Like a lot of people I know, I managed to get through 12 years of schooling, and even through college, without learning hardly any history at all. I had a few vague ideas about Columbus and the atomic bomb, but that was about it. It wasn’t until I went to flight school, and met a fellow student who knew all about the history of aviation, that the past started to come to life for me. He would go on and on talking about this airplane and that one, and the pilots who flew them, and the adventures they had, and the wars they fought in, and all of a sudden I began to see that the past isn’t past after all. It’s all around us in the airplanes we fly, in the way we live, in the landscape that surrounds us, and in who we are.
So when we visit a place, if we want to really see what’s there, we need to know a bit of its history. Otherwise, it’s like browsing in a bookstore without ever actually opening up a book to read.
And Africa’s book is a long and complex one. “Geographers look into the past to discover explanations for the present, and Africa’s unique and tumultuous history can shed light on the major issues that occur there today,” say the folks who bring us Geography Awareness Week.
More about Africa’s history:
Explore the pyramids with National Geographic.
Tour the wonders of the African world with Henry Louis Gates Jr., a PBS feature.
PBS looks at the continent’s recent history, with “Africa in the 1990s.”