DARK CONTINENT The ancestral homeland of black Americans, of course, is Africa. Until recently, the typical white American and, for that matter, the typical Westerner viewed Africa as the "dark" continent and, concurrently, assumed that Africans themselves were "dark" not only in the color of their skin but also in the color of their beliefs, customs and achievements. As historian George H. T. Kimble has pointed out, however, "the darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it." In other words, for many years African history was viewed largely as the history of European conquest and development, it being assumed that Africa (at least tropical Africa) had no prior history.
Modern historical and anthropological research has clearly demonstrated that Africa had a long and, at times, highly advanced pattern of history prior to its "discovery" by European explorers. Anthropologist Paul Bohannon, for example, has suggested that "Africa seems to have been the home not merely of mankind but also, and obviously, of human culture." It has been shown that toolmaking and the making of pottery, basic steps in man's evolution from a primitive condition, occurred first in Africa. Similarly, Africans were making iron tools and weapons long before Europe experienced its own "dark" age during the medieval period. In fact, according to the late Louis Leakey, "Africa was in the forefront of all world progress . . . for something like 600,000 years."