An African Perspective on Colonialism and Re-establishing the Pre-Colombian Mindset

by December 10, 2011

In this 80-minute lecture, Dr. Na'im Akbar, a noted scholar, lecturer, author, and preeminent Psychologist, delivers a thought-provoking analysis of colonialism, its effect on European society, and the struggle to re-establish a pre-Colombian way of thinking in a modern context.

Dr. Na'im Akbar was born on April 26, 1944, in Tallahassee, Florida. Originally given the name Luther Benjamin Weems, Jr., Akbar changed his name in 1971 after joining the Nation of Islam. Akbar attended the Florida A&M University Laboratory School through high school, graduating in 1961. Akbar attended the University of Michigan to complete his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in psychology.

Prior to attending the University of Michigan, Akbar lived within a completely African American social environment. His freshman year of college marked the first time he had real contact with whites. At the University of Michigan, Akbar was active with the Black Action Movement (BAM) strike that closed down classes for three weeks during the late 1960s. After receiving his Ph.D., Akbar accepted a position in the Psychology Department at Morehouse College in Atlanta. There he instituted Morehouse's first black psychology course and eventually developed probably the first Black Psychology program at a historically black college or university. Within two years, he became chair of the department.

Akbar left Morehouse after five years to work with the Nation of Islam's headquarters in Chicago to start their Office of Human Development. After two years, Akbar joined the faculty of Norfolk State University, again instituting courses in black psychology. In 1979, Akbar accepted a faculty position at Florida State University.

In 1971, Akbar became active with the Association of Black Psychologists, the largest black mental health professional organization in the world. He has served on its board for numerous terms and was elected president in 1987. The Association has bestowed all of its most prestigious awards on Akbar for his professional contributions.

Akbar continues to teach a specialized course on the psychology of the African American at Florida State University. In the late 1980s, he formed his own publishing company, Mind Productions, and a private consulting company, Na'im Akbar Consultants, to bring his teaching to a wider audience.

Chain And Images of Psychological Slavery (1984)
The Community of Self (1985)
Visions for Black Men (1992)
Light from Ancient Africa (1994)
Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery(1996)
Know Thy Self (1998)
Akbar Papers In African Psychology (2004)


  • Ahni
    December 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    As a side note, I think this is a pretty important talk. Indigenous Peoples in the Americas know the consequences of colonialism all too well; but we don't often hear a solid African perspective on the rather-twisted framework, its origins, and its effect on the Peoples of Europe.

    I actually wish he could've spent a little more time exploring that latter point; but that wasn't the objective of his talk.

    Also, at one point, Dr. Akbar discusses the idea of a "white devil" and our mistake in assuming that it refers to all "white people." To build on Dr. Akbar's point, it refers to colonial man.

    As well, Dr. Akbar spends some time looking at re-establishing a "Pre-Colombian" (pre-colonial) mindset. I wish he could've spent more time on this. It's a vital topic not only for those of us who are disconnected from our own way of life, but also for those of us who are still being manipulated and lulled and coerced and dragged away from it.

    The world-wide struggle against corporations, for one, is a major part of the process of re-establishing a "Pre-Colombian" mindset and, for land-based cultures who still follow tradition, preserving the one we still know. So too is the growing movement to reclaim and secure our own languages, cultures, economies, territories and; to enact our rights as distinct peoples; and to forge a new relationship with colonial governments and their populations based on transparency, accountability, reciprocity and mutual respect.

    There's certainly alot more to be said about this. If you yourself can think of anything else to add, I invite you to speak up.


  • Bonnie Nordby
    December 11, 2011 at 1:34 am

    I had not really thought much about this topic. Glad I took the time to stop here. Thanks Bonnie.


  • Nalliah Thayabharan
    July 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    The effects of colonialism past and present are visible all over Africa. Africans are torn away from their past, propelled into a universe fashioned from outside that suppresses their values, and dumbfounded by a cultural invasion that marginalises them.

    Africa is the Mother of Humanity. Africa is the cradle of the first human civilisation and that for thousands of years...Africa was in the forefront of all world progress. The First Renaissance on this planet was the African Renaissance. Africa was "the first world" economically and technologically. Africans built the pyramids which even in this 21st century no one can reproduce.

    The "Atlantic" Ocean was called the Ethiopian Sea as late as 1626 and the so-called "Indian" Ocean the Azanian Sea. Azanians stimulated trade with the East. The people of Azania whose country colonialists called "South Africa" through the British imperialist Union of South Africa Act 1909; mined gold and copper in Mapungubwe as early as the 9th century.

    Africa has suffered the worst genocide and holocaust at the hands of the architects of slavery and colonialism. What is called "European Renaissance" was the worst darkness for Africa's people. Armed with the technology of the gun and the compass it copied from China, Europe became a menace for Africa against her spears. So-called "civilised" Europe also claiming to be "Christian" came up with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. There was massive loss of African population and skills. Some historians have estimated that the Gold Coast (today's Ghana) alone, lost 5OOO to 6OOO of its people to slavery every year for four hundred years.

    Prof. Walter Rodney asks a pertinent question: "What would have been Britain's level of development had millions of her people been put to work as slaves out of their country over a period of four centuries?"

    As if slavery had not already done enough damage to Africa's people, European leaders met in Germany from December 1884 to February 1885 at the imperialist Berlin Conference. The Belgian King Leopold stated the purpose of the Berlin Conference as "How we should divide among ourselves this magnificent African cake."

    Africa was thus plunged into another human tragedy. Through the Berlin Treaty of 26 February 1885, the European imperialists sliced Africa into "Portuguese Africa", "British Africa", "German Africa", "Italian Africa," "Spanish Africa", "French Africa" and "Belgian Africa." There was no Africa left for Africans except Ethiopia, encircled by paupers of land dispossessed people who were now the reservoir of cheap native labour for their dispossessors.

    Somalia, a tiny African country, had the misfortune of becoming "British Somaliland", "Italian Somaliland", and "French Somaliland." Colonial brutality on the colonised Africans knew no bounds. Here are a few examples of atrocities committed against Africans by colonialists. A British philosopher, Betrand Russell wrote about some of these colonial atrocities perpetrated by Belgium in the Congo in the name of "Western Christian Civilisation." Russell wrote, "Each village was ordered by the authorities to collect and bring in a certain amount of rubber - as much as the men could bring in by neglecting all work for their own maintenance.

    If they failed to bring the required amount, their women were taken away and kept as the harems of colonial government employees. If this method failed...troops were sent to the village to spread terror, if necessary by killing some of the men...they were ordered to bring one right hand amputated from an African victim for every cartridge used." (Introduction To African Civilisations, John G. Jackson 31O-311)

    The result of these atrocities according to Sir H.H. Johnston was the reduction of the African population in the Congo from twenty million to nine million people in fifteen years.

    The worst genocide also occurred in Namibia in 1904. Namibia was then a German colony. The Herero people resisted German colonialism. A well armed army under General Lothar von Trotha defeated the Hereros at the Battle of Waterberg. The German colonial aggressors drove these Africans from their land to the desert where there was no water. Seventy percent of the Herero population died of dehydration in that desert. In South Africa the Khoisan people were exterminated by colonialists after being hunted like animals and dispossessed of their land.

    In 1830 the French occupied most of the coastal plains of modern day Algeria and gradually began to root their colonial occupation into local communities. Indigenous tribes supplied soldiers for auxiliary colonial troops called Harkis and the Jews were recruited as local officials. From 1845 rabbis from the French mainland were sent to local Jewish communities “to inculcate unconditional obedience to the laws, loyalty to France, and the obligation to defend it.” The French government granted Algerian Jews French citizenship in 1870, putting them on a par with the French colonists from the mainland.

    During the 19th century most Jews in North Africa discarded local customs and clothing in favor of the French language, culture and dress. Their affiliation with French culture and power also brought Jews protection, as in Tunisia after 1855. After a legal dispute with the local Arab Prince about blasphemy, the French emperor Napoleon III intervened with a naval force in favor of the Jews. Jews were subsequently granted equal religious rights but more legal rights than locals: Jewish assessors were attached to criminal courts to provide input on the sentences incurred by Jews charged with crimes in order to safeguard a fair trial.

    Jewish collusion with the French in the occupation of North Africa, ultimately encompassing Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, had also negative side-effects in regions which were not firmly in French control. In Morocco, which remained independent until the beginning of the 20th century, Jews were always targeted by the public when the French launched military campaigns against Morocco or other local powers defying French expansion. Jews were seen as traitors by the local population, which were deprived of the right to vote and were economically deprived in favor of French settlers and their Jewish henchmen.

    In Algeria the number of French citizens reached 1.4 million in 1961 (13% of the total population), including 140,000 Jews (10% of all French citizens). Those settlers dominated public life in the big cities, enjoyed colonial privileges and were in control of the economy. Jews were often the middlemen between the French rulers and the local subjects, because they knew the country best. The local Muslim population resented French occupation, not in the least place by their display of cultural-religious power by erecting huge cathedrals and synagogues. The Algerian war of independence was an exceptionally brutal one with terrorism, torture and murder squads from both sides. It was been estimated that approximately 1,000,000 Algerians lost their lives in the struggle for independence.

    The French in Algeria had the ruthless parachute general Massu and the OAS (Organisation de l’armée secret: Secret Army), which was ultimately suppressed by none other than De Gaulle. De Gaulle granted Algeria independence in 1962, which led to the exodus of French colonials (Pieds noirs: blackfeet) and their Jewish collaborators. In the newly founded Algerian republic, both Christians and Jews were excluded from Algerian citizenship in revenge for support for the French occupation.

    Most Jews left Algeria for France but a substantial portion went to Israel, the post-colonial apartheid state in the Middle East. Israel was founded in 1948 by a Jewish settler-minority from Europe, which deposed the Arab majority by brutal expulsion. The remaining natives were politically disenfranchized and economically exploited, similar to the French occupation of Algeria. It was (and is) seen as an offspring of European colonial domination: for example, the Balfour Declaration of 1916 by the colonial power Britain, and the Israel’s siding with the colonial powers France and Great-Britain against Egypt during the Suez crisis in 1956.


  • Umoja Olu
    October 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Well to be honest, i really do not know much about Naim Akbar but one of my co workers was telling me somethings about him, not even clear, but i heard that he quote this quote, "when the Europeans came to our people, the Africans, our ancestors, the European introduced Christianity to our people and persuade them to close their eyes and couple minutes after our ancestors lands and years of legacy were gone, were taken away from them. Now even if Mr Akbar never said it, it was so because the people who continue to see Black people as 'no bodies' still try in their flair and quest to take what is ours and Europe could never exist without The Africans, so they should honor us.

    for further dialogue, email Umoja Olu


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