CHAPTER ONE SUMMARY
Africa is an incredibly diverse region, incorporating different
geographies, ethnicities, religions, political systems and cultures.
The earliest hominids emerged in the savannah, or Sudan, region
Scholars disagree as to whether modern man (Homo
sapiens) developed in Africa and then migrated to the rest of the
world, or developed concurrently around the world from an
However modern man emerged, historians
agree that Africa continued to be a vital part of human culture.
Egyptian society, in particular, played an especially important
part in Greek development and all other Western cultures.
West Africa, the ancestral home of many African Americans
contains two environmentally distinct areas – savannah and
forest – each housing distinct cultures.
Ancient Ghana, Mali, and
Songhai exemplify the savannah cultures of West Africa.
typically engaged in more trade, and were larger, more powerful,
and more urbanized than the forest region groups of the
Senegambia, the Akan states, the Yoruba culture, and the
Kingdom of Benin.
The forest groups, however, played a very
important role in the slave trade with the Europeans.
People in West Africa generally lived in villages based on lineages
or extended families in the early sixteenth century.
Most made a
living through farming, and generally possessed few material
Political power within villages could be passed
either matrilineally or patrilineally,
although West African society
remained patriarchal and male dominated.
Women held some
positions of power
, and often had more sexual freedom than their
West Africans captured enemies as
slaves, often allowing them later to assimilate into their culture
and a polytheistic, animistic
into West African culture. The region maintained vibrant art and
literature, exemplified by fetishes and oral poets known as griots.
Generalizations are difficult, however, as elements of culture
varied not only by society, but also between the savannah
regions and the forest.