How did Africans resist European colonialism?
First edition. January 2014.

In the late nineteenth century, Europe’s great powers claimed the African continent for themselves. In the guise of a humanitarian mission, European leaders and businesses exploited African natural resources and people to fuel European economic growth. 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.

Africa is a vast continent—more than three times the size of the United States—with more than 50 countries and thousands of ethnic groups and societies. African experiences of colonialism were diverse. Nevertheless, there are common themes within the continent’s colonial history and its legacies. Colonization and Independence in Africa explores these themes generally, as well as specifically through four country case studies: Ghana, Algeria, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The readings and activities help students consider the perspectives of Africans and the ways in which they responded to European colonialism.


Colonization and Independence in Africa helps students explore Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and consider the changes colonialism imposed on African governments, economies, and societies. Students then consider African resistance to colonialism and examine the experiences of Africans in four case studies. Finally, students see how African countries won their independence in the mid–twentieth century and consider the effects of colonialism and African independence for the continent and the world.


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

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.

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Boahen, A. Adu. African Perspectives on Colonialism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987) 112 pages.

Biko, Steve, and Aelred Stubbs. I Write What I Like (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986) 216 pages.

Clark, Leon E. Through African Eyes Volume 1, The Past: The Road to Independence (New York: The Apex Press, 1988) 274 pages.

Getz, Trevor R. African Voices of the Global Past: 1500 to the Present (New York: Westview Press, 2013) 240 pages.

Jacobs, Nancy J. African History through Sources: Volume 1, Colonial Contexts and Everyday Experiences, c. 1850-1946 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014) 328 pages.

Langley, J. Ayodele. Ideologies of Liberation in Black Africa, 1856-1970: Documents On Modern African Political Thought From Colonial Times to the Present (London: R. Collings, 1979) 858 pages.

Mandela, Nelson. The Struggle Is My Life: His Speeches and Writings Brought Together With Historical Documents and Accounts of Mandela in Prison By Fellow-Prisoners (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1986) 249 pages.

Nkrumah, Kwame. Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (London: Nelson, 1965) 208 pages.

Stavrianos, L.S. Global Rift: The Third World Comes of Age (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1981) 814 pages.

BBC site designed by African historians that traces African history from ancient times through the post-independence period.
This online exhibit about photographs of Africans taken during the colonial period focuses on the stereotypes that these images perpetuated, and what we can learn about colonial Western views by studying them today.
Website includes print and multimedia resources related to Africa and the African diaspora in the twentieth century, including the colonization of Africa, Pan-Africanism, African resistance to colonial rule, and African decolonization.
This interactive web atlas chronicles the course of colonization and decolonization, and post-colonial developments in Africa between 1879 and 2002. Economic and demographic changes are also covered.
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