The storytellers called griots tell of ancient Mali, an empire that grew rich on the trade routes of the Sahara from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Mali came to power under the leadership of Mari Diata, who later became known as Sundiata, or "the lion prince". Sundiata came out of exile to defeat the king of the Susu in 1230, and he brought the Malinke chiefs together under his rule. His people believed Sundiata to be a powerful magician king, and most of what we know about him has been passed down through centuries by the griots.
Mansa Musa, who ruled from 1307 until approximately 1337, led Mali into the height of its power. During his reign, Mali took over the trading cities Timbuktu and Gao. Mansa Musa sent ambassadors to Egypt and the other North African states, and brought Egyptian scholars to his cities. He went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and spread the fame of Mali as far as Europe. When he returned home, he brought back ideas from the countries he visited and a desire to reform his country's religion, making it more like orthodox Islam.
Read more about the ancient kingdoms of Africa online and in the library:
On the Web
This site briefly compares the governments of ancient Mali, Ghana, and Songhay. See artifacts from the old kingdoms and learn more about their cultures.
Kids Edition and Biography Resource Center via CRRL's Online Databaseshttp://www.answerpoint.org/subpage.asp?category_id=28
Use your CRRL library card to get magazine and encyclopedia articles on the Mali Empire, Mansa Musa, and Sundiata Keita.
Mr. Dowling's Electronic Passport: Ancient Africahttp://www.mrdowling.com/609-timbuktu.html
Articles describe Timbuktu, Mansa Musa, and Sundiata and have links to additional sources. Mr. Dowling is a geography teacher in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The Story of Africa: West African Kingdomshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/index_section4.shtml
Learn about the old ancient kingdoms of Mali, Ghana, Kaneum, Songhay, Hausa States, Asante, Ife and Benin. A rich site complete with maps and online recordings of the BBC programs.
Timbuktu, Mali from the History Channelhttp://www.historychannel.com/classroom/unesco/timbuktu.html
Timbuktu, the great trading city, had its beginnings when a young herder woman named Buktu found an oasis for her herds during the dry season. Timbuktu (Buktu's Well) went on to become an important stop for nomads and traders in the Sahara region.
In the Library
Encarta Africana compact disc is available on the library computers at many branches. Call for availability.
Ghana, Mali, Songhay: The Western Sudan. Mann, Kenny.Juvenile Non-Fiction 966.1 Ma
Learn about the three kingdoms: their legends, politics, and religion. Illustrated with designs from ancient pottery and weaving.
Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali. Burns, Khephra.Juvenile Fiction Bur
Read the beautiful legend of the boy who grew up to become Mali's great fourteenth-century leader, Mansa Musa.
The Road to TimbuktuVideo 9.60 W87
Although not geared to elementary grades, this PBS special gives a fascinating tour of the ancient empires of Africa. The series has a related Internet site.
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali. Wisniewski, David.Juvenile Non-Fiction 921 Sundi
Sundiata's story of victory both for himself and his land is retold with glorious illustrations. The notes at the end give information on the ancient African kingdoms.
Sundiata: The Epic of the Lion King, Retold. Bertol, Roland.Juvenile Non-Fiction 398.22 BE
A retelling of the African epic in which a cast out child grew up to become the liberator and founder of the great empire of old Mali.
The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa. McKissack, Pat.Juvenile Non-Fiction 966.1 Mc
A history of the wealthy civilizations of the Western Sudan which flourished from 700 to 1700. The book theorizes contact between the African empires and Mesoamerica.