Africa: Glory of the Past, Hope for the Future

Published on 13th February 2007

“Africa is no historical part of the world,” declared Hegel, a German philosopher in the 19th century. David Hume, a Scottish philosopher also declared that there scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that (black) complexion, nor even any individual, eminent in action, speculation, ingenious manufacture, arts and science among them.

Why is Africa being dismissed from history? Why is little mention of African achievements done? A great deal is written about Dr. David Livingstone. What about Chuma and Susi who nursed him, cooked for him, carried his luggage? Just two words: “faithful servants” and an addition: “they wept when he died.” Is this fair?

Much is said about Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone, but what about Lewis Latimer, an African who did all its vital moving parts? Graham Bell is elevated but Latimer is not mentioned. A great deal is written about Thomas Edison who created the principle of the electric light. His light went out in twenty minutes until Latimer created the filament. This made it go on indefinitely. Edison’s accomplishments are mentioned but Lewis Latimer’s are completely left out of history. Elijah McCoy invented a drip coupling for lubrication that revolutionized the whole concept of lubrication. So many whites stole from him that anytime somebody took anything related to the patent he was asked, “Did you steal it directly or indirectly from McCoy, or is it the real McCoy?”

There is large evidence that Pythagoras, Archimedes, Aristotle, Plato and Hippocrates all borrowed their philosophy and practices heavily from Egypt. Africa instructed people in science, medicine, law, engineering, writing and religion among others. Africa produced the ancestors of the present Queen of England. Elizabeth’s grandparents are related to George III, who was the son of Alexander the Medici, the Cardinal of Rome who later became Pope, and an Ethiopian women by the name Martha.

Why is this Knowledge about Africa suppressed? It will come to light that it was gold from the great empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai which provided Europe’s economic take off in the 13th and 14th centuries. Europe awoke from the lethargy of the middle ages at the expense of African people. Africa’s minerals and cheap labour helped build European empires.

The West can’t stand the fact that their knowledge of astronomy and navigation was heavily borrowed from Africa which had “…many Judges, professors, devout men...scholars…” as recorded by Leo Africanus. Leo accounts that there was a booming business in the sale of books in North Africa. To resurrect a historical fact that a combination of Africans, Arabs and Berbers conquered Spain and ruled the Iberian peninsular in the year 711 AD is unfathomable to the West.

It is feared that if Africans come to grips with their glorious part, they will resolve to recapture it. Colonialism brings to us a history written by the conqueror for the conquered to read and enjoy. Information about the world is also colonized. We glorify foreign heroes and forget about out own. We speak about the first man to see Mt Kilimanjaro as if we who lived next to the mountain were blind and not men.  

Shall we continue to be the rearguard for somebody else’s way of life…or rebuild our own? We sustained the greatest civilization the world has ever known for thousands of years along the Nile River, where it rarely rains. We knew what to do. Looking at what we gave to the world before the coming of Europeans, we need to say, we can do it again.

The rest of the world is miles ahead of us. We must sit down and evaluate how to tap this race for our benefit. With China beckoning and the West no longer at ease, this is the time to bargain, not as beggars, but as a continent with something to offer. Long live Africa.

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