A Bird's = Eye View of African Tribes and
African Traveler and Philologist ; Author of " Folk-Tales of Angola"
Our knowledge of African tribes and languages is still very imperfect. Every
specialist who undertakes to study any single tribe or language is soon im¬
pressed with the fact that the little information he can get hold of, either in
print and manuscript, or by correspondence and conversation, is far from
being scientifically accurate or worthy of implicit confidence.
The outline of African ethnography and philology given in this paper is
simply a resume" of a critical study of the available material, and therefore no
more infallible than this.
If we first consider the races represented in Africa, we find conflicting
classifications and contradictory descriptions among scientific men, while in
books of travel and periodical literature the wildest confusion of names is in¬
Some scientists hold that all native Africans belong to one racial stock
with numerous ramifications.
This view is founded on the strong resemblances and common features
which are observed in all populations of the Dark Continent. It brings out
certain truths which it is well to retain, but the theory is far from proved.
Others insist on a certain number of race- with clean cut characteristics and
demarcations. They make us realize more the differences than the resem¬
blances between the great sections of African population.
In English literature, taken generally, Dr. Gust's linguistic map of Africa
made on Friedrich Muller's plan, has been taken, or mistaken, for an ethno¬
logic map; and his linguistic divisions, which are useful if rightly under¬
stood, have been used by hasty readers and writers as a kind of standard
classification of African races.
For practical purposes, it seems best to divide African tribes, according to
the prevalent tintre of their skin, into white, black and brown races. In the
Sudan, the brown, with all the intermediary shades between white and
black, seems due to a mixture of white and black. The geographical position
of these brown tribes between the white and black, the mixed nature of their
languages, as well as historical data, renders this double origin almost more
While the confusion of linguistic and ethnologic names is sadly misleading,
it must be confessed that the linguistic work is exceedingly valuable for