Below is an introduction to teaching African history.
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KingdomsSlavery & Slave TradeColonialism | Independence



This image of Mansa Musa is from a famous Catalan map of the world from the 14th c. Its depiction of the Malian emperor teaches two concepts. First, that Europeans perceived African monarchs as powerful and equal to European kings (though the Malian king was in fact more powerful). Second, this depiction of Mansa Musa, holding a golden scepter and trading gold to the Berber, shows European understanding that much of European gold in this period arrived from these West African empires.


Introduction to Teaching African History


In order to teach African history effectively, there are a few key understandings in content to keep in mind.

  1. Africa is and has always been connected—a part of the world
    • With the Middle East (from 400 CE)
    • With Asia across the Indian Ocean (from before 800 CE)
    • With Europe across the Mediterranean (from 800 CE)
    • And later with the Americas through multiple exchanges in trade and culture
  2. Africa has a long history
  3. Africa is diverse
    • religion
    • landscapes
    • wealth
    • politics
    • history
    • clothing
    • music
    • ethnicity. . . and the relative importance attached to ethnicity
    • urban/rural
  4. Geography matters

Good Pedagogy on Africa Generally Benefits From:

  1. Recognizing the depth and breadth of misconceptions
    about the continent
  2. Compelling visuals
  3. “Meeting Africans”—i.e., hearing African voices
    • in person
    • in primary sources
    • in literature
    • on film
  4. Going for depth of learning, even when you have very limited time

Here are some resources to help students recognize common misconceptions about the continent.

Africa: True or False?
African and European Images of Each Other
Historical Fiction on Africa

Resources for Teaching Africa:

♦  Kingdoms

♦  Slavery & Slave Trade

♦  Colonialism

♦  Independence Movements