African Glory: The Story of Vanished Negro Civilizations by J. C. Degraft-Johnson, 1954


The present study is an attempt to present certain aspects of Negro history; and as Africa is today generally regarded as the home of the Negro, the present study has taken on, in some respects at least, the character of African history. To attempt a presentation of Negro history, or indeed of African history, in so small a volume is to undertake an impossible task, yet it is a task that must be attempted.

Mr Thomas Hodgkin, former Secretary to the Oxford University Delegacy for Extra-Mural Studies and a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, writing in The Highway of February 1952, had this to say about Africa:

It is no doubt flattering to our vanity to imagine that the peoples of Africa were “primitive” and “barbarous” before the penetration of the Europeans, and that it is we who have “civilized” them. But it is a theory that lacks historical foundation. The Empire of Ghana flourished in what is now French West Africa during the dark ages of Western Europe. By the fifteenth century there was a university at Timbuktu. The Ashantis of the Gold Coast and the Yorubas of Nigeria possessed highly organized and complex civilizations long before their territories were brought under British political and military control. The thesis that Africa is what Western European missionaries, traders, technicians and administrators have made it is comforting (to Western Europeans) but invalid. The eruption of Western European colonizers into Africa — with all the effects of their religion and their schools, their gin and their guns, their cotton goods and their systems of administration — is only an event, though a very important event, in the history of the African peoples.

If, therefore, we wish to understand the national movements that have emerged in Africa — and have reached their most mature and advanced stage in West Africa — we have to begin by trying to rid our minds of the European preconceptions that influence our thinking on this subject. This is not easy, since most of the available material on African affairs is presented from a European standpoint — either by imperial historians (who are interested in the record of European penetration into Africa), or by colonial administrators (who are interested in the pattern of institutions imposed by European governments upon African societies), or by anthropologists (who are often, though not always, mainly interested in the forms of social organization surviving in the simplest African communities, considered in isolation from political . . .


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