Black History Is American History: Mansa Musa

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: This article is the first part of a series, Black History Is American History, by Kiarra Ballard. Each day in February, we will publish a new entry in the series, focusing on an influential Black figure from history. You can find all of the entries in this series here.

From 1312 CE to 1337 CE, Mansa Musa (also known as Musa I of Mali) presided over the Mali kingdom. Mansa Musa was one of the wealthiest people in the world and Mali was one of the richest countries in Africa.  A portion of what is now Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso once belonged to the ancient Mali kingdom. Mansa Musa transformed towns like Gao and Timbuktu into significant cultural hubs.

In 1324 CE, Mansa Musa traveled to Mecca on the hajj, which generated a lot of controversy. Up until this point, the kingdom of Mali was mostly unknown outside of West Africa. Arab authors of the era said that he traveled with tens of thousands of people and hundreds of camels, each of which was laden with 136 kilos (300 pounds) of gold. Mansa Musa spent and gave away so much money when in Cairo, over the next 12 years, the value of gold in Egypt as a whole fell. Even European royalty heard about his extravagant fortune.