The Gifts of Africans

Slaves planting tobacco by Ann O’Hanlon


The African gift to the world was culture itself.  Archaeologists indicate that civilization began in the great river valleys of Africa and Asia.

For some 600,000 years Africans and Asians led the world….Blacks or people who would be considered black today were among the first people to use tools, paint pictures, plant seeds, and worship gods.

In the beginning, then, and for a long time afterwards, black people marched in the front ranks of the emerging human procession.  They found empires and states.  They made some of the critical discoveries and contributions that led to the modern world.

Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower, 5


The founders and creators of civilization were bound into servitude with little compunction on the part of European “civilization” because they were an uncivilized and inferior race by European standards.  Even if this mythology was invented to justify the colonizers’ economic needs for a strong laboring class that would facilitate the expansion of empires, the myth would endure and form the racist basis of white superiority.

W.E.D. DuBois confronts the myth of white cultural superiority by listing the cultural gifts Africans brought to America two hundred years before the Mayflower even landed.

Your country?  How came it yours?  Before the Pilgrim landed we were here.  Here we have brought our three gifts and mingled them with yours: a gift of story and song—soft, stirring melody in an ill-harmonized and unmelodious land; the gift of sweat and brawn to beat back the wilderness, conquer the soil, and lay the foundations of this vast economic empire two hundred years earlier than your weak hands could have done it; the third, a gift of the spirit.

Quoted in Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower, 29


These three gifts then, story and song, labor, and the gift of the spirit, came from a people who were branded, ‘buked, flogged, raped; whose children were torn from their mothers; who were castrated and hanged if they resisted; and who, in the twentieth century, were attacked by police dogs, clubbed, hosed, imprisoned, and beaten to death.