If I were able to direct a new generation of students in historical studies, I would have them do a number of studies that are not being done. We need to see general studies as well as detailed specializations on the peoples and cultures of the world. The work on Africa, Asia and Europe, that European scholars initiated in the nineteenth century, needs to be carefully reviewed. We will undoubtedly find much to re-do without the assumptions and bias of European supremacy. We need to see students trained in the different periods of African history, doing studies of European peoples in the same periods. What they would look to study are the connections and interactions between Africans and Europeans.
New European Studies
In particular, there is a need for Africanists to study the emergence of Europe from 1400 to 1600 AD. This period was a critical turning point in the history of the world. We need studies of the 700 years before 1400 AD when Islamic Africans, Arabs, and Berbers had isolated Europe, controlling commerce in the Mediterranean. Europe was hemmed in and struggling with its own internal conflicts. The Crusades gave Europe an external reason for certain ideas and certain people to dominate. In the process, a lot of pressure was taken off the Catholic Church to reform and Europe was forced to look at the world beyond itself.
Europeans looked at the world beyond Europe and realized that they could not conquer it, not until they learned maritime skill. This maritime knowledge, primarily from China, was translated at the University of Salamanca in Spain by Arab, African and Berber scholars. The acquisition of this knowledge by Europeans in the 1400s is an essential turning point in world history. Europeans would now punish the world for what it had suffered at its own hands and because of its own failures during the period between the decline of the Roman Empire and the second rise of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Within this 200-year rise, they would turn to Christianity to justify their criminal assault on the rest of the world. With religious justification and at best the church's indifference, they created and expanded the slave trade and the expansion of European people in settler nations beyond Europe. This period needs to be studied specifically with attention to the impact it had on African and Asian peoples.
Consider two small points. First, Europe is really not a continent. It is a part of Asia. Europe does not qualify as a continent by the dictionary definition of a continent. Second, Europeans are multiracial. These two points have major implications for how we view European cultures and the European identity. We need more work which looks at the ways that European scholars used to argue that Egypt was not a part of Africa. We need to study the relationship of Egypt to the rest of Africa, especially before the European distortion of their own and Egyptian history.
For students to understand the twenty-first century, they must understand the centuries of disruption that led us to where we are today. We really have to study the last 500 years of world history and the last 500 years of disruption in favor of Europe and the downgrading of other peoples. Once things are placed in their proper historical perspective, they might have a better idea of where the world can go tomorrow.
South America and the Caribbean
We need to study South America were the majority of the population is neither black nor white and could go either way in whom they identify with, depending on the future flow of world power. South Americans, in particular Brazilians, claim white or European preferences because they assume that blacks and African peoples will not come to power in the world community. We need to study the formation of nations in South America and the slow destruction of Indian cultures in Mexico and in Canada. There needs to be in-depth studies of the destruction of indigenous cultures in both South and North America. There have been no in-depth studies of how these people came to America since they are supposed to be of Asian descent. The Asian ancestors of North and South American Indians could have come due to curiosity, or overcrowding. They could have been cattle-raising people who needed space. By studying the Asian migration patterns I have not been able to identify a disruptive period in Asian history that would have made that many people want to leave Asia.
What happened to the indigenous people of the Caribbean? They have disappeared. We need to study the Caribbean mentality after 1850 because the Caribbeans had a rebellious mentality up until the middle of that century. They identified themselves specifically with Africa, but they lost this after 1850 and became imitation-English, imitation-Dutch, imitation-Spanish, and now they have a color complex indicative of a confused racial identity. At what point did they lose their revolutionary attitude, and start to refer to their heritage from the viewpoint of their colonial masters?
Africa as a place of history, migrations, cultures and influences on the world is older than Europe and is rich and diverse in all human experiences. Yet we still know so little about Africa as a pace with people central to world history and to the future. We need studies of the migration patterns of the peoples of Africa and the impact those migrations have had on present cultures. This would mean looking at the infusion of one African culture into another, creating still another culture that had vitality. The Ashanti and the Fante social order and world systems are examples. These people of the Upper Niger migrated and blended cultures.
We need to study cultural retentions where Africans have held on to their culture through centuries of wars and all sorts of other difficulties. They have held on to their concept of nation and concept of self. A good example is the Zulu. The Zulu nation is not South African in origin. They have East African origins and were called "Inguana." They migrated to central Africa and then down to South Africa. We need to study the marital and courtship habits of some Africans, such as the Herro who pledge to bring virginity to their wedding bed, in contrast with the Mandi who have trial marriages. Among the Mandi the couple live together and have two or three children before they are married later with a big ceremony. In cases where they do not marry, the children belong to the family of the wife because their lineage is matrilineal. Whoever later marries her becomes the guardian of the children she had by the previous man. This is a very civilized custom.
We need to study Africa since 1957 with the beginning of the independence explosion when African states started to receive their so-called independence. What happened? Africa may have gone down the wrong road to freedom because we did not first have stable African states. There was no African state methodology, and we did not observe African political traditionalisms. What we adopted were European parliamentary forms. Africa should have adopted some form of African traditionalism in government. As a result, I see where so-called independence has done more harm than good. The methods and directions towards independence we took should be an issue with in critical studies of neo-colonialism. It would have made a great difference if there had been one African state in existence with stability and vitality. It would have been a role model for other African states. But the former colonial powers do not intend any one state to be such a role model.
We need to study the period between 1619 and 1776 in America history. Very little is said about what happened between the arrival in Jamestown, Virginia, and the American Revolution. Very little has been said about the contradictions of the American Revolution. In fact, the American Revolution and its proclamation of liberty and democracy was a contradiction because it was clearly not meant for African Americans"”we had not been accepted as citizens. Northerners and Southerners had no difficulty in classifying us as three-fifths of a person.
Southerners voted according to our presence in their political constituency. A white man could cast votes for us without our consent as though we were cattle. Liberty and justice for all did not include people of African descent. We need to study the small number of freedmen in the South who were stripped to the point of not being free"”who were they, why did they stay, what did they think, and how did they maintain their free status? Many of them were craftsmen, barbers, builders and blacksmiths. They were restricted in where they could go, and what they could do. When they went into a new town, they had to give notice. They were watched, and had to carry papers on them at all times. This was humiliating. I challenge the idea that they were free. They just had a little more ability to move about a little more than bondsmen. We know even less about the status and experiences of New England freedmen.
We need to investigate the large historic African presence in Asia, especially in India where there are 100 million people of partly African descent. We need to investigate the African presence in the pacific islands. There are entire nations made up of people of African extraction. We need to investigate Australia before the British destroyed its black inhabitants. Tasmania was black before the British destroyed every man, woman and child on the island.