he cursed them, saying, ” may God change the seed of your kidneys. After that, all the men and the fruits of the land of Ham became black. The black grape is one of the latter. “
In another passage of this book we have: “… The three sons that Noah left were: the first, Shem, whose race the Arabs came from, the prophets and the good people; the second, Ham, it is from him that the Negroes and Ethiopians who gave birth infidel descendants originated. Now Ham’s children became black, because their father came to his wife in the ark, in spite of Noah’s prohibition, who cursed him; and the Most High God changed the seed (semen) of his kidneys (into black) “
Thus these religions, while expanding in the world, have spread everywhere the idea that the Black man is a pagan being, evil, cursed by God, villain, idolater, sorcerer, etc. Thus, since Black people were declared as cursed in these religions, all that Black people have done has been declared to be pejorative and evil. His culture, his spirituality and all his customs were demonized as the culture of the evil, the culture of the devil, etc.
The so-called revealed religions have been for so long (because of the writings and teachings of so-called “men of God” ie priests, popes, imams, etc.) the first torch-bearers of racist stereotypes and racism towards black people.
It is the idea of the Negro cursed by God that is at the origin of all the negative ideas (idolatry, ten plagues of Egypt, etc …) about Egypt and the pharaohs that are found in all the writings of the so-called revealed religions.
In the early days of the abolition of slavery, the idea of the black curse was one of the reasons why the KKK, Ku Klux, Klan members (some Christians) attacked Blacks (whom they were considering as cursed by God and demons) in order to lynch them, kill them and burn their houses and possessions, since the Church had used this idea of the accursed Negro at that time of slavery to justify slavery.
The idea of Black people cursed by God led the Church to draw pious images of beings she considers as good in white and images of the evil and the devil in dark or black color.
It is the idea of Black people cursed by God that the philosophers of the age called enlightenment (who predominantly presented themselves as Christians) elaborated so many racist theories about black people. Let us take, for example, the case of Montesquieu, who said in his book L’Esprit des lois (the spirit of the laws) XV, 5, that: ” We cannot imagine the idea that God, who is a very wise being, has put a soul, especially a good soul , In an all-black body, (…) “
Therefore according to the famous French author Montesquieu a black body does not possess a good soul, but necessarily bad. He goes on to recite later in the same work by saying that:
“It is impossible for us to suppose that these people (Africans)
So for Montesquieu, a good Christian is educated to think that Africans are sub-humans or sons of the devil.
It is the idea of Black people cursed by God that gave birth to a negative vocabulary about the Blacks. Thus we add the term black to all that is not good. Example: bad humor = black humor, black Thursday, black grinding, black dot, black list, having a black heart, etc.
It is the idea of the Black cursed in the Islamic philosophy that is responsible for this rejection of Blacks by the Arabs and all the injustice and hatred that Blacks suffer in the Arab world.
This idea of the cursed Black man was conveyed in the black world at the time of slavery and colonization by the missionaries.
Here is a song from a book of songs “Njembo nda nkundo” (Songs in lonkundo) intended for Congo school children under the Belgian occupation in Bamanya in 1911. The songs’ author is the Catholic Church nun, Arnoldine Falter of the Sisters of Precious Blood. The booklet contains 66 songs. The songs being in their original version in lonkundo, here is the translation in English:
ESISEZELO EA KAM (The punishment of Cham)
O Father Ham, what have you done?
We suffer a lot
By God we are punished
The punishment he had inflicted on you
Inherited by us all
You mocked, you, bad son
You had taunted your father
And Noah, as a punishment to you
And thus: “Ham works
always for his brothers “
And now your descendants
Slaves here on earth
What a pity for thy people! Because of your curse
All Blacks here
Regret your fault
As you mocked your father
Your descendants laugh at you
They refuse your name
If you want the blessing on earth
Honor your father and mother
For centuries these ideas have been conveyed throughout the world by the so-called revealed religions (Judaism Christianity, Islam) in their impulse of conquest and conversion, evangelism or Islamization. Thus all the followers of the revealed religions who live around the world have already heard, seen or thought or incorporated this negative image of Black people on their mind, which has led many people to reject and hate the Black .
Thus the African followers of the revealed religions have largely and consciously or unconsciously integrated this negative depiction of Black people (of themselves) in their mind.
Given that the Black man was declared cursed in these religions or their philosophies and that it was taught even to the Africans, they have incorporated into their minds the idea that all that the Black does is pejorative and bad. His culture, his spirituality and all his customs were demonized as the culture of evil, the culture of the devil, etc.
Thus many African followers of the revealed religions reject themselves, and everything which is African. They do not like their complexion so they lighten it, their hair so they perm it with products, they do not like their traditions, their culture, their spirituality and treat them as evil, etc.
For quite a long tome, it has been explained that the problems of Africa and the world come from the fact that Blacks have been cursed by God and that Africa and the black world will consequently always be the last of the class at all levels because “God willed it.”
The problems of racism, as well as most of the stereotypes experienced by Africans throughout the world, originated from religious beliefs, the curse of Ham and the picture of the cursed Black before spreading to other areas. So before the anti-black racism existed for other reasons, this racism began firstly on the foundations of the so-called revealed religions.
Before the invention of this fable of the cursed Black in the so-called revealed religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), there was no text giving a negative image of Africa and Africans around the world.