Nov 8, 2018

Was there an original name for the continent of Africa?

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Another question that has been on my mind for years. Was there an original name for Africa? Where did the name Africa come from?

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  • The French colonial empire was established in 1534 when an expedition was sent to colonize the New World. Although the bulk of the empire was in what is today Canada and the USA, the French also colonized some territorys in South America and a few Caribbean islands. The most notable of these islands was Saint-Domaing, which grew sugar, a luxury back then. By selling sugar, the French became very rich, and so Saint-Domaing became the most important colony of the French empire. Wanting to cultivate sugar the cheapest way possible, the French resorted to slavery and Africa was viewed as the perfect place to get slaves. French ships would sail to the African coast, bye slaves, sail to the Americas, sell them in exchange for American goods, and then return to Europe. The slaves were immediately put to work ones they arrived. The working conditions were brutal, they had long working hours and it wasn’t uncommon to have slaves die of exaction. If slaves got out of line, they would be wiped, if they tried to escape, they would have their ears cut of and if they were caught a second time, they would be executed. The French did introduce “Le code Noir” or “The Black Code” witch set up rules on how slaves must be treated. For instance, when slaves were sold, families could not be separated, child slaves were forbidden from working and a master had to take care of a slave that could no longer work. Butt by the XVIIIth century, slavery was being challenged by Enlightenment philosopher, who viewed it as inhumane. The Enlightenment also led to the French revolution (1789-1799) and with the country in chaos, the slaves of Saint-Domaing revolted in 1791, starting an almost 13 year long war. The French did abolish slavery in 1794 in an attempt to keep its colonys only to be brought back in 1802 by Napoleon, back when he was 1st consul of France. By that point in time, the French had lost much of their empire, loosing Quebec to the British in 1763 and seling Louisiana in 1803 to the United-States, In 1801, the republic of Haiti was proclaimed by the former slaves of Saint-Domaing and would gain its independence in 1804. France had now lost its most important colony. France still had a few colonial possessions, mainly small islands, wher slavery still existed. It would take another revolution and the establishment of a second French republic for slavery to finally be abolished in 1848.
  • It’s no surprise to find ancient African monuments decorating the stands of museums all over Europe instead of Africa. During the raid of Africa by the west, many treasurable artefacts made of gold, iron and bronze were looted and not returned. Today, many African countries are calling out the West to return what rightfully belongs to them. One such story making the headlines is Emmanual Macron’s recent promise to see to it that Africa gets its monuments back from French museums. While all that is interesting to note, what is more intriguing is the fact that faces of Africans can be found on the monuments that belonged to the Thracian ancient group that is now part of Greece and modern Turkey. A close look at the images on the monuments cannot be mistaken. Roundheads with the afro hair and thick features are definitely the depiction of Africans(Please note, Africa is a diverse continent with around 3000 tribes or ethnic groups and 54 countries so don't espect every African to have these features which unfortunately many people don't recognized) by the west in ancient times. The Thracians are described as an ancient people that inhabited Turkey and Greece around the 4th -5th century. They were a mysterious group of people popular for their winemaking, jewellery and ornaments and their notorious war-waging. Throughout the documented history of the Thracians, there are no traces or mention of their contact with Africans to explain the faces of Africans that appear on their monuments. Perhaps, the Thracians were intrigued by the African image during one of their escapades or travel expeditions. The Thracians were also known to be travellers and explorers but did not have an interest in controlling findings from their explorations. Any theory to explain this, Please comment below
  • Ancient Africa practised slavery long before the coming of the Europeans. The practice was not called ‘slavery’ but many people at the time owned people for several reasons. These slaves had to work for a period or until they were old enough to be set free. Slaves in ancient African societies were the lowest on the social class ladder but had the opportunity to climb up the social ladder and live normal lives. They were allowed to marry from well-to-do families, trade or own property of their own. Slaves also lived very close to their masters or lived with their family and went over to their master’s house to work depending on the agreed arrangement. The transatlantic slave trade introduced what is known as Chattel Slavery, where slave became full property of the owner who then chooses to treat the slave anyhow they want to. In Chattel Slavery, slaves were not respected as humans but rather as a beneficial property that could be sold for income. It was also mainly based on race, and many accounts show that they were treated worse than even animals. Here are five kinds of slavery that existed in ancient Africa. 1. Captives and slaves of war This was possibly the most famous form of slavery in ancient Africa especially during the reign of powerful kingdoms such as Dahomey, Ghana, Benin and the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom. Armies often raided smaller settlements to expand their kingdoms. In the process, the old were killed and the young captured as slaves. The captives were shared among royalty and the military, some were then given to families who in one way or the other pleased the king, and the rest were sold to wealthy traders. These captives served their new owners who in turn gave them good living conditions. Slaves had every right to complain to the royal house and owners were sanctioned if found guilty. Many of such slaves were free to go after a while and others become part of their new families. 2. Slaves as punishment for a crime When a member of society was found guilty of a crime, he or she was made to serve a designated family for a stated period. Prison systems did not exist in ancient Africa, so this form of slavery was also prevalent. The number of months or years that a criminal was made to serve depended on the crime committed. Families of criminals were sometimes given the option to buy back the freedom of their family member, and in the case where they were not able to pay, the criminal was kept as a slave. On rare occasions, criminals were asked to pay a fine, serve as a slave before being exiled. Criminals serving as slaves could gain back their freedom on good behaviour or at the death of their master 3. Domestic slavery For many families who could not make ends meet, domestic slavery was a means of survival. These slaves were often bought but did not solely belong to their owners. As part of the agreement, domestic slaves were given a piece of land, a place to stay and food to eat. If they worked for wealthy merchants, they were given a small percentage of profit, but this money was only available after the agreed time of servitude had elapsed. The system was prevalent and ensured good behaviour as almost everyone in the kingdom was kept busy and making a living. 4. Military slaves In many kingdoms, the army was made up of well-selected young men and women who possessed the potential of strength. When troops went on military conquests, they often brought back with them a selected group of youth. With approval from the King and military leader, these young men and women were put in the care of an army patron and trained as a separate military unit that served the kingdom. With time, many of the slave military men and women could rise in the ranks and marry royalty or join the prestigious military. Their duty was mainly to serve the first military and run errands for royalty. They were also made to protect the kingdom by living close to the barriers to ward off anything that was a threat. Those that served well were rewarded with freedom, land and property such as gold. 5. Pawning This was a somewhat rare form of slavery but very popular in West Africa. People were offered as pawns to secure an agreement, make payment or erase a debt that could not be paid. People kept as pawns were restricted and often kept under protection until the other party completed their end of the bargain. Pawns were set free after a while or after the death of someone involved in the agreement. In very rare cases, pawns were stuck with their new owners for life but were treated well. They were often children who would grow to become a part of the family. At their own will, a pawn could leave for his or her original home once he or she was an adult.