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They keep small bones from sheep, goats, and other small animals in a small animal skin handbag,

called moraba, and the bones are called taola (plural, ditaola). A person being examined  is seated

on a mat or skin on the floor, facing the doctor, who throws the bones on the floor and begins to speak



Books on Africa and Africans

The World and Africa  / Things Fall Apart  / Mandela’s Way / Leadership without a Moral Purpose  / Who Fears Death

Hottentot Venus: A Novel / Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid  / Dreams of Africa in Alabama  /  Diary of a Lost Girl

Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey  / Darfur: a short history of a long war  / The Land Question in South Africa

The Autobiography of an Unknown South African  / Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works  /  Becoming Ebony

The Osu Caste Discrimination in Igboland  / Lumumba Speaks: Speeches and Writings, 1958-1961 / Before the Palm Could Bloom 

 A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier  /  Amy Ashwood Garvey: Pan Africanist  Feminist  / The Prophet of Zongo Street

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The Autobiography of an Unknown South African

By Naboth Mokgatle




To read this book is to know, not only intellectually but in one's very bones, what it was to be a young black man in South Africa in the early years of this century.—Donald Heiney


This autobiography, rich in human interest, is an important document of south African social and political life. Fascinating, moving, and revealing, it is a great autobiography.American Political Science Review


This has to be one of the saddest books written in a long time -- sad for the proud and sensitive man who wrote it, and sad for us in the so-called Western World, of which South Africa is very much a part. . . . The author writes clear and at times powerful prose. . . . using a first person narrative style and the medium of autobiography in order to set down a long essay on his nation's social and political history. . . . His unwillingness to become violent with rage or mute with despair is altogether remarkable, and no doubt at times will be beyond the comprehension of the white American and European readers he had addressed himself to in this powerful and grim book.New Republic


It is a measured, patient book. It evokes the spirit of Ecclesiastes, 3:1, "To everything there is a season." It sweeps evenly over forty-three years of a life in which the transition of an entire people is reflected; from substantially autonomous tribal life through a stage of work on white farms and in white villages . . . to the present era of the urban job, the barracks and slums, and the influx of control offices, and the tank reinforcements of the modern South African police state.African Historical Studies


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(excerpt from  by Naboth Mokgatle)

I admit, too, that an African can hardly go against his medicine man's advice. They have a deep-rooted belief that he knows what he is talking about. They doubt that he can tell them something he knows is not true. They doubt that he can tell something he knows is not true.

They not only respect him, but honour him as well. They believe that through his work and devotion they survived many tragedies. This is something deep seated in their feelings, which even in this half of the twentieth century still dominates the Africans, educated and uneducated alike. How does an African medicine man examine those who consult him? Does he know what he is talking about? How does he select his medicines, poisonous ones from unpoisonous ones?

They keep small bones from sheep, goats, and other small animals in a small animal skin handbag, called moraba, and the bones are called taola (plural, ditaola). A person being examined is seated on a mat or skin on the floor, facing the doctor, who throws the bones on the floor and begins to speak, looking at the bones.

After two or three throws, the doctor then asks his patient to throw ditaola, the examining bones, and blow his breath on to them, saying among other things, "I am here sick, but I don't know what's wrong with me. Tell me, and choose the medicine which will cure me."

Thereafter the doctor will begin to read the bones, which he claims tell him what is wrong with his patient. But before he does that, he would ask the patient to agree or to disagree with the findings of his bones. He would emphasize that what he says is not from him, but what is conveyed to him by the bones. During the examination period, doctor and patient would agree and disagree.

At the end of agreements and disagreements the same procedure is followed, this time in search of the medicine which would cure the patient. Whether the ditaola do talk or not, I cannot tell, but what I can say is that very seldom have I heard of a medicine man giving his patients poisonous medicines during his work of trying to cure them.

Medicine men of my tribe have a saying that medicines do not cure everyone, only lucky ones.

What sort of medicine do the African medicine men use in treating their patients? They use herbs, some boiled and others ground into powder forms. These are usually taken with light, thin porridge, or beer. In the case of boiled ones, only the water or juice derived from them is drunk. Before he leaves his patient with his medicines, the doctor would boil them first and drink some of it in the presence of the patient and those who would nurse the sick person. Powdered ones he would mix with beer or porridge and take in full view of his patient and others.

African doctors in their own interests and reputation make it a rule to visit their patients every three days to see how the sick person progresses, or whether a change of medicine is necessary. in the old days fees were paid in the form of cattle, sheep or goats, depending on the seriousness of the sickness. They were never paid in advance, but after the sick person was cured. Today the pattern has changed: money plays a large part, and people pay for services, not for cure.

That is why Africans say doctors of today are not like those of yesterday.

Medicine men of my tribe, in combination with those of other tribes in South Africa, stand firm in their claim that the accusation that they are witchdoctors who have no idea of what they are doing is baseless. They say they are being condemned without having been tested to see how they are able to help the sick. They have combined with others throughout the country and demand recognition from the state by way of registration. They ask that, before registration is effected, those who in need of it should go through thorough testing by a group of doctors who have undergone the test before them and proved their skill and knowledge of medicine.

For year they have said to the state: "Test us; give us tasks; give us sick people in hospitals, mental hospitals and other institutions, to see whether we can help or not." Their demands are refused and the accusations that they are not doctors but witchdoctors continue.

My people call a doctor ngaka (plural, dingaka). They are organized on a provincial as well as on a national basis. The name of their organization is the African Dingaka Association. They say that if their request for registration can be effected the people will get a better and sounder service from the dingaka, because no ngaka  who has not been tested will have the courage to say to a patient, "I can help you," when he knows that he has not been tested or registered and has no authority to treat the sick.

They point out further that, in the days of their forefathers, each year young doctors were called to the Chief's place to meet old ones, and the experienced tested the inexperienced in the presence of the Chief and the elders of the tribe.

They complain that the Chief's powers have been taken away such gatherings are no longer taking place and people are not well trained in the art of throwing ditaola, and the use of medicine-herbs go about presenting themselves to the people as doctors.

Source: The Autobiography of an Unknown South African by Naboth Mokgatle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.Winner of the 1971 Anisfield-Wolf Award in Race Relations

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My name is Monyadioe Moreleba Naboth Mokgatle, I was born in a tribal village called Phokeng in the district of Rustenburg, Transvaal Province, South Africa, on the first of April nineteen-hundred and eleven. I was one of the three sons of Sethare Hebron and Salome Mokgatle, and the last-born in the family. My parents had eight children, three boys and five girls. I do not know when they married, but my mother told me that in eighteen-ninety-six, at the time when the Bafokeng tribe lost most of their cattle through cattle sickness which swept the tribe and the surrounding tribal lands, their first child, a daughter called Nkatlholeng, was a baby of about nine or twelve months.

My mother was a Christian and my father was not. Because of that, their marriage was performed in both Christian and non-Christian traditions. The ceremony, according to my mother, was held in a Lutheran church at Hermannsburg Mission and at my father's home in the traditional way.

 My father's parents, like all African parents, paid bogadi (dowry) for their son's bride. Without the payment of bogadi, African law and tradition would not have recognised their union as a legal one.

Source: The Autobiography of an Unknown South African by Naboth Mokgatle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.Winner of the 1971 Anisfield-Wolf Award in Race Relations

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Runoko Rashidi Speaks in Nigeria

Interviewed by Lola Balola  

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Nigeria 50-Year Anniversary—BBC My Country Documentary—Lagos Stories

Lagos Story 1 of 3 / Lagos Story 2 of 3 / Lagos Story 3 of 3

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Escape from Slavery: The True Story

of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America

By Francis Bok

Slave: My True Story

By Mende Nazer

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Word, Image, and the New Negro

By Anne Carroll

The author's analysis of how the illustrations amplify and create tension with the writing and how they empower and sometimes disempower their subjects is the first critical work in this important area. Generously illustrated. Highly recommended.— Choice

In tracing the formation of the idea of the New Negro through the vital interplay of literature, art, and social criticism, Word, Image, and the New Negro makes a superb contribution to scholarship on the Harlem Renaissance, the history of African American publishing, and modern American culture.—Eric J. Sundquist, author of To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature 

The first detailed comparative analysis of the mix of text and illustration in the major African American magazines and anthologies of the 1910s and 1920s. It is a major advance in our understanding of what amounted to innovative collage forms articulated to race and politics. Carefully theorized and rich with persuasive readings, the book should appeal not only to literary scholars but also to anyone interested in modernity and the little magazine.—Cary Nelson, author of Revolutionary Memory

A very welcome contribution to the contemporary rethinking of the period. By calling our attention to the images that consistently and significantly appeared alongside some of the well-remembered texts of the Harlem Renaissance, Carroll foregrounds the very modernity that the New Negro Movement sought self-consciously to embrace.... Carroll's eye for the particular will have both a helpful and inspiring effect on readers who want to continue building on the work she has done here.—Net Reviews

This book focuses on the collaborative illustrated volumes published during the Harlem Renaissance, in which African Americans used written and visual texts to shape ideas about themselves and to redefine African American identity. Anne Elizabeth Carroll argues that these volumes show how participants in the movement engaged in the processes of representation and identity formation in sophisticated and largely successful ways. Though they have received little scholarly attention, these volumes constitute an important aspect of the cultural production of the Harlem Renaissance. Word, Image, and the New Negro marks the beginning of a long-overdue recovery of this legacy and points the way to a greater understanding of the potential of texts to influence social change.—

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Spectres of 1919: Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro

By Barbara Foley

A carefully argued, nuanced presentation of the genesis of the Harlem Renaissance. Foley's breadth of knowledge in American radical history is impressive.—American Literature

Foley's book is a lucid and useful one... A heavyweight intervention, it prompts significant rethinking of the ideological and representational strategies structuring the era.—Journal of American Studies  

Foley does a masterful job of analyzing the racial and political theories of a wide range of black and white figures, from the radical Left to the racist Right... Students of African American political and cultural history in the early twentieth century cannot ignore this book. Essential.—Choice

In our current time of crisis, when ruling classes busily promote nationalism and racism to conceal the class nature of their inter-imperialist rivalries, one can only hope that readers will not be daunted by Foley's dedication to analyzing the ideological milieu of the 1920s that contributed to the eclipse of New Negro radicalism by New Negro nationalism.—Science & Society

With the New Negro movement and the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s was a landmark decade in African American political and cultural history, characterized by an upsurge in racial awareness and artistic creativity. In Spectres of 1919 Barbara Foley traces the origins of this revolutionary era to the turbulent year 1919, identifying the events and trends in American society that spurred the black community to action and examining the forms that action took as it evolved.

Unlike prior studies of the Harlem Renaissance, which see 1919 as significant mostly because of the geographic migrations of blacks to the North, Spectres of 1919 looks at that year as the political crucible from which the radicalism of the 1920s emerged. Foley draws from a wealth of primary sources, taking a bold new approach to the origins of African American radicalism and adding nuance and complexity to the understanding of a fascinating and vibrant

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The Black Power Movement
Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era

Edited by Peniel E. Joseph

Sammy Younge, Jr. The First Black College Student

to Die in the Black Liberation Movement

By James Forman

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Related files: Christian Missionaries in Phokeng   Unknown South African Reviews