Chinua Achebe: Africa’s Tarnished Name


Chinua Achebe, in his essay “Africa’s Tarnished Name” (1998), talks about why Europeans put Africans in a bad light: it is because they fail to see Africans as fully human, a side effect of the slave trade and colonialism. You see it in many (but not all) Europeans who work in news, film and anthropology – even in those who are in Africa helping people.

Despite how close they are to Africa, Europeans tend to see Africans as being “not like us”, as being so different that maybe they are not completely human. It has nothing to do with skin colour or looks. We know that because before the 1700s European descriptions of Africans were almost indifferent and matter-of-fact.

Africa as a strange land of cannibals and savages is an invention of the 1700s. It was pushed hard by defenders of the slave trade. It made the slave trade…

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