Geographers in Africa maps

With savage pictures fill their gaps,

And o’er uninhabitable downs

Paint elephants instead of towns

–Jonathan Swift (as quoted in World’s great men of color, 1947).

Indeed, the land of Africa was a land of wonder for the ancient Greeks and Romans, and this, to such an extent, that among them it was a proverb that out of Africa there is always something new. The concept of “darkest Africa” refers to the comparative ignorance of Europeans regarding that continent and its people over the last four centuries.

These people were depicted as uncivilised and lacking in cultural attainments. A number of people in Europe would have been struck with horror if they knew of the cruel and bloody acts of their countrymen in the course of the inhuman slave trade. Ruthless European adventurers promoted the hunting down of men, women and children like beasts, and the destruction of complete villages in order to capture the inhabitants and sell them like cattle. Therefore, slave traders would invent fantastic tales of savagery about the Africans so that their capture and transportation to labor on the plantations of the Americas would appear to be acts of Christian concern and high-minded enlightenment.