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Racism and Slavery

    Africa has had a long, troublesome history with European powers. The greatest calamity that Africans have faced is the Atlantic slave trade beginning around the 16th century. An estimated 15 million Africans were taken from their homes to serve as slaves to Europeans. Africa was looked to for slave labor for a few reasons. The first: Europeans were unwilling to have European slaves. They did not want to have their own people serving them. The second reason for African slavery: There were not enough people resources in the Americas. The major European powers in the Americas, Britain, France, and Spain, could not find enough labor there. The lack of great quantities of Native Americans forced Europeans to look for slaves elsewhere. This does not mean, however, that the Native Americans were not coerced into slavery. The third: Africans were convenient and inferior. The idea of an inferior race of humans suited slavery well. Europeans felt that they were helping a lower race become more civilized when they took African slaves. The Europeans removed tens of thousands of skilled African workers from their homes. The location of Africans did not stop Europe. Slave traders searched far inland for skilled slaves. They shipped slaves to coastal prisons. Davidson's video showed a church with a prison underneath. Many of the Africans were waiting in captive underneath the church in the prison. At any given time, there were up to ten thousand slaves there. Many clergymen knew of the slave warehouse beneath their place of worship. Some even participated in the trade. According to Basil Davidson, "... racism grew out of slavery." The Europeans treated their slaves as subhuman. Other Europeans then assumed that slave, hence Africans, were an inferior race of people. Africans were almost a different species, somehow closer to apes than the fair skinned people of Europe.


The Explorers

    After the initial atrocities of slavery, the European explorers arrived in Africa. They had the purpose of unblocking the rich geographical mysteries of the continent. Unlike previous Europeans, they wanted land, gold, and breathtaking view, not people for slave labor. One of the most famous explorers is David Livingston, an Englishman. He began his journey in Africa as a missionary, but had strong interests in exploring. His goal was to navigate and chart the Zambezi River. David Livingston was the first white man to set eyes on the beautiful Victoria Falls in 1855. He had heard of beautiful lakes and waterfalls back in England; it was one of the many goals of the explorers to find such waterfalls. Livingston heard of these specific waterfalls from some of the villagers nearby. He knew that the young men enjoyed the waterfalls, and had them take him to the falls. Upon seeing the waterfall, he named it Victoria Falls for his country. Basil Davidson makes a comment on the naming of the falls. There is even a statue near the falls in honor of David Livingston. Davidson brings up the point that whoever created the statue must have thought that the falls could only be named by a European.


The Missionaries

    Waves of Christian missionaries came to Africa. Most missionaries felt that they were serving an elevated race, trying to help a downtrodden race. They came to Africa expecting to help horrible people. Most missionaries were biased and discriminatory before they left their homes. There were a few that disagreed. Bishop Toser of the University's mission questioned the idea that the differences between the European and African civilizations. He said that whether a culture is civilized or not is not dependent on their outward circumstance. The number of railroads and phonographs does not measure the superiority of a civilization, according to this Bishop.

    The missionaries did not have easy acceptance in Africa. Many died of disease contrary to the popular belief that tribes boiled missionaries in large pots over fires. The practices of some missionaries, like their discrimination, is horrible. Some missionaries used force to get converts. Some had people flogged or threatened flogging in order to convert them. There were missionaries strongly for and against flogging is the conversion of Africans to the Christian beliefs. The missionaries saw that some spiritual beliefs had to be destroyed before the Africans would believe any of the Christian doctrines. Missionaries generalized this and thought that they had to destroy all African spiritual beliefs and culture. Missionaries insulted the African traditions frequently, in an effort to instill the Christian ideas in Africans. Davidson included a portion of a missionary video from the 1960's. The juju, a person who is looked to much like a priest, is openly insulted and humiliated is the video. This hostility is much like the original method of destroying the old culture to replace it with the new ideas of Europe. The reaction of Africans is that some rejoice in renouncing their beliefs and some question their identity. To many missionaries, this mission of converting an inferior race is the climax of all Christian missions. It is sad that these people believed that they were doing the right thing.


Methodist Training School

    Basil Davidson paid a visit to a Methodist Training School. He spoke with a former graduate and observed the students. Many interesting points were brought up in a discussion between Davidson and the alumnus. They spoke about the link between Colonialism, which took over Africa, and Christianity, which brought the school. "The contempt for African humanity outweighs Christian commitment to the brotherhood of man." Many Christians, such as the founders of the school, had a distaste for the African people, contrary to their beliefs about equality. Christianity proceeded Colonialism, but now it is just as inseparable from the political and social structure. Missionaries journeyed to Africa before the Colonizing nations, but later, the missionaries became essential parts to the colonial power. They provided necessary education and medical treatment. After the discussion, Basil Davidson observed the children playing in the school. They were dressed just like private school students of America. A mixed group of children combined the old and new ways in a dance that they performed. The kids used traditional beats and movements with new words. A second group of children were more ritualistic. One girl acted out the trancelike state involved in many spiritual dances. Davidson admired their abilities to try both old and new things and not care about any historical implications. Despite some of the seemingly oppressive results of the mission school, nine out of ten leaders in Africa were educated at a mission school. This has its negative affect in sharpening the many contradictions in African society. Christianity brought its benefits, but took the high price of African tradition.


The British Conquest of Africa

    The story that Davidson tells about the British conquest of Africa begins with southern Africa. In the 1870's, Europeans found the rich mineral deposits in southern Africa. There was a scramble for land near Kimberly, a town. This region had especially rich deposits of diamonds. At 17 years old, Cecil Rose tried to take advantage of this. When people were in trouble, he bought their land for a fair price. He sought after power by attaining great wealth. Cecil Rose's feelings of Africans is as follows: "... just fancy those parts of the world that are inhabited by the most despicable of humans. What an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence." The British had no trouble in conquering the area until they met the Zulu. The Zulu were an African warrior tribe with about 25,000 people. The Zulu king wanted to have peace with the British, but the British wanted war. They wanted to take land and destroy the former inhabitants, rather than be given land. War was unavoidable. The British press reported on the war as the public wanted it. The Zulu were depicted as brutal savages, who would kill Britons even in peacetime. In the first battle, the Zulu hit the British Army before it could react. An estimated 800 British were killed that day. After that battle, Britain sent in more modern ammunition, such as large guns and gatling guns. One regiment of British was recorded as killing over 5,000 Zulu. The Zulu were conquered.

   An Englishman by the name of Cecil Rhodes had the idea of taking Africa "from Cairo to Capetown." Rhodes' first problem was an offshoot of the Zulu tribe, the Matabele. The Matabele were known to kill missionaries, as the missionaries encroached on their land. Over a period of time, Rhodes wore away at the Matabele power, which was also what the missionaries wanted. They "needed" the Matabele way of life to be broken before they replaced it with European ideals. In 1890, Rhodes moved North through to the land of the Shona, avoiding the Matabele. He founded Fort Salisbury, which became Salisbury and is today Harani. Rhodes chose his friend, Dr. Starr Jameson, to administer the territory. In 1892, Jameson decided to finish the Matabele. His method of justification was that the Matabele were stealing from the Shona, who were under his jurisdiction. However, the Matabele had been stealing from the Shona since before the British arrived. The Matabele were shattered and Rhodes was congratulated by the London Missionary Society. Rhodes continued Northward. In 1896, a group of surviving Matabele attacked the British, killing farmers as well as the military. The Shona then revolted, starting a guerilla war. In 1897, both uprisings were suppressed. The rebels were jailed and many were hanged. Rhodes later died and was buried at a place called World's View. Concluding, Davidson remarks that the British brought material progress, such as technology, and deprived Africans of freedom.

Source: http://dickinsg.intrasun.tcnj.edu/films/basil/video5.html

Documentary Description

Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson is a critically acclaimed informative series describing the history of Africa. The eight-hour series was produced in 1984. it is broken up into eight sections on four videos. Each section is 57 minutes long. Basil Davidson uses various resources. Davidson usually speaks as location footage of Africa is shown. From time to time, he makes an appearance in the videos. Also shown are archived media and dramatic reconstructions. The eight sections are listed below with subsections that we have created from notes.


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