Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. Western African Kingdoms. West Africa is the region of Africa on the Atlantic Coast between the Sahara to the north and rain forest to the south. Because the Sahara was difficult to cross, West Africa became known as the terra incognita, or unknown land.
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Ghana, Mali, and Songhai
Western African Kingdoms
West Africa is the region of Africa on the Atlantic Coast between the Sahara to the north and rain forest to the south. Because the Sahara was difficult to cross, West Africa became known as the terra incognita, or unknown land.
In West Africa three famous kingdoms were created during Ancient times: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. These kingdoms had great achievements in art, religion, science, education, trade, government, and warfare. They also had rulers who are still known today.
1. Ghana rose to power in the C.E. 400s.
In 700 a great warrior and diplomat from the royal clan Ouagadou unified the Soninke people and formed a kingdom. He was known as ghana which means war chief.
2. It was called the crossroads of trade because it is where many trade routes cross.
Ghana benefited from being located between the Niger and Senegal Rivers because people had to travel the rivers to trade.
3. The trade routes reached across the Sahara into North Africa and down the Niger River to kingdoms in the rain forest.
4. For traders to meet, they had to pass through Ghana. Passage came at a price, a tax paid to Ghana’s rulers. These taxes made Ghana rich.
The king of Ghana was considered the father of all Soninke people. He was their religious leader, chief of their army, highest judge, and leader of the empire.
5. a. First Ghana knew how to make iron weapons.
b. Second Ghana built a huge army.
c. Third people wanted to trade items like salt and gold.
6. The kings of Ghana relied on help from a Council of Ministers, or a group of close advisors.
7. As the empire grew, rulers divided it into provinces. Lesser kings often conquered leaders, governed each of these areas.
8. Beneath them, district chiefs oversaw smaller districts. Each district usually included a chief’s clan.
9. a Kings insisted that local rulers send their sons to the royal court.
b. They rode through the countryside seeking reports of injustice.
c. Most important, they controlled trade.
10. Nobody could trade without the king’s permission and nobody could own gold nuggets except the king.
11. The kingdom of Ghana was inherited by the son of the king’s sister. This custom was confusing to many outsiders.
The kingdom of Ghana never converted to Islam, even though northern Africa had been dominated by the faith since the eighth century. The Ghanaian court allowed Muslims to settle in the cities.
Unlike the Ghanaians, the Berbers fervently converted to Islam and, in 1075, declared a holy war, or jihad, against the state of Ghana.
1. Ghana’s power declined because:
a. Discovery of gold mines outside of Ghana.
b. Heavy farming robbed the soil of minerals and made it hard to grow crops.
c. Constant fighting with North African Muslims.
2. In the 1200 the kingdom of Mali conquered what was left of Ghana.
Before Mali emerged as a great empire, it is believed that the Mandinka people of this region were journeying to the gold regions along the Senegal River and transporting the gold to Ghana for trade. The Mandika people were farmers who cultivated rice and other valuable crops. They were also expert traders. Their great success in farming and trade and their control of the rivers increased their power.
3. A griot is a West African story teller.
4. Griots said that Mali was able to conquer Ghana because of the warrior king Sundiata Keita. He is known as the great LION KING of Mali.
5. Sundiata ruled from 1230 to 1255 and seized the capital of Ghana in 1240.
When Sundiata was young he could not walk and rarely spoke. Many doubted he could be king. When his father was dying, he grew strong to make him proud. Eventually he was so strong that no one else could draw his bow.
Sundiata was loved by his subjects. He was known throughout Mali for his kindness, intelligence, and ability to settle disputes.
6. He then won control of lands from the Atlantic Coast to the city of Timbuktu.
7. Mali had more territory, more people, and more trade than Ghana.
8. King divided the empire into provinces, like Ghana. However, Sundiata, the founder of Mali, put his generals in charge of them.
9. People accepted the generals as their leaders because:
a. They protected them from invaders.
b.They came from the provinces they ruled.
10. Mali’s other great king, Mansa Musa rewarded citizens with gold, land, and horses to keep them loyal.
Mansa Musa was Muslim and wanted Mali to be Islamic, but did not force other to adopt these beliefs. As a result, Islam and traditional west African religions were practiced side by side.
Mansa Musa expanded the borders of Mali in all directions. He created more trade routes and the cities of Gao and Timbuktu emerged.
Mali’s last strong king was Mansa Musa.
Mali fell because the king who followed Mansa Musa failed to stop Berber invasions.
In 1468 Sunni Ali, the leader of the Songhai, stormed into Timbuktu and drove out the Berbers.
Sunni Ali was able to build his empire because he ordered a fleet of war canoes to seize control of the river trade. His armies then swept westward into the Sahara where they took Berber salt mines.
Sunni Ali developed new methods of farming. He organized the boatmen of the Niger River into the beginnings of a professional Navy.
The empire lasted almost 100 more years.
In 1591 a small army from the Arab kingdom of Morocco crossed the Sahara.
The Moroccans were able to defeat the Songhai because they had cannons, guns, and gunpowder while the Songhai had swords, spears, and bows.
Morocco never gained complete control of the Songhai territories because of natural disasters, raids, and the European slave trade.
Songhai built on the traditions of Ghana and Mali. It’s founder Sunni Ali divided the empire into provinces.
Muhammad Turetook over Songhai’s government after Sunni Ali died.
He led a military coup and took over the Songhai government. He created a standing army and made sure that everyone would advance in the government based on their own achievements.
Muhammad Ture was different from Sunni Ali because he was a Muslim and his religious ideas affected his government.