Growing up, I was starved for accurate information in schools about who I am. I ached to hear stories about people who look like me, or see the names of Black scholars in math or science, or even to talk about Africa, without talking about poverty and slavery.   One of the hardest parts of the legacy of slavery is the stolen story of who Black people really are and where we are from. This information is often missing from both our families, who don’t talk about the past to forget the trauma, and there is missing information in the schools and records, destroyed during the transatlantic slave trade and subsequent legacy of racism in America.

Black people, especially Black scholars, like WEB DuBois and Carter G. Woodson (the father of Black History Month) they realized that only way to truly liberate the secrecy and shame to Black Americans, is by educating them/us on who we really are.  In schools, Africa, and Africans, were/are portrayed as savage, barbaric people, who lived in Africa. Those of us who got to the New World, “are lucky” because we were saved from savage, unstable, poverty stricken, Africa. Much of America’s stories about Blacks, African-Americans, and Africa, are told by Europeans and other non-Black Africans.  

“We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world, void of national bias, race, hate, and religious prejudice. There should be no indulgence in undue eulogy of the Negro. The case of the Negro is well taken care of when it is shown how he has far influenced the development of civilization.”  Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson intended Black History week, which later became Black History month, to teach the history of Black people in our totality, not just in America. Both Carter G. Woodson and WEB DuBois accomplished amazing feats of academic prowess, with amazing research that give Black throughout the Diaspora, an academic, pan African scholarship of work, as our foundation to start tracing our entire Black history.  

After the foundations for academic Black studies were laid by WEB DuBois and Carter G. Woodson, other scholars, specializing in Pan Africanism, took the torch.  Cheikh Anta Diop, Anthony T. Browder, Jacob Carruthers, and many others, begin re-constructing and re-tell, the stolen and hidden history of Africa, from the perspectives of Black Africans.  Much of what is taught about Africa, does not come from Black Africans. It comes from Europeans, Arabs, and some Asian documents. Further making this scholarship difficult, is that most of the first-hand knowledge and stories were erased.

The first big pan-African academic feat was establishing Egypt as an African Civilization.  It seems almost silly that that is was even a fight, if The Egyptian Empire was African, but it is was/is. It still remains a HUGE fight over whether Egypt, in Africa, is African, by non-academics and scholars.  Egypt, the country/empire, in Africa, is often presented in Western schools as European and/or, non-Black. Even today, Hollywood movies depict the Egyptians as European and/or non-Black.  Luckily, with scientific breakthroughs and lots of scholarship, the question of, “Whether Egypt was a civilization of Black Africans” has been definitely answered: and the answer is yes; Ancient Egypt was a Black African Civilization for the majority of its rule. Egypt (called KMT/Kemet by the Africans) was a Black African Civilization, during the “Early Dynastic Kingdom, The Old Kingdom, The Second Intermediate Period, and the majority of The New Kingdom, and Third Intermediate Period. The other periods were a series of intermingling and fights for power with the Black Africans, Arabs, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans.

Now that the “Were the Egyptians Black ” question has been answered, there are many other questions that need to be answered by Pan-African scholars.  Mostly who are we, as Blacks in the Americas brought by slavery, outside of Egypt, where are we from in the other parts of Africa, and what is the legacy of our ethnic people or our tribe.

The new wave of pan-African scholars are using genetics, archeology, and other scientific advances, to present a new, more accurate, picture of Africa.   There is so much information out there that it is impossible to cover with one piece!

But, with the help of science (African Ancestry), lots of books, and the whispers of my ancestors their stolen stories, I am proud that I am able to accurately trace my Black History Story and timeline in both Africa and the Americas, in its totality.  My children will know their history is as long, rich, and deep, as the Western history they are forced to learn in schools.

Who am I: The first, most important piece of information that I can give my children is their ethnicity.  My African ethnicity of the Mende Tribe,  (who are part of the larger Mandiko/NIger-Congo ethnicity) who came to the Americas in the late 1600s.  

Where am I from: The second most important piece of information that I can give my children is a timeline of their history.

  • 2686BC-1000AD–   Nubian Empire (modern day Ethiopia and Sudan in the Nile Valley)
  • 700 AD- 1250AD    The Ghana Empire (African name are Kumbi and Wagadou)
  • 1250AD- 1650AD  The Mali Empire (modern day Benin, Liberia, and Sierra Leone)
  • Mid 1600AD-1820AD-   English Empire Colonies and the United States of America (Modern Day Virginia)
  • 1820AD-1978AD United States of America Rice Valley(Modern Day Arkansas, USA)
  • 1978AD-Present United States of America, Chicago Illinois

Each of these time periods have deep, rich, and specific details that make up who I am today.

Nubia/Kush and the Nubian Civilization:

The story of my people, the Mandiko/Mandigo/Mende people starts in Nubia around 2650 BCE. Many people know about Egypt, but Nubia, the land south of Egypt (but north of Nile) is where most scientists agree civilization begins.  In fact, Nubia has more pyramids, a more ancient language (Meroitic), and a longer history than its Northern neighbor, Egypt. Nubia was a resource-rich land, especially in gold.  Most of the gold in Egypt came from Nubia. A few of the other names for Nubia are Kush, Catharage, Ethiopia, Sudan, Meroe, and Ham.

A piece of me:  I am a Christian and have always felt extremely connected to the Bible, outside of its western, American interpretations.  It was so fulfilling to find out that Nubia, and Ethiopia in particular, has a long history in Judeo-Christianity. In fact, some of the oldest churches in the world are in Ethiopia.  Further, Ethiopian rulers trace their royal blood to Queen Candace who was married to the Jewish King Solomon. It is highly rumored that, “the Arc” one of the most holy items in Abrahamic religions is hidden in Ethiopia.

Why we left: Towards the 5th and 7th century, Nubia and Egypt, were being under constant assault from their neighbors, Greek, Persians, Assyrians, and Romans.  My ethnic tribe is Mende, which is part of the Niger Congo family, and many other tribes, made their way west, and established homes in West Africa.

The Empire of Ghana: h

The Mende people migrated from Sudan, westward and were part of the Ghana Kingdom was the first Empire of West Africa.  The Empire of Ghana isnot located in present-day country of Ghana. It was called the Gold Coast because of the abundant and plentiful gold mines. The people who ruled the Ghana kingdom were the Soninke, a subgroup of the Mande-speaking family. They called their kingdom Wagadu, but we know it as Ghana, the name the Arabs gave it.  

A piece of me: I am a proud feminist and have always rejected patriarchy. My family has always had a long line of strong women who were the heads of our family.  In Ghana, the lineage is matrilineal, meaning that royalty always came from the son of the women in the family. Further there are many strong women rulers in the Ghana kingdom that fought successfully against Europeans and Arabs.

Why we left: The Mende people were on the lower strata of society.  When the Ghana Kingdom was falling apart, there were several fractions that tried to take power, each claiming to be descendents of the King (Mansa) of Ghana.  For a while, the Arab Berber people managed to take control which lead to the control of the travel routes and large surplus of gold. The Mende people fled north of the Niger River and set up towns.

The Empire of Mali:

The Mali Kingdom was the largest and one of the most powerful of all the West African Kingdoms.  It is also where my people, the Mende people, where rulers. Sundatria, the founder and ruler of the Mali Kingdom, is widely known as “the lion king”  was one of the sons of the former king of Ghana. Sundatria was born with physical deformities and could not walk, so when they attacked the Kingdom of Ghana, and killed all the sons of the King of Ghana, they didn’t kill Sundatria, because they didn’t see him as a threat. However, he learned to walk, and fight, and ultimately came back, as a master military strategist and negotiator, and reunited the former towns in the Ghana Kingdom and went on to expand the Mali Kingdom to double the size of Ghana’s!

A piece of me:  I LOVE, LOVE books!  I LOVE, LOVE learning!  So when I found that the first university in the world, was in the Mali Empire, in Timbuktuu, I was overjoyed!  Reading, science, religion, philosophy, and all things academic were centered at this university. Arab, European, and even Asian scholars came to teach and learn at the University of Timbuktuu.  I come from a long proud ancestry of people who love and encourage scholarship.

Why We Left: Many of the Mende people were rice farmers.  It was one of the crops most cultivated in the land.  As The Mali Empire was more popular, it begin to have lots of invasions, from outsiders, but also from within.  Slavery, in and with West Africans, was common. In fact, King Sundiata’s mother was a slave. However, slavery in Africa denoted economic class, assumed humanness and had laws that enforced that, and lastly, had ability for social mobility.  There were lots of infighting in Mali, and the losers of those wars would usually be sold as slaves. At this time, rice production was a new economy in the Americas, and the Europeans needed labor familiar with rice farming. My ancestors were taken to cultivate rice in the Americas.

British Empire and the Americas:

As part of the colonization of the “New World,” the British were looking for cheap, specialized labor.  Different parts of America’s, needed different skilled workers, and now, science and genealogy, can confirm, that the enslaved Africans that came, were not random, but rather; they were chosen to work in areas similar to their homelands.  

My connection: My family started in Virginia in 1690 (according to the research I have been able to find on ancestry.com) and then around mid-1700s, both my maternal and paternal side were in Arkansas.  The area my family lived, as enslaved, sharecroppers, and citizens today, is largely Jefferson County, Arkansas. This is important because it is the rice capital of the state! In fact, the company, “Riceland Rice” is headquartered in Jefferson County,  Arkansas!

My Ancestry DNA Map:

(Nubia) Red- 2686BCE-1000AD

(Ghana) Yellow-700AD-1240AD

(Mali) Teal and Purple- 1250AD- mid-to-late 1600s

(Americas) Orange- mid-1600-Present)

My ancestry map that traces my history from Nubia to the United States of America

*Like most African Americans, my ancestry is about 25% European.  That part of my ancestry is represented in Europe. I also have a small amount of Native American ancestry (less than 2%) and that is the purple in the Americas.

**Science, and especially, genealogy is a changing, evolving science.  I look forward to see what new information develops about my ancestry as science improves.

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