Howe, Russell Warren
April 1968
Foreign Affairs;Apr1968, Vol. 46 Issue 3, p584
This article presents information on the political history of Africa. It is in history that the professional mythologists appear to have done their most successful work. Faced with Africa's understandable irritation at colonial versions of pre-colonial history, some historians and other writers offered to give Africa in general, and Black Africa in particular, a "brand new past." Academe produced a figure to fit the age, the "history cosmetician," who repairs the ravages of time. Perhaps because few historians deal with Africa at all, others have cashed in on this academic pop market, a Welsh journalist won a measure of fame for having found that the U.S. had not been discovered by the Chinese, the Vikings or the Spanish crew of a Genoese navigator, but by an armada of two thousand Mandingo dugout canoes. Some of the myths of Africa's past have clearly been aimed at quickening the guilt of the Western world over slavery. Behind the veil of legend, however, everything in the early records makes it clear that Europe and America did not "bring the slave trade" to Africa, it was Africa that created the Atlantic trade in slaves by stimulating a formerly disinterested market.


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