My new book NUBIA: The Rise and Fall of African Empires introduces readers to the ancient black Kingdoms, Nations and Empires of Pre-colonial Africa. Many of these empires haven’t existed for centuries and it is fair to ask why resurrecting their memory is important. During the years I spent researching and writing, I encountered more than a few people who thought that the history of ancient African kingdoms was irrelevant to modern life. Some I encountered even felt like dredging up the memory of ancient black kingdoms evokes animosity about slavery. In their minds, causing blacks to recognize that their ancestors came from admirable civilizations might also cause them to resent the crime of slavery even more (which they tangentially argue we should just forget and move-on from). Some even argued that bringing up this history saddles whites with guilt. I found that these concerns could be reconciled by understanding that the very root of modern racism was planted in the notion of inferiority. The notion of superiority than is similarly rooted in the idea that our advanced modern society was invented by certain groups and not others. As long as we accept the mythology that blacks hail from inferior civilizations, blacks will be perceived as an inferior people. This rotten idea will infect the way blacks are perceived and more importantly the way we (as African Americans) perceive ourselves. It will impact the confidence that we have in ourselves as African Americans and it will impact perceptions others have about our competency. Without understanding the large agricultural societies many Africans were stolen from we can’t properly understand how crucial they were in building the agricultural infrastructure of The New World. Without understanding the empires and achievements of the cultures they came from, we cannot recognize the skills Africans arrived in the Americas with and how those skills contributed to our nation’s creation. If we don’t correct that record, we will forever see black slaves as merely the labor for the creative ambitions of their skilled European masters. If any of this sounds far-fetched, we should recall that Marcus Garvey noted that ” A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots“. Robert Penn Warren reminded us that “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future“. This final point by Warren, is the most critical. Warren wisely notes that an understanding of history is crucial to our common humanity and as a consequence, our mutual respect! We should all endeavor to be fully familiar with the achievements of European Culture, Native American Civilizations, Asian Cultures, Latin Cultures, Middle Eastern & Islamic Empires and African Cultures. Our modern society is built on the collective contributions of every segment of humanity and respect for each is the byproduct of an awareness of the history of every culture in the family of humanity. NUBIA: The Rise and Fall of African Empires was written as an integrated history that gives new readers a basic understanding of the history of numerous civilizations and not just African cultures. The benefit of this approach is that we can place Africa in its proper context and develop an awareness of the role African Empires played in world history.
This video demonstrates that poisonous ideologies bloom in the manure-filled soil of ignorance. When we re-imagine the modern world to have been created by the efforts of a singular group, notions of superiority are the inevitable result.