When we think of Rich History, society often gives us images of people who don’t look like us. It’s seldom that you hear of a person of color who dominated, enriched others, was charitable, and extremely rich. Instead, what is portrayed to us through the media is often blinding and brainwashing in the sense that we are constantly being fed images of black people as the lesser race. They tell us the stories of what they want us to know, which often includes stories of slavery and the lack of civil rights where black people were clearly treated as the subordinate race. But what about the stories of when Black people ruled kingdoms and nations and thrived? How powerful would that be to have those types of images implanted in our brains, instead of the damaging pictures of our people in chains and shackled, which still carries on today? We need to make a conscious effort to open our
minds to see past what is readily available for us. Open our minds to see more than what society wants us to see. Therefore, we can be empowered and know that we come from greatness.
With that being said, let’s talk about a ruler named Mansa Musa. He was a legend indeed, just probably not one that you have heard much about.
Mansa Musa was the ruler of Mali, a country in West Africa. Mali was already a wealthy kingdom; however, during his reign, due to his influence and strategic plan, it soon became one of the richest kingdoms in Africa. To build his riches, he utilized the natural resources that were around him. Salt and gold were in abundance in his kingdom, and he had access to it all.
Through trade, he built up his kingdom by bringing in architects from near and far to design remarkable buildings. Throughout West Africa, many knew of him. But it wasn’t until his iconic pilgrimage to Mecca that his influence began to spread. A Haaj or pilgrimage is an annual event where those who practice the Muslim faith take a trip and retreat back to the holiest land, Mecca. It is a religious obligation that must be fulfilled by all Muslims at least once during their lifetime.
As a devout Muslim, Mansa Musa assembled his people and began his journey from Mali to Mecca. A journey that was over 4,000 miles away. A journey that helped to put him and Mali on the map. Literally.
Why you may ask? It was because Mansa did not just go by himself or with a few of his men. His pilgrimage was a sight to be seen. He literally had a caravan of over 60,000 people. Of the 60,000, this included his royal court, entertainers, slaves, soldiers, etc. And this was without the herds of sheep and goats that they brought with them for food, and the camels carrying pounds of gold. Imagine them traveling through towns and villages and the people witnessing this. It was like a walking city. A sight that they had never seen before. Miles and miles of people donning more silk and gold than what any of these people had likely ever seen in their lifetime. Even the slaves and animals were draped in silk and gold. During this journey, Mansa Musa gave out so much gold to the people of the towns and villages as he and his caravan passed through that word of his pilgrimage and generosity began to spread like wildfire. In fact, he gave away so much gold to the people of Cairo that their economy wasn’t able to bounce back for over 10 years after he left because he took something that was so scarce and turned the tables so that everyone had access to it. Therefore, the value of gold significantly decreased.
Stories of this royal man and his wealth spread as far as Europe and soon cemented his place as the richest man alive when he was featured in The Catalan Atlas. This was a famous map that was created to show a representation of the world and aid explorers on their expeditions. The image on this map for the world to see showed a royal Mansa Musa sitting on a throne with a gold nugget in hand dominating over West Africa. This image is the inspiration behind our Rich History line and Mansa Musa apparel. This image was a public display of wealth for everyone to see.
Once Mansa Musa returned to Mali from his pilgrimage, he continued to use his influence to enrich others. He also continued to build up his cities and transform his kingdom. He encouraged the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge by bringing back with him from Mecca teachers, influencers, scholars, poets, and architects. He had schools, libraries, and mosques built.
You may have heard of a place called Timbuktu. But do you know its significance? Mansa Musa helped to transform this ancient city into the epicenter of information, knowledge, and culture. It was commonly known as the African El Dorado. This is where Sankore University, the first university in the world became established. It became a major Islamic university due to Mansa Musa’s guidance and developments. People came from all over to learn and study. He enriched his people and is said to be the one who started the traditional form of education as we know it today. They had very high standards for learning. As his kingdom grew, so did the noteworthy reputation of Mali and King Mansa Musa.
Eventually, his great empire fell off after his death. Although Mansa Musa had two sons, they weren’t able to keep the kingdom thriving after Europeans started to invade. What we see now is not what it once was, but it is important for us to know his story. They call him the richest man in history. Most say that his wealth is insurmountable to quantify. Others say his wealth can be equated to roughly 400 billion dollars in our time. Aside from his wealth, we should carry on his name based purely on what he stood for and aim to replicate that. He gave back to his community, he uplifted his community, he gave them not only wealth, but education, and helped to establish a strong faith.
Now that’s REAL RICH HISTORY!
Morgan, T. (2018, March 19). This 14th-Century African Emperor Remains the Richest Person in History.
Retrieved May 26, 2020, from history.com
Mohamud, N. (2019, March 10). Is Mansa Musa the richest man who ever lived?
Retrieved May 26, 2020, from bbc.com
National Geographic Society. (2020, March 4). Mansa Musa (Musa I of Mali).
Retrieved May 26, 2020, from