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Mansa Musa, one of the wealthiest people who ever lived - Jessica Smith


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Mansa Musa, the 14th century African king of the Mali Empire, is said to have amassed a fortune that possibly made him one of the wealthiest people who ever lived. Jessica Smith tells the story of how Mansa Musa literally put his empire – and himself – on the map.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Mansa Musa and his rich legacy have often been written about by chroniclers and travelers. Primary sources are very important tools used to help us learn more about Mansa Musa. Let’s explore some writings that give us more insight on the Kingdom of Mali during the 14th century from people who actually lived closer to that time. When reading these sources, please use your imagination to visualize the imagery expressed in the writing, and make inferences about what Mansa Musa was like as a ruler.

In this translated passage from his book “Chronicle of the Seeker” African Muslim scholar Mahmud Kati accounts the events that inspired Mansa Musa to go on his pilgrimage. What were some of those events?

According to author Leo Africanus, Mansa Musa’s reign had a lasting impact on Timbuktu. Leo Africanus describes Timbuktu under the reign of successor Mansa Suleyman in pages 824-826 of his book, “The History And Description of Africa And of The Notable Things Therein Contained”. You can read the passage from his this ancient text featured on The British Museum also produced beautifully designed “Kingdom Of Mali” follow-up activities for both teachers and students. Visit each of these sites to learn more!

Mali and its king Mansa Musa were elevated to near-legendary status, cemented by their inclusion on the 1375 Catalan Atlas created by cartographer Cresques Abraham. View the Catalan Atlas by visiting The Cresques Project website. Panel III will show a close up image of Mansa Musa on the map and a translation of the description of the image.

Traveler Al-Umari wrote about Mansa Musa’s elaborate display of gold during his journey to Cairo on his way to Mecca. View his writings in Boston University’s Kingdom of Mali Primary Sources. There are also additional sources about the West African Kingdoms at the BU African Studies Center.

Interested in bringing Mansa Musa’s story to life in your classroom? Do that with “Mansa Musa Rules!™” , an arts integration workshop about the great Mansa Musa of the 14th century Mali Empire presented by Teaching Artist Jessica Smith from Culture Kingdom Kids. During this fun and interactive program, students will engage in a hands-on historical reenactment that will dramatize exciting highlights from Mansa Musa’s story using creative storytelling, music and movement activities. An action-packed program promises to awaken each participant’s creativity. It will also enhance their personal connection to one of Africa’s most powerful historical figures. For more information, visit Culture Kingdom Kids.

Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim who provided opportunities for the Islamic culture to enriched the Mali Empire by influencing its architecture, religious traditions, schools and trade routes. Learn more by watching: “Crash Course: Mansa Musa and Islam in Africa”

National Geographic produced a series called “Lord Of The Mines” which explores his impact on the gold industry. Examine and analyze the creative imagery provided by the costuming, set design and actor’s characterization of Mansa Musa. Determine what impression this video portrays to viewers about Mansa Musa. Then compare it to the impression that the primary sources provided above convey.

Suggested Reading Materials:
Within the pages of these books, you will learn more about Mansa Musa and Medieval West African kingdoms authored by some of the world’s top historians.

Burns, Khephra. Mansa Musa. San Diego: Gullivers Books, 2001. Print

Conrad, David. Empires of Medieval West Africa: Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2005. Print

Diouf, Sylviane. Kings and Queens of West Africa. Canada: Grolier Publishing, 2000. Print

Levtzion, Nehemia. Ancient Ghana and Mali. London: Methuen, 1973. Print

Special thanks to Teeshavalone Jenkins, Haile Gerima, Dr. Barbara Brown and David Conrad - dig

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  • Educator Jessica "Culture Queen" Smith
  • Director Sandro Katamashvili
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  • Narrator Pen-Pen Chen