African Kingdoms Jackson Belcher

Ghana is home to one of the earliest civilizations in Africa. Ghana is located in West Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. This land is mostly made up of savanna grasslands. The Soninke thrived along the Niger River. As the culture advanced with new iron tool, farmers began to produce crops tremendously and population grew as well. The new tribe began to trade gold and salt, which became a major trading product for the empire, with their neighbors north and south of them. Throughout their history, the Soninke had a few different religions such as, animism and polytheism. The empire was starting to rely much on trade. "By 800 Ghana was firmly in control of West Africa's trade routes. Nearly all trade between Northern and southern Africa passed through Ghana." To increase the governments profit, the city started charging taxes for traders going through the city. Soon after, Tunka Manin led Ghana to its peak. The empire was strong and wealthy. During the mid-1000's, Ghana was destroyed. A group of Muslims, from the north, attacked the city and left them weak. After this attack, the country started to go downhill. Today, Ghana consist mostly of Christians. In March of 1957, Ghana gained its independence from Great Britain. There are many languages that are spoken and much of the population consist of young people. The government serves as a Presidential Republic. Even today, they still have massive gold exports and oil as a major import.

Farming in Ghana
Map of Ghana
Ghana's Flag

As the Empire of Ghana fell, the Mali Empire rose. Like Ghana, Mali thrived from the waters of the Niger River. This helped them control trade over the river. Because of their control over trade, the empire became very wealthy. This strong empire began under a ruler named Sundiata. Mali was taken over by a mean ruler. As Sundiata became an adult, he gathered people to help take back their independence, which he did. As the new ruler of Mali, Sundiata increased the countries wealth, agriculture, and controlled trade. He even conquered the falling city of Ghana, around the 1230's. Sundiata had great success as emperor. However, the most famous ruler of Mali, Mansa Musa. Under this ruler, Mali reached its peak. "Under his skillful leadership, Mali reached the height of its wealth, power, and fame in the 1300's." Mansa Musa helped the religion of Islam spread across West Africa. He even took a pilgrimage to Mecca. There, he showed his people more about the Islamic culture and beliefs. Mansa Musa created many cities where people could trade, during his time as emperor. Education was also important to him and sent many scholars to Morocco. Mansa Musa ruled from 1312 to 1337. After Mansa Musa's time, his son, Mahgan, became the new ruler of Mali. However, he was not very qualified for the job. Later, people from the southeast began take control over the city, and Mahgan was powerless to stop them. The Empire of Mali ended around the 1500's. The empire brought trade, religious, and technological advancements for almost three-hundred years.

Map of Mali
Mosque of Djenne
Art from Mali

After Mali's fall, their rival empire, Sonhai, was climbing to power. Songhai was originally apart of the Mali Empire. However, when the empire started to weaken, the country separated and became their own. Because of their Muslim leaders, the Berbers from the north were not afraid trade with them. The people of Songhai practiced Islam. similar to the ways Mali did. Their leader, Sunni Ali, helped expand the empire and made them more wealthy. "As ruler, Sunni Ali worked to unify, strengthen, and enlarge his empire. Much of the land that he added to Songhai had been part of Mali. During his time as ruler, he helped everyone work together, even people of different religions. In 1492, Sunni Ali passed, and his son, Sunni Baru, began to rule. Sunni Baru was not Muslim. This feared the people of Songhai. They were scared that nobody would trade with them anymore. However the countries general, Muhammad Ture, overthrew the emperor. He chose to be called askia. As the new ruler, he helped make Timbuktu a well known city for its education and schools. People from surrounding cities came to learn more about science, math, medicine, grammar, and law. Askia supported the Islam culture and even made religious laws pertaining to the Islamic culture. Askia created five different provinces in Songhai, to keep order. He selected governors to rule over these provinces, but made sure they were loyal to him. Because of these wonderful things Askia did for Songhai, he was known as Askia the Great. Morocco was a strong rival of Songhai. In 1591, Morocco's army came and attacked Songhai. Their goal was to take control over Songhai's salt mines. Songhai fell. It was not that they were outnumbered, but that Morocco had much more advanced weapons. Morocco developed arquebus and cannons. After the horrible defeat, Songhai began to slowly decline and eventually fell as an empire.

Map of Songhai
Salt from West Africa
Art from Songhai

Along the coast of the Red Sea lies where the Aksum Empire developed. The empire also developed from parts of Arabian Peninsula. The empire is said to have formed around 400B.C. Solomon's son and the Queen of Sheba are said to have created the land. Around A.D.100 the country began to rise and grow strong in wealth and power. The kingdom reached its peak under King Ezana. He ruled the country for about forty years in the 300's. During his rule, the country expanded and became the center of trading through East Africa and Southeast Asia. While he King Ezana was in power, he converted to Christianity. This made everyone else want to be more like the king. " He was a devout Christian and Christianity became the major religion of the kingdom." People from all over Asia and Africa came and traded in Askum. They had many different trade routes running throughout the east coast of Africa. The people many items such as salt, gold, ivory, gems, cloth, glass, and olive oil. The empire fell around 940. A foreign queen came and attacked the empire with brute force. After all the fighting, the Zagwe Dynasty had taken over the empire.

Map of Aksum
Golden coins from Aksum
Art from Aksum

Work Cited

Ghana, Mali, Songhai: Burstein, Stanley Mayer, and Richard Hon-Chun Shek. World History: Ancient Civilizations through the Renaissance. Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. Print.

Aksum: "Ancient Africa." Ducksters Educational Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

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Jackson Belcher

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