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They Came Before Columbus – Africans in America | Black History Project | Video 25

They Came Before Columbus (img)
The influence of the desert travellers, trade, Muslim technology and science such as celestial navigation (use of the stars for travel) and African Nautical techniques had accelerated the development of the Malian Navy. The Malians had exceptional boats which could travel long distances.

Taking advantage of this strength, 200 ships were instructed to sail west from Africa in direction of America. This is 181 years before Columbus attempted the same voyage from Europe. One ship returned… the sailor told the tail of violent currents. He turned back when the others continued.

The Arab-Egyptian scholar Al-Umari[1] quotes Mansa Musa as follows:
“The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth (meaning Atlantic), and wanted to reach that (end) and obstinately persisted in the design. So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, like many others full of gold, water and victuals sufficient enough for several years. He ordered the chief (admiral) not to return until they had reached the extremity of the ocean, or if they had exhausted the provisions and the water. They set out. Their absence extended over a long period, and, at last, only one boat returned. On our questioning, the captain said: ‘Prince, we have navigated for a long time, until we saw in the midst of the ocean as if a big river was flowing violently. My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me. As soon as any of them reached this place, it drowned in the whirlpool and never came out. I sailed backwards to escape this current.’ But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and for his men, and one thousand more for water and victuals. Then he conferred on me the regency during his absence, and departed with his men on the ocean trip, never to return nor to give a sign of life.[6]”
The Malian King at the time, Mansa Abukari left with another 2000 ships to see for himself and also never returned. According to 14th Century Syrian historian Shibab al-Umari, Abu-Bakr was obsessed with the Atlantic Ocean and what lay beyond it. Historian Ivan Van Sertima, 181 years later, after arriving on the shores of Christopher Columbus describes finding African metal.

Van Sertima cites the abstract of Columbus’s log made by Bartolomé de las Casas, according to which the purpose of Columbus’s third voyage was to test both the claims of King John II of Portugal that “canoes had been found which set out from the coast of Guinea [West Africa] and sailed to the west with merchandise”. There are also claims of the native inhabitants of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola that “from the south and the southeast had come black people whose spears were made of a metal called guanín … from which it was found that of 32 parts: 18 were gold, 6 were silver, and 8 copper.”[9][10]

(img) American villages with Malian names such as Mandiga port, Mandiga bay, Sierre de Mali were also discovered. 2 negro skeletons were found in the Danish Virgin Islands dated back to 1250AD, over 200 years before Colmbus’ first voyage in 1492. In Reef Bay Valley, African Tifinagh script has also been found. Similar facial markings and sculptures have been found in Native American tribes that are also present in West African tribes.

The website Global Black History summarises Ivan Van Serima’s work in “They Came Before Columbus”.

Examining navigation and shipbuilding; cultural analogies between Native Americans and Africans (img); the transportation of plants, animals, and textiles between the continents; and the diaries, journals, and oral accounts of the explorers themselves, Ivan Van Sertima builds a pyramid of evidence to support his claim of an African presence in the New World centuries before Columbus. Combining impressive scholarship with a novelist’s gift for storytelling, Van Sertima re-creates some of the most powerful scenes of human history: the launching of the great ships of Mali in 1310 (two hundred master boats and two hundred supply boats), the sea expedition of the Mandingo king in 1311, and many others. In They Came Before Columbus, we see clearly the unmistakable face and handprint of black Africans in pre-Columbian America, and their overwhelming impact on the civilizations they encountered.


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