This past month has been Black History Month. I will admit that I am kinda of done with the idea of Black History Month because Black History isn’t just black it is American History! But, that is another conversation I will touch on at another time. Moving forward I have always noticed that when black history is discussed during this month that the one of the most prevalent things talked about is slavery and the civil rights movement. Those are just some parts of the story of black culture but there is so much more. I began to think about why don’t we have people talking about black history Pre-America particularly the story of being in Africa when we were Kings and Queens. I wanted to dive into this edition of Reversing a Culture of Ignorance to talk about some African history. Many people know about the Egyptian Pharaoh’s but that wasn’t the only place in Africa where Kings and Queens changed the landscape of the world.
Mansa Musa was a king who was considered the richest king/person throughout history. Mansa Musa came to the throne through a practice of appointing a deputy when a king goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca or some other endeavor, and later naming the deputy as heir. According to primary sources, Musa was appointed deputy of the king before him, who had reportedly embarked on an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic ocean, and never returned.
Musa was a devout Muslim and his pilgrimage to Mecca, a command ordained by Allah according to core teachings of Islam, made him well-known across northern Africa and the Middle East. To Musa, Islam was the foundation of the “cultured world of the Eastern Mediterranean”.He would spend much time fostering the growth of Islam in his empire.
Musa made his pilgrimage in 1324, his procession reported to include 60,000 men, 12,000 slaves who each carried 4-lb. gold bars, heralds dressed in silks who bore gold staffs, organized horses and handled bags. Musa provided all necessities for the procession, feeding the entire company of men and animals. Also in the train were 80 camels, which varying reports claim carried between 50 and 300 pounds of gold dust each. He gave away the gold to the poor he met along his route. Musa not only gave to the cities he passed on the way to Mecca, including Cairo and Medina, but also traded gold for souvenirs. Furthermore, it has been recorded that he built a mosque each and every Friday.
Musa’s generous actions, however, inadvertently devastated the economy of the region. In the cities of Cairo, Medina and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal for the next decade. Prices on goods and wares super inflated in an attempt to adjust to the newfound wealth that was spreading throughout local populations. To rectify the gold market, Musa borrowed all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo, at high interest. This is the only time recorded in history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean.
Musa embarked on a large building program, raising mosques and madrasas in Timbuktu and Gao. Most famously the ancient center of learning Sankore Madrasah or University of Sankore was constructed during his reign. In Niani, he built the Hall of Audience, a building communicated by an interior door to the royal palace. It was “an admirable Monument” surmounted by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were plated with wood and framed in silver foil, those of a lower floor were plated with wood, framed in gold. Like the Great Mosque, a contemporaneous and grandiose structure in Timbuktu, the Hall was built of cut stone.
It is recorded that Mansa Musa traveled through the cities of Timbuktu and Gao on his way to Mecca, and made them a part of his empire when he returned around 1325. He brought architects from Andalusia, a region in Spain, and Cairo to build his grand palace in Timbuktu and the great Djinguereber Mosque that still stands today.
Timbuktu soon became a center of trade, culture, and Islam; markets brought in merchants from Hausaland, Egypt, and other African kingdoms, a university was founded in the city (as well as in the Malian cities of Djenné and Ségou), and Islam was spread through the markets and university, making Timbuktu a new area for Islamic scholarship. News of the Malian empire’s city of wealth even traveled across the Mediterranean to southern Europe, where traders from Venice, Granada, and Genoa soon added Timbuktu to their maps to trade manufactured goods for gold.
His building program caused an intellectual and economic expansion that would continue into the later Middle Ages. It also established Mali as an economic “global power” and one of the intellectual capitals of the world. Mali became well-known attracting students as far as Europe and Asia. Mansa Musa is also credited with assisting the birth of Sudano-Sahelian architecture and the spread of Islamic religion in western Africa. His military campaigns allowed Mali to become the most powerful military on the continent rivaled only by Morocco and Egypt. His greatest legacy, however, was the hajj which not only caused an economic inflation in Mediterranean but indirectly supplied financial support for the Italian renaissance.
On 10 March 1889, Emperor Yohannes was killed in a war against the dervishes during the Battle of Gallabat (Matemma). With his dying breaths, Yohannes declared his natural son, Dejazmach Mengesha Yohannes, as his heir. On 25 March, upon hearing of the death of Yohannes, Menelik immediately proclaimed himself as Nəgusä Nägäst.
The succession now lay between Mengesha Yohannes of Tigray and Menelik of Shewa. Menelek argued that while the family of Yohannes IV claimed descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba through females of the dynasty, his own claim was based on uninterrupted direct male lineage which made the claims of the House of Shewa equal to those of the elder Gondar line of the dynasty. In the end, Menelik was able to obtain the allegiance of a large majority of the Ethiopian nobility. On 3 November 1889, Menelik was consecrated and crowned as Nəgusä Nägäst before a glittering crowd of dignitaries and clegy. He was crowned by Abuna Mattewos, Bishop of Shewa, at the Church of Mary on Mount Entoto.
Subsequent to Emperor Yohannes’s death in March 1889, Prince Menelik of Shewa Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia and he established Entoto as his Capital, on the hill of Addis Ababa. Menelik expanded his rule to the south and east of the country but he faced a threat from the Italians who still occupied Massawa, Saati and the Red Sea Coast. Menelik was helpless to defend the country from the Italian occupation and he attempted to negotiate with Italians. The Treaty of Wechale was signed effectively Menelik has granted Eritrea to Italy in exchange recognition of Ethiopian sovereignty. What Menelik did not know was the Italians inserted a clause in the Italian version of the Treat of Wechale, restricting Ethiopia from foreign contact stating all contacts must be made through Italy. Menelik’s nightmare did not end there, the Italians attempted to court the Tigrayans Princes into the alliance with Eritrea and the Italians invaded north part of Tigray leading to the Battle of Adwa.
The Ethiopian army equipped with spears, machetes and a few rifles marched on Adwa to defend their country from the foreign invader Italy. In March 1896, the Ethiopians defeated the Italian army, which was one of the proudest moments in the Ethiopian history. The Italians defeat at the Battle of Adwa was not enough for the Ethiopian army who wanted to drive the Italians out of Eritrea for good. Nevertheless, Menelik returned to Addis Ababa leaving Eritrea under Italian occupation. Menelik is believed to have said, “leave the Italians to rule Eritrea beyond Merab River”. This dismayed many Ethiopians who prepared to die and defend their country’s sovereignty against Italian occupation.
After his return to Addis Ababa, Menelik negotiated with Italy to define a common border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. He signed an agreement recognising Eritrea as a sovereign state of Italy, beyond the Merab River as main border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ethiopia remained an independent and sovereign state, though Menelik lost Eritrea to Italy, during the “Scramble of Africa”.
Menelik then moved his Capital from Entoto to Addis Ababa, which is now the Capital of Ethiopia. Menelik began to build schools and hospital in Addis Ababa and introduced electricity and telephone. He continued his modernization program by building a railway, with the help of the French, linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti through Dera Awa, main trade centre of Harar.
On 27 October 1909, Menelik II suffered a massive stroke and his “mind and spirit died”. After that, Menelik was no longer able to reign, and the office was taken over by Empress Taytu as de facto ruler, until Ras Bitwaddad Tesemma was publicly appointed regent.However, he died within a year, and a council of regency — from which the empress was excluded — was formed in March 1910.
In the early morning hours of 12 December 1913, Menelik II died. He was buried quickly without announcement or ceremony at the Se’el Bet Kidane Meheret Church, on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. In 1916 Menelik II was reburied in the specially built church at Ba’eta Le Mariam Monastery of Addis Ababa.
Queen Nzingha was born to Ngola (King) Kiluanji and Kangela in 1583. According to tradition, she was named Nzingha because her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. It was said to be an indication that the person who had this characteristic would be proud and haughty, and a wise woman told her mother that Nzingha will become queen one day. According to her recollections later in life, she was greatly favoured by her father, who allowed her to witness as he governed his kingdom, and who carried her with him to war. She also had a brother, Mbandi and two sisters Kifunji and Mukambu.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese position in the slave trade was threatened by England and France. As a result, the Portuguese shifted their slave-trading activities to The Congo and South West Africa. Mistaking the title of the ruler (ngola) for the name of the country, the Portuguese called the land of the Mbundu people “Angola”—the name by which it is still known today.
The immediate cause of her embassy was her brother’s attempt to get the Portuguese to withdraw the fortress of Ambaca that had been built on his land in 1618 by the Governor Mendes de Vasconcelos, to have some of his subjects (semi-servile groups called kijiko (plural ijiko) in Kimbundu and sometimes called slaves in Portuguese) who had been taken captive during Governor Mendes de Vasconcelos’ campaigns (1617–21) returned and to persuade the governor to stop the marauding of Imbangala mercenaries in Portuguese service. Nzinga’s efforts were successful. The governor, João Correia de Sousa, never gained the advantage at the meeting and agreed to her terms, which resulted in a treaty on equal terms. One important point of disagreement was the question of whether Ndongo surrendered to Portugal and accepted vassalage status. A famous story says that in her meeting with the Portuguese governor, João Correia de Sousa did not offer a chair to sit on during the negotiations, and, instead, had placed a floor mat for her to sit, which in Mbundu custom was appropriate only for subordinates. The scene was imaginatively reconstructed by the Italian priest Cavazzi and printed as an engraving in his book of 1687. Not willing to accept this degradation she ordered one of her servants to get down on the ground and sat on the servant’s back during negotiations. By doing this, she asserted her status was equal to the governor, proving her worth as a brave and confident individual.
Nzinga converted to Christianity, possibly in order to strengthen the peace treaty with the Portuguese, and adopted the name Dona Anna de Sousa in honour of the governor’s wife when she was baptised, who was also her godmother. She sometimes used this name in her correspondence (or just Anna). The Portuguese never honoured the treaty however, neither withdrawing Ambaca, nor returning the subjects, who they held were slaves captured in war, and they were unable to restrain the Imbangala.
In 1641, the Dutch, working in alliance with the Kingdom of Kongo, seized Luanda. Nzinga soon sent them an embassy and concluded an alliance with them against the Portuguese who continued to occupy the inland parts of their colony of males with their main headquarters at the town of Masangano. Hoping to recover lost lands with Dutch help, she moved her capital to Kavanga in the northern part of Ndongo’s former domains. In 1644 she defeated the Portuguese army at Ngoleme, but was unable to follow up. Then, in 1646, she was defeated by the Portuguese at Kavanga and, in the process, her other sister was captured, along with her archives, which revealed her alliance with Kongo. These archives also showed that her captive sister had been in secret correspondence with Nzinga and had revealed coveted Portuguese plans to her. As a result of the woman’s spying, the Portuguese reputedly drowned the sister in the Kwanza River.
However, another account states that the sister managed to escape, and ran away to modern-day Namibia.
The Dutch in Luanda now sent Nzinga reinforcements, and with their help, Nzinga routed a Portuguese army in 1647. Nzinga then laid siege to the Portuguese capital of Masangano. The Portuguese recaptured Luanda with a Brazilian-based assault led by Salvador Correia de Sá, and in 1648, Nzinga retreated to Matamba and continued to resist Portugal. She resisted the Portuguese well into her sixties, personally leading troops into battle.
In 1657, weary from the long struggle, Nzinga signed a peace treaty with Portugal. After the wars with Portugal ended, she attempted to rebuild her nation, which had been seriously damaged by years of conflict and over-farming. She devoted her efforts to resettling former slaves and allowing women to bear children. Despite numerous efforts to dethrone her, especially by Kasanje, whose Imbangala band settled to her south, Nzinga would die a peaceful death at age eighty on 17 December 1663 in Matamba. Matamba went though a civil war in her absence, but Francisco Guterres Ngola Kanini eventually carried on the royal line in the kingdom. Her death accelerated the Portuguese occupation of the interior of South West Africa, fueled by the massive expansion of the Portuguese slave trade. Portugal would not have control of the interior until the 20th century. Today, she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, great wit and intelligence, as well as her brilliant military tactics. In time, Portugal and most of Europe would come to respect her.
Make sure you check out this week’s episode of the “Straight Outta Lo Cash” Radio Show. This week’s show “B****, I’m Mis Talented” feat hip hop artist Vandalyzm . You can also subscribe to the show on I-Tunes or listen on your Android, I-Phone, or I-Pad with Stitcher Radio.