African Legacies: Europe and America

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Lionel Chirairo
Prof. Heather Hoag
HIST 150: Modern African History
08/12/12

African Legacies: Europe and America

With every encounter, a memory remains, no matter how small the event the impact is always present. For the last 6 centuries, Europe and America have had a strong influence on Africa. Beginning in 1441 with Portugal’s hand in slavery to the United States and Great Britain part in the Libyan Civil war, the Western world has long been attracted to Africa (Hoag Lecture Notes). The legacies left behind are seen as reasons for Africa’s progression and regression. Some of the interventions have brought advancement to certain sectors whilst in others it has created a multitude of social, economic, and political problems. European and American involvement in Africa has left many legacies, which to this day are responsible for many of the continents woes. The first encounter Europe had with Africa was in 1441 with the enslavement of 12 West Africans, they were shipped to Portugal, merely out of curiosity (Hoag Lecture Notes). Before the arrival of Europeans, Africa had its own unique form of slavery, which was kin based. With the creation of Elmina, in present day Ghana and West Africa quickly became the hub for slavery. The Atlantic Slave Trade was completely different from any previous slave system. Europeans for one saw African slaves as property merely for economic activity, they maintained no social bond and granted slaves no rights. With the ever increasing need of labor in the New World plantations, the system heavily purchased people from Africans. As an outcome of slavery many legacies emerged. Racism, the African diaspora in the Americas and Europe, weakened societies, distorted and dependent African economies and the formation of two colonies were the most important. Racism was a key factor in the trade, for the first time the system had been based on skin color. With Social Darwinism serving as justification, Europeans began seeing themselves as having a higher developmental status. More over slavery created large communities of African slave descendents in the Americas and in Europe, with no knowledge of their ancestral history, they have created new lives and identities where ever the slave trade took their descendants. Soon after the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade the repercussions were apparent in Africa, they had suffered greatly from a loss of social bonds and culture, and a decrease in population. As a result of depopulation, the rate of production and technological advancements dropped. People also began importing cheap foreign goods. This ultimately led to a dependent African economy which became “mono-cultural and geared towards the needs of the colonial power” (Understanding Slavery). Liberia and Sierra Leone were direct products of the abolishment of slavery, established for the resettlement of former slaves. In 1792 Sierra Leone was formed by Britain as a colony, and Liberia formed in 1820 was the American colony (History World). The British are said to have a created better colonies compared to the French, through indirect rule they were able to attract settlers and create various successful income generating initiatives rather than trying to further the policy of assimilation. Britain focused on creating basic infrastructure throughout its colonies. They took advantage of their colonies vast mineral wealth and fertile soil. With the discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa and Ghana, the “African El Dorado” begun, Europeans flocked to Africa in search of a new life and a chance of wealth, just as Cecil Rhodes had done. (Hoag Lecture Notes) These minerals quickly powered Europe’s industrial revolution. Agriculture was popular with many British, as they grew coffee and tea in Kenya, coffee in Ghana, and tobacco in Zimbabwe. Through various economic incentives, Africans cultivated the crops. Many of the crops were sold to marketing boards at under par prices. With the profits...
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