How did Africans resist European colonialism?
Second edition. December 2019.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. Preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS.
Teachers: Are you still using Colonialism in the Congo: Conquest, Conflict, and Commerce? We retired that unit in 2012 and highly recommend that you use this updated and improved unit instead. Please contact our office at if you have any questions.

In the late nineteenth century, European powers claimed the African continent for themselves. Under the guise of a humanitarian mission, European leaders and businesses exploited African natural resources and people to fuel European economic development. But Africans did not submit to outside control willingly. In fact, African resistance continued throughout the colonial period, culminating in the independence movements of the mid-twentieth century. Colonization and Independence in Africa examines four case studies of colonization and resistance: Ghana, Algeria, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills (including at least one that focuses on building geographic literacy) and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an additional synthesis lesson that allows students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I love this unit. The students were able to gain a different perspective about imperialism that was not Euro-centric based. I really appreciate the content covered in the lessons. It’s amazing content and easy to use. The Digital Editions format is also amazing. I love the study guides that are provided, and the ease of using the documents on Google docs has been a life saver. I love it!” – Marcus, History Teacher, California

Part I: Africa and the Imposition of Colonialism

Part I discusses Africa before colonialism, the European conquest of Africa, and life in Africa under colonialism. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) The Political Geography of Africa, and 2) Source Analysis: Different Perspectives on a Violent Encounter.

Part II: African Resistance Grows

Part II explores African responses and resistance to colonialism. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Photo Analysis: Look Again, and 2) Kikuyu Fable: A Tale of Resistance.

Case Studies

Each of the four case studies are framed with a unique organizing question, a description of how the country because a colony, attempts to resist colonialism, and a summary of how the colony gained independence. Multiple primary source excerpts are included, as is a short summary of each case. There is one lesson that accompanies the case studies: Presenting the Case Studies.

Part III: African Independence

Part III discusses African demands for sovereignty, the challenges of independence, and the legacies of colonialism and independence. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: The All-African People’s Conference, 1958.


The Political Geography of Africa

In this lesson, students compare territories and governance on the African continent from the late-nineteenth century to today.

Source Analysis: Perspectives on a Violent Encounter

Students analyze primary sources that present different perspectives on the same event on the Congo River and then assess the value of first-hand accounts to historical understanding of nineteenth-century Africa.

Photo Analysis: Look Again

Students conduct a two-stage analysis of a missionary postcard and consider the reliability of photographic sources.

Kikuyu Fable: A Tale of Resistance

Students analyze a Kikuyu fable describing colonialism in Kenya and then collaborate to create a dramatic or artistic interpretation of the story.

Presenting the Case Studies

Working cooperatively, students clarify and evaluate alternative perspectives in four case studies of African colonization and independence.

The All-African People's Conference, 1958

Students use primary and secondary sources to consider the historical events surrounding the 1958 All-African People's Conference. They then synthesize and present data about the independence of African states.

Assessment Using Documents

Synthesis Lesson: Students use primary and secondary sources to assess the impact of colonial education policies on Africans. Students consider the values and limitations of sources while taking into account the origin and purpose of each document.

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