Strangers No Longer Together on the Journey of Hope

Contrary to longstanding European assumptions, native societies in the Americas possessed their own rich and varied cultures. An estimated 3 to 5 million people, speaking hundreds of languages, inhabited the region; with about 60 million people living in the Western Hemisphere, the population rivaled that of Europe and Africa. While they did not yet possess the same farming techniques or methods of transportation as those of Europe and Africa, these societies were diverse and sophisticated, and adapted continually to changing environments. Irrigation communities in the Southwest, mound cities in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, and the villages of the eastern woodlands characterized the nature of these societies at the time of European contact. Climatic changes, over hundreds of years, had altered farming patterns and prompted different groups to compete for dominance through warfare, as well as to participate in a vast trade network that spread across the continent.

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Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere and is still struggling to rebuild itself.

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The United States, of course, is all too familiar with slavery, which remains perhaps the most deplorable experience in American history and continues to have repercussions for African Americans and the rest of American society. It increasingly divided the new nation after it won its independence from Britain and helped lead to the Civil War eight decades later. The cruel treatment of slaves was captured in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic but controversial book , which ignited passions on both sides of the slavery debate.

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But once Europeans began exploring the Western Hemisphere in the 1500s, slavery regained its popularity. Portuguese and Spanish colonists who settled in Brazil and Caribbean islands made slaves of thousands of Indians already living there. After most of them died from disease and abuse, the Portuguese and Spaniards began bringing slaves from Africa. In the next century, the English, the French, and other Europeans also began bringing African slaves into the Western Hemisphere, and by the 1800s they had captured and shipped to the New World some 10–12 million Africans, almost 2 million of whom died along the way (Thornton, 1998).

A Narrative of the Expedition to Central Africa for the Suppression of the Slave Trade organized by Ismail, Khedive of Egypt

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civilization, on the other hand, thrived in the cities of various kingdoms throughout the northern half of Africa. The most fertile portion of Islamic Sub-Saharan Africa was West Africa, thanks to the mighty Niger River; consequently, the most powerful Sub-Saharan Islamic states (known as the "Saharan empires") flourished there, spanning both desert and grassland. Islamic civilization also took hold along much of Africa's east coast, in the form of city-states founded by Arab traders.

1 Southern yeomen supported the institution of slavery

Equianorecounts his childhood in Africa until his capture and enslavement, hissubsequent sale to European traders, the horrors of the middle passage,his bondage in the United States, and his life on board British merchantvessels from 1758 to 1788--first as a slave and later for hire.

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chiefly involved the exchange of West African gold and slaves for manufactured goods and salt from North Africa. focused on the exchange of slaves and raw materials from East and Southern Africa for the manufactured goods of the Islamic world and South Asia. In the Early Modern age, European trading settlements along the west coast added a third major commercial zone, , which largely supplanted trans-Saharan trade.

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Fraught with political, economic, and social challenges, much of postwar Africa fell to dictatorships, which were often notoriously brutal. As in Latin America and the Middle East, many dictators came to power by securing the backing of either the US or USSR (see ). After the Cold War, authoritarian rule was supplanted by democracy in a few African nations, but most still face a long road to the freedom and prosperity enjoyed by the Western nations that have exploited the continent for so long.

Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope

Sub-Saharan states (like states everywhere) often derived much of their wealth from trade. During the age of pre-colonial civilization, the Sub-Saharan region featured three major trade zones: north (trans-Saharan trade), east (Indian Ocean trade), and west (Atlantic trade, established by Europe in the Early Modern age). Major Sub-Saharan exports included slaves, gold, copper, and animal products (e.g. ivory, pelts, feathers, tortoise shells).