African History

So much more than just mummies

Shmoop's African History course has been granted a-g certification, which means it has met the rigorous iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses and will now be honored as part of the requirements for admission into the University of California system.

Africa is big. Really big. So this course seeks to do the impossible: teach the whole of African history from its Paleolithic beginnings to the present day.

Africa's role in world history is often overlooked in favor of the "glorious" narratives of European conquest. But Africa is more than a wilderness to be conquered by its northern neighbors—from unique ancient societies, to proud medieval kingdoms, to diverse cultures destroyed by the slave trade, Africa's history is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.

So, in this history course, we're giving Africa its due. We'll use critical reading (including primary sources), critical thinking, and a mess of critical writing activities to help you understand Africa in a deep and nuanced way.

Our course will cover the highlights of African history (and by "highlights" we mean "extremely depressing events which cannot and should not be forgotten"), including

  • Africa as the birthplace of humanity.
  • the ancient societies of Egypt, Kush, Jenne-Jeno, and more.
  • the Bantu migration, Africa's medieval kingdoms such as Aksum and Great Zimbabwe, and the effect of Islam on Africa.
  • the introduction to the slave trade to Africa and how Africans responded to it.
  • European colonialism in Africa and its legacy.
  • the process of decolonization and the conflicts that arose afterward.
  • Africa's attempts to heal and develop as autonomous African countries.

Unit Breakdown

  1. African History - Meet Africa

    This short unit is an introduction to the geography, people, wildlife, and resources of Africa. We'll end by planning a guided tour of an African country.

  2. African History - Ancient Africa

    This unit covers a lot of ground, from the beginnings of the human species in Africa to the grand civilizations of Egypt, Carthage, and Ghana. We'll also crack open the myth that nothing interesting ever happened in Africa. Boy is that wrong.

  3. African History - Africa's Kingdoms

    Medieval Africa was a hot place to be. The Bantu were migrating, Aksum was rising and falling, Islam entered Africa, and a whole host of powerful and diverse kingdoms called the continent home. We'll take the tour in this unit.

  4. African History - The Slave Trade

    In this unit, we cover the introduction of the slave trade to Africa, how the slave trade impacted Africa, and its eventual abolition. We'll go in deep with some case studies on the Kongo and the Dahomey too.

  5. African History - Colonialism

    This unit covers a dark period in the history of Africa, colonialism, otherwise known as Slavery, Take 2. We'll take a wide-angle look how European colonization of Africa happened, the governments and economies instituted, and how Africans fought back.

  6. African History - Decolonization and Post-Colonial Conflict

    Rounding out our trio of depressing units is our study of decolonization and post-colonial conflict. We'll tackle topics like genocide in Rwanda and Sudan, the impact of the Cold War on African politics, and how Africa is healing (including the formation of the African Union).

  7. African History - Everyday We're Developing

    In our final unit, we study how Africa is developing now that all its states are independent. Besides studying the various roads to development, capitalism, and international aid, we'll dip our toes into public health in Africa and women's rights.

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