A History of African Societies to 1870 By Elizabeth Isichei


“Ethnic’ identities were determined by occupation and religion as well as by language. The Dyula were a long-distance merchants, called Marka on the Niger bend; the Fulbe, ideally, pastoralist, the Bozo and Somono fisherman. The Dyula were Muslim, and the Bambara ‘pagans’. The social reality was fluid and changing, there was a Muslim presence in the Bambara states, and some Dyula were not Muslims. ‘It was not uncommon for FulBe to become Bozo, Bozo to become Somono, and…animist farmers to become Maraka Muslim traditionalist. Most Marka identified themselves as ‘white’ (the black were the recently converted).”

Source: A History of African Societies to 1870 By Elizabeth Isichei

Dana Reynolds-Marniche cited the above reference along with the following commentary:

“In other words after converting to Islam many of the Beriberi and people like the nomad Fulani and Tuareg came to refer to themselves as “whites”. The Marka Soninke (Wa’nGara/Wakar and Wa’Kore) were also called Dyula. “The Dyula were a long distance merchants, called Marka on the Niger bend…” They called themselves the whites due to their faith – IslamI told you Wa Kore and WaKara were Korah and Kore from Teras (Jeter/Jethro) but i know – many of us are in denial – too brainwashed. Believe it!

The newly remade film involving Kunta Kinte a man of Soninke/Mande stock. 

“Paradoxically the Wakoré are designated in the Tarikhs as blacks from the south, but in other sources e.g. al-Bakrî, al-Idrı¯sı – as whites from the North.”  See what I mean? Awkar, Wakara, or Wa’ngara and Wakore Malinke peoples were Beriberi from the North. The word “white” refers to their Muslim heritage.

Source: (The Wa’nGara: An Old Soninke Diaspora in West Africa. ” Andreas W. Massing 2000

“…most Marka. identified. themselves. as. ‘white’. (the. blacks were the recently converted.”)

Source: A History of African Societies to 1870 p. 223 Elisabeth Isichei 1997, Cambridge University press.

” Those who have read the peer-reviewed ‘Fear of Blackness” in West Africa would know this already. This is what was in the peer reviewed Fear of Blackness…..”

Furthermore another division of the Wakar or Wa’nGara merchants were the Songhai in some places called Zarma, Germa, Songhai i.e. Garama who founded the empire of the Garamantes.

“Like modern linguists, even colonialists knew the early Arabs used the term white for a type of blackness. Example hamam = “Being black. Becoming white. Being charred (a burning coal or billet)…”

Source: A Dictionary, Persian Arabic and English. By Frances Johnson. p. 493

Source: Dana Reynolds-Marniche

The Moroccan Conquest of the Songhay Empire

“Every year [prior to 1591], on the order of the king of Timbuktu [the askiya]… two hundred quintals of gold were sent to the Barbary; the war so upset everything that once could not produce four [quintals of gold], because the gold washers had fled for they did not want to work for others; and gold from the deserts of the interior came virtually no more, and this did not suffice for the price of the merchandise in the kingdom from where they came.”

“Ahmad al-Mansur’s invasion of Sudan created fresh illusions, but neither the circus of Marrakech nor even the vast curtain of the Sahara could long hide the truth. The conquistadors of the Red City destroyed everything in their path, real and otherwise–the heyday of the Saharan caravans, the glory days of Timbuktu, the empire of the Songhay, and the Island of Gold. Behind, they left only wistfulness.”

“Ghana was the first of the West African empires. A Soninke ethnic state that emerged around the fourth century, Ghana eventually came to control the area of present western Mali and southeastern Mauritania. Its power lay in the gold fields of Boure and Bambouk, and it was the first black African state to benefit from the camel-powered trans-Saharan trading system. This empire grew and flourished largely in anonymity until Berber and Arab raiders came calling.”

“By the eleventh century, the Ghanaians had been weakened by attacks from a Moroccan Berber dynasty, the Almoravids. The empire quietly disappeared a few decades later. The cause of this collapse is not known, but the Almoravids probably hastened its end. Gradually, over the next century, a successor state began to take shape from the ruins, Mali.”

“The Mandinka kingdom of Mali gradually extended its control over the gold fields through conquest and tribal alliances and by the early thirteenth century, it had crowned its first emperor, Sundiata Keita. In the decades that followed, the Malians embarked on conquest in Senegal, Guinea, and against the tribes of the eastern Niger, amassing a near monopoly on the West African gold trade.”

“By the middle of the fourteenth century, the empire reached from the Atlantic Ocean to Gao and spanned the modern-day countries of Senegal, southern Mauritania, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, northern parts of Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and western niger. The Malian Empire dominated West Africa, extending over 1,300,000 square kilometers, more than any Western European state, but it took a new religion and a larger-than-life character to make anyone outside the region take notice.”

“The religion was, of course, Islam. Mali was the first of the great West African empires to embrace Islam, though in its own distinct and limited way. Some Arab Scholars claimed it was Ghana, but the ruling class never adopted the new religion. Though the Malian nobility gradually converted to Islam, the faith was not imposed upon the populace. Islam remained confined to the capital and the desert “ports” where it had arrived centuries earlier with Berber traders. Many more years would elapse before Islam would start to dissipate from these points to the villages and towns of the savanna and the forest belt.”

“Islamic teaching and law became prestigious metiers and, and in the words of one historian, a “cult of the aristocracy. But, in the end, in West Africa, Islam was for the ruling elite and the tiny literate class, and it was a distinctly urban phenomenon. In the countryside, the majority lived as they had for centuries, with their nature gods, black magic and witch doctors.”

“The twenty-year Morocco-Songhay war seriously undermined the caravan trade networks and economic triad. Salt and gold were no longer meetings in abundance along the river. The salt mines were not secure, and that traffic slowed considerably. Gold traders began to prefer the Guinea coast, where the Portuguese coastal trading posts offered closer and more stable trading partners. However, this alternative provided only temporary relief. Line the Moroccan sugar industry, the West African gold market would soon plummet under competition from the Americas.”

Source: Conquistadors of the Red City: The Moroccan Conquest of the Songhay Empire By Comer Plummer

“When analyzing al-Mansur’s Songhay effort we are fortunate to possess the work of authors unattached to al-Mansur’s court, through which we have an opportunity to evaluate events presumably unencumbered by the flattering official portrayals that are so often the product of official dynastic secretaries and chroniclers. The work of the Arab historian and native of Timbuktu, Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, is one example. Al-Sa’di eventually secured employment in the Moroccan administration at Timbuktu, but his loyalties lay with the native elites of the Middle Niger. From him we gain a local perspective on the Moroccan invasion and conquest of the Songhay Empire, and well as on the Moroccan administration of the Middle Niger up until the middle of the seventeenth century”

“Early Sa’di attempts to control the salt resources of the desert date from at least 1526, when a Moroccan force temporarily occupied the Tuwat Oasis. Over the next thirty years al-Mansur’s predecessors launched additional expeditions against Tuwat, Taghaza, and into Mauritania. But the importance of salt was too great for the Songhay to consider relinquishing control. According to al-Sa’di, in the early 1540s the Songhay rulers responded to one Moroccan request by ordering a raid of two thousand Tuareg on Morocco’s Dra’a Valley.998 Later, they foiled an otherwise successful Moroccan conquest of Taghaza by simply redirecting traders to another location.999 Al-Mansur’s first effort, however, fared much better. Al-Sa’di reports that the Sultan requested of the Songhay one year’s worth of tax from the mines of Taghaza, and received instead a goodwill gift of more than ninety pounds of gold, the generosity of which allegedly led to a great friendship between the sultan and the Songhay Askiya (emperor) Dawud.1000 Some see the rivalry with the Ottoman Empire as an important factor in al-Mansur’s Songhay venture. Ottoman agents were indeed active in sub-Saharan Africa. Bornu, a central Sudanic empire in the area adjacent to Lake Chad, attracted Ottoman mercenaries and technology with a series of aggressive jihads. In the middle of the century the Ottomans themselves extended their reach into Fezzan, a territory also claimed by Bornu. The latter sent an embassy to the Ottomans, but negotiations came to naught.1001 It is unclear whether or not military conflict ensued, though the anonymous Spaniard claims that the Turks marched through Egypt to conquer Bornu, but so weakened by thirst could not defend themselves.1002 Whatever may have occurred, the Ottoman supply of arms to Bornu dried up, and in 1582-83 its leaders turned to al-Mansur to meet their needs.  Al-Sa’di identifies a Songhay slave imprisoned at Taghaza, Wuld Kirinfil, as the impetus. According to al-Sa’di it “was God’s decree and His destiny that he [the slave] should break out from that prison and flee to the Red City, Marrakesh….”1014 There he wrote a letter to al-Mansur describing the difficult circumstances under which the Songhay were living and the resulting ease with which they could be conquered.1015 The anonymous Spaniard asserts that the ostensibly same escapee claimed to be the brother of the Songhay ruler, Askiya Ishaq, that his throne had been usurped, and that in return for support in regaining his kingdom he would acknowledge al-Mansur’s suzerainty and reward him with great wealth. “Account of the Anonymous Spaniard,” in Hunwick, Timbuktu, 318-319”

“Al-Mansur adopted the Ottoman practice of incorporating non-Turkish and non-Muslim elements into the army. Among the most prominent were European Christian renegados and Muslim Andalusians. Unlike the tribal corps these two groups often carried firearms, often filled senior posts in the army, guarded the sultan when he led campaigns, and received their pay before all others.1032 Neither group, as their names imply, were fully integrated into Maghribi society, and thus their allegiance to the ruler could be more readily ensured since it was through him alone that they enjoyed special status. The comparatively sizeable contingent of renegados and Andalusians in the Sa’di expedition is open to several possible interpretations. They were certainly among the best of the sharīf’s troops, and in this sense it is no surprise to see them in the invasion force. At the same time, dispatching some of his most loyal forces on an uncertain mission across nearly a thousand miles of desert also held special risks for al-Mansur’s domestic position. Revolts had under his predecessors been commonplace in sixteenth-century Morocco. In fact, al-Mansur was returning from the suppression of a rebellion in Fez when Wuld Kirinfil arrived and spurred renewed consideration of a Saharan venture.1033 Consequently, the extended absence and potential loss of loyal, effective troops was not a light matter.”

Source: MOROCCO IN THE EARLY ATLANTIC WORLD, 1415-1603 A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History By Earnest W. Porta, Jr., J.D

Discovering the Empire of Ghana



“Tuareg men are famous for the custom of wearing deep blue turbans and veils that cover their faces. The name for themselves is Kel Tagelmust, or “people of the veil.” The veil provides protection from the Sahara sand and dust and is removed only in the company of close family. The veil is made blue by pounding indigo dye into the cloth, which often stains their skin blue as well, which earned them the label “blue men of the desert.”

“Based on his conversations with eyewitnesses who traveled and traded with the Ghana Empire, al-Bakri described a large city of thirty thousand people, which he called “Al-Ghaba.” Today, we know this city as Kumbi Saleh. Unfortunately, al-Bakri left no information as to where the city was located, and for centuries it was truly a lost city.”

“As was common in Africa, “the city” was actually two separate cities, located about 6 miles apart. The Soninke lived in one city, and foreign traders lived in the other. The city inhabited by foreigners (mostly Muslim merchants and scholars) had large, rectangular stone houses–a North African influence. Like homes in the Soninke city, houses in the Muslim city were built along narrow streets that led to a wide avenue, where the outdoor market was located.”

“The foreigners’ city also had twelve mosques, where the Muslims worshipped. In fact, the Empire of Ghana became wealthy because of its contacts with and acceptance of Muslim traders and scholars. The Wagadou emperor lived in the Soninke city. Al-Bakri described this part of Al-Ghaba as a walled fortress. The cicular houses had clay walls and large, wooden beams that supported thatched, dome-shaped roofs. The homes of wealthy people were made of stone and wood. The largest and most elaborate house was the emperor’s palace.”

“The Wagadou emperor held court in this impressive palace, which was luxuriously decorated with paintings, sculptures, and gold. The king himself was splendidly dressed. At the height of the Ghana Empire’s power, he was the only Soninke allowed to wear imported and tailored clothing. Everyone else living in Al-Ghaba wore simpler cotton, silk, or brocade cloth draped around their bodies.”

Source: Discovering the Empire of Ghana By Robert Z. Cohen

It was Common for Magrib Berbers to marry Soninke women



“Scholars have attributed Ghana’s political hegemony to the ruler’s ability to unify Soninke villages and maintain a cohesive confederacy of chiefs under the command of one king. Ongoing raids launched by North African Berbers searching for gold and slaves also served to maintain Ghana’s unification.”

“Though many North African groups raided the kingdom throughout its existence, Ghana developed alliances with one Berber people—the Magrib. Many Magrib Berbers established trade relations with Ghana chiefs and lived among their allies. Several trading posts were established in the Soninke villages near Kumbi, the main center of Ghana, as well as in the south and north of the Gambia River. (Levtzion 1973:24, 28, 104).”

“Other major Ghana trading posts included in Timbuktu, Wagadugu, Gundiuru, and Awdaghustic. Magrib Berbers traded horses, brass, copper, glassware, beads, leather, textiles, tailored clothing, and preserved food to the Soninke in exchange for gold, ivory, cloth, and preserved food to the Soninke in exchange for gold, ivory, cloth, pepper, kola nuts, and sometimes slaves.”

“In these trading centers, it became common for Magrib Berbers to marry Soninke women. Furthermore, the alliances between Ghana chiefes and Magrib Berbers helped Ghana retain its domination over Malinke and Songhay villages; when revolts erupted, the Magrib Berbers assisted their allies. By A.D. 1076 the Magrib Berbers demanded that the Soninke people convert to Islam (Levtzion 1973: 44; Oliver and Fagan 1975:166). The King of Ghana complied, yet many villages resisted.”

“The pressures to convert increased when Sanhaja tribes from various regions of North Africa united in a religious movement to convert people to Islam and attack those who resisted. The Sanhaja, like the Berbers, was a racially mixed Hamitic people, who were unified under the religious Almoravid Movement, centered in Morocco. Unlike the Magrib Berbers, the Sanhaja were enemies of Ghana and took over some of the Magrib Berber trading posts.”

“Many Soninke villages converted to Islam as a means of averting Islamic attacks. This did not stop the Sanhaja from demanding tribute from Ghana villages and taking people as slaves. By A.D. 1250 the Almoravid Movement had provoked conflict and religious factionalism in the Kingdom of Ghana (Levtzion 1973:51; Oliver and Fagan 1975:169). Most Ghana chiefs refused to convert to Islam and instead chose to end the Confederacy.

“Many successor states emerged out of Ghana. By this time a large part of West Africa had converted to Islam.”

“The Soso, who had been conquered by Ghana, emerged as the most powerful kingdom. They conquered many Soninke villages and also began preying upon the Malinke villages, which were not unified under one kingdom. Some Malinke villages were able to retain their independence and were subsequently unified by a man called Sundjata. Sundjata then launched a successful military campaign against the Soso people and replaced them as the military power of West Africa.”

“By A.D. 1250 Malinke chiefs had united in a confederacy, with Sundjata as their king (Oliver and Faga 1975:169). Sundjata’s clan, the Keith, became the ruling family, and his confederacy evolved into the Kingdom of Mali. The power of the Kingdom of Mali expanded, and it came to encompass the entire region that had formerly been Ghana. The Malinka also conquered the peoples from the Kingdom of Songhay.”

Source: Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans By Martha Menchaca

In 1076, Islamic Berbers defeated the Soninke warriors


“The rulers of the Soninke people had many titles, one of which was “warrior king” or “Ghana.” Outsiders began calling both the King and the empire he ruled Ghana. The name stuck. The actual name for the empire of Ghana was Wagadu, which was also known by three other names throughout its history: Dierra, Agada, and Silla.”

“The oral history was eventually written down in the Dausi, a collection of stories about the region’s four kingdoms. In the 11th century, Abu Abdullah Al-Bakri, a Moorish nobleman who lived in Cordova, Spain, began interviewing travelers returning from West Africa. He also collected records and documents of trips to the region.”

“Although Al-Bakri never set foot in Ghana, he described it fairly accurately in a series of books, including his best-known work, The Book of Routes and Kingdoms. Trade formed ties between the nomadic Berbers and the farmers and merchants of the Ghana Empire. These bonds, however, were fairly weak. Battles often raged. Sometimes ample rainfall and healthy crops motivated the Soninke to invade Berber territory.”

“At other times, the Berbers raided Soninke communities. By 700 C.E., the empire’s golden age had begun. However, the rise of Islam in the northern and eastern regions of Africa would help bring about the empire’s downfall, and would radically change not only the empire but much of West Africa as well.”

“In 1076, Islamic Berbers defeated the Soninke warriors. The Berber’s victory helped spread Islam throughout the area. Meanwhile, drought and warfare cost the empire thousands of lives.” 

Source: We Visit Ghana By John Bankston