Dark Tourism in Ghana The Joseph

Dark Tourism in Ghana The Joseph


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Africans have tried to conceal the compromising part they played in the raiding

 and selling of their own as they highlight the evil of the Arabs, Europeans and Americans.



Dark Tourism in Ghana: The Joseph Project

By Jean Y.T. Lukaz 

Part I A new area of tourism studies that is struggling to gain recognition partly because of the guilt that comes with it and partly because of a phobia of a reparation revolutionary movement that may spring up. Dark Tourism, a fascination with visiting sites associated with death, destruction and doom, has recently appeared on the tourism degree curriculum as an infant formula, yet much of the industry remains indifferent and uninformed. Simply put, dark tourism is about the commodification of grief with the revenues accruing to the perpetrators, collaborators, arbiters and the victims. 

The Cape Coast & Elmina Castles, the Slave Markets, and the Slave Cemeteries in Ghana, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the mass graves in Burundi, Bosnia Herzegovina, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ground Zero in the USA all highlight the growing demand for what is termed ‘dark tourism’ and the need to carefully manage this new market. 

Apart from the old relics of these dark periods of history, some of the perpetrators as well as the middlemen and the victims have all found ingenious ways of carving their history into monuments and celebrations, a process I have defined as monumentalisation (this topic will be treated in detail on its own). Germany, Belgium, Ghana and some others still have the original sites preserved as a tourist attraction, ones that many pleasure seeking tourists refuse to recognise on their itineraries. Sex tourism, a more titillating alternative, is a preferred choice.

The minds of the perpetrators, like a haunted house, are now the haunted as the once-haunted-ghosts of all the lost souls keep coming back. Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is on the roll-out. The constant reminders are thwarting the branding efforts of those countries involved as most of them try futile reconciliation through aid, debt relief and visa lotteries. Others offer opportunities to seemingly raise the importance of the victims by offering them a place in their senate or recognise them as DOM-TOMs.  

Germany suffered this big blow when in July 2003, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi made a well-publicized antic at a meeting of the European Parliament: “I know that in Italy, there is a man producing a film on Nazi concentration camps- I shall put you forward for the part of guard,” sneered the unflappable prime minister, rebuking German MEP Martin Schulz, who had been harassing him on the issue of alleged scandals. The very images Germans have toiled for years to dispel keep coming back to haunt them. 

Our own President John Agyekum Kuffour was offered the privilege of opening the new Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (Wise), the brainchild of Hull University, an act that has met a lot of criticism. It sounded more of a ‘celebrity endorsement’ of the evils of slavery to the emotionally charged. However, as a postgraduate alumnus of the Politics Dept & Law School of the University of Hull, and having consequently lived in the City of Hull for a couple of years, the erstwhile Wilberforce Museum offers more of a history of slavery in terms of slavery advocacy than our own at home.

And if we are really bent on putting together all the linkages in the slavery network with Ghana as a departure point, then it was worthwhile being at the ceremony. Remember, besides all this rhetoric dark tourism is one of national business and Ghana (just like Britain) needs those tourism revenues that are going to accrue from the Joseph Project, a niche tourism strategy that draws on the emotional, inspirational and historical dimensions of Black-African-Diasporean heritage. Rita Marley and others have already found a home in Ghana and have come to terms with this reality. 

Credit or debit, greedy African Families, African Warriors, Arab Slave Raiders and Enterprising Europeans all have their hands tainted with the blood of all that lost their lives before, during the journey and at their destinations. And until we come to terms with the roles that each group played in starting or ending this evil, we shall keep begging the question while those that are seeking reconciliation remain unforgiven. Leverage Branding?

Observers are worried about the two-way-street-role of Britain in the commercial slave trade and in its abolition. The actual problem is, Britain has succeeded in leveraging its role both as a partaker and arbiter to brand the country and in particular, the City of Hull, using the very subject under review here. Britain has used the Wise Institute to relaunch the branding efforts of the City of Hull as a tourist attraction, one that generates a lot of sterling for the government.  

The Wise Institute is expected to form the centrepiece of the Hull City’s celebrations in 2007 to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. The City Council has intimated that Wise will be one of the most prestigious educational establishments in Britain. Presently, Hull still bears the legacy of the slave trade as a major buyer of Ghana’s cocoa that was some time back unloaded from ships by the very slaves from Ghana and elsewhere. I was surprised when at a cocoa processing factory in Hull I chanced upon Ghana-branded cocoa jute sacks in 2001. As we shall find out soon it is not just Britain that is using a grim past as brand leverage.

Germany in the year 2005 commissioned a maze of architectural coffins as a new monument on the holocaust, something everyone would rather expect Israel and Poland to do. Russia in 1997 also commissioned a holocaust and concentration camp monument at the Victory Square in memory of victims. Maybe we should be more worried about the AK-47 Military Museum in Russia, an indirect partaker in the present dark tourism in sub-Saharan Africa. Not even Russia has leveraged fully the popularity of the no-frills death machine as much as the countries that have endured its use and abuse.  Ambush Branding?

Countries that have fallen victim to and suffered at the hands of the AK-47 have all done some ambush branding seeing the leverage it could give them, oblivious to the macabre role of the AK-47 apparatus belli in shaping the history of 20th-21st century conflict. The AK-47 is included in the flag of Mozambique and coat of arms (formerly also in Burkina Faso coat of arms), appears on stamps in Burkina Faso, murals on the falls road in Belfast and the logo of Hezbollah and features prominently in rap lyrics and TV news footage. Numerous computer and video games feature AK-47s. Toy makers and the airsoft industry make millions of replica AK-47’s. The Kalashnikov, which was to Soviet Communism what Coca Cola was to American economic imperialism, was shipped in millions to revolutionaries and People’s Armies around the world – 4.5 kilos of dictatorship of the proletariat, from Russia with love.

Apathy or lack of knowledge on country branding issues, it has taken foreigners to write our histories and to develop travel guides to our own countries that we know better. Similarly, it took the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and World Tourism Organisation (WTO) to develop and brand slavery as tourism niche across the USA and the Caribbean for Africa. It has taken same to regenerate all surviving relics of the slave trade. This international project was dubbed ‘The Slave Route Project’ and has come to the point where the Minister for Tourism and Diasporean Relations (MOTDR), the Hon. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, has branded the Ghana edition (a twisted version in the form of a pilgrimage) as ‘The Joseph Project’, one that has met my ardent critique as having been given too much attention.

Call it ambush branding if you care. But the Joseph Project has come to stay. It is a niche that does not generate much revenue for Ghana compared to the amount of resources being dedicated to it but the Joseph Project has got the kind of power needed to get all the attention in the world for branding Ghana as a tourism destination, especially if done with all the linkages to the perpetrators, collaborators and arbiters such as Britain et al. In fact, the history and impact of slavery would be incomplete without the accounts of those mentioned above.

Ghana is the only country in the world with the biggest number of accounted legacies and relics of the slave trade (with originally about 80 forts and castles) and over 50 annual cultural festivals, major and minor. It is quite a pity that lack of a national branding strategy has undermined this potential. Gambia and Senegal have collaboratively sold the slavery niche better as ‘Roots Tourism’ (even with just on slave fort), with reference to the TV drama series ‘Roots’. 

Part II Slavery has been with mankind since biblical times. The quest for conquest and domination is an inherent nature of man since God declared it at the beginning of creation. Push factors have been the need for arable land for farming, mineral wealth, wildlife, access to water bodies for commercial purposes and fishing.

Slavery in all forms leaves memories and memorabilia for both the masters and the enslaved. Such keepsakes have usually been destroyed or left to crumble on their own or taken over by some non-enterprising individual. Those that have been conscious of their history have preserved and documented all the relics of their past as a story that needs to be retold over and over to those yet to be born and to foreigners who dare to know more about them.

The transatlantic slavery that depleted Africa of her human resources, the strong, healthy and well-built, left many scars as it was not the usual ones that resulted from tribal wars but rather that of an unequal conqueror. The Europeans kept fighting each other over the scramble for African slaves until the coastlines were completely chartered by commercial slave trading. Forts, castles and temporary sheds were built to house conquered and purchased slaves till their onward shipment across the oceans.

Upon their arrival, slaves were taken through all the orientation and matriculation after their sale and life began abroad!  

With the abolition of slavery, slave forts, slave castles and slave pens were all vacated never to be occupied again by another grim period in the history of any people. Other sites that were also used as slave markets, slave bathing bays, dungeons, and caves that were inhabited by escaped slaves have been a source of rich history to both the conquerors, the once-conquered and the Africans in the Diaspora that are seeking earnestly to know their past.  

Europeans and Americans that were also involved in slavery have managed to preserve some of the relics of this period which they have kept in museums as an attraction. African-Americans also located their past in the same land and have commissioned other monuments to commemorate this period.  

In doing all the above as a way of preserving history, Africans, Europeans, Americans, African-Americans and African-Caribbeans have all positioned themselves differently in portraying their roles in the transatlantic slavery.

Africans have tried to conceal the compromising part they played in the raiding and selling of their own as they highlight the evil of the Arabs, Europeans and Americans. Most of the forts have crumbled; some have been used as penitentiaries as in Ghana, to further instill the concept of slavery and incarceration, others are now brothels and being used as Bed and Breakfast lodges. No new monuments have been added since to express our own side of the story, only theirs. And the saga continues . . .

The Europeans et al have done their best to show their goodwill and struggle in the lead up to the Abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. They have not thought about preserving and displaying the slave ships, slave auction markets and slave execution centers (they do not want grim reminders of this commercial past). To add insult to injury, they have written our history for us, even the ones they never knew before their commercial intervention.

In the US, racial segregation and the confederation flag are modern relics of the history of slavery and domination. It has taken African-Americans searching for their past to establish cultural institutions for the preservation of their enslavement, such as the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC) in Cincinnati. Racially-sponsored history books lying about African institutions before and after slave conquest are the order of the day. Even in modern times a lot more is still being done to exaggerate all the grim stories pervading the African continent, ostensibly to conceal the truth, happy side and the organised socio-cultural institutions of the African.

Slavery, Dark tourism, Colonialism and the Commodification of Grief have all given three different dimensions to one story of the African. The Africans are presenting themselves as Passive Victims of Slavery with all the relics they have been able to preserve, the British, representing the Europeans, are presenting themselves as anti Slavery Advocates through the works of Wilberforce at the new Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (Wise) in Hull, and the Americans are simply Perpetrators in Denial, leaving the African-American victims to recollect their own past while rebuffing all attempts at reparations. So who really did it?

Positioning places by the good, the bad and the ugly in the macabre history of the transatlantic slavery by the Victims, Perpetrators, Advocates and Arbiters as tourist attractions is their own prerogative including how they choose to present it. Each of the categories of people deserves to tell their story in a way that befits and brands them in a positive light. In fact, every smart people will use the slavery attractions, monuments and relics to position and brand their countries, cities and communities to the world, not necessarily to remind all concerned of their grief or acrimony as many activists are advocating.  

Dark tourism for any country tells the story from the perspective of the host however biased.  With the onset of the bicentenary of the Abolition of Transatlantic Slavery, all the stakeholders mentioned above are putting their act together to highlight their ‘good’ roles vis-à-vis the associated branded ‘evils’. Whatever this may mean to all involved: emancipation, reconciliation, reparation, homecoming or pilgrimage, there is nothing new under the sun. 

Part III

The story of Joseph, the basis of Ghana’s branding of the slave route project, ‘The Joseph Project’ or ‘Project Joseph’, can be summarised as follows: Joseph having been sold into slavery by his siblings out of envy or jealousy, his persecution and imprisonment, his rise to power and the return of his siblings to his stead begging or looking for bread, his forgiveness and reconciliation. Let’s remember that Joseph never went to his siblings, the latter rather went to him, when he had been appointed ruler and was wealthy, unknowingly, as they needed food for their basic survival.

The Mockumentary

So come 2007, Africans in the Diaspora will be coming to a prosperous land (Ghana) to look for food for their basic survival, will unknowingly meet Joseph (Ghanaians) who they sold into slavery and is now well-to-do and a ruler in Ghana, and reconcile with him after Joseph forgives them for their misdeed…What a mockery!!! This is just a paraphrase of by Mike Green’s New Visions Commentary titled “Who Should Pay for Reparations? Black Americans . . . Obviously”! Is this supposed to be a celebration of a return to their roots or a case of a mistaken identity? Africans in the Diaspora by this ‘Joseph Project’ may need to go through an identity parade in order to help determine who the real Joseph is: Africans in Africa or Africans in the Diaspora?

Another feat in the series of misadventures by the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan (Joseph) Relations of Ghana, a self-styled branding strategy that was born in a post-binging-romantic-night-dream has gone completely wrong; and like the child that objected to his teacher accusing him of ‘one person making so many mistakes’ as he was helped out by his Dad and therefore making it ‘two people making so many mistakes’, how many people will be accused this time?  

A real mockatainment is awaiting Ghanaians and Africans in general in 2007 for the celebration of the legendary and demystified Kunta Kinte’s return to the Gambia, through Ghana. The contra story emerges: Joseph’s siblings have been desperately trying to reach their wealthy brother in the Diaspora where they can get substance for their survival and prosperity. Joseph has on the other hand been also trying diligently to seek reparations from the merchants that bought and or brought him into slavery and the merchants have been trying effortlessly at ridiculing the call for reparations even after deciding to pay so much to the Jews, who, incidentally, happen to pass for the real Josephs both physically and historically. Will the real Joseph please stand up! 

According to the Joseph Project strategy of the Ministry of Tourism and Joseph Relations of Ghana “There are ‘Josephs’ alive today and new ones still being born, so it is our intention to form a nominating committee of Africans in the homeland and in the Diaspora who will select those men and women who will qualify to become a ‘Joseph’. These will then be enrobed and featured in the ‘African Excellence Experience’”. Joseph has now been formally codified into a policy misdeed. Period.  

A lot of effort and resources has been put into the mispublicity of ‘Joseph’ and the African Diaspora. A case of misbranding, all Ghanaians stand to lose from this feat that wrongly projects an otherwise brilliant idea but wrongly branded by the Ministry of Tourism and its implementing arm, the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB).  

Slavery Pilgrimage: Pandora’s Box

The trip to Ghana or the homecoming or the pilgrimage of Africans in the Diaspora to the various slave routes their ancestors were taken through may sound like a celebration when viewed from the perspective of the promoters of dark tourism, death tourism, grief tourism or thanotourism.

In fact, it is a trip to the cemetery (since none of the original partakers is alive) to open Pandora’s box and awaken dormant emotions be they anger, love or hatred. But does dark tourism really bring any healing to the victims and their lineage, especially in this situation where the case for reparations, a better attempt at reconciliation and healing, has become a source of mockery?- The U.S. government’s first reparations plan to compensate African-Americans for the legacy of slavery was 40 acres and a mule apiece — that was Gen. William Sherman’s promise to former slaves shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865. His order set aside land on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts for the settlement of thousands of newly freed families.

But the promise was quickly recanted and the land was taken back, with no other plans for reparations- Forgiveness, reconciliation and healing emanate from a consensus by all that were involved in the transatlantic slave trade and maybe open hearings and discussions at a Slavery Reconciliation Commission may be a better alternative and help in the healing process rather than a packaged tour on a dark tourism adventure along the trail.  

Reconciliation and Reintegration

Most Africans have moaned about African-Americans and other Africans in the Diaspora accusing them of their involvement in the slave trade and for ‘selling them into slavery’. The Africans that have been at the receiving end of such accusations wonder why there is so much bother about homecoming and all the attention given to Africans in the Diaspora when they hate ‘us’. It is even worse for those African work-a-holics that take up menial jobs in Black populated cities such as New York and Chicago. What is wrong here is that both sides of the African are living in denial: Africans back home are yet to accept the role they played in the transatlantic slave trade and Africans in the Diaspora are probably lost on the one-way street of reparations and reconciliation and are yet to join the dual carriage involving Africans back home in Africa.

Back home, Africans in the Diaspora are rather regarded as Whites due to attitudes of superiority when in their comfort zones in the Diaspora. Africans back home are beginning to see through the homecoming rhetoric as packed with hypocrisy. A lot of media attention is given to such ‘homecoming’ scenes and a typical question that follows after their mantra ‘We have come home’ is ‘How long have you come home to stay?’- not more than a holiday packed with fun and spending sprees. Most manage to acquire local names and go through mock rites of passage ceremonies as a form of initiation. 

The reality is, in Ghana for example, local people feel that Africans in the Diaspora are economically better off and may do well to swap places with them if they really believe in homecoming and are unhappy about their situation in ‘racist societies where they do not feel fully accepted. This brings into focus an African perspective of an otherwise ‘positive’ impact of the slave trade. It is often a truism to say that modern day transatlantic slave trade is voluntary and free ‘flights’ into slavery will only take seconds to fill up— just monitor the daily number of and risky nature of illegal immigration by Africans into the Diaspora. 

At recent seminars and other programs in Ghana, Africans in the Diaspora on holiday in Ghana have bemoaned how they are referred to as ‘Obroni’ (Whiteman/woman). Which of the two kinds of Africans is living in denial? If we are really considering emancipation, healing, reconciliation and reintegration, then we should be looking the lives of W. E. B. Du Bois and George Padmore, Africans in the Diaspora who resettled in Ghana and actually got involved with the local people instead of a cursory visit packed with mixed emotions.  

Part IV: Which Death?

At the dawn of the 21st Century, dark tourism reached a zenith as Americans woke up on the 11th of September 2001 in a movie in the making, ‘Al Qaeda’s Wrath’. Ghana has had her share of dark moments not only that of the transatlantic slave trade but the numerous political and criminal vengeances unleashed on Ghanaians pre- and post-independence.  

Ghana’s tourism does not recognise these domestic issues that have formed a dark cloud around the country and has not included them in the list of tourist attractions in the country. Memories of this dark past are on an issue when political elections are looming and are soon forgotten thereafter. Dark tourism in Ghana must also take into consideration the veil succumbed by Ghanaians and perpetrated by Ghanaians and others. 

Ceremonial moments in Ghana’s dark tourism include sites of the 28th February Crossroads shooting, student murder at Opoku Ware School by Presidential Cortege, Murder of Former Heads of State, Murder of the Judges, Tomb of the Fallen Soldier (WWII Memorial), the Military cemetery sites of Soldiers MIA, Kume Preko shootings, the Taifa Murders, the Potrase junction, etc.

Monuments must be erected in all the above-mentioned sites first as memorials and then as tourist attractions. These are occasions in the history of Ghana that must never be forgotten or deliberately kept away from posterity. These will recount the bloodshed that has occurred on our soils and serve as moments for forgiveness and reconciliation.  

Sometimes there is a deliberate attempt at not recognising certain periods of defeat and unpleasant history such as the sacking of Kumasi by the British, one that has never been commemorated. Others that have never seen ceremony are the place of Yaa Asantewa’s defeat and capture, the place of Prempeh II’s capture, the famine of 1983, the dates and sites of the various coups d’etats such as 31st December, etc… 

The central problem is if dark tourism is about death and destruction then which death and which destruction qualify to be celebrated? Is it death and destruction in combat, uprising, terrorism, natural disasters, genocide, or ethnocide?

posted 30 September 2006

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 CEO Bronzzetti, A Tourism & Places Branding Consultancy, and Lecturer in Tourism at the Career Development Institute (CDI), Labone.  Contact:  

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Ghana—Samia Nkrumah

hGhana became African’s first country to gain freedom in 1957 and has since grown tremendously both politically and economically. Kwame Nkrumah is known as the country’s founding father and we meet his daughter Samia Nkrumah in our next story — who is determined to follow in her fathers footsteps.

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Cape Coast Castle. A Collection of Poems By Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang

Forts and Castles of Ghana by Albert van Dantzig

Dr Robert Lee passes on

Dentist Championed African-American Community In Ghana

Dr. Robert Lee Interview

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Jean Yaw Twum Lukaz is the Executive Director of The Consumer Partnership (THE-COP) Ghana and CEO of Bronzzetti Group of Companies in Ghana. He has been working mainly in the area of Consumer Protection, Tourism & Hospitality, Branding & Marketing and Tourism & Hospitality Research. Lukaz is also a columnist on Consumer Protection, Branding and Tourism & Hospitality issues for Public Agenda, an advocacy and development newspaper in Ghana. He is the Ghana Consumer Representative on the International Organisation of Standards Committee on Developing Countries and Consumer Policy Committee (ISO DEVCO/COPOLCO) in relation to consumer participation in standards.

Jean Lukaz speaks several foreign languages and is a local member of the Hotel & Catering International Management Association- Ghana International Group. He holds an MSc Hospitality Management from the University of Birmingham (UK), an MA International Law & Politics from the University of Hull (UK), and a BA (Hons) French and Russian with Spanish from the University of Ghana. He holds other Diplomas in Business Studies in  French from the Alliance Francaise (Paris) Food Hygiene & Safety from the Royal Institute of Public Health & Hygiene (RIPHH- UK) and the Wines & Spirits Education Trust (WSET- UK) and a Diploma form the Ghana Stock Exchange Training in Investment & Securities.

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Ghana Music Video  / The Curse of Gold—Ghana  / Rice Farming in Afife, Ghana

Busy Internet Ghana  /  Africa Open for Business—Ghana

Business Incubation: a tool for enabling innovation and entrepreneurship—BusyInternet launched its Busy incubator program early 2005, with support from the infoDev Program. The first of its kind in West Africa, this small business incubation program is designed to increase the chances of survival of young companies by providing them with a good opportunity to grow in a supportive and nurturing environment. To date, 25 companies have been successfully hosted at BusyInternet. Currently, there are 10 companies located at the BusyInternet facilities, which provides connectivity solutions, software development, management consulting, entrepreneurship development, business process outsourcing, computer based test preparation, and administration and web-based applications development.

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African Slave Castle  / Coming Home—Ghana

Our next stop was Cape Coast and Elmina, towns on the coast with friendly people, laid back attitudes, beautiful palm lined beaches and unfortunately, a not so beautiful past. It was here where the start of the Gold Trade and eventually, the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade began. We stopped at Cape Coast Castle, a fort where slaves and gold were traded. Owned ultimately by the British, it is where many of the ancestors of Black Americans were held against their will, until being forced on the ships that would take them to North America. It is now a museum and a reminder of the horrors of slavery.

There’s a display with grotesque reminders of this period of history, examples of branding irons used on men and women to identify them as property, chains worn by men and women as they were huddled in undescribable conditions in the hulls of ships that took them to the “New World”. We received a tour of the castle and entered the former slave dungeons. Men and Woman were kept separate and forced in cramp, unsanitary conditions. People were forced in dungeons that were a foot high with hay and feces and forced to remain in these conditions for weeks at a time.

Many individuals died in these conditions and women raped by slave traders. In the dungeons are a multitude of flowers, wreaths and momentos left by the descendants of the men and women who were held here. Descendants of the African Diaspora come from around the world to see these sites. Notes written on pieces of paper and attached to wreaths of flowers dot the walls of the dungeons. It was a very emotional experience. We then headed across the coast to Elmina and Elmina Castle. Built in 1482, this is the very first fort built by the Europeans in West Africa and was owned by the Portuguese. They too, traded in gold and slaves. This is the place where many of the ancestors of Latin Americans of African descent were held before going on the ships that would take them to what is now Mexico, South America and the Caribbean.

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Basil Davidson obituary—By Victoria Brittain—9 July 2010—Davidson [(9 November 1914 – 9 July 2010) a British historian, writer and Africanist] was enthused early on by the end of British colonialism and the prospects of pan-Africanism in the 1960s, and he wrote copiously and with warmth about newly independent Ghana and its leader, Kwame Nkrumah. He went to work for a year at the University of Accra in 1964. Later he threw himself into the reporting of the African liberation wars in the Portuguese colonies, particularly in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. . . . In the 1980s, with most of the African liberation wars now won—except for South Africa’s— Davidson turned much of his attention to more theoretical questions about the future of the nation state in Africa. He remained a passionate advocate of pan-Africanism. In 1988 he made a long and dangerous journey into Eritrea, writing a persuasive defence of the nationalists’ right to independence from Ethiopia, and an equally eloquent attack on the revolutionary leader Colonel Mengistu and the regime that had overthrown Haile Selassie. Guardian

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Basil Davidson’s  “Africa Series”

 Different But Equal  /  Mastering A Continent  /  Caravans of Gold  / The King and the City / The Bible and The Gun

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The State of African Education (April 200)

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo

Film Review by Kam Williams

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Congo: White King

Red Rubber, Black Death

A Belgium King’s Sins Revealed in Film

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King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

By Adam Hochschild

King Leopold of Belgium, writes historian Adam Hochschild in this grim history, did not much care for his native land or his subjects, all of which he dismissed as “small country, small people.” Even so, he searched the globe to find a colony for Belgium, frantic that the scramble of other European powers for overseas dominions in Africa and Asia would leave nothing for himself or his people. When he eventually found a suitable location in what would become the Belgian Congo, later known as Zaire and now simply as Congo, Leopold set about establishing a rule of terror that would culminate in the deaths of 4 to 8 million indigenous people, “a death toll,” Hochschild writes, “of Holocaust dimensions.”

Those who survived went to work mining ore or harvesting rubber, yielding a fortune for the Belgian king, who salted away billions of dollars in hidden bank accounts throughout the world. Hochschild’s fine book of historical inquiry, which draws heavily on eyewitness accounts of the colonialists’ savagery, brings this little-studied episode in European and African history into new light.—Gregory McNamee

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West Africa Before the Colonial Era: A History to 1850

By Basil Davidson

This book is excellent as an introduction to West African history. It begins with a brief overview of region’s history from earliest times but the focus of the book is on the thousand years between the 9th and the 19th centuries A.D. Comprehensive overviews of the political histories of both well and little known West African states and cities are recounted. These include the histories of the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Kanem-Bornu, Oyo, Benin, Dahomey and Asante. Accounts of several other smaller states are also detailed such as the Hausa city states, the Wollof kingdom, the Bambara states, the Niger Delta trading states, the Fulani states of Futa Jallon and Futa Toro, the important cities of Timbuktu, Jenne and Gao and several others.

Apart from these political histories, Davidson also provides an insight into the social fabric of West Africa, especially at the dawn of the 17th century. He describes economic features (like trade items, routes, currencies etc), religion, arts and learning in the region, social stratification and dominant trends. These provide the reader with a real “feel” of the society at that time. Like all of Davidson’s writings on this subject matter, this book dispels the myth that Africa had no history or civilization before contact with Europe. It is clear, concise and very easy to read. D. E. Chukwumerije

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African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450-1850

By Basil Davidson

The best general acount of the Atlantic slave trade. It is the story of one of the most enormous crimes in all human history. Basil Davidson states that by examining three important areas of Africa in the history of slavery ‘against a general background of their time and circumstance’ he was taking ‘a fresh look at the oversea slave trade, the steady year-by-year export of African laborr to the West Indies and the Americas that marked the greatest and most fateful migration—forced migration—in the history of man. This book is about the course and consequences of this long African-European connection that endured from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth. It makes an answer to three vital questions: What kind of contact was this with Europe and  America? How did the experience affect Africa? Why did it end in colonial invasion and conquest?

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Ancient African Nations

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music website > writing website > daily blog > twitter > facebook >

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Men We Love, Men We HateSAC writings from Douglass, McDonogh 35, and McMain high schools in New Orleans.

An anthology on the topic of men and relationships with men

Ways of LaughingAn Anthology of Young Black VoicesPhotographed & Edited by Kalamu ya Salaam

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The State of African Education (April 200)

Attack On Africans Writing Their Own History Part 1 of 7

Dr Asa Hilliard III speaks on the assault of academia on Africans writing and accounting for their own history.

Dr Hilliard is A teacher, psychologist, and historian.

Part 2 of 7  /  Part 3 of 7  / Part 4 of 7  / Part 5 of 7 / Part 6 of 7  /  Part 7 of 7

John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk

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The Slave Ship

By Marcus Rediker

In this groundbreaking work, historian and scholar Rediker considers the relationships between the slave ship captain and his crew, between the sailors and the slaves, and among the captives themselves as they endured the violent, terror-filled and often deadly journey between the coasts of Africa and America. While he makes fresh use of those who left their mark in written records (Olaudah Equiano, James Field Stanfield, John Newton), Rediker is remarkably attentive to the experiences of the enslaved women, from whom we have no written accounts, and of the common seaman, who he says was a victim of the slave trade . . . and a victimizer. Regarding these vessels as a strange and potent combination of war machine, mobile prison, and factory, Rediker expands the scholarship on how the ships not only delivered millions of people to slavery, [but] prepared them for it. He engages readers in maritime detail (how ships were made, how crews were fed) and renders the archival (letters, logs and legal hearings) accessible. Painful as this powerful book often is, Rediker does not lose sight of the humanity of even the most egregious participants, from African traders to English merchants.— Publishers Weekly

Marcus Rediker is professor of maritime history at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1987), The Many-Headed Hydra (2000), and Villains of All Nations (2005), books that explore seafaring, piracy, and the origins of globalization. In The Slave Ship, Rediker combines exhaustive research with an astute and highly readable synthesis of the material, balancing documentary snapshots with an ear for gripping narrative. Critics compare the impact of Rediker’s history, unique for its ship-deck perspective, to similarly compelling fictional accounts of slavery in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage. Even scholars who have written on the subject defer to Rediker’s vast knowledge of the subject. Bottom line: The Slave Ship  is sure to become a classic of its subject.—

Bookmarks Magazine  

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B.B. King Thrill Is Gone  /  B.B. King-The Thrill is Gone with lyrics

B.B. King – The Thrill Is Gone ft. Tracy Chapman  / B.B. King—The Thrill Is Gone

B. B. King & Eric Clapton—The Thrill Is Gone  / B. B. King—The Thrill Is Gone (1993)

B.B. King is the greatest living exponent of the blues and considered by many to be the most influential guitarist of the latter part of the 20th century. His career dates back to the late forties and despite now being in his eighties he remains a vibrant and charismatic live performer. B.B. King has been a frequent visitor to the Montreux festival, appearing nearly 20 times, so choosing one performance was no easy task. This 1993 concert will surely rank as one of his finest at any venue. With a superb backing band and a great set list its a must for any blues fan.

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The Thrill is Gone


The thrill is gone The thrill is gone away The thrill is gone baby The thrill is gone away You know you done me wrong baby And you’ll be sorry someday The thrill is gone It’s gone away from me The thrill is gone baby The thrill is gone away from me Although I’ll still live on But so lonely I’ll be The thrill is gone It’s gone away for good Oh, the thrill is gone baby Baby its gone away for good Someday I know I’ll be over it all baby Just like I know a good man should You know I’m free, free now baby I’m free from your spell I’m free, free now I’m free from your spell And now that it’s all over All I can do is wish you well


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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 4 August 2010 




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Related files:  America With Its Pants Down  Tourism of Death  Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa (A-B-C-D)   Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa   (E-F-G-H)  Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa  (I-J-K-L)  

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Right to Abode  Where Ghana Went Right

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