Africa: What Every Black Person Should Know

By Henderson, Shirley | Ebony, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Africa: What Every Black Person Should Know


Henderson, Shirley, Ebony


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AFRICA, THE MOTHERLAND AND CRADLE OF HUMANITY, has a history as varied and as rich as her natural resources. Scientific evidence confirms that early man walked eastern and southern Africa as many as 3 million years before the birth of Christ. Ancient Black civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) thrived in northern Africa. However, by the end of World War II, only two countries in Africa were not colonized--Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia) and Liberia. Today, Africa, the second-largest of the Earth's seven continents (Asia is larger), consists of 52 countries--each with its own unique story.

Key Events in AFRICA's History

1440s

The first African people are captured, taken to Portugal and enslaved. In 1514, the Atlantic slave trade begins, forcibly removing 12 million Africans and transporting them to various countries.

1832/1863

The British abolish slavery in the West Indies, and slaves in the United States are emancipated in 1863.

1850s

The New Era (1855) was the first privately owned newspaper established in Sierra Leone, and it was the beginning of the Black African newspaper press.

1871-1912

Global European imperialism is heightened throughout Africa and colonization cuts throughout the continent.

1884-85

The Berlin Conference convenes. Rivalries among European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Portugal) and the United States, for claim to African holdings resulted in the Berlin Conference. While negotiations were made, no African states were represented at the conference.

1899-1902

The Anglo-Boer (Afrikaner) War in South Africa leads to the domination of the country's Black majority.

1947

Decolonization movements intensify after the end of World War II (1939-1945).

1948

South African literature exposes the plight of Black Africans and apartheid, a legalized system of racial separation, by writers such as Thomas Mofolo, Solomon Tshekisho Plattje, Neil Parsons and Samuel E. K. Mqhayi.

1957

Ghana becomes an independent Black state under Kwame Nkrumah. Sierra Leone (1961), Gambia (1965) and other states follow.

1954-1962

French colonies in Africa resist French rule. In 1962, after a civil war in Algeria, the country gains its independence, preceded by Morocco and Tunisia.

1950-1960s

Dennis Brutus, a South African poet and activist, describes racial oppression in South Africa in Sirens Knuckles Boots, his poetry collection, which outlined the everyday horrors of apartheid. Other Black intellectuals and literary greats emerge, including Wole Soyinka, Cheikh Anta Diop, Ama Ata Aidoo and Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

1964

Nelson Mandela is on trial along with other members of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa. Mandela delivers his famous "Speech from the Dock" at the Pretoria Supreme Court before he was imprisoned on Robben Island. …

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