When slavery gets brought up, so much of the discussion is America-centric. How people were brought here, sold here, abused, forced to work, then came chain gangs and imprisonment and Jim Crow and what’s going on now, etc. But this book stays in Africa.
The story begins before slavery. First Walter Rodney gives a general idea of how developed different areas of the world were before 1500. Africa wasn’t far behind Europe (the Americas were), but Europeans had boats. They were sailing around and quickly took ownership of the sea. So when Europeans popped up to nearby places in Asia and Africa, they started trading. Soon, all they wanted from Africa was people. So they’d bring a bunch of stuff to the West coast of Africa (including cloth from Asia) and trade it for captives. A lot of what they traded was junk tho and that was the start of underdevelopment because now things like cloth became over-saturated. Plus, they were removing people who would have otherwise been thinkers and workers in Africa only to enslave them in Europe and the Americas.
That went on for hundreds of years and is one level of underdevelopment. That exploitation was necessary for the creation of capitalism and then colonialism (and then imperialism). Europeans and Americans made their money and inventions and everything else off the capital they acquired through slavery. Then they realized they could actually make more money off wage labor instead. So they stopped taking captives, but then Africa was like okay now what? Europe was like well we also like your diamonds and gold and cocoa. We’ll take that instead so long as you do all the back breaking labor in Africa instead of abroad. Oh and we’ll also directly colonize and terrorize different areas for the next 70 or so years too. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa ends off around 1950, with various countries gaining some sort of independence. The big switch pertains closely to education. During colonialism, colonizers put up self-serving schools that were wildly unsuccessful. But little by little, Africans built more of their own schools and worked towards their own political freedom.
- Mistaken interpretations of the causes of underdevelopment usually stem either from prejudiced thinking or from the error of believing that one can learn the answers by looking inside the underdeveloped country. The true explanation lies in seeking out the relationship between Africa and certain developed countries and in recognizing that it is a relationship of exploitation. -Walter Rodney
- Pervasive and vicious racism was present in imperialism as a variant independent of the economic rationality that initially gave birth to racism. It was economics that determined that Europe should invest in Africa and control the continent’s raw materials and labor. It was racism which confirmed the decision that the form of control should be direct colonial rule. -Walter Rodney
- If there is anything glorious about the history of African colonial education, it lies not in the crumbs which were dropped by European exploiters, but in the tremendous vigor displayed by Africans in mastering the principles of the system that had mastered them. -Walter Rodney
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