African history is as much a part of Black History month as Martin Luther King Jr and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. When we African Americans limit ourselves to only studying our history here in America, we are ignoring over 25,ooo years of African history and knowledge of self. This post is part of our ongoing February series tagged #RealBlackHistory – the Black History that is NOT taught in the public
fool school system.
The Powerful African Kingdom of Ashanti
The Ashanti Kingdom was impressive in both size, strength, and culture. Like most African cultures, the Ashanti were run by the women, reflected in the rights of selection performed by the senior woman of chiefly lineage. Only she could choose who could be the next chief. The legal system was also as complicated as those in existence today, and communications were just as effective. The Ashanti invented the “talking drum”, a system of drums designed to communicate messages up to 200 miles (321.8 kilometers) away as rapidly as a telegraph could. But of all these accomplishments, none matched Ashanti military accomplishments. At its height, the Ashanti Army was 80,000 deep. Armament was primarily with firearms, but some historians hold that indigenous organization and leadership probably played a more crucial role in Ashanti successes.
From the 1600s and onward, European demand for gold and slaves on the coast, and Mande migrations from the north following the fall of the Songhai empire meant an explosion in trading activity in West Africa. A series of divided clans rose and fell, all of which tried to control the trade routes from the rich Akan gold fields to the African coast. To the south of the Akan gold fields, the rich and powerful states of Denkyira and Akwamu rose. By 1640, the Fante culture had settled on the coast and their states were beginning to be established. They became prominent in the slave trade with the Europeans. These two states flourished despite wars and mutual invasions until the 1700s when they were conquered and absorbed by the last and the greatest Akan states – the Ashanti Empire. The Ashanti empire began to rise as a superpower when they unified the clans of West Africa into one nation.
In 1699, the Ashanti King Osei Tutu (reigned from 1689 – 1717) the various Ashanti clans began to expand from the Ashanti heartland around the trading center of Kumasi. In 1701, they conquered the state of Denkyira. A period of great Ashanti expansion occurred during Okpu Ware’s reign (1717-1750). Between 1720 and 1735 , a new state – Akim – arose to control Akwamu’s territories. Ashanti conquered Akwamu and Akim in 1742, and followed with more conquests in the north, taking Gonja, Dagomba, and Nanumumba by 1750. Thus, by 1800, the Ashanti Empire had come to include much of modern-day Ghana, and parts of Togo and the Ivory Coast.
The 1800s were marked by commercial rivalry with the Fante states, their ally BRitain, and the Ashanti. The objective was to gain control of the valuable trade routes from the interior to the coast. In 1824, because they were growing more nervous about Ashanti power, they launched an attack on the empire under the guise of “liberating the Fante states”. This was the first of many Anglo-Asante Wars. The British were defeated, and the Ashanti Kingdom was undoubtedly at their most powerful. It was also at its largest; not only had they absorbed the Fante states to the West, they had also conquered the huge Mossi states of Mamprussi and Wa in the North.
The victory over the British, unfortunately, was not to be repeated. The British brought all the might and manipulation they could muster upon the Ashanti. The Brits gathered up as many Fande slaves as they could and sent them screaming into Ashanti territories. From 1824, British gunships and slaves were thrown into the bloody fray against the Ashanti until the empire finally collapsed and became a British possession in 1902.
The Mysterious African Kingdom of Nok
The mysterious Nok culture appeared in Nigeria around 1000 B.C. and vanished under unknown circumstances around 500 AD in the region of West Africa. They left behind a strange and unprecedented type of terra-cotta art that was both distinctly African, but unique in style and technique.
The Nok culture is the oldest in West Africa. Radiocarbon testings have dated Nok sites at between 2,000 and 2,500 years old. It’s likely that the original people of Nok migrated into today’s Nigeria following the climate change disaster, called the 5.9 kiloyear event
Archaeologists assume the Kingdom of Nok disappeared when Islam came on the scene killing, expelling, and assimilating the original people. Others assume that climate change continued to push them into the South of Africa and across the seas. The similarity between the art of the Mayan civilization and the Nok (see the gallery below) and the rise of the Mayan culture right behind the fall of the Nok culture leaves us speculating until more scientific evidence can be uncovered.
The African Kingdom of Axum: Daughter of Kemet
The Kingdom of Axum arose as a direct result of the fall of the lats Ptolemaic dynasty at the beginning of the first millenium . Those members of Egypt fled south to conquer the Kingdom of Kush and formed Axum.
Under Emperor Ezana (fl 320–360), Axum became the first major empire to convert to Christianity, and was named by Mani (216–276) as one of the four great powers of his time along with Persia, Rome, and China. Axum’s ancient capital is found in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name “Ethiopia” as early as the 4th century, and is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant (in the 16th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion) and the purported home of the Queen of Sheba. Axum was the first state ever to use the image of the cross on its coins, in around 300 A.D. Axum was a crucial participant in international trade, sending gold and ivory as far away as China and Java and as far North as modern-day France.
Like many other African kingdoms, Axum began its decline at the advent of Islam, but did not fall completely. Axum has remained Christian up to today, and the Axumites live on in the blood lines of today’s Ethiopians and Eritreans.
For a full list of African Kings and Kingdoms, I highly recommend checking out http://www.africankingdoms.com/.