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Lesson 1

Lesson 2
Social Studies

Lesson 3
Visual Arts
Art Making

Lesson 4
Black History

Lesson 5
Black Artists

Lesson 6
Music & Dance

Lesson 7


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Additional background information for teachers to be woven into the main body of Yoruba Lesson Plan.

Source: Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Studies, Area Handbook Series

The Economics of the People

Agriculture / Products:
cocoa, peanuts, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava (tapioca), yams, rubber; cattle, sheep, goats, pigs; timber; fish

crude oil, coal, tin, columbite, palm oil, peanuts, cotton, rubber, wood, hides and skins, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food products, footwear, chemicals, fertilizer, printing, ceramics, steel

Nigerian History - The Slave Trade
Portuguese navigators arrived on the West African coast in the late 15th century with a desire for glory and profit from trade, missionary zeal, and considerations of global strategic power. Locked in a seemingly interminable crusading war with Muslim Morocco, the Portuguese conceived of a plan whereby maritime expansion might bypass the Islamic world and open new markets that would result in commercial gain. They hoped to tap the fabled Saharan gold trade, establish a sea route around Africa to India, and link up with the mysterious Christian kingdom of Prester John. The Portuguese achieved all these goals. They obtained access to the gold trade by trading along the Gulf of Guinea, establishing a base at Elmina ("the mine") on the Gold Coast (Ghana), and they made their way into the Indian Ocean, militarily securing a monopoly of the spice trade. Even the Christian kingdom turned out to be real; it was Ethiopia, although Portuguese adventures there turned sour very quickly. Portugal's lasting legacy for Nigeria, however, was its initiation of the transatlantic slave trade.

By 1471 Portuguese ships had reconnoitered the West African coast south as far as the Niger Delta, although they did not know that it was the delta, and in 1481 emissaries from the king of Portugal visited the court of the oba of Benin. For a time, Portugal and Benin maintained close relations. Portuguese soldiers aided Benin in its wars; Portuguese even came to be spoken at the oba's court. Gwatto, the port of Benin, became the depot to handle the peppers, ivory, and increasing numbers of slaves offered by the oba in exchange for coral beads; textile imports from India; European-manufactured articles, including tools and weapons; and manillas (brass and bronze bracelets that were used as currency and also were melted down for objets d'art). Portugal also may have been the first European power to import cowrie shells, which were the currency of the far interior.

Yoruba Beaded Rattle made with cowrie shells

The Portuguese initially bought slaves for resale on the Gold Coast, where slaves were traded for gold. For this reason, the southwestern coast of Nigeria and neighboring parts of the present-day Republic of Benin (not to be confused with the kingdom of Benin) became known as the "slave coast." When the African coast began to supply slaves to the Americas in the last third of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese continued to look to the Bight of Benin as one of its sources of supply. By then they were concentrating activities on the Angolan coast, which supplied roughly 40 percent of all slaves shipped to the Americas throughout the duration of the transatlantic trade, but they always maintained a presence on the Nigerian coast.

The Portuguese monopoly on West African trade was broken at the end of the sixteenth century, when Portugal's influence was challenged by the rising naval power of the Netherlands. The Dutch took over Portuguese trading stations on the coast that were the source of slaves for the Americas. French and English competition later undermined the Dutch position. Although slave ports from Lagos to Calabar would see the flags of many other European maritime countries (including Denmark, Sweden, and Brandenburg) and the North American colonies, Britain became the dominant slaving power in the eighteenth century. Its ships handled two-fifths of the transatlantic traffic during the century. The Portuguese and French were responsible for another two-fifths.

Nigeria kept its important position in the slave trade throughout the great expansion of the transatlantic trade after the middle of the seventeenth century. Slightly more slaves came from the Nigerian coast than from Angola in the eighteenth century, while in the nineteenth century perhaps 30 percent of all slaves sent across the Atlantic came from Nigeria. Over theperiod of the whole trade, more than 3.5 million slaves were shipped from Nigeria to the Americas.

Influence of the Christian Missions
Christianity was introduced at Benin in the fifteenth century by Portuguese Roman Catholic priests who accompanied traders and officials to the West African coast. Several churches were built to serve the Portuguese community and a small number of African converts. When direct Portuguese contacts in the region were withdrawn, however, the influence of the Catholic missionaries waned and by the eighteenth century had disappeared.

Although churchmen in Britain had been influential in the drive to abolish the slave trade, significant missionary activity was renewed only in the 1840s and was confined for some time to the area between Lagos and Ibadan. The first missions there were opened by the Church of England's Church Missionary Society (CMS). They were followed by other Protestant denominations from Britain, Canada, and the United States and in the 1860s by Roman Catholic religious orders. Protestant missionaries tended to divide the country into spheres of activity to avoid competition with each other, and Catholic missions similarly avoided duplication of effort among the several religious orders working there. Catholic missionaries were particularly active among the Igbo, the CMS among the Yoruba.

The CMS initially promoted Africans to responsible positions in the mission field, an outstanding example being the appointment of Samuel Adjai Crowther as the first Anglican bishop of the Niger. Crowther, a liberated Yoruba slave, was educated in Sierra Leone and in Britain, where he was ordained before returning to his homeland with the first group of missionaries sent there by the CMS. This was part of a conscious "native church" policy pursued by the Anglicans and others to create indigenous ecclesiastical institutions that eventually would be independent of European tutelage. The effort failed in part, however, because church authorities came to think that religious discipline had grown too lax during Crowther's episcopate but especially because of the rise of prejudice. Crowther was succeeded as bishop by a British cleric. Nevertheless, the acceptance of Christianity by large numbers of Nigerians depended finally on the various denominations coming to terms with local conditions and involved participation of an increasingly high proportion of African clergy in the missions.

In large measure, European missionaries were convinced of the value of colonial rule, thereby reinforcing colonial policy. In reaction some African Christian communities formed their own independent churches.

The Society and Its Environment
Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and is the 10th largest country by population in the world. Like many of the other African nations, Nigeria's national boundaries result from its colonial history and cut across a number of cultural and physical boundaries.

Social Structure
About 70 percent of all Nigerians were still living in farming villages in 1990, although the rural dwellers formed a shrinking proportion of the later force. It was among these people that ways of life remained deeply consistent with the past. People lived in small, modest households whose members farmed, sold some cash crops, and performed various kinds of nonfarm work for cash income. With the steady decline of export crop prices since the 1960s and the price rise in locally grown foods after the early 1970s, farmers shifted from export crops to local foods for their own subsistence and for sale to city consumers through middlemen. Most farmers used traditional hand tools in smallholdings outside the rural village. Houses in 1990 might have tin roofs instead of grass, and the village water supply might be a standpipe, or a hand pump. New practices included the widespread acceptance of fertilizers; a few new crops, especially corn; the use of rented tractors; the increased dependence on paid labor; and the development of larger commercial farms. Absentee city-based farmers also had started to buy up agricultural land.

Paved roads, better marketing procedures, and increased extension services in 1990 were producing a change in the rural areas that was missing during the first decades of independence. Surveys indicated that improved transportation (paved or dirt roads and cheap, private minibus services) was felt to be the most important change, bringing almost all rural areas into touch with nearby cities and larger market towns. Still, for most of the 70 to 80 percent of the people who remained involved in agriculture, life was hard, and income levels averaged among the lowest in the country.

Indigenous Beliefs
Alongside most Nigerian religious beliefs and customs are systems of belief with ancient roots in the area. The primary function of such beliefs is to provide supernatural sanctions and legitimacy to the relationship between, and the regulations governing, claims on resources, especially agricultural land and house sites. Access rights to resources, political offices, economic activities, or social relations were defined and legitimized by these same religious beliefs. There are spirits of place (trees, rock outcroppings, a river, snakes, or other animals and objects) discovered and placated by the original founders, who had migrated to the new site from a previous one. Spirits of the land might vary with each place or be so closely identified with a group's welfare that they were carried to a new place as part of the continuity of a group to its former home. In the new place, these spiritual migrants joined the local spirit population.

Yoruba Divination Neckalce worn by a Yoruba Priest during ritual and ceremony
From the collection of Owen D. Mort Jr.

Source: Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Studies, Area Handbook Series