LISTEN: The First West African States: Ghana (The History of Black Americans and the Black Church #VA6 with Daniel Whyte III)

Daniel Whyte III
Daniel Whyte III

Welcome to episode #6 of the The History of Black Americans and the Black Church podcast. My name is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International. Since it is hard to separate Black American history and Black Church history I am combining the two because they are so intertwined. As many of you know, the church and religion has played and continues to play a big role in the African American community. Yet, many of us who grew up in the traditional black church do not have an understanding of how our faith evolved under the duress of slavery and discrimination to be and to represent what it does today. The purpose of this broadcast is to provide that background knowledge while also pointing out the dividing line between what is just tradition and true faith in Jesus Christ.

Our Scripture verse for today is Galatians 3:28 which reads: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Our BA and BC quote for today is from preacher and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

In this podcast, we are using as our texts: From Slavery to Freedom, by John Hope Franklin, The Negro Church in America/The Black Church Since Frazier by E. Franklin Frazier and C. Eric Lincoln, and The Black Church In The U.S. by William A. Banks.

Our topic for today is “The First West African States: Ghana” from John Hope Franklin’s book, From Slavery to Freedom. He writes:

The first West African state of which there is any record is Ghana, which lay about 500 miles northwest of its modern namesake. It was also known by its capital, Kumbi Saleh. Although its accurately recorded history does not antedate the seventh century, there is evidence that Ghana’s political and cultural history extends back perhaps into the very early Christian era. The earliest observations of Ghana were made when it was a confederacy of settlements extending along the grasslands of the Senegal and the upper Niger. Its boundaries were not well defined, and doubtless they changed with the fortunes of the kingdom. Most of the public offices were hereditary, and the tendency was for the stratified social order to become solidified.

The people of Ghana enjoyed some prosperity as farmers until continuous droughts extended the desert to their lands. As long as they were able to carry on their farming, gardens and date groves dotted the countryside, and there was an abundance of sheep and cattle in the outlying areas. They were also a trading people, and their chief town, Kumbi Welt, was an important commercial center during the Middle Ages. By the beginning of the tenth century the Muslim influence from the East was present. Kuenhi Saleh had a native and an Arab section, and the people were gradually adopting the religion of Islam. The prosperity that came in the wake of Arabian infiltration increased the power of Ghana, and its influence was extended in all directions. In the eleventh century, when the king had become a Muslim, Ghana could boast of a large army and a lucrative trade across the desert. From the Muslim countries came wheat. fruit, and sugar. From across the desert came caravans laden with textiles, brass, pearls, and salt. Ghana exchanged ivory, slaves, and gold for these commodities. The king, recognizing the value of this commercial intercourse, imposed a tax on imports and exports and appointed a collector to look after his interests.

Under the rulers of the Sisse dynasty, Ghana reached the height of its power. Tribes as far north as Tichit in present Mauritania paid tribute to the king of Ghana, while in the south its influence extended to the gold mines of the Faleme and of the Bambuk. It was the yield from these mines that supplied the coffers of the Sisse with the gold used in trade with Moroccan caravans. In faraway Cairo and Baghdad, Ghana was a subject of discussion among commercial and religious groups.

The reign of Tenkamenin in the eleventh century is an appropriate point at which to observe the kingdom of Ghana. Beginning in 1062, Tenkamenin reigned over a vast empire which, through the taxes and tributes collected by provincial rulers, made him immensely wealthy. Arab writers say that he lived in a fortified castle made beautiful by sculpture, pictures, and windows decorated by royal artists. The grounds also contained temples in which native gods were worshipped, a prison in which political enemies were incarcerated, and the tombs of preceding kings. The king, highly esteemed by his subjects, held court in magnificent splendor. During Tenkamenin’s reign the people of Ghana adhered to a religion based on the belief that every earthly object contained good or evil spirits that had to be satisfied if the people were to prosper. The king, naturally. was at the head of the religion. In 1076, however, a band of Muslims invaded Ghana and brought the area under the influence of their religion and trade. They seized the capital and established the religion of Islam. The strife that ensued was enough to undermine the kingdom of Ghana. By the end of the eleventh century, Ghana entered a period of economic decline brought on by a series of droughts. Under such trying circumstances Ghana fell easy prey to the waves of conquerors who swept in to destroy the kingdom during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

We will continue looking at this topic in our next episode.

In closing, allow me to say that like many of you, I grew up in a very religious and church-going family, and during that time, I often heard the phrase “Being Saved.” Now, much of what church people said “being saved” was I now know is wrong according to the Bible. I wrote an article about it titled “On ‘Being Saved’ in Black America” which is available for you to read free of charge on our website, Right now, I want to share with you very briefly what the Bible says “being saved” really is.

First, understand that you need to be saved because you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Second, understand that a horrible punishment eternal Hell awaits those who are not saved. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ said that God will say to those who are not saved, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Third, realize that God loves you very much and wants to save you from Hell. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you want to be saved from Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven, simply believe in Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead for your sins, and then call upon the Lord in prayer and ask Him to save your soul. And believe me, He will. Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Then you can sing in the words of the Old Negro spiritual:

Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty I’m free at last.

Until next time, may God richly bless you.

Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.

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