Onward Christian soldiers
Into heathen lands
Prayer books in your pockets
Rifles in your hands
Take the happy tidings
Where trade can be done
Spread the peaceful gospel
With the Gatling gun
From “Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson – The Bible and the Gun” a series of articles/videos produced in 1984.
The Gatling gun was patented in 1862 just in time for Europeans, who had mostly ended the enslavement of Africans in the “New World”, to turn their attention to possessing and exploiting the African continent and those Africans who lived there. Not being content with brutally robbing the continent of its people and their talents for centuries these evil, covetous, unconscionable people left their homes in Europe to invade and seize vast amounts of African land. The invention of the Gatling gun gave them an advantage of superior firepower to slaughter Africans who resisted their encroachment.
The Gatling gun and, later, the Maxim gun, were used to steal and occupy African land and subjugate Africans on the continent. The Africans armed with rifles were no match for these machine guns which could outfire any rifle of the time.
Some Europeans also used the excuse of Christianizing the Africans to explain their presence on the continent. Davidson, in his series of videos, debunks that myth. His research as presented in the videos shows that these Christian missionaries in some cases used brute force to “convert” Africans to Christianity. These good Christian White people destroyed and stole African art, culture and property in their efforts to “Christianize” the Africans. However, as Davidson points out, the missionaries, in spite of the supposed Christian zeal to convert Africans, held fast to the White supremacist belief that Africans were not their equal.
>From the song that Davidson mentioned in his presentation it is obvious the real purpose of the missionaries as an advance army was to culturally, emotionally and spiritually subdue as many Africans as possible before the European settlers arrived like locusts to occupy African land. With Africans forced – or volunteering – to accept the new religion which included worshipping a White superior being and, by extension, White skin people as superior, the task of subjugating the Africans and stealing their land was made a bit easier.
Many Europeans had moved into the African continent disregarding the Africans, behaving as if they did not exist and taken possession of their land, cattle and other property. Any resistance by Africans was met by the most dreadful, barbaric violence from the European invaders of their land. Davidson quotes from a British army officer’s diary where the man describes in detail and with much satisfaction his role in murdering Africans and occupying their land. Davidson describes the colonial period as: “Prolonged interlude of destructive subjection and foreign occupation [of Africa] whose main achievement was not to carry Africa into a new world order but merely to complete the dismantlement of the old.”
The most egregious and presumptuous act of theft against the African people had its beginning during a two month meeting from November 15, 1884 to January 20, 1885. Known as the “Berlin Conference” because of its location in Berlin, Germany, the meeting included representatives from 14 White tribes who carved up the African continent and parcelled out land among themselves with no thought to how their actions would affect the Africans, owners of the land.
The Europeans arrived on the African continent and swarmed throughout the land bringing destruction and mayhem to the lives of Africans. They occupied the most fertile land and by force and trickery using “the Bible and the gun” they coerced Africans into labouring to enrich Europeans.
Africans did not sit quietly and allow the White interlopers to reign supreme. There were several acts of African resistance.
One of the most famous acts of resistance was led by an African woman in Ghana. Nana Yaa Asantewaa is considered an African freedom fighter who led her people in resistance to the oppression of the colonizing British.
Following the “Scramble for Africa” where members of the 14 white tribes decided to carve up the African continent to colonize and exploit the people living in those places (Ethiopia being the sole African country they were unsuccessful in colonizing) the British tried to subdue the Ashanti nation of Ghana. In the first Ashanti/British war in 1823, the British were soundly thrashed by the Ashanti warriors. Keeping in mind that there was no invasion of Britain by the Ashanti or any other African nation, the British were at an advantage because they could keep importing soldiers from a country where people lived in virtual peace while the Ashanti and other African nations were in a constant state of turmoil with Europeans invading their territories, slaughtering, kidnapping and enslaving their citizens.
The British, driven to extreme greed by the knowledge of gold in the Ashanti Empire (which they later named the Gold Coast), attacked the Ashanti in 1826, 1873, 1893-1894 and 1895-1896. In 1896, the British government annexed the territories of the Ashanti after the 24-year-old Asantehene (king) Prempeh I, supposedly directed his people not to resist, which is hardly surprising since by this time the Ashanti had been resisting British attacks for 73 years. In 1900, not only did the British exile the kidnapped Asantehene to the Seychelles islands, the British governor demanded that he be allowed to sit on the sacred Golden Stool of the Ashanti, which not even the Asantehene was allowed to sit on. This was the final insult and after the meeting with the British governor (which supposedly took place on March 28, 1900) when some of the chiefs of the Ashanti were reluctant to fight the British to rescue their king, Nana Yaa Asantewaa took matters into her own hands. She is credited with rallying the men of Asante with this speech: “Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot. No White man could have dared to speak to the chief of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We, the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the White men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
Davidson, a White man from Britain, is considered an Africanist and has written extensively about African history and although he was not an academic (left school as a 16-year-old) he was acknowledged by academic institutions as an authority on Africa and Africans. He published more than 35 books mostly about Africa and in the obituary published in the Guardian newspaper on Friday, July 9, 2010 his books are thus described: “These were mainly about African history and included classic textbooks still in use in both east and west Africa.”
I think of the battle, challenges and skepticism African Guyanese academic and scholar Ivan VanSertima encountered when he published “They Came Before Columbus” and remember the words of Susan McIntosh the author of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. She lists several advantages and unearned privileges of White skin and one she lists is: “If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.”
How many Africans have had the privilege of their work being published regardless of their talent and knowledge about their lived experiences compared to White people who write about Africa and Africans? We need to seek out and encourage our educators to support African authors so our children are exposed to the work of African authors as a balance to the overwhelming White supremacist culture to which we have been subjected since and even before the “Christian soldiers” invaded Africa.