of the West
• In the 14th Century, the people of West Africa
were very strong and rich. In fact, their king,
Mansa Musa was the richest man in the world.
He had half the world’s gold! They had strong
armies and big cities with libraries and schools.
• In the 15th and 16th Centuries Europeans wanted
to go to West Africa to get salt, sugar, spices,
exotic wood, ivory, diamonds, and gold.
King Suni Ali Bar
• At that time, West Africa was under the
control of the Songhai Empire. The
Songhai were powerful and wealthy.
•By 1600, the Songhai had been defeated by the
Moors of North Africa. But, the Moors were busy
fighting the Spanish, so they had to leave West
• West Africa had no strong king to lead it. There
were many different tribes. The leader of each
tribe wanted to control West Africa, so the tribes
fought against each other.
• In 1600, when West Africa was weak,
Europeans started building forts on the coasts.
The local Africans were not strong enough to
• The Europeans used the forts to trade with the
Africans. The Africans were fighting each other,
so they wanted guns. They also wanted rum
and other nice things the Europeans had. To
get these things, the Africans needed to trade
• Some African kings attacked other tribes and
sold them to the Europeans as slaves to get
guns or rum. Some kings even sold their own
• The slaves were
taken on ships to
America. The trip
to America was
called the Middle
Passage. Half the
slaves died on the
way to America
because they were
too crowded and
could not move.
• The Europeans got rich as the people of West
Africa became their slaves. Some of the
strongest warriors and smartest men of Africa
became slaves. The West Africans got weaker
from fighting against each other instead of
uniting to fight against the Europeans.