Slaves’ Song


The fuddling, dancing and “jubilee beating” was carried on in all directions. The latter performance was strictly southern. It supplied the place of violin, or of other musical instruments, and was played so easily that almost every farm had its “Juba” beater. The performer improvised as he beat the instrument, marking the words as he sang so as to have them fall pat with the movement of his hands. Among a mass of nonsense and wild frolic, once in a while a sharp hit was given to the meanness of slaveholders. Take the following example:

We raise de wheat,

Dey gib us de corn;

We bake de bread,

Dey gib us de crust;

We sif de meal,

dey gib us de huss;

We peel de meat,

Dey gib us de skin;

And dat’s the way

Dey take us in;

We skim de pot,

Dey gib us the liquor,

And say dat’s good enough

                for nigger.

Walk over! Walk over!

Your butter and de fat;

Poor nigger you cant get over


This is not a bad summary of the palpable injustice and fraud of slavery, giving, as it does, to the lazy and the idle the comforts which God designed should be given solely to the honest laborer.

… I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent sounds [of slaves’ songs]. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds…

I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrow of the heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart by its tears.

Fredrick Douglas, My Bondage and My Freedom (New York, 1855).


The Dogon and the Extra-ordinary knowledge of the Universe.

One the most amazing sources of evidence of our ancestors coming from the stars is the history of the Dogon Tribe of Africa. There are between 400,000 and 800,000 Dogon in a remote civilization in the central plateau region of Mali in Africa. The Dogon culture is known for its detailed, meaningful art and tribal customs, but the Dogon are mostly known for their ancient, accurate cosmology and the legends of their ancestors from Sirius.

The Importance of the Dogon hit the western world in 1930 when French anthropologists first heard legends from the Dogon priests. The legends were passed down through many generations and documented through artwork. The Dogon spoke of an extraterrestrial race from the Sirius Star System, referred to as the Nommos, who visited them on earth. The Nommos were an aquatic race of humanoid creatures, similar to mermaids. This was amazing to hear because the god, Isis, of Babylon is depicted as a mermaid and associated with Sirius. The Dogon say that the Nommos descended to earth from the heavens in a great boat, accompanied with extreme wind and loud noise. The Dogon explained that the Sirius system had a companion star, but it cannot be seen from earth due to the brightness of Sirius A. Researchers have found Dogon artifacts dating back over 400 years depicting orbits of these stars.

Years later, in 1970, astronomers finally had good enough telescopes to zoom in on Sirius and they photographed Sirius B. The Dogon were right! They also identified the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn without the use of a telescope. How could they know this?

Being only 8 light years away, Sirius A is the brightest Star in the Earth sky. Sirius B is an extremely heavy, dense and tiny white dwarf star, smaller than the earth, but weighing 8X more than our Sun. It is gravitationally bound to Sirius A and part of the same solar system. White dwarfs form when a star runs out of fuel. They begin to collapse on themselves, not being large enough to supernova. Going back for hundreds of years ever since the Nommos came to visit the Dogon, they have held a ceremony every 50 years to celebrate the orbit of Sirius A and Sirius B. Astronomers later confirmed their orbit to be almost exactly 50 years!





In African societies, oral tradition is the method in which history, stories, folktales and religious beliefs are passed on from generation to generation. Webster’s dictionary defines “oral” as, “spoken rather than written,” and it defines the word “tradition” as, “transmittal of elements of a culture from one generation to another especially by oral communication.”[1]

In another meaning of oral traditions much similar to the one express above it implies that, oral traditions are messages that are transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages may be passed down through speech or song and may take the form of folktales and fables, epic histories and narrations, proverbs or sayings, and songs.[2]

According to Jan M. Vansina, the expression “oral tradition” applies both to process and its product. The products are oral messages based on previous oral messages, at least a generation old. He further explains that, the process is the transmission of such messages by word of mouth over time until the disappearance of the message. Hence any given oral tradition is but a rendering at one moment, an element in a process of oral development that began with the original communication.[3]

Oral tradition facilitate transfer of knowledge from one generation to the other, especially in pre-colonial African societies, where writing as a means of keeping records (for posterity) or passing information for immediate or future purpose was lacking in most parts of Africa. Consequently, oral tradition is a part of African culture and it forms the basis with other fundamental requisite for writing or rewriting African history.


 Oral tradition or oral evidence according to Eurocentric scholars is an inferior source material of writing history vis-à-vis written sources. They point out that, oral tradition lack absolute chronology, are extremely selective in their content, and are compromised by possible human errors.[4] William G. Clarence-Smith argued that the value of using oral traditions has been not for their intrinsic worth but sentimental, as they offer African historians the opportunity to present an independent history, “uncontaminated by colonialism.”[5] This view, as erroneous as it appears sum up the believe of the Eurocentric scholars about the role of oral tradition or evidence as source of history.

Eurocentric scholars equate history with written document that is history is synonymous with writing. They believe history only began when man take to writing as means of keeping records or otherwise. This line of reasoning or argument unfortunately, is faulty and shortsighted, because there are parts of human history that can only be accounted for or explained only through archaeological evidence, for instance Pre-history of man.

Apart from the fact that the Eurocentric view of oral evidence is shortsighted, it also has racist undertones. It must be recalled that the Eurocentric scholar had initially denied that Africans/Africa has no history. For instance, Professor Huge Trevor-Roper, a Professor of modern history at Oxford University, once said:

It is fashionable to speak today as if European history were devalued: as if historians, in the past, have paid too much attention to it; and as if, nowadays, we should pay less. Undergraduates, seduced, as always, by the changing breath of journalistic fashion, demand that they should be taught the history of black Africa. Perhaps, in the future, there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none, or very little: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is largely darkness, like the history of pre-European, pre-Columbian America. And darkness is not a subject for history.[6]

G.W.F. Hegel also had this to say of African history:

At this point we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit. Historical movements in it—that is in its northern part—belong to the Asiatic or European World.[7]

The assertion that Africa has no history is a complete negation on the uniqueness and values of oral tradition as a very rich source of history and ultimately the complete denial of it existence. Also the profoundly warped, trite and bias assessment of oral tradition by William G. Clarence-Smith, stated above is unfounded and acutely short of merit.

While it must be admitted that oral evidence or oral tradition as source material of writing history has it weaknesses and not infallible like every other sources of history, it is not in any way inferior to written source or any other source of history, as sources of history complement one another to achieve maximum result.



Among the various kinds of historical sources traditions occupy a special place.[8] While interviews with members of social and political elites have complemented existing documentary sources, the most distinctive contribution of oral history has been to include within the historical record the experiences and perspectives of groups of people who might otherwise have been hidden from history.[9]

Oral tradition has played and still playing a very important role in writing and rewriting of African history. For centuries it has helped preserved vital and very important traditions of various African societies.

Oral tradition has enriched the knowledge of African scholars about their various societies in writing African history through the African perspective and not bereft of objectivity nor short of creativity. In an era where African history was denied and ridiculed, African scholars through various oral traditions have re-position Africa, historically.






[1] African Oral Tradition by Sharon Wilson, Chicago, IL.


[3] Oral Tradition as History (Ed) Jan M. Vansina, University of Wisconsin Press, Google Books, P. 3

[4] Oral Traditions- The use of Oral Traditions and its critics

[5] Ibid.

[6] There is no African History

[7] Eurocentric view about African culture and civilization

[8] Opcite XI

[9] The Oral History Reader (Ed) Robert Perks Google Books

Selected Facts You Probably Don’t Know About Africa II

31. West Africa had bling culture in 1067 AD. One source mentions that when the Emperor of Ghana gives audience to his people: “he sits in a pavilion around which stand his horses caparisoned in cloth of gold: behind him stand ten pages holding shields and gold-mounted swords: and on his right hand are the sons of the princes of his empire, splendidly clad and with gold plaited into their hair . . . The gate of the chamber is guarded by dogs of an excellent breed . . . they wear collars of gold and silver.”

32. Glass windows existed at that time. The residence of the Ghanaian Emperor in 1116 AD was: “A well-built castle, thoroughly fortified, decorated inside with sculptures and pictures, and having glass windows.”

33. The Grand Mosque in the Malian city of Djenné, described as “the largest adobe [clay] building in the world”, was first raised in 1204 AD. It was built on a square plan where each side is 56 metres in length. It has three large towers on one side, each with projecting wooden buttresses.

34. One of the great achievements of the Yoruba was their urban culture. “By the year A.D. 1300,” says a modern scholar, “the Yoruba people built numerous walled cities surrounded by farms”. The cities were Owu, Oyo, Ijebu, Ijesa, Ketu, Popo, Egba, Sabe, Dassa, Egbado, Igbomina, the sixteen Ekiti principalities, Owo and Ondo.

35. Yoruba metal art of the mediaeval period was of world class. One scholar wrote that Yoruba art “would stand comparison with anything which Ancient Egypt, Classical Greece and Rome, or Renaissance Europe had to offer.”

36. In the Malian city of Gao stands the Mausoleum of Askia the Great, a weird sixteenth century edifice that resembles a step pyramid.

37. Thousands of mediaeval tumuli have been found across West Africa. Nearly 7,000 were discovered in north-west Senegal alone spread over nearly 1,500 sites. They were probably built between 1000 and 1300 AD.

38. Excavations at the Malian city of Gao carried out by Cambridge University revealed glass windows. One of the finds was entitled: “Fragments of alabaster window surrounds and a piece of pink window glass, Gao 10th – 14th century.”

39. In 1999 the BBC produced a television series entitled Millennium. The programme devoted to the fourteenth century opens with the following disclosure: “In the fourteenth century, the century of the scythe, natural disasters threatened civilisations with extinction. The Black Death kills more people in Europe, Asia and North Africa than any catastrophe has before. Civilisations which avoid the plague thrive. In West Africa the Empire of Mali becomes the richest in the world.”

40. Malian sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus. An Egyptian scholar, Ibn Fadl Al-Umari, published on this sometime around 1342. In the tenth chapter of his book, there is an account of two large maritime voyages ordered by the predecessor of Mansa Musa, a king who inherited the Malian throne in 1312. This mariner king is not named by Al-Umari, but modern writers identify him as Mansa Abubakari II.

41. On a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 AD, a Malian ruler, Mansa Musa, brought so much money with him that his visit resulted in the collapse of gold prices in Egypt and Arabia. It took twelve years for the economies of the region to normalise.

42. West African gold mining took place on a vast scale. One modern writer said that: “It is estimated that the total amount of gold mined in West Africa up to 1500 was 3,500 tons, worth more than $30 billion in today’s market.”

43. The old Malian capital of Niani had a 14th century building called the Hall of Audience. It was an surmounted by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The windows of an upper floor were plated with wood and framed in silver; those of a lower floor were plated with wood, framed in gold.

44. Mali in the 14th century was highly urbanised. Sergio Domian, an Italian art and architecture scholar, wrote the following about this period: “Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilisation. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated”.

45. The Malian city of Timbuktu had a 14th century population of 115,000 – 5 times larger than mediaeval London. Mansa Musa, built the Djinguerebere Mosque in the fourteenth century. There was the University Mosque in which 25,000 students studied and the Oratory of Sidi Yayia. There were over 150 Koran schools in which 20,000 children were instructed. London, by contrast, had a total 14th century population of 20,000 people.

46. National Geographic recently described Timbuktu as the Paris of the mediaeval world, on account of its intellectual culture. According to Professor Henry Louis Gates, 25,000 university students studied there.

47. Many old West African families have private library collections that go back hundreds of years. The Mauritanian cities of Chinguetti and Oudane have a total of 3,450 hand written mediaeval books. There may be another 6,000 books still surviving in the other city of Walata. Some date back to the 8th century AD. There are 11,000 books in private collections in Niger. Finally, in Timbuktu, Mali, there are about 700,000 surviving books.

48. A collection of one thousand six hundred books was considered a small library for a West African scholar of the 16th century. Professor Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu is recorded as saying that he had the smallest library of any of his friends – he had only 1600 volumes.

49. Concerning these old manuscripts, Michael Palin, in his TV series Sahara, said the imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years . . . Its convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.”

50. The Songhai Empire of 16th century West Africa had a government position called Minister for Etiquette and Protocol.

51. The mediaeval Nigerian city of Benin was built to “a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totalling 10,000 miles in all. Even before the full extent of the city walling had become apparent the Guinness Book of Records carried an entry in the 1974 edition that described the city as: “The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.”

52. Benin art of the Middle Ages was of the highest quality. An official of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde once stated that: “These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Cellini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him . . . Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”

53. Winwood Reade described his visit to the Ashanti Royal Palace of Kumasi in 1874: “We went to the king’s palace, which consists of many courtyards, each surrounded with alcoves and verandahs, and having two gates or doors, so that each yard was a thoroughfare . . . But the part of the palace fronting the street was a stone house, Moorish in its style . . . with a flat roof and a parapet, and suites of apartments on the first floor. It was built by Fanti masons many years ago. The rooms upstairs remind me of Wardour Street. Each was a perfect Old Curiosity Shop. Books in many languages, Bohemian glass, clocks, silver plate, old furniture, Persian rugs, Kidderminster carpets, pictures and engravings, numberless chests and coffers. A sword bearing the inscription From Queen Victoria to the King of Ashantee. A copy of the Times, 17 October 1843. With these were many specimens of Moorish and Ashanti handicraft.”

54. In the mid-nineteenth century, William Clarke, an English visitor to Nigeria, remarked that: “As good an article of cloth can be woven by the Yoruba weavers as by any people . . . in durability, their cloths far excel the prints and home-spuns of Manchester.”

55. The recently discovered 9th century Nigerian city of Eredo was found to be surrounded by a wall that was 100 miles long and seventy feet high in places. The internal area was a staggering 400 square miles.

56. On the subject of cloth, Kongolese textiles were also distinguished. Various European writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrote of the delicate crafts of the peoples living in eastern Kongo and adjacent regions who manufactured damasks, sarcenets, satins, taffeta, cloth of tissue and velvet. Professor DeGraft-Johnson made the curious observation that: “Their brocades, both high and low, were far more valuable than the Italian.”

57. On Kongolese metallurgy of the Middle Ages, one modern scholar wrote that: “There is no doubting . . . the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the ancient Kongo . . . The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical (exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combating lead poisoning.”

58. In Nigeria, the royal palace in the city of Kano dates back to the fifteenth century. Begun by Muhammad Rumfa (ruled 1463-99) it has gradually evolved over generations into a very imposing complex. A colonial report of the city from 1902, described it as “a network of buildings covering an area of 33 acres and surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 feet high outside and 15 feet inside . . . in itself no mean citadel”.

59. A sixteenth century traveller visited the central African civilisation of Kanem-Borno and commented that the emperor’s cavalry had golden “stirrups, spurs, bits and buckles.” Even the ruler’s dogs had “chains of the finest gold”.

60. One of the government positions in mediaeval Kanem-Borno was Astronomer Royal.


Book of the Month: Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology

Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology

By Chiekh Anta Diop


I dedicate this book to the memory of

Ailoune Diop

who died on the battlefield of African culture.

Alioune, you knew what you came to do on this earth: A life entirely dedicated to others, nothing for yourself, everything for others, a heart filled with goodness and generosity, a soul stepped in nobility, a spirit always serene, simplicity personified!

Did the demiurge want to provide us with an example, an ideal of perfection, by calling you into existence?

Alas, the terrestrial community, to which you knew how to convey, better than anyone else, the message of human truthfulness that sprang from the inmost depths of your being, was deprived of you too soon. But the remembrance of you will never be erased from the memory of African peoples, to whom you dedicated your life.

This is why I am dedicating this book to your memory, in witness to a brotherly friendship that is stronger than time.

Chiekh Anta Diop

Dakar, Senegal.

Book of the Month- Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State

Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State

Interview With Chiekh Anta Diop by Carlos Moore

Africa’s Political Unity

AFRISCOPE: Since the early 1960’s the African Continent has shown itself to be coup prone. How do you account for the growing political instability of African regimes? DIOP: I had foreseen the ‘South-Americanization’ of the African continent and in my work, Les Fondaments culturels, techniques et industriels d’un future etat federal d’Afrique noire (Presence Africaine, 1960), I alluded to this phenomenon.

Earlier, in 1956, I also touched on the subject in an article “Alerta sous les tropiques” (Presence Africaine, No. 5, Jan. 1956), warning that unless we took care the African continent upon independence would go down the road of ‘South-Americanization.’ No matter how much we may claim that history doesn’t repeat itself, I have nonetheless been haunted by Simon Bolivar’s failure to unite the South American continent in a single bloc. It can no longer be denied that Africa is the victim of  ‘South-Americanization.’ That Africa is ‘politically unstable’ is a fact. We can’t even talk anymore about ‘balkanization’ since the Balkan regimes are stable, whereas in Africa we have change of regime almost every week or every month. At any rate, every year. And this instability is growing.

In my opinion, what has been lacking are national leaderships which could set an example. Had this been the case, military overthrows would have been made much more difficult. At any rate, Stability in Africa would have been much greater. Political selfishness is killing Africa; it’s the basis of the problem. Once African interests become merely a pretext for individuals selfishness, instability necessarily rears its head. When the only organized force in the county-the army-ceases to respect the civilians in power, it will seize power for itself.

(Click the link below to get book on google books).