Songhay was a fishing village in the
Mali Empire. Like all villages, they were allowed to have their own
local government. Mali wanted them to pay taxes like all the
villages in the empire. But Songhay refused. They were fiercely
independent. Mali let them get away it because they wanted the fish.
Songhay did a great job catching and trading fish.
Slowly, Songhay developed a strong army
and a central government. The nobles were Muslin. The common people
believed in the old gods. The lifestyle of the nobles and the common
people began to change. The nobles became rich and comfortable. The
common people were poor and did all the work.
Mali weakened, Songhay started to take charge of West Africa.
first king of the new Songhay Empire was Sonni Ali the Great. Sonni Ali
was a strong leader. He wanted to expand the Songhay Empire as rapidly
as possible. To do so, he sent warriors, in canoes, up and down the
waterways, to take over small towns and villages. The villages were glad
to see them. They wanted someone in charge who had a strong army to
grew, Sonni Ali sent warriors to take over landlocked cities, such as
the city of Timbuktu. It was no long until Songhay had grown into the
largest kingdom in West Africa. At one point, Songhay stretched 2,000
miles along the west African coast. They soon controlled all the gold
mines in the south, and all the salt mines in the north. That gave them
incredible power with the traders from the other side of the
Songhay had all the
gold and salt they needed. They had luxury goods. They nobles had
everything except books. If you wanted to crack a great trade with
Songhay, you needed to haul books across the Sahara Desert.
was very active in the slave trade. Anyone could be captured and sold to
the slave traders.