Before European Conquest, Was Africa a “Dark” Continent?

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Date Submitted: 11/24/2012 09:15 PM

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Before European conquest, was Africa a “dark” continent?

Africa is the world’s second largest continent in regards to both population and area. It is also the most ethnically and linguistically diverse of all the continents. Today, it is estimated that there are at least one thousand different spoken languages and just as many ethnic groups. (Dudley, pg 12) However, for much of history, Africa has been referred to as the “Dark Continent”. This statement would be true in the eyes of 19th century European explorers. To them, Africa was an unknown isolated continent. Little did they know that Africa was a place filled with rich cultural history and intelligence. Historian Robert Garfield writes, “Kept on the fringes of Africa, and ignorant of it. Europeans turned the situation around and assumed it was Africans who were isolated.” (Dudley, pg 13) The Africans’ rich culture, customs, political structure, religion, and social structure were very important to them. However, when Europeans invaded to satisfy their greed for resources, prestige, and empire, the Africans became resistant to the Europeans’ forceful changes and thus engaged in war.

Culture and tradition were two important aspects to the Africans in the 18th and 19th centuries. They spent a great deal of time finding peace and harmony within themselves. They prayed to ancestral spirits. For example, in the book Things Fall Apart, they “prayed to their ancestors for life and health, and for protection against their enemies.” (Achebe, pg 6) The Africans were also unified as one people. Their unity strengthened as they formed resistance against the Europeans. The Europeans, thinking that the Africans prayed to a “false” religion, tried to persuade them to adhere to their religious values and customs. In the book, A Grain of Wheat, the main theme focuses on unity. Unity was needed for Kenyan independence. Unity is brought about by the strength of the people. It includes not only the community, but within...