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Enslaved Africans came to the Americas with skills

Aug 22, 2023 04:00PM ● By Karen Warrington

Photo: Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Credit: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, who wants to be America’s next president by out-trumping Trump, has effectively censored the state’s teaching of African American history. And to further demonstrate the Yale and Harvard graduate’s attempt to rewrite history he has stated that Black people learned valuable skills as the result of their enslavement. His statements have been sharply rebuked by those pushing back against the Governor’s ignorance, including Vice President Kamala Harris who said “extremists want to replace history with lies.” But, De Santis’ uninformed slavery opinion also points to another fundamental oversight in the American discourse about slavery.

The oversight is that the African continent and African people long before a white person set foot on its soil was a fully functioning assortment of societies replete with complex language and belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods. Historians, anthropologists, and religious leaders, as a means of justifying the rape and exploitation of the continent, its people, and mineral and natural resources, characterized Africans as uncivilized and the land mass was labeled the “dark continent,” despite being the earth’s richest continent in terms of its natural resources.

Within the context of African life on the 11.7 million square mile continent there were medical, architectural, agricultural, and pharmaceutical skills practiced for hundreds of thousands of years. So rather than skills being learned, as a result of slavery, African men and women, in chains, brought with them knowledge and skills that enabled mostly peasant Europeans to farm, build and acquire wealth and power in the Americas. The enslaved Africans who survived the slave trade were also botanists, textile experts, sculptors, musicians, dancers, orators, iron workers, educators, and belief leaders who ultimately helped to build and shape what is now America.

Image: Cotton plantation on the Mississippi, 1884. Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the lasting effects of the brutality of slavery is that even African Americans and African Caribbeans absorbed the belief that Africa was uncivilized and devoid of cultural heritage before colonization and their exposure to European settlers in the Americas. And, sadly far too many Black people today remain uninformed about basic African facts including that human life began in Africa, ancient Africa is one of the world’s earliest civilizations and there were thousands of states and kingdoms in pre-colonial Africa.

But, possibly the Florida governor, who wants to be president and will use any divisive and racist trip to get there, has done Black Americans a favor. Maybe his ignorance will force Blacks to reexamine curriculums in all our educational institutions, public and private, and to better inform themselves about a history deliberately obscured by greed and religion. Maybe, the Governor is inadvertently helping us to be even more woke.

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 Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.

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