African life and Customs is an essential collection of Edward Wilmont Blyden s articles that examines the socioeconomic structure of African society. A native of St. Thomas, West Indies, Blyden (1832-1912) lived most of his life on the African continent. He was an accomplished educator, linguist, writer, and world traveler, who strongly defended the unique character of African and its people. In African life and Customs, Blyden examined the culture of pure Africans those untouched by European and Asiatic influences. He identified the family as the basic unit in African society and polygamy as the foundation of African families. He described African social systems as cooperative; everyone worked for each other. No one went without work, food, or clothing. Blyden challenged white racial theorists who held Africans were inferior and whose arguments supported their preconceived ideas. He assumed Africans to be distinct rather than inferior, and he analyzed African culture within the context of African social experiences. Although some regarded Blyden s views as controversial during his time, today, upon reevaluation, his work is seen by many as an important attempt to perform a holistic analysis of African society. African Life and Customs is an impressive African centered interpretation of African culture.
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