KEYS TO THE DIASPORA DOOR


In keeping with our efforts to encourage greater familiarity with the history of all the nations of Africa, we have attempted to provide in the following pages an overview of some of the more significant historical developments, which influenced the course of events culminating in the Diaspora of the indigenous peoples of that diverse continent. As in any conflict between invaders and the invaded, the interwoven roles of politics, religion, economics and culture created challenges and opportunities that were not readily discernible at the time. The eventual outcome, however, clearly reflects the ability of the African peoples to withstand the most devastating effects of enslavement in their own land and abroad, colonialism on their own soil, and divestment of key elements of their personal identity and culture. To have survived and even thrived under such conditions is their victory.

The first civilizations began in Africa and Asia. Let's look at ancient Egypt, which is in Africa. It's in the middle of a giant desert. Even though they lived in a desert, the ancient Egyptians were among the first people to learn to farm. The Egyptians soil wasn't as dry as you might think. Egypt had very little rain, but she had a great treasure - a fantastic flooding river called the NILE, the longest river in the world.

Once a year the Nile overflows its bank and turns one of the driest parts of the world into fertile ground. After the floods, for about ten miles along either side of the river the soil turns a rich black color, full of minerals and other good things that help crops grow.

When the Egyptians began to grow crops they could eat, then they didn't have to hunt as much. They began to stay in one place in order to be near their fields and take care of their crops. They began to build villages and cities, which developed into a civilization.


RELIGIONS


What Different People Believe


Have you noticed that when people talk about early civilizations, they mention "the gods"? When they talk about the gods, or God, that people believe in, they are talking about their religion.

During ancient times the people of Egypt and other countries believed in many gods. They believed in gods of nature, such as a sun god and an earth god. Thousands of years ago Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were just getting started. These three religions do not believe in many gods. Instead, all of these religions believe in just one God. (When you refer to just one God, you spell the name with a capital "G".)


Judaism


Thousand of years ago, this belief in just one God was a new idea, which came first from the religion called Judaism. The followers of Judaism today are called Jews.



The Story of Moses


Moses was a great leader of the Jewish people. Way back in the time of Moses, the Jewish people were known by another name: Hebrews. The story of Moses begins in Egypt more than three thousand years ago, an awful time for the Hebrews because they were forced by the Egyptians to work as slaves. The Star of David is an important symbol of the Jewish religion. Passover and Hanukkah are two important Jewish holidays.


Christianity


Christianity began two thousand years ago, having grown out of the religion of Judaism. Moses led the Hebrews to their promised homeland, called Israel. But there were still many hard times ahead. More than once, the Jewish people were conquered and ruled over, as they had been by the Egyptians.

The powerful Romans conquered the Jewish people, as well as many other people. It was hard for the Jewish people to be ruled by the Romans. Many people in Israel hoped for a savior - a person who would come and save them. Many Jewish people thought that when the messiah came, he would lead the Jews against their Roman conquerors and make them free.

Into this world was born Jesus of Nazareth, who many people, believed was the Messiah the Jewish people were waiting for. These people are called Christians because Jesus was also called the Christ (which means something like "the chosen one").

A cross is an important symbol of Christianity. Christians celebrate the birthday of Jesus on the day called Christmas and believe that on the third day after Jesus died, he rose from the dead; Many christians celebrate his resurrection as Easter.


Islam


A long time after Jesus lived - in fact, more than five hundred years later - a man named Muhammad was born in the land called Arabia. Followers of Islam are called Muslims (sometimes spelled Moslems).

Muhammad was a respected merchant in his hometown of Mecca whom many people called al-Amin, which means, "the trustworthy". Because he was a merchant, Muhammad traveled widely to buy and sell his goods. In his travels he met different people. Some of them were followers of Judaism and Christianity. From these Jews and Christians, Muhammad learned about the idea of one God. And from the Christians he learned about the teachings of Jesus. Here is the story the Muslims tell about how their religion began. Muhammad liked to go off to sit alone in a quiet cave, where he could think about things that were worrying him. One day, when he was forty years old, he went to the cave and there he had a vision. Muhammad saw an angel; Muslims believe that God spoke to Muhammad through the angel, who told Muhammad to tell everyone in Arabia that there was only one God, whose name is Allah. "Allah" is the Arabic word for the English word "God". So, you see, Muslims worship the same God that the Jewish people and Christians worship. The Star and Crescent have become an important symbol of Islam.




The Growth of Islam


In the early Middle Ages, while most of Europe was emerging from the Dark Ages, the highly cultured civilization of Islam was beginning to reach maturity. The Muslims had divided themselves into different religious groups, just as the Christians had split between Rome and Constantinople. Two main groups were called Sunni (SOON ey) and Shiite (SHE iyt). Although the writings of Greek and Roman civilization were nearly forgotten in Europe, Muslim scholars kept many alive. Islamic study of mathematics and medicine flourished. During this period Europeans were isolated from the rest of the world. In, contrast, adventurous Muslim merchants carried on trade with Asia and Africa, and thereby brought the Islamic religion and new knowledge to these faraway regions. Many Muslim merchants traveled in camel caravans across the Sahara Desert. They were headed just south of the Sahara to the grassy, sometimes wooded regions known as the Sudan. (In Arabic, Sudan means "Land of the black-people.") The Muslim merchants took with them cloth, spices, copper, silver, horses, and other goods. In the Sudan, they traded these goods for gold and slaves. The great demand for gold and slaves led to the rise of rich kingdoms in the Sudan, including the empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai.


RISE OF AFRICAN EMPIRES AND TRADE


The Slave Trade


When we look back on the development of civilization, we need to remember how often that development has been achieved at a great cost in human sweat, blood and freedom. Every year thousands of blacks from the Sudan were sold as slaves. They were usually the prisoners captured in wars between various African peoples. Some of those who survived the terrible march across the desert to the North African ports would be resold and put to work as servants and laborers for the wealthy people in those countries. But many worked as slaves in Africa itself.

The harsh truth is that slavery was accepted for many years, even in modem times. The slave trade continued to thrive in Africa until the 1800's and many of those slaves ended up here in America.

Islam in Africa


When people trade with each other for a long time, they exchange more than goods. Over time, they exchange ideas and ways of life. As Muslim traders and scholars settled in towns in the Sudan, they spread the religion of Islam. Mosques were built in many towns. During the fifteenth century in the Songhai Empire, several colleges were established in the city of Timbuktu. In those colleges, Islamic professors taught law and religion.

Among the African population, often only the leaders and merchants would become Muslims. Most other people held onto their traditional worship of spirits and ancestors. In the kingdom of Ghana, the religion of the inhabitants divided the capital city. One half, the business part, was Muslim; the other half, where the king lived, did not follow Islam but instead maintained the traditional tribal ways and beliefs.




The Splendid Reign of Mansa Musa


From 1312 to 1337, Mansa Musa ruled the kingdom of Mali. His empire was vast and rich, mainly because of the great amount of gold found in the kingdom. Mansa Musa was a Muslim, and had hundreds of slaves carry heavy bars of gold for him on his pilgrimage to Mecca. Mansa Musa, with his almost unbelievable wealth and legions of followers, created a great sensation in Mecca and became famous in far-off lands.

Churches of Rock


Islam continued to spread through parts of Africa in the eighth through the sixteenth centuries. But one African kingdom remained different. This was Ethiopia, which had become Christian when monks converted the king in the fourth century. King Lalibela, who ruled Ethiopia from 1200 to 1230, ordered the building of eleven large churches. The ground was very hard; in fact, much of it was solid rock. We cannot build churches, said the king, so we will carve them. And that's what the Ethiopians did. Every part of each of these amazing” rock churches" - the windows, doors, arches, decorations - was cut out of a single huge mass of solid rock!

The Engineers of Zimbabwe


In southeastern Africa, another impressive kingdom developed in Zimbabwe. This kingdom grew wealthy through the trade of gold. The name Zimbabwe means, "Stone enclosure." At the ancient site called Great Zimbabwe, two huge stone walls were built that encircled the city, protecting palaces, royal tombs, place of worship, and places t6 store food. These walls are more than thirty feet high!


The people of Zimbabwe must have been very skilled engineers because they discovered a way to make each stone in these huge walls fit together tightly. They did such a good job that the walls are still standing today!


The Travel of Ibn Battuta


Some of what we know about these great African empires comes from the writings of a Muslim who lived in the Middle Ages. His name was Ibn Battuta (IHI3 uhn bat TOO tah). He traveled east overland from his native country of Morocco all the way across northern Africa. Later he explored the Middle East. He also traveled overland to India, to the court of the sultan, who sent him to China. Just a few of the other places he visited in almost thirty years of traveling were Spain, Timbuktu, and the Niger River. His writings are still a rich source of information about the places he visited and the time in which he lived.




European Exploration and the Clash of Cultures


The Muslim Control of Trade


Conquistadors like Cortes and Pizarro were part of a wave of Europeans who ventured from European shores to lands both near and far. Beginning in the fifteenth century, ship after ship sailed from Portugal and Spain and later from the Netherlands and England, on voyages that would take them to the fabled East described by Marco Polo. They also sailed to continents that the Europeans called a "New World," because before the 1400s most Europeans did not know that North and South America existed. For Cortes, Pizarro, and others, the voyages of exploration often turned into voyages of conquest. The Europeans didn't set out simply to find what was there. They set out to convert people they met to Christianity. And they set out to grow rich, sometimes by trading with the people they met, sometimes by simply taking whatever they wanted.

Before the fifteenth century, Europeans had rarely sailed far from their own shores. They knew that China, Africa, and the Indies existed, because these lands were the sources of many goods that Europeans enjoyed, including silk, gold, and spices. But Europeans had not traveled to get these valuable goods for themselves. Instead, they relied on Muslim merchants, who brought spices and other riches from Asia, and dominated both the land and the sea routes to the East.

Arabs rapidly spread the new religion over many lands, from the Persian Gulf in the southeast to Spain in the west, and from the eastern coast of Africa into North Africa. As Arabs carried their religion far and wide, they forged bonds between many different peoples in many different regions bordering the Near East. Over time, as more and more people became Muslims, they learned at least a little of the Arabic language as they studied the Islamic faith.

A common language helps make trade possible, for then people of different regions can communicate with each other as they go about buying and selling goods. For many years, adventurous Muslim merchants carried on most of the trade between eastern countries and Western Europe. By the thirteenth century, Muslim traders were regularly transporting spices from the islands now called Indonesia, grain from Egypt, gold from other parts of Africa, and silk and porcelain from China.

Although Europeans had fought against Muslims in the Crusades, they later had to rely on Muslim traders to supply the goods and luxuries they wanted. The great success of Muslim traders was partly responsible for Europeans deciding to undertake explorations in the 1400s. They set out to find their own trade routes to the East, or to take over Muslim trade routes, in part because they wanted the riches of the East without having to pay the high prices demanded by the Muslim traders.

Early Portuguese Explorations


In many cases, the economic struggle to control also became a holy war, pitting Christian against Muslim. This mixture of economic and religious motives drove Prince Henry of Portugal, in the early 1400s, to fight in the North African area called Morocco against Muslims whom the Europeans called "Moors".




It wasn't until 1434 that a Portuguese ship sailed for the first time past Cape Bojador on the west coast of Africa. Portugal gained wealth from its trade with African kingdoms, but still the Portuguese were impatient to find a way around Africa to India. In 1487, a Portuguese captain named Bartolomeu Dias set out to find out where the west coast of Africa led. Like most sailors of the time he kept close to the shore, but the winds and currents drove him into unknown waters. Out of sight of land, he turned north and finally caught sight of land again. He found the tip of Africa and sailed around it! He left a stone pillar to mark the tip of Africa, which he called the Cape of Torment. The Portuguese king renamed it the Cape of Good Hope because he was happy his ships were that much closer to reaching the East.

Before reaching India, the Portuguese would find themselves challenged by another European country equally determined to gain wealth and-make coverts to Christianity: Spain, and one explorer who sailed under the Spanish flag is a figure you're familiar with - Christopher Columbus. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella shared the mixture of economic and religious motives that drove Columbus. They wanted the great cargoes of gold and other goods Columbus promised to bring back. And they agreed with what may have been Columbus's strongest motivation, a fervent desire to spread Christianity wherever he went.

The rulers' desire to spread Christianity also extended to Spain itself. Though many Jews and Muslims had lived in Spain for a long time, Ferdinand and Isabella were determined to continue the centuries-old policy of Spain's Christian rulers to drive all non-Christians from the country. In 1492, shortly before Columbus sailed, they ordered all Jews in Spain to become Christians or leave the country, and they sent troops to expel all remaining Muslims who would not become Christian.

Though Columbus did not "discover America," as people used to say, his voyage in 1492 marks the beginning of a complex story. It is a story of different peoples and cultures that would eventually, and sometimes painfully, come together to form different nations in the Americas.


Who Will Rule’ the Waves?


After Columbus's voyage in 1492, Spain and Portugal began competing to find and lay claim to new lands. This intense competition might have lead to war. But there was one authority that both Spain and Portugal listened to - the leader of the Catholic Church, the pope. The pope didn't want the two countries to go to war, but he did want both countries to continue their explorations, again for economic and religious reasons. Both Spain and Portugal gave large amounts of money to the church each year, so the richer these countries grew, the richer grew the church. The church also saw the lands as fertile places to spread Christianity, and it often sent its priests as missionaries to convert the native peoples.

To keep peace between Spain and Portugal, the pope ruled that the two countries would share the seas and had them sign the Treaty of Tordesillas (tor-de-SEE-yas) in 1494. The treaty drew a line of longitude from pole to pole, 370 leagues west of Cape Verde islands (a league is about three miles). The treaty said that all the land east of that line would belong to Portugal, including India and the African lands Portugal had claimed. The treaty went on to say that all land west of that line, including the lands Columbus had encountered, would belong to Spain.



The pope's treaty did not anticipate that other countries like England and the Netherlands would soon begin their own explorations, which shows how thoroughly Portugal and Spain dominated the seas around Europe during the late 1400s. And the Treaty of Tordesillas failed to take account of something else: had anyone asked the peoples who lived in the Caribbean islands, or Africa, or India what they wanted? What does the very idea of dividing the world between Spain and Portugal suggest about Europeans' sense of themselves in relation to the rest of the world at that time?


Da Gania and Cabral


With the treaty between Spain and Portugal in mind, the confident Portuguese continued to send expeditions to the south. Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese nobleman and businessman, knew he could grow rich by finding a route around Africa to India. He set out in 1497 with four ships and 170 men to find the way.

After finding and going around the Cape of Good Hope, Da Gama sailed up the eastern coast of Africa, an area entirely new to Europeans. Da Gama was lucky when he landed in the port of Malindi, in what is now Kenya. There he met Ahmad ibn- Majid (ah-MAHD ih-ibn-mahJEED), an experienced Muslim sailor who joined the voyage and showed Da Gama the route to India.

By finding the sea route to India, Vasco da Gama brought back great wealth for the Portuguese, wealth that paid for even more exploration and conquests. After Da Gama's success, another Portuguese explorer and trader, Pedro Cabral (ca-BRAL), set out for India. On his way, he went farther west of his planned course - so far that he crossed the Atlantic and unexpectedly landed on the coast of South America! He stayed only ten days, but claimed the new land, which is called Brazil, for Portugal, because it lay east of the line established by the pope in the Treaty of Toredsillas. That's why today, while most people in South America speak Spanish, the language of Brazil is Portuguese.

The Portuguese ships had an advantage over most others sailing the seas: they were heavily armed with cannons. The Portuguese used this military advantage to take over many trade routes that had been controlled by Muslims. In other cases, the Portuguese allowed Muslims to continue trading but forced them to pay taxes to the Portuguese. Ant Muslim ship sailing through the Indian Ocean, for example, had to have a permit and pay a tax, or risk being sunk by the Portuguese.


Magellan Goes Around the World


In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan set out on what would be the first journey around the world. Although Magellan was Portuguese, he had fallen out of favor with the Portuguese king, and King Charles of Spain financed his trip. Magellan convinced the Spanish king that he would claim vast lands for Spain by sailing west from Europe and exploring the area allowed to Spain by the Treaty of Toredsillas

Magellan's crew sailed along the coast of Brazil, looking for what Magellan -believed to be a strait leading west to the Pacific Ocean. All of this was new territory for the Europeans: no one had yet sailed the length of South America, he named it for himself, and we still- call it the Strait of Magellan. Magellan also gave the Pacific Ocean the name we still use today. Like Columbus, who set out to reach the east by sailing west, Magellan had hoped that by sailing west he would avoid having to go around Africa, and instead would reach Moluccas



(moh-LOOcahs), or "Spice Islands," from the east. But Magellan was killed in the Philippines during a fight with the natives’ peoples there. His trip cost may other lives as well. One ship did survive, however, and in 1522, the first ship to sail around the world returned to Spain.


Zheng He


The Portuguese and Spanish weren't the only ones exploring the seas in the 1400. Back in 1405, a Chinese navigator and explorer named Zheng He (JUNG Huh) sailed far and wide throughout the Indian Ocean. Zheng He introduced China to more than twenty nations, including those of East Africa and Arabia. One time he even brought an African giraffe back to China.

Unlike Europe, which was turning its face outward to new lands, China began to close its borders and turn away from the outside world, convinced their country and culture -would only be harmed by contact with foreigners. China stopped exploring beyond its borders just when the Portuguese began to set out to find new lands.


The Dutch Head East


The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set out on voyages of trade and conquest, but other countries were not far behind. The Netherlands also sent many ships to sea. People of the Netherlands are called Dutch. The Netherlands is located on the coast, and Amsterdam became a very important port.

Until the late 1500s, traders from the Netherlands had made their profits by transporting spices and cloth from Mediterranean’s ports back to Amsterdam. Then the Spanish King ordered that Dutch ships could no longer use the trade routes along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. Determined to keep their trade routes open, Dutch merchants set up the Dutch East India Company in 1602. Investors provided money to the Dutch East India Company to finance more trading voyages. The Dutch government provided its support and ordered the Dutch navy to help as well. With navy ships to protect them-and fight the Spanish and Portuguese when necessary_Dutch-trading ships managed to make many profitable journeys. Soon the Dutch East India Company controlled all trade between the Netherlands and the East Indies. Dutch trading ships traveled as far as Japan and the land that is now Vietnam. The Dutch became the leading suppliers to Europe of silk and indigo (a popular blue dye), as well as spices. The half way point from Amsterdam to Indonesia is the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The Dutch founded Cape Town as a supply station. It became important later as Europeans began to invade and settle parts of South Africa. The white people in South Africa who are called today Afrikaners descended from the early Dutch Settlers, and their language, called Afrikaans, is a form of Dutch.


Where Are the English?


Although England was not a great sea power during the time of Magellan or Columbus, the English became aggressive traders and explorers (and even pirates) after 1600. In that year Queen Elizabeth I gave the English East India Company a charter establishing it as the only English company that could trade in the East Indies. The monopoly meant that English merchant ships would not fight among themselves over trade routes. As a result, the English East India Company grew very quickly. The English competed against the Dutch in Indonesia, and also began establishing trade posts in India, a country they would later take over entirely.



Because the Portuguese - and afterward the Dutch - controlled the southerly trade routes in the Indian Ocean, the English decided to try a northerly route to Asia. Since the English did not know the shape of the American continent, they searched in vain for a " northwest passage, a route that would allow them to sail above North America to Asia. Their search did not lead to scores of gold or a quick route to Asia, but they found out a great deal about North America when they landed at Newfoundland and other northern coasts. Just as the Spanish took the lead in exploring Central and South America, the English dominated exploration of the Atlantic coast of North America.

Europe's New World Colonies


Most European explorers sailed in search of gold, spice, and souls to convert to Christianity. But some Europeans were also interested in moving to the new lands and taking them over. These lands became colonies: regions under the control of faraway governments in distant lands.

When Cortes defeated the Aztecs and forced them to submit to Spanish rule, he colonized them; in later years, the Spanish created colonies in much of the rest of South America, as well as in the Caribbean Islands that had been claimed by Columbus. When Cabral bumped into Brazil, he made it a Portuguese colony. The United States also started this way. As you know, when the English came to North America, they established thirteen colonies.

As Europeans colonized the Americas, the native civilizations began to disappear. Though most Europeans wrongly tended to see the native Americans as "inferior" peoples who could be used as slaves, or as "heathens" to be converted to Christianity, they didn't want them to die. Nevertheless, without knowing it, the Europeans brought a silent weapon. Diseases to which Europeans had built up some resistance wiped out whole villages, but the natives had not. The great killers were sicknesses such as smallpox, measles, and typhus.


Sugar, Plantations, and Slavery


The Portuguese began colonizing other lands as early as 1419, even before they sailed beyond Cape Bojador, claiming islands in the Atlantic, along with the island of Sao Tome (SOW toeMAY), which became sites for a new industry - the manufacturing of sugar. Portuguese citizens moved to these new lands, setting up homes and businesses, while still following the rule of the Portuguese king.

Growing sugarcane and turning it into the kind of sugar you might use to make cookies became a big business for the first time in the 1400s. By the early 1500s the Portuguese island colony of Sao Tome was the largest single producer of sugar for Europeans to purchase. Harvesting and processing sugarcane was back-breaking work that required many men. The growing appetite for sugar and money it would make had a tragic consequence: a demand for slaves to work the plantations.

At first, the Portuguese took Africans to work as slaves mostly to the island plantations’ or to Portugal and Spain. But then the European colonies across the Atlantic began to demand slave labor as well. The plantation system on Sao Tome - where African slaves did the work while Europeans profited from their labor- became the model for plantations in the Americas and the Caribbean. Let's look at how the awful practice of slavery spread, and why.




The Transatlantic Slave Trade


As you read earlier, while the Portuguese were intent upon finding a way around Africa to India, the Spanish crossed the Atlantic and opened the way for European colonization of the Americas and the Caribbean. European settlers were quick to exploit the wealth of the New World, setting up gold and silver mines in the Andes Mountains, and plantations to grow sugar on the Caribbean islands.

At first, Europeans often forced the native peoples to work in the mines or on the plantations. When disease wiped out the native peoples, the Europeans looked to Africa for a new source of laborers. The demand for slave labor increased as more plantations were established: in South America and the West Indies, to grow sugar and coffee; and -in -the English colonies that would become the southern United States, to grow rice, tobacco, and much later cotton.

By the mid- I 600s, Spain had colonies in the West Indies and in Central and South America. The Dutch and Portuguese were in Brazil. The English and French were in North America and the West Indies. All of these European colonies imported Africans to work as slaves.

For the most part, Europeans traders purchased as slaves those Africans who had been taken captive in wars between African states. A few powerful African rulers became very rich by selling prisoners of war into slavery. Part of the coast of West Africa became known as the "Slave Coast" because so many slaves were bought and sold there. (Benin was one of the kingdoms we talked about earlier). The Portuguese established a colony in Angola largely for the purpose of buying African to enslave them.

African traders would march groups of chained captives to busy trading ports. There, Europeans merchants would offer manufactured goods such as textiles, metal-wares, and alcohol in exchange for people. In the late 1600s European traders also began offering guns in exchange for slaves. In the 6ighteenth century, some African states, like Ashanti (Ghana) and Dahomey (WC Africa on the coast of Guinea); became wealthy when they used European guns to go to war against neighboring states for the specific purpose of taking captives to sell into slavery.

The European traders profited from a network of buying and selling known as "the triangular trade." It was called triangular because ships made three journeys that formed the sides of a triangle. Ships would leave Europe stocked with goods to exchange for slaves in Africa. From Africa, loaded with slaves, the ships would cross the Atlantic to the colonies in the Caribbean and the Americas. There, the traders would sell the slaves for goods like sugar, cotton, and Tobacco - all of which were produced by slave labor. The traders would then return to Europe and sell those goods for their profit.

Africans sold into slavery had to suffer an agonizing voyage across the Atlantic called the Middle Passage. Enormous slave ships were built specifically for the purpose of making this terrible voyage. The captains of these ships forced slaves to lie on their backs, crammed like sardines in a can, one person's head next to the next one's feet. With red-hot irons, slave traders branded their captives like cattle, and shackled male slaves with heavy chains. So many slaves died during the Middle Passage- one out of every ten - that sharks followed the slave ships waiting to devour the corpses thrown overboard.



It is estimated that between 1520 and 1870, more than ten million African people were taken across the Atlantic to work as slaves, mostly after the mid- I 600s. Most went to the Caribbean colonies and to Latin America. Beginning in 1619 - when a Dutch ship left about twenty blacks at Jamestown, Virginia - the institution of slavery took hold in the English colonies that would become the United States.


East Africa: The Rise of the Swahili City-States


As early as A.D. 100, Greek and Roman ships made their way to the east African coast of the Indian Ocean. African towns began to flourish as centers of trade when Arab traders learned how to use the seasonal winds known as monsoons. Every year between November and March the monsoon winds blow from Asia toward east Africa. Then, between April and October, the winds change direction and blow toward India and the Persian Gulf.

As the Arabs took up Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries, many Muslims settled in the east African trading towns and often married with African peoples there. Some of the east African adopted Islam as their religion. They added number of Arabic words to the Bantu language they spoke. They came to call themselves the Swahili, meaning "people of the coast," from the Arabic word sahil, meaning "coast." (The Swahili language is now the most widely spoken of the African languages among people of eastern Africa.)

By the 1400s, when the Portuguese first arrived, Africa was a continent of diverse kingdoms, languages, and cultures. In 1498, the city-state of Malindi welcomed Vasco da Gama, who, you recall, was lucky enough to find a Muslim sailor to guide him to India. When Da Gama returned to Portugal with news of the wealthy Swahili city-states, the Portuguese decided they would seize them for their own. They sailed their heavily armed ships into east African harbors and demanded that a number of the African rulers become subjects of the Portuguese king and hand over many valuable goods as a tribute. Any town that resisted this arrogant demand was bombarded, looted, and burned. In 1505, Mombasa and Kilwa fell to the Portuguese. In the next decade, the Portuguese took control of most of the eastern coast of Africa and stayed in control until some Swahili groups regained their towns in the late 1500s.


The Slave Trade Ends but Europeans Remain


For a long time, from antiquity to the eighteenth century, many people in many countries accepted slavery as just another economic arrangement. But in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some people in Europe and America attacked the immorality and injustice of slavery. In the 1800s they finally began to convince their countryman that slavery was wrong. Slowly, one by one, countries like Great Britain, France, and the United States stopped importing slaves, which led to the quick decline of the Atlantic slave trade. After our long and bloody Civil War, the United States abolished slavery in 1866. Cuba and Brazil finally abolished slavery in the 1880s.

But even as the Europeans lost interest in Africa as a source of slaves, they were becoming more involved in Africa than ever before, for a variety of reasons. Some wanted to become wealthy by trading with the Africans. Some wanted to convert the Africans to Christianity. Others wanted to acquire scientific knowledge. Still others were simply looking for adventure.

At first Europeans were content to explore and trade. Then they started to "claim" parts of Africa for their own nations. Soon a number of European nations - England, France, Germany, Belgium, and Portugal - were competing to see who could claim the most African land. In the 1880s and 1890s these nations signed a number of treaties with each other. In these treaties, they agreed to divide among themselves almost the entire continent of Africa. No one asked the Africans what they wanted, and when the Europeans came to take possession of "their" territories, they frequently found the Africans ready to fight back fiercely.



U.S. Africa Sister Cities


D.C.- Dakar is the organizer of the U.S. Africa Sister Cities Conference. We established the Conference in 199 1. It was founded because of a lack of program issues focusing on Africa. We are an advocate organization addressing issues that affect Africa and promote public awareness through our African sister cities. We help to promote friendship and better understanding, values of mutual respect, cooperation and benefit as well as encourages a better quality of life economically, technically, and environmentally.

In 1990 at the Annual Sister Cities International (SCI) Conference in Chicago, D.C.- Dakar convened a meeting of all cities that had African sister cities. Twenty-one persons came to the meeting. After the meeting the D.C.-Dakar delegation was very energized. We presented the idea of a meeting of all U.S. African Sister Cities in Washington, D.C. The D.C.-Dakar Board approved hosting the meeting in D.C.

For the past nine years, representatives from the 85 United States cities and the 89 African cities, towns or villages that are "Sister Cities" have met annually to exchange information and promote joint projects. Every fourth year the Conference is held in an African country.

Listed below are the year, date, city and theme of prior Conferences:


1992 March 6-7 Washington, D.C. "Improving Communication and Awareness
Among U.S. African Sister Cities"
1993
March 4-6 Washington, D.C. "News / Networking / Information'

1994 March 3-5 Mansfield, OH - "Bringing it Home through Trade -
Education - Public Health"

1995 June 20-27 Dakar, Senegal, West Africa "Business Opportunities in Africa:
Focus on Health and the Environment"

1996 June 19-22 Seattle, Washington "Transcending Ethnic Borders"

1997
April 2- Washington, D.C. "Coming to America: Recent African Immigration to the United States"

1998 June 17-20 Cincinnati, OH "Partnering through Technology and
Investment"

1999 June 19-30 Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa "Linkages: From Grassroots to Government"

2000
June 28-July 2 Denver, CO "Africa Today: Meeting the Challenges of the World"

2001
April 26-29 Washington, D.C. "Building Future Progress on A Strong Tradition of Caring for and Sharing With Africa: Focus on the Millennium Generation"

2002- San Francisco, CA?
2003- Ghana, West Africa
2004- Chicago, IL?
2005- Louisville, KY?
2006- Grand Rapids, MI?
2007- Morocco, North West Africa?

Left, Meli; Right, Meli's Son - Makindara's Grandfather