This passage from Around the World Tour by Wm. F. Bainbridge, D. D. was excerpted in the first issue of the first volume of The Lutheran Witness, May 21, 1882. p. 8

The People of Africa.

By Wm. F. Bainbridge. D. D.

The best authorities now classify Africa’s population under the six following groups:

I. Aramæans or Syro-Arabians, which include the Arab immigrations and the Amharic tribes of Abyssinia.

II. Hamites, a general term, including the Coptic descendants of the ancient Egyptians, the Gallas and other Nilotic races, and the Berbers or Amazirg or Imoshagh of the Sahara desert and the Atlas mountains.

III. Kaffirs or Bantus, which include the famous Zulus and other subdivisions upon the Southeast.

IV. Hottentots, including the Bushmen and other kindred tribes of the South.

V. Fulahs, of West Central Africa.

And VI. Negroes, of Eastern, Western, and the great Central Africa.

There are also several hundred thousand Europeans, Turks, and other Asiatics.

The Aramæans form the leading group of the indigenous populations. They have for many ages been the most influential element, carrying on extensive commerce in the second century with India, according to Arrian in his “Periplus,” and in the seventh century under the banner of Mahomet, as is well known, overrunning most of the continent. They have also been the most enterprising for centuries in the supply of the slave markets of the world. They are to Africa what the Jews are to Europe, the capitalists and the bankers and the pawn-brokers. They contribute largely to the crowded Moslem University of Cairo, whose ten thousand students, however, are chiefly due to eagerness all over the Moslem world to escape army conscription.

The Kaffir Zulus are naturally a much Superior race to the Negro, with whom Americans have become so familiar. Their climate and soil are the best in Africa for the development of physical and moral character. Of their courage upon the battlefield the British and the world lately had full proof at Sandhlwana.[1] The latest authority gives the number of whole Kaffir stock as 21,000,000 inhabiting 2,500,000 square miles, an extent of territory equal to nearly twice the size of India.

From Cape Colony to lake Bangweolo all these natives speak dialects of a common language, and are cultivators of the soil, not merely herdsmen and hunters, like the Hottentots and Bushmen. Although they are polygamists, buying their wives, and treating them as slaves to till the ground, and although they are gross fetishists, cruel and bloodthirsty, they are evidently an increasing race, and furnish the most inviting field in all Africa to Christian Missions.

The Fulahs are very numerous, are chiefly Moslems, and have shown in war and the propagation of Islam a great deal of vigor and energy. It is probable that they as well as the Joloffs, were formerly settled upon the Southern shore of the Mediterranean, and were driven before the Saracen invasion of the seventh century.

The negro is the most degraded of the African races, and yet evidently the cause is not so much in his nature as in his circumstances. As in America, his has been the most downtrodden race upon the continent. Even with the well-known record of slavery in the Southern States and in the West Indies, it is very difficult to form an adequate conception of the wretchedness of the prevailing negro life between the tropics in Africa. Scores of millions of people are as near the condition of animals as is possible for human beings. Cannibalism was frightfully prevalent among them, until the slave trade made the other crime more profitable. Polygamy is universal, and of the most utterly abandoned character. Among many tribes modesty is unknown.

In many districts the slaves are from three to ten times as numerous as their masters, and throughout Negroland every other person, on an average, is in bondage. The master of to-day may be the slave to-morrow, kidnapped or made a prisoner of war by some other tribe. Says Dr Barth, who spent five years exploring in the Soudan: “If these domestic slaves do not of themselves maintain their numbers, then the deficiency arising from ordinary mortality must constantly be kept up by a new supply, which can only be obtained by kidnapping, or more generally by predatory incursions.”

The Austrian explorer, Dr Emil Holub, relates, among his experiences upon the Zanbezi, such customs as drowning the infirm and destitute, poisoning and burning on mere suspicion, and amputating children’s fingers and toes as charms against disease. He speaks of their “dishonesty being thoroughly ingrained,” and that, “In addition to their other disgusting qualities, all the Makalakes south of the Zambezi, especially those under Matabele rule, are indescribably dirty. With the exception of those who have been in service under white men, I believe the majority of them have not washed for years, and I saw women wearing strings upon strings of beads, several pounds in weight, of which the undermost layers were literally sticking to their skins.” If these are glimpses under more favored Kaffir influence, woeful, indeed, must be the general condition in the still farther interior. No material object is too low and contemptible to be made the negro’s god. His hoe, a stick, a stone, a pile of offal, anything will answer for his worship.

[1] [Isandlwana]

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