Study Guide: Africa’s significance HIS 1110 G. J. Giddings, Ph.D.
Whats unique and significant about Africa?
We have explored the relatively “poor” state of Black America, but noted also the positive aspects,
strengths and potential of Black culture. This was all to then look back in history (Sankofa) to find at
least some of the reasons for these disparities that persist over 50 years after the modern Civil Rights
“successes” of 1964 and 1965.
Hopefully, you see that my analysis of Jay-Z illustrates that answers often lie beneath the surface, if time
is taken to explore and not just “skim through.” Through textual explorations, we will find several
historical reasons for the current state of African America.
Our exploration for answers should start at the very beginning, in the place where African Americans
originated and got their culture – AFRICA. But of course not just Blacks, but all humans as science
(Archeology, Paleontology and Biology) suggests that humans originated on the African continent.
Franklin and Higginbotham (2009: chap. 1) explore other important legacies of this huge and diverse
continent, about which many lies are told even by historians and resulting in negative stereotypical
images of Africa, Africans and their descendants, all for the purpose of justifying the horrors of
enslavement. In addition to explaining some of Africa’s achievements (technologies, art and
politics/statehood) F&H also points out various types of enslavement that existed in Africa prior to
contacts with Europeans, who eventually designed and forced some African governments into the
“Atlantic Slave trade” which took at least 12 million Africans from western and southwestern Africa,
enslaving them in the Americas (North Ameica, Caribbean, Latin America) as chattel.
African culture helped determined the various forms of enslavement they practiced. For comparison
purposes, we later explore the characteristics of U.S. chattel slavery, to appreciate how enslaved
Africans continued many of their cultural practices, even as a form of “cultural resistance” to
The 3 increasingly centralized medieval (middle ages) states/empires of West Africa (Ghana, Mali and
Songhai ) teach us of Africa’s history of centralized politics and such smaller kingdoms as the Kongo and
Ndungo illustrate the fluid trade and religious relationships Africans forged with Europeans in the 15th
and 16th centuries, before the “slave trade” relationship took hold.
This introduction to Africa’s legacies, and cultures aids our afrocentric view of African American history.
We have already seen how Africanisms exist even today in Hip-hop, and one wonderment then could be
– how much more so should/could one see Africanisms in earlier periods of African American history?