This is the speech that changed everything for our father, Dr. Charles S Brown, after he gave this speech in Ghana the traditional rulers took notice. It wasn’t long afterwards before aggressive recruitment effort to get Dr. Brown on board as a traditional ruler was underway, by several different nana’s.
Upon learning this it was difficult for our father to contain his excitement. He told me that he had a very tough decision to make regarding which royal confederation he wanted to join. At the time, I was still amazed about them approaching him as a result of the speech. Ok, the speech wasn’t the only reason, they were also impressed with his work at the University of Cape Coast-but clearly the speech is what really helped him get noticed. I would imagine that what they liked about my father’s speech was the scientific approach that he used to summarize the effects of slarery upon this region of Africa. But also, in the speech he expressed the view that the kings and queen mothers of the day, who took part in the slave trade, were also victims (of circumstance) and shouldn’t be blamed for the tragedy. It just so happened that at the time of this speech many of Ghana’s nana’s were participating in an outreach campaign to reach out to long lost relatives in the various Diaspora communities on the behalf of Ghanaians who longed for a re-connection. So I guess the timing for the speech could not have been better.
At any rate, the entire speech is below. Please feel free to comment on it or even repost it to your blog.
THE REMEMBRANCE AND REVERENTIAL CEREMONY for ANCESTORS/SLAVERY
Title: The African Slave Trade:
Past Problems, Present Realties, and Future Challenges
for Ghana, Africa, and the African World
(Revised Edition 6/2000)
ASSIN APIMANIM TRADITIONAL AREA
ASSIN MANSO, CENTRAL REGION
GHANA, WEST AFRICA
11:30 AM, SATURDAY, 19TH OCTOBER, 1996
Prof. C. S. Brown,
Department of Physics
Laser and Fiber Optics Center
University of Cape Coast
Cape Coast, Central Region
Ghana, West Africa
Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff
Lucent Technologies / Bell Labs Innovations
2000 Northeast Expressway
Norcross, Georgia 30071
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF PROFESSOR C. S. BROWN, Ph.D.
Professor C. S. Brown received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1973 from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his Masters of Science degree in 1975 in Physics from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1981, he received the Ph.D. in theoretical condense matter physics. In addition, he was the first native-born African-American to receive the Ph.D. degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology (better known as Ga. Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia.
Since 1982, Professor Brown has been employed by AT&T Bell Laboratories. During his career, he has done research in theoretical physics, applied physics, optical fiber telecommunications and worked in related engineering areas. Between 1989 and 1992, he was an AT&T Visiting Lecturer at Clark Atlanta University and served as Professor and Department Chair in Physics. In 1993, he was awarded the Black Engineer of the Year Pioneer Award for both his training of young African-American and African scientists and his contributions in science and technology. In 1994, he was promoted to Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories. In 1995, he was elected Chair of the Edward A. Bouchet Institute, an organization which promotes African and African-American participation in Physics and other areas of high technology. Later in 1995, he was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to assist in the development of a Ph.D. program in Physics at the University of Cape Coast, in Cape Coast, Ghana. In 1984, he founded Obatron International Ltd., a telecommunications consulting firm.
In addition to his interest in Physics and high technology, he is also a student of demographics and the history of African people.
I gratefully acknowledge all the helpful comments and suggestions on the contents of this paper given to me by friends and colleagues. In particular, I acknowledge the help of Barima Kwame Nkyi XII (Omanhene of the Assin Apimanim Traditional area), Prof. A. Ayensu, Prof. Atta-Britwum, Esi T. Owusu-Frimpong, Kiniaya N. Awwal, Dr. Idris Sharif, Rabi Halevi, Dr. S. Y. Mensah, George C. Ishiekwene, Stanley Rose, Albert T. Barnor, and H. Evans.
Barima Kwame Nkyi XII, Omanhene of the Assin Apimanim traditional area, Nananom and Elders of Assin Apimanim traditional area, People of the Assin Apimanim Traditional area, mourners, distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, it is indeed an honor for me to have this opportunity to address you on this important and long overdue occasion of Remembrance and Reverential ceremony for our long departed but common Ancestors – the countless millions of African slaves who were taken mostly to the Caribbean, the Americas, and some to parts of Asia. In addition, significant numbers were scattered over regions of the African continent as well. In particular, we gather to mourn those slaves who passed through, and in some cases died here at Assin Manso 1, perhaps as long as 400 years ago, in route to the numerous slave Castles/Dungeons scattered along the western coast of this magnificent continent we call “the Motherland”.
I, therefore, must in addition to this greeting, thank GOD for His grace and for staying with us. For we realize that no other people or race has ever gone through such a tragic holocaust and still survived to reunite, like we do here today, and to pay our respects to our ancestors on this important occasion. I also thank our common ancestors for bringing us forth and giving us strength, wisdom, and humility to endure the many years of degradation we have suffered up until this very day. I thank my father (who has pasted on) and mother, for nurturing me and giving me a good upbringing. I thank my sponsor, the USA Fulbright Scholar program for selecting me to lecture in Ghana, and I thank my employer, Bell Labs Innovations of Lucent Technologies (formally AT&T Bell Labs), for permitting me to take a one year leave-of-absence and accept the appointment as a Fulbright Scholar. Also, I thank some important Ghanaian friends and colleagues: Prof. F. K. A. Allotey, Chairman of the Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and Prof. S. K. Adjepong, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, for asking me to come to Ghana to assist the start-up of a regional Ph.D. program in physics at the University of Cape Coast. I thank Barima Kwame Nkyi XII, distinguished Omanhene of the Assin Apimanim Traditional area, for inviting me here to address you today. Finally, I thank my friends and colleagues for traveling here with me to be a part of this important ceremony.
III.) Purpose of today’s message
My task, today, is to begin a great discussion concerning the Western European trade in African slaves across the Atlantic and their subsequent colonial exploitation of Africans. Included in the purpose is the intent to begin a dialogue between our families from the Diaspora and from Africa (who have been forcibly divided for many years), so that we can soon come back together to heal old wounds and to reclaim control over our destiny. This is an awesome responsibility for all of us. So, I speak not as an appointed representative, but as one of the millions of great-great-great grandsons, perhaps, of some of our ancestors who are buried here, near where we stand today. In addition, it is worth mentioning that I am not a historian nor a politician, but rather a physicist. While I will make every attempt to be accurate in my recollection of the historical facts, I will make use of my scientific experience along with my analytical and synthetical skills to interpret the facts, so that perhaps the lessons that need to be learned are made more transparent. I sincerely hope that my words do not offend anyone, but rather initiate a discussion that must last many hours, and maybe, many years longer than the few minutes that I will speak today. In my remarks, I will review several topics that I think are worthy of focus. They are: (1) a Brief Historical Background of African Peoples, (2) the Western European Trade in African Slaves and problems in our African Past, (3) the Realties of our African Present, (4) the Significance of the Assin Manso Slave market and the Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony for our Ancestors who Passed Through or Died Here, (5) the Challenges of our African Future, and (6) the Conclusion.
Brief Historical Background of African Peoples
The African Origins of Humanity
(bring out the diversity of languages, states, ethnicities, economies, and traditions)
Today, historians and scientists almost unanimously agree that Africa is the birthplace of the human family [ref. –SciAm]. It is suggested by scientists that the human race sprung-up (or evolved) in Africa well over two million years ago 2. The evidence is the very human remains that have been found and dated in many parts of southeastern and southern Africa 2,3. It has also been established that all the racial differences among the people in the world today also evolved (well over 50,000 years ago) from a common Black African race. That is, the first humans to live on this earth were Black Africans, while the other races are, genetically, the descendants of the original Black Africans 3. It is also worth noting that racial differences are biologically superficial and not fundamental2. That is, the human family is one species; and therefore, racial differences are merely cosmetic. We know today from historical evidence that the perceived intellectual and cultural differences between the races are the consequence of the relatively recent economical, political, and social forces that were generated as a result of Western European trade in African slaves which was initiated for economic and political gain4. I do not have time to cover the complete story of either human evolution, or the Western European trade in African slaves, so you must seek to study these topics yourself and/or engage others in conversations later.
Black Africans and the First Great Civilization: Kemit
Next, an important point that our ancestors, like the late Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop of Senegal (as well as many other contemporary historians), have uncovered for us is the fact that the first great civilizations also began in Africa. That is, Black Africans founded the magnificent Nile valley civilizations. One of the better known Nile valley civilizations was Kemit (known today as Egypt) which started over 6000 years ago. The Kemitic civilization, as evidence by those colossal monuments that were built (and still stand today) such as the Pyramids, Sphinxes, and others, reached heights far in advanced of today’s so-called modern civilizations. The Kemitic civilization lasted well over 3000 years, among the longest in human history. Again, evidence shows that the original Egyptians were Black Africans 5 like the ancestors we mourn today. In addition, linguistic (as well as other evidence) have recently shown that the origins of the first great western civilizations, like the Greek and Roman civilizations, are rooted in the Kemitic civilization6.
While this may sound strange to some ears, because of “mis-education” [ref. – Mis-Education of the Negro] , we must remember that Kemit (Egypt) is geographically in Africa, and not in Asia or in the Middle East. Some may question the relevance of these remarks. Remember, however, that one of the results of the European trade in African slaves is the present day racism directed against the Black Africans and people of African decent throughout the world. This racism against Africans, in turn, fosters the belief held by many white people, yellow people, brown people, and even some Black people that the Black race is intellectually inferior, has no culture or history, and therefore can not take care of itself 6. It is, in fact, an evil lie. The Kemitic civilization, among many others, proves that this is not true 7. We must combat this wicked falsehood by telling our people and the whole world (as we alone must do) that Black Africans have a great history and that our ancient ancestors are, in fact, the ancestors of all the human beings on earth. In addition, we must proclaim that no race has any inherent intelligence that automatically makes them superior to any other race. The racism directed against Black people today can be viewed as just an economical, political, and social ploy or trick to keep us in check and subservient, so that the riches of our brainpower, the riches of our labor, and the natural riches of our continent, Mother Africa, will serve others, and remain out of our control.
The Fall of Kemit and the Subsequent Migrations
The Ancient Kemitic (Egyptian) civilization came to an end a little over 2000 years ago. It was overrun by other ethnic and racial groups from the regions in what is known today as the Middle East and the southeastern part of Western Europe. Many of the Black people of Kemit fled the region as a result of the invasions7,8. Thus began one of the many great inter-continental migrations of African people that, in a sense, has lasted right up to the time of the Western Europeans arrival on the West African coast at Elmina in the late 1400’s 9. It is worth noting that some oral traditions as well as some present day Ghanaian scholars claim the Akan, and other present day Ghanaian ethnic groups, are the direct descendants of some of those ancient Africans who migrated from areas in and around Egypt over 2000 years ago 8. In fact, the Kemitic (Egyptian) symbol for life, the “ankh”, bears a noticeable similarity in both meaning and physical appearance to the Akan fertility doll, the “akuaba”. There are many other connections 8 that we do not have time to go over here; and again, I ask you to seek further information through study and conversation.
Many of those who left Kemit (Egypt) lost much (but not all) of their knowledge of religion and philosophy, of the physical and social sciences, of the political arts and much
more. In fact, a number of great civilizations followed in Kemit’s footsteps all across Africa up to the time of the European trade in African slaves began 7. In additions, a few African civilizations managed to survive and expand during the Atlantic slave trading period 7. We can count a number of the great Akan kingdoms of present day Ghana like the Bono, Akwamu, Denkyira, Fante, Asante, Assin, and others in this category. Moreover, the political order of the divine kingship system epitomized by the Kemitic (Egyptian) Pharaohs, with their characteristic matrilineal succession and other rituals, is probably the ancient origin of Akan Nananom and similar traditions of today’s Ghana.
Traditional African Institutions Analogous to Slavery
We know that slavery has been a part of human society throughout most of human history. In many cases it changed its form and particulars, but men and women have subjugated their fellow men and women for many reasons from owing of debt, to penal punishment, to conquest in war, and finally to plain old economic greed. As we know, African societies had their own form of slavery. That is, the so-called vassal and/or tribute systems 9. These systems usually resulted from either conquest, or the owing of debt, or penal punishment. While the African systems were just as wrong as any other system of slavery, they were not as harsh or dehumanizing as the chattel nature of the Western European version of slavery that came later. These African systems, however, set us up (as it were) and made things easier for the Western Europeans to initiate and sustain the chattel form of slavery that was established for economic greed alone. To summarize, Africans had their own system of slavery, it was wrong (as all forms of slavery must be) but the slaves kept their culture, language, identity, and they were in general paying a debt and were not an economic commodity. In addition, in many cases social mobility for the slaves could be realized and at times the slaves were eventually set free. In fact, many of the slaves could become respected members of families in which they were enslaved, as well as the overall society in which the lived [ref.-Jackson & deGraft-Johnson].
The Oriental Slave Trade
The first foreigner initiated slave trade in Africa was the oriental slave trade10. It was initiated by the Arabs who came down from North Africa as conquerors around 700 A.D. The slaves were taken to North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia 10. This trade officially lasted until the late 1800’s. While the Arab slave trade lasted the longest, the number of slaves taken was not as great as the Western European version of slavery that started much later. The nature of Arab slave trade was such that the African slaves eventually were integrated into the Arab culture, once they were converted to Islam. Today, we do not find a strong Black African identity among the descendants of the African slaves in North Africa, the Middle East, or Asia. In addition, it was the Arab slave traders and the accompanying spread of Islam (among other developments), that probably forced the ancient Akan Kings of the thirteenth century to begin their migration from Wangara (an area around ancient Ghana in what is today called Mali), and to lead their people southeast towards the rain forests, and then on through the rain forests to the coast of what came to be known later as the Gold Coast. I understand that this fact is still in some of the oral traditions of the Akan today1.
V.) The Western European Trade in African Slaves and Problems in our African Past
The decline of Moorish [explain more !] domination of Southwestern Europe [ref.-Jackson & deGraft-Johnson], the subsequent renaissance of high culture in Europe, the invention of the gun (and other advances in the military weaponry of the day), the establishment of great Western European naval powers, and the tales of vast deposits of gold in Africa and other parts of the world; led many of the Western European states to begin to explore the world for conquest and economic gain.
Western European Conquest of the World
In fact, after the Moors retreated from Europe in the late 1400’s, the Western European states began a competitive process among themselves, which led eventually to Western European conquest of virtually the entire world. The Americas were located and claimed for Western Europe by the Portuguese, Spanish, French, and British. Western European contact was made with West Africa and the great trade at first in foodstuffs, ivory, and gold began. The success of Western European colonial enterprises led to population growth and expansion for Western Europe. North and South America were quickly colonized and settled. The indigenous people of the Americas’ resisted the invasions, but quickly fell to the invaders who practice ruthless policies, had superior weapons, and spread dreaded diseases [Guns, Steel, and Germs]. This led first to ‘permanent’ Western European colonial settlements in the Americas, the Caribbean, and parts of Africa, and then to the establishment of plantation economies in the colonies 10.
The Traditional African States Involvement in the European Trade in African Slaves: Entrapment
In Africa, Western European penetration and conquest proved relatively difficult (compared to the Americas and other parts of the world which were invaded almost simultaneously) because of the strong kingdoms that existed in many regions of Africa, the tropical terrain, and the tropical insects (like mosquitoes). But later, by the 1600’s there developed, economically, a strategic need for labor in the plantations of the Caribbean and Americas, and it became apparent that there was, militarily, a peculiar weaknesses in the interrelationships between African states. Within the continent (menstion that the density of ethnic groups is the highest in the world), the African nations were in a state of unstable equilibrium (that is, an equilibrium which could be made unstable by the slightest change in prevailing geopolitical and military conditions) This was due to the many years of previous inter-continental migrations and empire building [ref.-History of Ghana]. In addition, there was no sense of continental unity, or a Black African continental identity or nationalism at that time [ref.- The invention of Africa]. Nor was there any experience with the ‘new’ Western European invaders. Finally, it is worth mentioning that while many African states had an indigenous iron industry [ref.-SciAm]; they, like the rest of the world at that time, did not have an indigenous gun manufacturing industry. Not long after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1482 at Elmina on the Gold Coast, the Western European trade in Black African slaves began.
The Effects of the European Trade in African Slaves on the Population of Africa
The Western European trade in African slaves across the Atlantic lasted almost 400 years. It was the largest such trade in slaves (in terms of the number of slaves captured) the world had ever seen. It is documented that more than 20 million slaves left the shores of Africa to the Americas 11. But that is not the whole story. Dr. W. E. B. DuBois (who was a close aid to your first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and who was buried here in Ghana) has revealed that during the period from around 1500 to about the late 1800’s, Africa was depopulated to the tune of well over 100 million people (the combined result of both the Oriental and the European trade in African slaves along with the associated tribal wars) 11. A staggering figure indeed! (my own calculation suggest over 150 million people)
The Chattel Nature of the Western European Trade in African Slaves
The character of the European trade in African slaves was economical and chattel in nature4. By economical and chattel, I mean that the African slaves were considered and treated as farm animals; that is, as farm commodities. They were dehumanized, held in slavery for life, and all their descendants were subject to the same fate. This chattel slave system ultimately put a price on the head of every Black African man, woman and child throughout the African continent and the world. That is, the attempt was made to transform the Africans from a human being into a commodity, a chattel slave, a Negro, and finally a ‘nigger’. A terrible system indeed!
Violent Conversion of ‘Proud’ Africans into Chattel ‘Negro’ Slaves
The process of breaking, dehumanizing, transforming proud Africans into chattel ‘Negro’ slaves employed by the Western European masters was a multifold process. A few of the techniques employed to force submission were (1) mental torture, (2) physical torture, (3) family torture, (4) genetic torture, and (5) social torture.
The (1) mental torture included taking away the African slave’s native language, culture, and religion by banning almost all aspects of African cultural practices and by abolishing the teaching of reading, and especially anything to do with African history. In the United States of America (USA), the African cultural practices that have survived the enslavement period were practiced in secret or in religious services. In addition, to justify this wicked economic order, the European slave masters began to spread the lie that the African was intellectually inferior; because (they said) the African was closer to the ape family than to the human family. In the USA, the slave masters even banned the playing of the drum by the African slaves. This fact may be one of the reasons why African Americans developed a keen sense of rhythm that is displayed today in their songs, dances, and speech patterns (i.e., they infused the rhythm of the drum into almost every other form of human expression).
The (2) physical torture included bullwhip beatings to force day-to-day obedience from disobedient slaves. Also, physical torture included branding by hot irons for identification (since, like animals, all the slaves looked alike). Also, brutal murders such as lynching (castration and hanging) were committed to terrorize entire slave communities into submission and to discourage escapes and revolts.
The (3) family torture included regular policy of splitting up the African slave families. It was common for members of many slave families to all be sold to different plantations and slave masters. Also, marriage in the formal sense was forbidden. This was done to breakdown family dependencies and loyalties. Perhaps, the Western Europeans observed the strong family and clan structures in Africa and decided not to allow them to exist across the Atlantic. In addition, since the African slave was a commodity, some slave masters bred their slaves, like animals, to sell on the slave market as a way to generate extra profits. It could strongly be argued that foundations of the tremendous wealth we see in the West today rest on the back of the millions of African slaves. These African slaves` free labor provided the means to establish the initial capital reserve that was later use to finance the industrial revolution. Needless to say, the African slave was not paid at all.
The (4) genetic torture included a systematic and regular policy of raping our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. The Western European slave masters policy of raping our women was done not only to satisfy their perverted sexual lust, but it was also a deliberate form of genetic torture which was designed to genetically divide the children of the raped African women against their own mothers, uncles, aunts, bothers, and sisters. All forms of torture leave wounds, and the genetic form leaves wounds that could take several generations to heal.
Finally, the genetic form of torture laid the foundations for the (5) social torture that followed. In many cases, like South Africa and Haiti, the offspring resulting from the rapes were forced into a different slave social caste (i.e., the so-called ‘colored caste’). While they were still slaves, they were elevated slightly above the children of darker skinned Africans whose mothers were not raped by the slave masters. In addition, the genetically abused slaves were forced, in many cases, to become the ‘headmen’ for the white slave master community. In some cases, they were required to oversee and to police their own mothers, uncles, aunts, brother, and sisters in the lower Black African caste. This caste structure was effective in creating disunity among the slaves. Moreover, the effects of the social form of torture still exist and is still a source of disunity in many parts of the African world today.
African Resistance to Slavery
The intent of these various forms of human torture was to systematically produce an estranged, uncultured, dehumanized, ignorant, scattered, and divided ‘Negro’ chattel slave who was brainwashed into hating himself (i.e., hating his skin color, his hair, his physical appearance, and his African culture). It is worth noting that while the terrible chattel slave system was successful to a great degree, it did not succeed totally. Over the years of bondage, enough of our people, who were victims of one or all of the forms of torture, resisted the negative effects of the torture. In a surprisingly high number of cases, they were able to successfully fight for their dignity and freedom 4. One example of this resistance in earlier times was the successful revolt of the African slaves in Haiti during the early 1800’s to gain their freedom from the French under the powerful Napoleon. A more current example of this resistance was the revolts of the indigenous Africans and former slaves in South Africa who in 1994 finally ended the caste system of apartheid and gained a measure of political control over their homeland, South Africa. It is, indeed, a remarkable blessing that all the years of suffering did not kill our spirit; but it has, nevertheless, left us severely (but not mortally) wounded. It is worth noting that the cause of much of the social decay in the ghettos of many of the cities in the USA can be trace back to one or more of these abusive forms of torture [ref -] .
Only two good things that came from this experience was that (1) it ended and (2) we survived! This is no small achievement. Many of the indigenous people from lands which came under a similar type of European colonial domination like those who initially inhabited countries and continents we now call Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America, as well as many of the Island nations of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans either perished completely or are left today in a state of complete disintegration with little hope for a brighter future as a people. However, the future of Africa is much brighter [ref. – Andrew Young].
VI.) Realities of our African Present
Now that we had a brief review of our history and know where we have been, let us assess where we are now. That is, our present situation as a people before we point out where we should go in the future.
Effects of Slavery and Colonialism
The direct result of our past history of being victims of slavery and colonialism, is (1) the dismembered state of Africa and (2) the scattered state of African people 11,12. The population concentrations of African people are, of course, the highest in the Motherland. However, there are significant populations of Africans in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Western Europe and in other parts of the world as well. Hence, today we can legitimately speak of a worldwide African community; that is, the African World. While the slave trade scattered Africans throughout the world, colonialism dismembered our traditional geopolitical landscape in the Motherland 12. That is, the African landscape was divided up amongst the Western European powers in the late 1800’s 11. So far as the indigenous African states and ethnic groups were concerned, this dismemberment occurred in an arbitrary fashion. (this created distrust of traditional systems of rule and control) Many times boundaries that were drawn between different Western European colonies went right through the boundaries of the indigenous African states 11. We have inherited this fragmented and dismembered geo-political landscape which is inherently unstable and inefficient. It also may prove to be unworkable. Most of the nations of Africa since their independence have experienced a number of corrupt governments and many coupe de tas. In many cases, African governmental leaders have not served the educational, health, and economical needs of their people; but at times they seem to have served the needs of the former colonial and present neo-colonial interests and their own greed. More recently, there have emerged a few exceptions to this rule. Ghana, in recent years, has become one of the nations that has begun to overcome many of the negative legacies of the slave trading, colonial, and neo-colonial periods.
The African Population Growth Yesterday and Today
Another important development, which will become a great challenge in the future, is the explosive rise in the population of Africa. Over recent years the African continent has sustained a growth rate of over 3+%. This implies a population-doubling rate of around 23 years. That is, the population of most African countries will more than double by the year 2020. Africa’s total population will grow from around 700 million in 1997 to over 1.3 billion by 2020 13.
There are two important facts to consider while we ponder the consequences of this tremendous population growth. First, to provide a historical perspective, Africa is the only major (or continental) region of the world to experience a sustained negative population growth that lasted well over 200 years. That is, the depopulation of Africa that was mentioned earlier. Again, the African continent lost well over 150 million people during the slave-trading period11! Other than Africa, no other region of the world has ever experienced such a sustained negative population growth rate 14. The second fact to consider is that today the African population is growing at the highest rate in the world at 3+%. Moreover, if one excludes voluntary or involuntary migration into a region, then the present population growth in Africa is the highest ever in human history. These two extreme facts may prove to be related. Perhaps our scientists should study this phenomenon thoroughly. It could be the case that the sustained depopulation of Africa in the past helped to create conditions for the tremendous population growth rate we witness in Africa today.
Before we hastily draw conclusions concerning Africa’s population growth, let us first review some current facts concerning the population densities in regions of Africa and other parts of the world. Incidentally, the population density (that is, the number of people residing in a particular area, divided by the area in square kilometers) is the proper quantity to consider and not the total population in a given area. The population density of Africa is relatively low at 26 persons per square kilometer (p.p.sq.km.). If the desert regions of Africa are excluded, then the population density of the African continent is 38 p.p.sq.km. By comparison the population density of the USA is 28 p.p.sq.km., that of Ghana is 74 p.p.sq.km., that of China (the world’s most populace country) is 138 p.p.sq.km., that of Nigeria (the most populated African country) is 145 p.p.sq.km., that of Great Britain (Ghana’s former colonial ruler) is 235 p.p.sq.km., that of Belgium (the most densely populated Western European country) is 328 p.p.sq.km., and that of the world as a whole is 42 p.p.sq.km. 13. These facts do suggest that the rapid population growth is a challenge for the current and future leaders of African countries, but these facts do not suggest that Africa is overpopulated today nor will it be overpopulated (relatively speaking) in the near future (next 23 years).
If Africa is overpopulated, then much of the rest of the world is ultra-overpopulated! The current uproar over the population explosion in Ghana and Africa should be viewed with some suspicion. The main problem is not the absolute size of the population, but the ability of governments and institutions to respond effectively to the great social pressures that result from the extremely high population growth rate. This high population growth rate is a problem and a challenge. It should be studied and controlled, but the absolute size of the population in Ghana, and other parts of Africa, is not a problem in principle.
It is interesting to note that ancient Kemit had a population density of 268 p.p.sq.km., about 3.6 times more than Ghana’s present population density. It is also interesting to note that ancient Kemit was located in a desert region (like Egypt is today). Yet over 4000 years ago Kemit was able to manage the yearly flooding of the Nile, successfully irrigate its farm land, feed its people, and build one of the most advanced civilizations the world has ever seen that lasted for nearly 3000 years 15. Surely, the present and near future (next 23 years) population density in Africa can be managed, that is, if our leaders control and efficiently utilize Africa’s human and natural resources wisely. Thus, managing Africa’s human and natural resources wisely is the real challenge of Africa’s population growth, and not just family planning.
Impact of the Cold War End on Africa
The recent end of the cold war has also impacted Africa. The old strategy of non-alignment (in the political arena) is of little use now that there is effectively only one political superpower. This development has created more political instabilities in Africa. Over the last few years, since the ending of the cold war, there have been an increasing number of coups, conflicts, and wars in Africa resulting from the shifting of the political tides. Today’s governmental restructuring policies in African countries (that is, the privatization and democratization policies) are a direct result of the end of the cold war and the subsequent shifting of the political tides. While some of these developments may be welcomed; their occurrence, at this time, indicates that Africa is, evidently, still not in control of her own destiny.
Emergence of Multiple Economic Superpowers
An equally important current international development is the emergence of multiple economic superpowers in the world. The USA is no longer the only economic superpower. In fact, most of the countries of the developed and developing world have formed international trading blocks or alliances, so that today there are effectively three superpower economic regions of the world. That is, the North American block centered in the USA, the Western European Union block centered in Western Europe, and the Asian block centered in Japan. It is worth noting that African countries, which today make-up the majority of the underdeveloped world, are currently not officially included in any of these great international economic trading blocks. One encouraging economic development, however, is the emergence of the ‘information age’ or ‘high-tech age’, which has eliminated the old “industrialization” route to national economic development. This high-tech age could prove to be very positive for the development efforts of Ghana and Africa.
End of all Vestiges of Direct Colonial Rule in Africa
The final point is very encouraging to discuss. That is, after more than 400 years of slave trading and nearly 100 years of colonial domination, sub-Saharan Africa is finally free of direct foreign rule. With the ending of the apartheid in South Africa, and subsequent free elections, the last of the colonial settler regimes has ended. This event came much quicker than most predicted. In many ways it was also a result of the end of the cold war. However, we take it no matter how it has come. It is important to note that an indirect or neo-colonial form of dominating Africa and her people in Africa and throughout the world still continues today. So, in summary, the present realities herald a number of challenges and opportunities. To summarize, we expect some hard times for sure; but in the longer run (if we work hard at it), we expect good things to come for Ghana, for Africa, and for Africans worldwide.
VII.) The Significance of the Assin Manso Slave Market and the Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony for our Slave Ancestors
Before going on, we need to address some issues that could be raised or should be raised by the symbolism imbedded in Assin Manso’s “Nnonkosuo” (the slave river – the river where slaves received their last bath before sale to the slave merchants and shipped to the coast) and by the symbolism imbedded in the slave burial grounds here in Assin Manso’s “Nnonkosie” (slave grave yard – where slaves who died enroute (?) to the coast were buried). I will pose these issues as questions, then discuss them in turn. The questions are: (1) Should there be blame for the Assin Manso Slave Market? (2) Who should be blamed? (3) Can we the Africans in the Diaspora (the great-great-great grandchildren of some of the slaves taken by force from perhaps Assin Manso), and the Africans living here on the continent today (like the people here of the Assin Apimanim traditional area), overcome this terrible legacy of slavery, colonialism, and division; and can we bring our dismembered and scattered family back together? and (4) What is the significance of the Assin Manso Slave Market Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony?
Should there be Blame for the Assin Manso Slave Market?
Yes! There must be blame for the Assin Manso Slave Market and all other slave markets throughout Africa and the World. We can not afford to forget the millions of Africa’s people who died, the millions of Africa’s people who suffered, and the millions of Africa’s people whose lives were forcibly and permanently altered because of the slave trade. More importantly, we can not forgive, because Africans (both in Africa and in the Diaspora) continue to suffer today from many of the same afflictions perpetuated by many of the same adversaries. We should only forgive when all the offensives related to our slavery and colonial experience have stopped for some time.
Who should be Blamed?
The blame should not be directed specifically at Assin Manso Slave Market, but the blame should be directed at the entire system of Western European trade in African slaves. Specifically, the blame should be directed at those Western European, Caribbean, and American powers, interests, and people who initiated and sustained the Atlantic slave trading system; and who continue today to exert indirect ‘neo-colonial’ form of control over Africans today, both in Africa and throughout the world. So, when I say blame, I am not talking about my and your ancestors, but I am talking about the worldwide system that was much bigger than my and your ancestors ever were. We acknowledge that some of my and your ancestors aided and profited from the slave trade. However, the control of the Atlantic slave trading system was never in the hands of the Africans who participated in it. It was driven not by Africa’s development interests, but by Western Europe’s colonial expansion and development interests. That is, many African states became entrapped in the Atlantic slave trading system once it became the dominant economic order of the day. Once the new European weapons like the gun was introduced, they destabilized the frail military and political ‘unstable equilibrium’ that existed between the African states. The ‘new’ weapons became a strategic resource for the African states. The control and supply of these ‘advanced’ weapons was closely guarded by the Western European states and was never allowed to be placed in the hands of any of the African states. In many cases the survival of a particular state depended on the acquisition of European guns and ammunitions. Therefore, the trade with the Europeans for guns and ammunitions became a strategic trade. Moreover, European trade in African slaves for the plantations across the Atlantic was also a strategic trade as mentioned earlier. But the Europeans held the competitive advantage, because they controlled the sea, the market, and the guns. Hence, a few African states traded in slaves for greed, more traded in slaves for guns to use for military survival and security, while others traded in slaves because they were coerced to do so by Western European military force16. [Cite other people’s experience with the western European: Native American]
An Example of the Entrapment of the African King
An example of this entrapment of the African states or Kings is illustrated by the following quote from a letter sent by a Congolese King Dom Affonso (who was an early convert to Christianity) in 1526 to the Portuguese King at the time. The quote was cited in Kwame Nkrumah’s book, The Challenge of the Congo16. The letter contains a plea to stop the slave trade in his kingdom. The Congolese King was prepared to sacrifice all Portuguese trade if he could suppress the trade in slaves that was destroying his kingdom.
“… we cannot reckon how great the damage is, since the above mentioned merchants daily seize our subjects, sons of the land and sons of our noblemen and vassals and our relatives… Thieves and men of evil conscience take them because they wish to possess the things and wares of this Kingdom… They grab them and cause them to be sold: and so great, Sir, is their corruption and licentiousness that our country is being utterly depopulated. And to avoid (them), we need from (your) Kingdom no other than priests and people to teach in schools, and no other goods but wine and flour for the holy sacrament: that is why we beg of Your Highness to help and assist us in this matter, commanding your factors that they should send here neither merchants nor wares, because it is our will that in these Kingdoms (of Congo) there should not be any trade in slaves nor market for slaves.”
Nkrumah goes on to comment that, nevertheless, King Affonso’s… ‘power was undermined’. By… ‘The traders of the [Portuguese King]…who went over his head to his nominal vassals from whom they procured the slaves, even forming civil wars in which Portuguese subjects served on both sides. Thus whichever way the war went, an ample supply of captives was assured for sale to Sao Tome and Brazil’16.
The Sustenance of the European Trade in African Slaves
Once the Atlantic slave trading system started, it was very hard to stop. This is so because it was a profitable economic order, like the one that still exists here today called by some “neo-colonialism”. In fact, the very Western European interests that initiated and sustained the European trade in African slaves, later stopped it (once its economic value became unprofitable). So, it serves no useful purpose to blame those few ancestors who willingly participated in the Western European trade in African slaves. Most of the ancestors who participated in the European trade in African slaves were more than likely entrapped (like the example given above) and simply and tragically acted out a script that was forced on them by the Western European invaders who controlled the situation. Since we know from our own experience that the descendants did not benefit from their ancestors slave trading profits, nor have the descendants continued the betrayal practiced by those ancestors who participated in the European trade in African slaves, we can not blame any of us Africans alive today, who may be the descendants of the ancestors who were slave traders.
The Primary Blame for the European Trade in African Slaves
So, primarily, the blame for the European trade in African slaves and the associated atrocities must be placed directly and collectively on the countries of Western Europe and their colonies and allies in the Caribbean, South and North America. Moreover, they continue to commit neo-colonial atrocities on Africa and continue to oppress African people in the Diaspora today. The devastation and suffering that African people have endured for over 500 years is too overwhelming to forgive or to forget.
The Secondary Blame for the European Trade in African Slaves
Secondarily, however, we must understand and blame the weaknesses that evidently existed in the indigenous African states (and the indigenous so-called ‘Indian’ or Native American and Native Caribbean states) for not having the ability to collectively respond to the Western European invasions. This blame (on the victims) must be levied even though we know that these indigenous states (both African and Native American) were naive and innocent, from the point of view that they did not have any prior knowledge or experience that such a holocaust could possibly take place. However, in order to provide us, today, with the proper motivation to correct the problem and to prevent its reoccurrence or continuation (in any form) in the future, we must levy the secondary blame at our own weaknesses as a people. That is, Africans lacked a continental identity, nationalism, and unity that could have formed the basis for a more effective coordinated and continental wide resistance to the Western European assault.
Can We Bring Our Dismembered and Scattered African Family Back Together?
Yes! We can overcome this terrible legacy and bring our Dismembered and Scattered African family back together. To do this we must know our history, no matter how painful it is, and identify the root causes of how we got caught up in the slave trade and the subsequent colonial domination, which caused the Dismemberment and Scattering. We must somehow create a real unity with respect to any present or future aggressive threats to any of Africa’s numerous ethnic groups and/or lands both on the continent and worldwide. This unity must include more than a political and military component; it must include a strong economic and spiritual component in order to be meaningful and long lasting. All these things are easy to say, but very hard to do. However, we must accept the challenge. The alternative is indefinite submission to the powers that be, and indefinite acceptance of being the world’s permanent underclass – or better, ‘the wretched of the earth’ [ref. – France Fanon].
What is the Significance of the Assin Manso Slave Market Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony?
All great movements have a start. They must begin somewhere. Assin Manso Slave Market Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony is a fitting place to start our journey towards restoring the dignity of Africans worldwide. The Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony is among the first steps in creating a new African ritual which could serve as the example for other regions here and in other parts of the world to begin healing the wounds that our dismembered and scattered people 13 have suffered, and to begin the-putting-back-together of the African family. We therefore thank and greatly appreciate Barima Kwame Nkyi XII, Omanhene of Assin Apimanim Traditional area, the Nananom, the Elders, and the people of Assin Apimanim Traditional area, for their courage in initiating the Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony for the Ancestors of those slaves who were taken through and died here at Assin Manso (clarify). We also encourage all other Africans in Ghana, in Africa, and in the Diaspora to support efforts like the Remembrance and Reverential Ceremony, and to initiate similar rituals throughout the African World.
VIII.) The Challenges of our African Future
Let me conclude my discussion by sighting just a few challenges for the African world as we approach the next millennium. We must stop the continued dependence of African people (worldwide) on the West (or the east for that matter) for our livelihood, our institutions, our values, and our goals. We must reach back and revive the good aspects of our own traditions in religion, philosophy, medicine, science, and in governmental and military science. We must embrace the ‘high-tech age’ as the main vehicle to national development. Then, we must reconstruct our institutions, our values, and our goals in a way that are consistent with our heritage and traditions, rather than contradictory. We must come together as people who have a worldwide community and begin to depend on ourselves. We must take advantage of our worldwide community and form economic alliances, first with ourselves, then with all other nations that want mutual and fair relationships. We must re-institute the non-aligned strategy in the economic arena.
Finally, it is important to note that our worldwide African community has an African identity, a common historical base, a common need to develop, and a common aspiration to regain control over our dignity, prosperity, and destiny. We, therefore, have an important opportunity. This, I submit, must be the basis for our hope, this must be the basis for our unity, this must be the basis for our future, and this must be among the blessings that come forth from our ancestors that we mourn today. If we succeed in coming together, we can meet the challenges of dismemberment, of fragmentation, of scattering, of instability, of population growth, of healthcare, and of education. By coming back together, we can seize the opportunities of Africa’s political independence, of a possible African World economic alliance, of the new high-tech economic age, and of harnessing all of Africa’s great human and natural wealth for a better tomorrow for the entire African World.
I conclude, then, with a poem by the late Patrice Emery Lumumba called “Dawn in the Heart of Africa” 17. While the poem is nominally about the Congo it can be readily applied to the whole African World – just substitute “African World” for “Congo”. Please note that Lumumba, like others of the first generation of leaders that liberated Africa, was a budding “philosopher-poet-king” like our ancient traditional rulers. But also note that the neo-colonial interests cut him down like so many other great African leaders before he could bare any political, economic, or social fruit for his people. His poem follows:
“Dawn in the Heart of Africa”
By Patrice Emery Lumumba
The Dawn is here, my brothers! Dawn! Look in our faces!
A new morning breaks in our old Africa,
Ours alone will now be the land, the water, the mighty rivers.
Poor Africa surrendered for a thousand years.
Hard torches of the sun will shine for us again,
They’ll dry the tears in our eyes and spittle on our faces.
The moment when you break the chains, the heavy fetters,
The evil cruel times will go – never to come again!
A free and gallant Congo will rise from Black soil!
A free and gallant Congo – Black blossom from Black seed!
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3.) A. C. Wilson and R. L. Cann, “The Recent African Genesis of Humans,” Scientific American, April 1992, pp. 68-73.
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12.) Ayi Kwei Armah, “Per Ankh: Remembering the Dismembered Continent – An Intellectual Agenda for an African Future,” The 5th Annual DuBois, Padmore, Nkrumah Memorial Lectures, Du Bois Center, Accra, Ghana, September 18, 1996.
13.) World Population Prospects 1988, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.88.XIII.7, 1989.
14.) A. A. Bhende and T. Kanitkar, Principles of Population Studies, 6th edition, Bombay, Himalaya Publishing House, 1994, p. 64.
15.) Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid, Happer & Row, New York, 1971, p.117.
16.) Kwame Nkrumah, The Challenge of the Congo, Panaf Book Ltd., London, 1967.
17.) Patrice Emery Lumumba, “Dawn in the Heart of Africa,” Poems from Black Africa, Ed. Langston Hughes, Bloomington, 1963, p.136.