Non Fiction November: Reading Africa’s History

November is non-fiction month. This month, we want to take a look at how the past and the present inform our understanding of the African continent.

Historically, Africa was placed either on the periphery of world history or depicted with inaccuracies. Those narratives are often a case of ‘otherness’ and “Africa has no history before European contact”, which is false. Major events over centuries shape the affairs of Africa today, making it a part of world history. Africa’s history is world history.

To iterate this, we have curated a reading list with book recommendations representing different periods and happenings across the continent. The six stories on this list take you across the African continent. From Ancient world Senegal to Rwanda and Nigeria, visit the African continent through the words of some stellar researchers, historians and writers. Here’s to reading non fiction through November and beyond.

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Precolonial Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop

Renowned Senegalese historian and anthropologist, Cheikh Anta Diop, provides readers with a bold assertion of precolonial Africa, stripping the Eurocentric gaze. This is a critical look of Ancient African states in their administrative, judicial, economic, and military organisations. Showing the level of organisation within these kingdoms and their contributions to global civilisation.

Purchase Precolonial Black Africa here

The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham

Also known as the Partition of Africa, this gathering of European powers in Berlin in 1885, played a significant role in shaping the continent and the creation of its current internal borders. Pakenham takes a comprehensive approach in presenting the happenings, key players and actions that led to the scramble. An important read for understanding the motivations behind the 3’C’s: Christianity, Commerce and Civilisation.

Purchase The Scramble for Africa here

Four Hundred Souls Edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

In an ambitious feat, Four Hundred Souls, a collection of essays and poems by 90 writers of African descent tells the story of the history of African Americans from the first arrival of enslaved Africans in 1916 aboard The White Lion; an English privateer ship. This informative and rich anthology sings the praises of the journey of African Americans, who as a community experienced grave atrocity and the contributions further on.

Michael Harriot puts it succinctly in the essay, ‘Reconstruction’, when he states: ‘Behold the untold story of the Great American Race War. Before we begin, we shall introduce our hero. The hero of this drama is Black people. All Black People…This hero is long-suffering but unkillable.’

Purchase Four Hundred Souls here

Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation by Feyi Fawehinmi and Fola Fagbule

How did state formation take place? What events led to formation? Who were the figures involved? Fawehinmi and Fagbule answer these questions in this thoroughly researched book. Beginning from the Jihad of 1804 to the Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by the British in 1914. Formation explores the importance of the River Niger, Dan Fodio’s revolutionary jihad, the palm oil economy of the Niger Delta region and more.

Purchase Formation here

Soldiers Of Fortune by Max Siollun

To a great degree, military rule crafted the character of today’s Nigeria. In an analysis of the Babangida and Buhari era of the 80s, Siollun reveals drivers behind the contention of events of the period such as the annulment of the June 12 election, the execution of Mamman Vatsa, the foiled kidnapping of Umaru Dikko, the Orkar coups and the assassination of Dele Giwa.

Purchase Soldiers of Fortune here

Not My Time To Die by Yolanda Mukagasana

This true story is a survivor’s account of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. Recounting horrific events, Mukagasana takes readers to Kigali and its environs in 1994, where an estimate of a million people killed over one hundred days. This heart-wrenching narration provides context to the genocide, from the lead up to the aftermath. Easily one of the most horrifying events on the continent with lessons to learn for other communities.

Purchase Not My Time To Die here

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