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The Gifts of Africa: How a Continent and Its People Changed the World

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“The West will begin to understand Africa when it realizes it’s not talking to a child—it’s talking to its mother.” So writes Jeff Pearce in the introduction to his fascinating, groundbreaking work, The Gifts of Africa: How a Continent and Its People Changed the World. We learn early on in school how Europe and Asia gave us important literature, science, and art, and how the “The West will begin to understand Africa when it realizes it’s not talking to a child—it’s talking to its mother.” So writes Jeff Pearce in the introduction to his fascinating, groundbreaking work, The Gifts of Africa: How a Continent and Its People Changed the World. We learn early on in school how Europe and Asia gave us important literature, science, and art, and how their nations changed the course of history. But what about Africa? There are plenty of books that detail its colonialism, corruption, famine, and war, but few that discuss the debt owed to African thinkers and innovators. In The Gifts of Africa, we meet Zera Yacob, an Ethiopian philosopher who developed the same critical approach and several of the same ideas as René Descartes. We consider how Somalis traded with China, and we meet the African warrior queens who still inspire national pride. We explore how Liberia’s Edward Wilmot Blyden deeply influenced Marcus Garvey, and we sneak into the galleries and theaters of 1920s Paris, where African art and dance first began to make huge impacts on the world. Relying on meticulous research, Pearce brings to life a rich intellectual legacy and profiles modern innovators like acclaimed griot Papa Susso and renowned economist George Ayittey from Ghana. From the ancient Nubians to a Nigerian superstar in modern painting and sculpture, from the father of sociology in the Maghreb to how the Mau Mau in Kenya influenced Malcom X, The Gifts of Africa is bold, engaging, and takes the reader on a journey of thousands of years up to the present day. Past works have reinforced misconceptions about Africa, from its oral traditions and languages to its resistance to colonial powers. Other books have treated African achievements as a parade of honorable mentions and novelties. This book is different—refreshingly different. It tells the stories behind the milestones and provides insights into how great Africans thought, and how they passed along what they learned. Provocative and entertaining, The Gifts of Africa at last gives the continent its due, and it should change the way we learn about the interactions of cultures and how we teach the history of the world.


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“The West will begin to understand Africa when it realizes it’s not talking to a child—it’s talking to its mother.” So writes Jeff Pearce in the introduction to his fascinating, groundbreaking work, The Gifts of Africa: How a Continent and Its People Changed the World. We learn early on in school how Europe and Asia gave us important literature, science, and art, and how the “The West will begin to understand Africa when it realizes it’s not talking to a child—it’s talking to its mother.” So writes Jeff Pearce in the introduction to his fascinating, groundbreaking work, The Gifts of Africa: How a Continent and Its People Changed the World. We learn early on in school how Europe and Asia gave us important literature, science, and art, and how their nations changed the course of history. But what about Africa? There are plenty of books that detail its colonialism, corruption, famine, and war, but few that discuss the debt owed to African thinkers and innovators. In The Gifts of Africa, we meet Zera Yacob, an Ethiopian philosopher who developed the same critical approach and several of the same ideas as René Descartes. We consider how Somalis traded with China, and we meet the African warrior queens who still inspire national pride. We explore how Liberia’s Edward Wilmot Blyden deeply influenced Marcus Garvey, and we sneak into the galleries and theaters of 1920s Paris, where African art and dance first began to make huge impacts on the world. Relying on meticulous research, Pearce brings to life a rich intellectual legacy and profiles modern innovators like acclaimed griot Papa Susso and renowned economist George Ayittey from Ghana. From the ancient Nubians to a Nigerian superstar in modern painting and sculpture, from the father of sociology in the Maghreb to how the Mau Mau in Kenya influenced Malcom X, The Gifts of Africa is bold, engaging, and takes the reader on a journey of thousands of years up to the present day. Past works have reinforced misconceptions about Africa, from its oral traditions and languages to its resistance to colonial powers. Other books have treated African achievements as a parade of honorable mentions and novelties. This book is different—refreshingly different. It tells the stories behind the milestones and provides insights into how great Africans thought, and how they passed along what they learned. Provocative and entertaining, The Gifts of Africa at last gives the continent its due, and it should change the way we learn about the interactions of cultures and how we teach the history of the world.

32 review for The Gifts of Africa: How a Continent and Its People Changed the World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eugene Kernes

    Overview: Africa is a diverse place that has a long history of political maneuverings, cultural traditions, philosophy, art, science, medicine, and economics. Africa was where the wealth and power was in the ancient world. This intellectual history is usually not recognized because it does not seem very African. Only seems that way after many of the artifacts were stolen or destroyed, leaving no trace of the rich history. Part of the reason is because Africa has a deep oral tradition, which infor Overview: Africa is a diverse place that has a long history of political maneuverings, cultural traditions, philosophy, art, science, medicine, and economics. Africa was where the wealth and power was in the ancient world. This intellectual history is usually not recognized because it does not seem very African. Only seems that way after many of the artifacts were stolen or destroyed, leaving no trace of the rich history. Part of the reason is because Africa has a deep oral tradition, which informs decisions and keeps behavior accountable to future generations, but is in question because of the fragility of memory. This book reorients African history to be about Africa, rather than as part of a description of the West. Africa had contact with various cultures. They even had a code of chivalry. Even when considered mystical figures, rulers knew their limits. This is a book of how various individuals from different backgrounds have influenced the world through their work. From the wealth of Egypt to the resistance and activism of the early 21st century. Caveats? The book is sometimes difficult to read. Although the author is correcting a bias, the author also has a bias. What the bias indicates is a need to figure out how to talk about Africa without dismissing African achievements and hardships, while seeing how Africa influences and was influenced by the world.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Francis Tapon

    I like the goal of this book. The point is to highlight what Africa has done for the world. Many believe that Africa hasn't produced anything useful or innovative since the pyramids. Although it has been the least innovative continent in the last few thousand years, that doesn't mean it hasn't contributed anything toward humanity's progress. This book points out overlooked African gems. Fortunately, Jeff Pearce isn't an insufferable, politically correct man who tries to blame everything under the sun I like the goal of this book. The point is to highlight what Africa has done for the world. Many believe that Africa hasn't produced anything useful or innovative since the pyramids. Although it has been the least innovative continent in the last few thousand years, that doesn't mean it hasn't contributed anything toward humanity's progress. This book points out overlooked African gems. Fortunately, Jeff Pearce isn't an insufferable, politically correct man who tries to blame everything under the sun on the white man and portray Africans purely as victims. Still, at times he lapses into such a tired narrative. Since I am writing a book about traveling 7 years to all 54 African countries, I appreciated his insight.

  3. 5 out of 5

    CASPER HILEMAN

    Mr. Pearce helps us to rethink the African Continent and its myriad of peoples, languages, and cultures. Africa is not monolithic nor should it be seen as an afterthought merely to be seen as a place or peoples that things are done to but rather as a place and peoples who do things.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mudasir

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lilli

  6. 5 out of 5

    James Harrison

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Renz

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andre

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jaidee

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sage

  11. 4 out of 5

    Foggygirl

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  13. 5 out of 5

    James

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Vineyard

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emrys

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shahin Keusch

  19. 4 out of 5

    Noah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ciorstaidh

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ash Chamberlain

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marz

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nefertari

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Bianchi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hestia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Isabella

  28. 5 out of 5

    B Lewis

  29. 4 out of 5

    Flo

  30. 5 out of 5

    Madison Johnson

  31. 4 out of 5

    Shernell

  32. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Overby

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