"African Life & Customs" by Edward W. Blyden

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This work is a collection of Blyden's articles that examines the socioeconomic structure of African society. A native of St. Thomas, West Indies, Blyden (1832-1912) lived most of his life on the African continent. He was an accomplished educator, linguist, writer, and world traveler, who strongly defended the unique character of Africa and its people. In this work Blyden examined the culture of "pure" Africans-- those untouched by European and Asiatic influences.

He identified the family as the basic unit in African society and polygamy as the foundation of African families. He described African social systems as cooperative; everyone worked for each other. No one went without work, food, or clothing. Blyden challenged white racial theorists who held Africans were inferior and whose arguments supported their preconceived ideas. He assumed Africans to be "distinct" rather than inferior, and he analyzed African culture within the context of African social experiences. As a writer, Blyden is regarded widely as the "father of Pan-Africanism". His major work, "Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race" (1887), promoted the idea that practicing Islam was more unifying and fulfilling for Africans than Christianity. He argues that the latter was introduced chiefly by European colonizers. He believed it had a demoralizing effect, although he continued to be a Christian. He thought Islam was more authentically African, as it had been brought to sub-Saharan areas by people from North Africa.