1. What was the role of Africa in the evolution of modern humanity?
Modern archeological and genetic evidence have resulted in the theory of Africa being the birthplace of modern anatomically correct humans. Evidence suggests that Homo sapiens arose in central Africa and migrated out in waves to inhabit the various continents. Africa is the birthplace of modern man.
2. Discuss the controversy concerning the racial identity of the ancient Egyptians. What is the significance of this controversy for the history of African Americans?
The contention that ancient Egyptians were not of African descent takes away from the accomplishments of ancient Africans. If it were to be proved that the Egyptians were African, it would change the way the world viewed the history and accomplishments of the African race.
3. Compare and contrast the western Sudanese empires with the forest civilizations of the Guinea Coast.
The ancient western Sudanese empires, especially the Kingdom of Kush, were rich and powerful. Rich in natural resources including gold, ebony and ivory, led Egypt to invade and try to capture resources and trade routes, but the rulers of Kush fought back, and even sat on the Egyptian thrones as pharaohs at one point in time. The forest civilizations of the Guinea Coast were also rich in resources. Powerful empires and civilizations, such as those of ancient Mali and Ghana, arose here as well, growing wealthy and powerful through trade.
4. Discuss the role of religion in West Africa. What was the African religious heritage of black Americans?
West Africans traditionally practiced a religion in which multiple deities were worshiped. Each tribe worshiped its own unique God while accepting that the Gods worshiped by other tribes were also real. Religion and ritual constituted a very important role in society, where spirits must constantly be appeased and avoided. Ancestor worship was also practiced. West Africans who were brought as slaves to America brought this religion with them. In the New World, it blended with other religions and took on distinctly new forms such as Voodoo.
5. Describe West African society on the eve of the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade. What were the society’s strengths and weaknesses?
The demand for cheap labor for work in the plantations of the New World led to the expansion of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. West Africa was, at the time, divided into smaller, warring Kingdoms who often preyed upon each other, selling off captives to slavery. The slave trade was so lucrative, that some rulers would even sell off their own people through corrupt judicial systems. The slavery that was practiced in Africa, however, was far more benign than the slavery that was practiced in the New World, so there may have been some confusion as to the fate to which they were sending their people. The strengths of the societies lay in the fact that there was not a social cast system in place, and most members of the societies were equally powerful. Their weaknesses lay in succumbing to the desire to get rich quick from the slave trade while sacrificing their people to do it.