Maps are powerful visual tools that convey historical cultural beliefs as much as they represent geographical understanding. Medieval T-O maps offer a perspective on how early Europeans viewed Africa...depicting both continents together, under the dominating presence of massive Asia covering the top half of the earth. Some Antique maps of Africa depict European traders in deferential positions before powerful African and Asian leaders, and for centuries after the Crusades Europeans included images of the legendary Ethiopian king Prester John on maps of the area. Maps were also, of course, technical tools that enabled European exploration and mercantile expansion. But Africans provided more map content than they were credited with until recently. "Indigenous Mapmaking in Intertropical Africa" (Bassett 1998) offers numerous examples of how African geographical knowledge undergirded early Western understanding of the continent (see link to series and volume 2, book 3 below).
The Red Sea Kingdom of Axum (in what is now Ethiopia and Eritrea) was a key trade hub from the time of the Roman Empire (with archeology indicating it supplied the empire with elephant ivory), declining in the 6th-8th centuries (Devisse and Vansina 1981:778; see link below to General history of Africa vol. 3). Trans-Saharan trade routes provided African gold to Egypt and the Middle East, the Roman Empire, and medieval Europe; domestic servants, slaves, soldiers, and concubines to North Africa; and scare but essential salt to West African empires. Vasco de Gama circumvented the Spice Trade land route when he established the Cape of Good Hope trade route in 1498.
There are many examples of African technical innovations in addition to the mapping technologies noted in Bassett above (1998). UF archeologist Peter Schmidt demonstrated that the Buhaya people of Tanzania successfully smelted carbon steel by preheating the air pumped into specialized kilns up to 2000 years ago (Avery and Schmidt 1978). Mathmatician Ron Eglash credits Africans with creating binary number systems and fractal structures: "When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganized and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that the "Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn't even discovered yet" (from his TED Talk: The fractals at the heart of African designs).
General History of Africa (UNESCO book series available as open access with full text online)
Women Soldiers of Dahomey (UNESCO Series on Women in African History)
Africa’s Great Civilizations (interactive map) http://www.pbs.org/weta/africas-great-civilizations/map/
Avery, Donald and Peter Schmidt. 1978). "Complex Iron Smelting and Prehistoric Culture in Tanzania". Science. 201 (4361): 1085–1089 [Article via JSTOR may be unavailable as open access].
Exploring Africa (curriculum modules): How do we know Africa has a history? http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/activity-one-page-2-how-do-we-know-africa-has-a-history-engage/
Early African American History, until 16th Century http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/curriculum/unit-two/module-seven/
History of Africa During the Time of the Great West African Kingdoms http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/activity-3-history-of-africa-during-the-time-of-the-great-west-african-kingdoms-expand/
UPenn Online Books Page (keyword: Africa)
Note: these advanced resources may include content unsuitable for the classroom without instructor mediation.
Carter, Gwendolen M. (focus on South African Apartheid era)
Cohen, Ronald (Kanuri oral histories collected and written by Nigerian university students)
Derscheid, J. M.: Collection of materials on Rwanda and Burundi (Belgian biologist was a conservation advocate in 1920s, conducted mountain gorilla census, created first national park in Africa)
East African Professional Hunters' Association (early 20th c. conservation in Kenya)
Fortune, George (Shona language, Zimbabwe folktales)
Jolles, Frank (Richard Ndimande's Studio Photographs) Zulu photo studio images
Manis, W.E. (Scrapbooks collected by an American rubber breeder working for Firestone Co. in Liberia, 1940-'41; includes image of Liberian men playing Mancala)
Parker, Ian S. C., (Established the first independent wildlife conservation consultancy in Africa, researched elephants and international ivory trade)
Rikli, Martin (Addis Ababa and Ethiopia just prior to/during Italian colonization 1935)
Africa through a lens (UK National Archives photography)
Rock Art Archives: Ancient Geometry: Writing Systems, Art, Mathematics
South African Music Archive Project (offers many mp3 recordings of traditional music in wide range of styles). Note that page also links to Talking Drum, a newsletter with many articles on teaching African indigenous music in elementary schools.
A Hidden History: The West African Empires Before the Atlantic Slave Trade
Africa Map (interactive map – languages, antique map overlays, world heritage sites, slave ports, etc). May be slow to load!
African Kingdoms and Empires – teaching resources
Explore More! African American collection in 3-D (scroll to bottom)
Eglash, Ron. 1999. African fractals: modern computing and indigenous design. New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press [Print book not available as open access online]. His TED talk is a good introduction available as open access: The fractals at the heart of African designs (Ron Eglash TED Talk with transcript).
Mancala in the Classroom (a traditional African game)
Trekking to Timbuktu (suite of 8 lesson plans)