Ghana, Mali and Songhai: Enduring Understandings


  1. The Sahara Desert wasn’t a huge barrier between N. Africa and W. Africa
  2. In this era, much of Africa was part of wider economic and cultural currents and thus not isolated.
  3. These kingdoms were among the wealthiest in the world in their time.
  4. West Africans and Europeans traded with each other and considered each other equal.
  5. The West African Sahel was part of wider Mediterranean and Islamic worlds.
  6. Islam facilitated trade and learning in the West African Sahel.


  1. Primary sources exist in translation and are effective teaching tools. Among them are:
    (Additional sources will become available as historians, archeologists, linguists and others carry out new research.)

    • Written records of Muslim visitors to the region
    • Epic literature
  2. Listening to African “voices” is important for students, partly because they rarely have the opportunity to do so.
  3. Visuals are key to teaching students about Africa, because students tend to have a narrow, stereotypical bank of images. And of course visuals can catch students’ imagination.
  4. The Mali and Songhai kingdoms had epic literature which has been passed down to today. It is found in written form and on recorded CDs (sung and played on instruments) and soon on CD-ROM.