1800s: Prior to colonization, common language and geography differentiated African societies. Six types of societies existed: hunting and gathering societies, cattle-herding societies, forest dwellers, fishermen, grain-raising societies, and city (urban) societies. The geographic area in which people lived determined their lifestyle. Colonial Africa: Africa was divided into more than fifty nation-states, with no regard for maintaining groups sharing common language and livelihood. Today: Societies are no longer as clear-cut. People have more opportunities for education, better jobs, and improved means of communication and transportation. They marry individuals from other societies. As a result, the societies have become mixed, but ethnic conflicts still lead to violence.
1800s: While religion varied from society to society, most Africans shared some common beliefs and practices. They believed in a supreme creator god or spirit. Other lesser gods revealed themselves as, and worked through, community ancestors. Colonial Africa: Missionaries arrived and introduced Christianity. Many tribesmen converted to the new religion. Today: While more than an estimated 25 percent of Africa is Christian, traditional African religion is still practiced, as is Islam. Islam is a monotheistic religion related to the Jewish and Christian traditions.
1800s: Prior to colonization, Africans had their own identities and cultures and were not concerned with participating in the modern world. Colonial Africa: After colonization, African children were taught European history and literature so that they might compete in the modern world, while their own heritage was ignored. Today: Africans continue to seek the independence they began to achieve in the 1950s and 1960s. There is, however, a renewed interest in cultural heritage, and traditional customs are being taught to African children.