Fall Book Review: Precolonial Black Africa

I finished a book called Precolonial Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop over the weekend. I was grateful to find this book from an online bookseller after not finding information at libraries and mainstream bookstores on the subject of precolonial Africa for years. I would recommend this book if you are interested in African history before European colonization.

Precolonial Black Africa gives readers a good over view on the topic. It covers different cultures in Black Africa and different facets of society. The book discusses religion, education, government, family structure, art, the economy, etc. The author did a good job of sharing information of a vast subject to readers that may not know much about African history.

The book is a little dry and I will attribute it to being translated into English. I didn’t have much background in precolonial African history so I dove into unfamiliar territory which is also a factor. There were parts of the book that I needed to push myself through despite the book only being two hundred and forty pages.

Nonetheless, I would recommend the book if you want to learn about African culture before European colonization. It gives you a good overview and jumping off point for further study. Precolonial Africa is a book that I will save for my personal library for reference.

Here are the few things that stood out for me:

Islam changed African culture before Europe did. Precolonial African leaders were political and religious leaders. Once Africans converted to Islam their traditional leaders lost influence and culture was lost.

Pre colonial African culture had a different relationship to land ownership than Western society has. They didn’t believe anyone could own land or hold a deed for it.

There were more checks and balances in African societies. There was a caste system but lower castes were empowered by social mores.

There was slavery in Africa but many slaves had agency and could move about society. American slaves were treated in similar fashion to the way European peasants and serfs were treated.

Family lineage was traced through mothers.

If you’re interested in learning about Africa before European influence Precolonial Black Africa is worth your time even though the language is a bit dry.

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