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If there's been one theme that has gone through Negro history it has been this theme of freedom the quality of America standing up and living up to the bright promises of the Declaration of Independence. Then there's the essential American thing. There was no theme in MeeGo life that is not a theme in American life because the Negro is a market to be is complete. President Benjamin Laurel's distinguished under the Tory in the Negro history that is not the angst of the schools in a series of talks like that and underneath it all of America that is undergoing such group as pre-colonial Africa Africa before the coming of the Europeans. So that is a feel that is receiving a great deal of attention everywhere. Africanus not very hard to come by those who can tell us about Africa before the coming of the Europeans.
Now this has been necessary because most European powers most conquerors began the history of the people they go into their area they begin their history when they come. Your history begins when I arrive on the scene. And before I go you had no history so naturally when African history was written up until recent years up until the African nations themselves again independent naturally a Frenchman an English and Portuguese and others wrote about Africa at the time of the coming of the Europeans through Africa in great numbers the beginning of the modern period. They would write this as though the history of this nation began when I came on the scene. And therefore they pay no attention to the history that existed before them. So that we are now getting a new focus on Colonial Africa and one of the great persons who helped give us this focus is the great anthropologist Melbourne
Herskovitz whose great book The Myth of the Negro which is going to destroy the myth that the Negro has no past gives us a picture of Africa before the coming of the Europeans and hence this is a tremendous book indicating that African culture was complex. It was rich it was very. Before the coming of the Europeans. Now here's the process speaking of sub-Saharan Africa. When we think about Africa we could put the United States and Africa four times over and have room to spare so that we have to be careful when we speak about Africa a their area. We're speaking of Africa around the Mediterranean that is part of the Mediterranean world where we would meet Greece and Rome and Egypt but we're speaking about Africa but a lot of us are having. What we would today call rival Africa. Now even in that area the ancestral homeland of the American Negro spanned an area of 3000 miles. And therefore
these negroes from many different places were brought together from many different college you're in Africa before the coming of the Europeans and when they were they were brought over of course to the new world mingled together but they had different levels different economic systems and most of the books like this. But it's another to give us some impression of Africa before the coming of the Europeans. As I've indicated this is a history which like no other things of history in the world is now undergoing redefinition. Robert the great professor of history at Harvard University has a recent book A political history of tropical Africa which gives us some idea of Africa before the coming of the Europeans. And I mean that's a recent book like the book by WALLBANK it will have whole sections on medieval Africa. And when we read about Oxford and Cambridge about the surprise about children coming and talking about medieval institutions that to him and people mentions
Charlemagne like we do enrich the mind that we must be prepared for our students to imagine asf and for our children the comments of the empire of long game places that we never heard of but now are being resurrected. And they're being resurrected in part because the world of scholarship realizes there's a great story to tell in for example the greatest social anthropologist now living out as many of us saw the our program of the stuff was written the book the evolution of the progress of modern man in Africa makes a categorical statement. Men of science today are satisfied that Africa was the birthplace of man and into the centuries thereafter. Africa was in the forefront of world progress. Now there's a statement which cannot be dismissed. This is a statement coming from an AM of the foreign. Now the foremost social anthropology. Now that we're getting a new focus on Africa. And now that a new focus is necessary because
so many people believe that when the negro came for the new word he brought with him nothing but a broad back. And wrong to be exploited. He comes from because he came from a civilization that was a that was primitive that was steady that was about them that Africa was a savage land with savage beasts and even more savage men. That is a term that you see that has been a deeply rooted concept. And we're trying to get a different assessment of that so that the African institutions accept we may make this one generalization. If we study African institutions for example Franklin's great book chapter three has a book has a chapter call Africanus Dushan in which Franklin discuss their political their socio. Economic institutions there. Now if we look at these things sometimes to us they seemed strange.
If we look at African art for example it seemed hideous to us but like a child through something there but we have to say we are looking at this from a west than our own. Can we see how they think function is own socio economic context. How did this function of African culture. We believe in monogamy. Why was it that these other civilizations probably plac practice the different ball no matter. What road did this so that if we look at Africa is a ball 500 years ago any of Jews in the West and we must say to ourselves how did this culture trade. How did this pattern fit in at this time. 500 years ago. Because so frequently when we read about Africa or Europe or Asia or any place 500 years ago where they didn't wear a collar and tie we come from a high culture of that is that when women may have been put in that or that to the end of that which we consider hideous but which they considered a
mark of beauty beauty is in the eye of the beholder and therefore these people saw beauty in this. And therefore when we look at African and other institutions that are different from ours we as teachers should be the last ones to be needed to be the warning that we may see this and bad contact and not bring to the day when the mom. Because if we look at Africa's Dushan of 500 years ago or today or any other typically Western We may feel a smug sense of superiority which we cannot help feeling in some respect. But which is not really in the interest of accuracy historical interest of a true and good assessment of these people. Not when we moved to the African slave trade. Here we indicate a basic thing in the great commercial revolution the 15th century.
Now the great movement known as the Renaissance that we know so well in economic days is a great commercial revolution where the Europeans not the industrial revolution yet but the great commercial revolution where the Europeans found. That other parts of the world produced commodities which would enrich the life of the Europeans. This was a tremendous thing this is the birth of capitalism capitalism and slavery are interwoven back in the GO scholar who is now the premier of Trinidad Tobago. Eric Williams has written a book Capitalism and slavery. Now under great expansion of capitalism this new Economic Forum taking root as never before has the need for a Labor surprise supply to get commodities in the newer. That would be produced only by a supply of labor from elsewhere. Now the supply of labor is going to come from the west coast of Africa so that
the Europeans beginning as early as 14 42 when the Portuguese go down the African coast. Europeans begin to bring negroes from Africa. Hence when Cromwell discovered America the practice of bringing the growth of the west coast of Africa had already been established firmly by the Portuguese. And as we've indicated by 15 to negroes began to come over in the Spanish colonies and by 15 17 it becomes a settled policy. Now you need a labor supply and the new were to produce the precious metal to produce the great new staple tobacco and sugar the greatest of them all of course in the early days. Indigo and rice and as we should meet in another lecture. Now you needed a labor supply for this. Where would you get the vapor supplies the India did not prove practically did not prove he was still more nomadic wandering life. You needed labor supply and you
turn to West Africa. And you begin therefore to bring over people in unprecedented in human history perhaps some 10 million negroes are going to be brought over from West Africa and you have therefore the commercial revolution of the 15th century. Now there were two things about of that were unique. One was its magnitude never before in human history and that slavery operated on such magnitude slavery had always existed. Slavery was goes back to prehistoric down. All people who had been a slave. One time or another. In fact the word slave comes from a non negro group it comes with the words nobody ever thinks of the words they the five the Russians we we have trouble with them today we we don't think of the Russians as brain doing. But once they were the Anglo-Saxons receivers that when he gave over 55 that he would want to play the Anglo-Saxons they did not make good slaves. Being too undeveloped and backward. So that when we get out of the
institution of slavery it's a very old institution was practiced in Africa as practiced elsewhere the heat the heat. But when we meet Africa's slavery at the beginning of the modern period not only is it different in magnitude but also take a different emphasis. Broad justification when you were enslaved just two or three persons when you didn't need slavery particularly as an economic way of life you didn't need to erect theories of racial inferiority a race superiority you didn't need. A slave grew up in the house all Mohammedan he was treated differently. He may become a teacher like he thought but what you can see the word even you know so that there was no particularly attached to being a slave. But when we the Europeans began slavery on such an unprecedented scale that Christian man back none of Hawkins's ships was named slave ships was named Jesus. But you know and one of the great slave trade occurred you men wrote a famous him how sweet the name of Jesus.
These were deeply religious men not a deeply religious man is engaged in the slave trade a con man of conscience. How does he justify this. He justifies this on the theory that he is helping the person that he slayed by lifting him from barbarism and savagely into a system which is just true but it's a step up in the social scale because you see in Africa he was given in a United States people had to erect a theory when you get ready to exploit a man you get ready to have a different system for him. How do you live with yourself. I'm a lot of different clay I would feel differently about being thrown from my homeland but he is not quite he doesn't have my delicate perceptions so that. When we have slavery in modern times you begin to have for the first direction a racial feeling and this
is important to notice that because you never know with these theories in 1967 you're dealing with a theory that supported the institution of slavery on a scale to press that you have to convince yourself that the African background was something that you were lifting this man from. Now the operation of the slave trade obviously involved the youth of Native Europeans would stably trading post on the coast and then the Africans in South Africa and in the south had a role in this. Yet it was an accomplice in the African tribal warfare in which you kept this way and you would sell them to the Europeans so the operation of the slave trade was quite a bar one. It didn't. Not only we cried going there but it was pride a maverick process with a G. But you didn't need the native cheese
The negro American
African Institutions & Slave Trade
Producing Organization
Detroit Public Schools
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Race and Ethnicity
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Producing Organization: WDTR
Producing Organization: Detroit Public Schools
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-30-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:15:30
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Chicago: “The negro American; African Institutions & Slave Trade,” 1968-09-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023,
MLA: “The negro American; African Institutions & Slave Trade.” 1968-09-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <>.
APA: The negro American; African Institutions & Slave Trade. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from