To answer this ambiguous question “why Africa is called a dark continent”, we need to look back to the 19th century.
There are many reasons that Africa is referred to as the dark continent.
Reasons why Africa is called a black continent
The term is first used in the 19th century when the continent of Africa is explored by the Europeans. Some say it was referred to as the dark continent as Africa was mysterious and largely unknown to the rest world.
Henry the navigator, the man who explored Africa, also used the term “dark continent” in his 1878 book, Through the Dark Continent.
Missionaries also played a major role in naming Africa the dark continent. Here is the story. In the late 1700s, missionaries began traveling to Africa. The aim was to deliver the message of Christianity to the people of Africa.
As Africans were tightly connected to their deep roots and heritages, the missionaries and their message were not welcomed by the people. It is then the missionaries refer to African people’s hearts as “locked in darkness” and “unreachable”.
Another silly claim is that the reference of Africa as a dark continent comes from the shortage of electricity in Africa. As viewed from a satellite in the night time, Africa is relatively the darkest continent.
Who found Africa?
European history claims Africa to be explored in the 19th century by Henry the explorer. Although he might be the first to methodically explore the oceanic route of Africa, this does not necessarily claim him as the founder of Africa.
Africa was in contact with the rest of the world for more than 2 Millenials. Trades between North Africa and the Middle East through the red sea is an iconic example.
This nullifies the claims that Prince Henry of Portugal as the founder or explorer of Africa. Saying this it can also nullify the name of the dark continent to be referred to Africa.
What was Africa called in Ancient times?
Most people think Africa is the original name of Africa. But, with sadness in my heart, I will tell you that Africa is not the original name of our continent.
The true and ancient name of our continent is Alkebulan.
Ethiopians, Nubians, Numidians, Khart Hadans, and moors used the term Alkebulan to describe Africa in ancient times.
The word Alkebulan means “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden”.
How did Africa get its name?
The word Africa is given to this continent when the Roman Empire conquered the majority of the continent. The Romans wanted to disconnect the people of Africa from its culture and heritage – it seems like changing the name of the continent was first on their list as the name was strong and meaningful to the people.
The origin of the word Africa is believed to come from either:
- The Greek word aphrike which means with out cold
- The phoenicians afri dust
- The afri tribe who lived in North part of Africa
- Or the latin work aprica which means sunny.
Play this fun Africa history quiz to know more about Africa.
The media using the dark continent?
Recently a media company called NPR referred to Africa as a dark continent. A reporter called Jean Cochran used the word in her statement saying – ” the president is going to Africa to visit the dark continent. “
It was a hot issue and the public responded to this shameful act.
“This is simply an outdated reference as well as being outrageously offensive,”Said a listner of NPR
“I thought that we had wrested that comment along with ‘colored’ and other euphemisms for Africans or Afro-Americans. Could you please report my comments to NPR management? I almost drove off the side of the road to start a protest!!!”Said another listener of NPR
More and more negative comments hit NPR.
As you can see from people’s response we found that the term Dark Continent is offensive to Africans.
“I had no idea the term would be found offensive. I will concede antiquated but I was unaware it was ‘racist and irredeemable,’ as one person put it in an email. I was floored. Am I insensitive? I don’t know how that could be since I didn’t know there was anything to be sensitive about. I understood the term to refer to the African jungle. It’s a canopy blocking out the light. A geographical term.”News reporter Jean Cochran responded to the claim.
After the incident NPR media apologized to the public.
Not only this but several media used this term that offended Africans around the world.
Researchgate published research on “The representation of Africa in Western Media – still a 21st-century problem”.
What does it mean to be an African?
To be an African means belonging to a group of people who are proud of their heritage. Those who are proud of who they were, who they are now, and who they are becoming.
It means that to be deeply rooted to your ancestors. It means to be proud of your authenticity, your culture, your heritage, and your people.
What should Africa be called then?
The term dark continent does not truly reflect the vibrant cultures and colors of Africa. In fact, with its diversity in culture, Africa is the most colorful continent compared to others. Africa has an authentic culture that is original.
Africa is also home to the precious minerals. Africa alone produces 75% of the world’s diamonds. Africa is full of shining crystal clear diamonds, crystals, and gold.
Let’s eradicate the term dark continent as my Africa is the shiniest, brightest, colorful, and vibrant continent.