Why Black History Month should never begin with slavery

tags: slavery, Black History Month, Black History

... The biggest problem that my wife and I have with Black History Month (and black history in general) is that, far too often, it begins with American slavery.

At least 70,000 years ago, deep in South Africa, traces of modern men and women have been found. In 2002, in the Blombos caves of South Africa, the earliest abstract art was discovered and believed to be from that period — the earliest art ever found. In Africa, traces of migration routes, art and civilization take us all the way through the Nubian kingdoms that began 7,000 years ago. During that time, not hundreds, or thousands, but millions of Africans lived and died before the idea of the trans-Atlantic slave trade would come into being.

Thousands of years before American slavery, African kingdoms like the Axum Empire ruled. Other rich civilizations like the Ghana or Songhai empires have so much to tell that they alone could fill Black History Month.

Nearly 300 years before American slavery, Mana Musa, who ruled in what would be modern day West Africa, was the richest man alive. Adjusted for inflation, his wealth is estimated to have been more than $400 billion — which would make him the richest man to have ever lived. Of course, this means he oversaw a complex economy with a rich culture — all overlooked in most basic retellings of black history.

In the 1500s, Leo Africanus wrote of Timbuktu that its king "hath always 3,000 horsemen ... (and) a great store of doctors, judges, priests and other learned men, that are bountifully maintained at the king's cost and charges.” ...

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