The Negro eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 198 pages of information about The Negro.

As the Songhay declined a new power arose in the nineteenth century, the Fula.  The Fula, who vary in race from Berber mulattoes to full-blooded Negroes, may be the result of a westward migration of some people like the “Leukoaethiopi” of Pliny, or they may have arisen from the migration of Berber mulattoes in the western oases, driven south by Romans and Arabs.

These wandering herdsmen lived on the Senegal River and the ocean in very early times and were not heard of until the nineteenth century.  By this time they had changed to a Negro or dark mulatto people and lived scattered in small communities between the Atlantic and Darfur.  They were without political union or national sentiment, but were all Mohammedans.  Then came a sudden change, and led by a religious fanatic, these despised and persecuted people became masters of the central Sudan.  They were the ones who at last broke down that great wedge of resisting Atlantic culture, after it had been undermined and disintegrated by the American slave trade.

Thus Islam finally triumphed in the Sudan and the ancient culture combined with the new.  In the Sudan to-day one may find evidences of the union of two classes of people.  The representatives of the older civilization dwell as peasants in small communities, carrying on industries and speaking a large number of different languages.  With them or above them is the ruling Mohammedan caste, speaking four main languages:  Mandingo, Hausa, Fula, and Arabic.  These latter form the state builders.  Negro blood predominates among both classes, but naturally there is more Berber blood among the Mohammedan invaders.

Europe during the middle ages had some knowledge of these movements in the Sudan and Africa.  Melle and Songhay appear on medieval maps.  In literature we have many allusions:  the mulatto king, Feirifis, was one of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s heroes; Prester John furnished endless lore; Othello, the warrior, and the black king represented by medieval art as among the three wise men, and the various black Virgin Marys’ all show legendary knowledge of what African civilization was at that time doing.

It is a curious commentary on modern prejudice that most of this splendid history of civilization and uplift is unknown to-day, and men confidently assert that Negroes have no history.


[17] Frobenius:  Voice of Africa, II, 359-360.

[18] Ibn Khaldun, quoted in Lugard, p. 128.

[19] Quoted in Lugard, p. 180.

[20] Es-Sa ’di, quoted by Lugard, p. 199.

[21] Lugard, p. 373.

[22] Mungo Park, quoted in Lugard, p. 374.


One of the great cities of the Sudan was Jenne.  The chronicle says “that its markets are held every day of the week and its populations are very enormous.  Its seven thousand villages are so near to one another that the chief of Jenne has no need of messengers.  If he wishes to send a note to Lake Dibo, for instance, it is cried from the gate of the town and repeated from village to village, by which means it reaches its destination almost instantly."[23]

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The Negro from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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