Black History does not start with slavery, contrary to popular belief, there was Black history before slavery. Long before we were bought and sold, we were making history, and after slavery, Black people were still making history.
Africa before slavery
Hundreds of years before Europeans arrived in West Africa; West Africans had rich and diverse histories and cultures. There were kingdoms and city-states in Africa, each with its own language and culture. The Songhai Empire, Mali, Benin, and Kongo kingdoms were large and powerful, with monarchs heading complex political structures that governed hundreds of thousands of people. There were also smaller political systems that relied on village-level agreements.
During this period, Africans thrived in the arts, learning, and technology and were exceptionally skilled in medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. Bronze, ivory, gold, and terracotta were among the luxury items they produced for local use and trade.
Europeans traded with West Africans through traders in North Africa for centuries. Portuguese traders were the first to sail down the West African coast in the 15th century. They were followed by the Dutch, British, French, and Scandinavians. Spices, including pepper, were of interest to them and precious items like gold and ivory.
When teaching Black history, we must remember to include those that came before slavery, those that fought to end slavery. Remember how Haiti fought hard for independence only to be burdened by debt to the French colonials. Also, learn about those that came after, like the great inventors.
We acknowledge many ‘firsts among these pages like, the first woman to join the armed forces, the first Black UK policewoman, the first Black woman tory MP or London’s first Black firefighter. Slavery will always leave a bad taste in our mouths but never forget we are more than slaves.