Did you know that the earliest recorded library in the world was the Royal Library of Alexandria which was built in approximately 300 BC in Alexandria, Egypt. However, it was reportedly destroyed by fire accidentally by Julius Caesar during the Alexandrian War. Nevertheless, the practice of organizing written knowledge and keeping them as private collections in physical spaces was predominant among West Africans. Later, when the Moors captured some southern European territories, such as Italy, many libraries were established by the wealthy. During the reign of Al-Hakam II from 961 AD, much emphasis was placed on books because the ruler was passionate about them. According to Robin Walker, in his book, When We Ruled: The Ancient and Medieval History of Black Civilisations, the Crown Prince invested a lot in books and often sent agents across the Islamic world to procure books. In addition, thousands of books were being produced in the territory each year. Private collections had holdings of between 10,000 to 50,000 books.
The poorer Africans, despite many of them not being able to have a private library, also had a love of books. Consequently, some learned to read would usually read from their masters’ collection. Walker states that “servants or ladies of the harem were of a higher price if they were well-read.” Therefore, it can be seen from those early days that value was placed on being literate/educated.
Marcus Garvey often encouraged persons to read and educate themselves as he recognized from early, the value of education. He believed that it was principally through education that the Black race could be self-reliant and achieve prosperity. So, in keeping with Garvey’s philosophy, the Garvey Research/Reference Library, located at Liberty Hall houses books that will empower persons of African descent and motivate them to create social and economic wealth. The Library’s collection is not limited to material on Marcus Garvey. It also includes scholarly works on Pan-Africanism/ Pan-Africanists, Slavery and Caribbean related topics such as Rastafari.
The book mentioned in this blog is available at the Garvey Research/Reference Library among many others that will demystify many of the myths and notions perpetuated by persons not in the know.
In the featured image is Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and Chairman of the Pan-Afrikan Centre of Namibia (PACON), Ms. Maureen Hinda and a member of her entourage perusing the Garvey Research/Reference Library Collection during their visit to Liberty Hall on July 29, 2015.