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Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL)

Grade Three: History and Geography (Goals)

 3.2  Students will study the early West African empire of Mali by describing its oral tradition, government, and economic development
3.4  Students will develop map skills by

a) locating Greece, Rome, and West Africa
b) describing characteristics of Greece, Rome, and West Africa
c) explaining how the people of Greece, Rome, and West Africa adapted to their environment to meet their needs

3.8  Students will be able to recognize the concepts of specialization and interdependence in the production of goods and services in these ancient empires as well as in the present


An important part of Virginia’s heritage is our African roots. Most African-Americans in Virginia have ancestors from the Malian Empire. There is a glorious history to be proud of!

 Modern Mali is a small country with a size twice that of Texas but a population of only 11 million. Mali is a democracy with an elected President named Amadou Toumani Touré. Today, the country is still Africa’s third largest gold producer, but it is poor by international standards. Despite its poor status, the country’s greatest resource is the warmth and friendliness of the Malian people.

 The medieval empire of Mali was founded in 1235 by Sunjata Keita. Its written constitution, the Kouragan Fouga, was published that same year. The Mali Empire is less famous than the Roman empire, yet it was just as big. Almost everyone has heard of Timbuktu, but few know that this city on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert was once the northern capital of the Mali Empire. The legend of Timbuktu grew out of the pilgrimage (haj) of the Malian Emperor Mansa Musa. He built the great mosque of Timbuktu which remains a center of worship today, over seven hundred years later.

Today, Virginia’s 3rd graders learn about Timbuktu and the Mali Empire as part of the Standards of Learning (SOL) requirement. The Empire of Mali SOL brings our children the history of Africa and trade, of camels and ostriches in the Sahara Desert, and – above all – the discovery that Mali today is a wonderful place in Africa where Islam, Christianity and ancestral African religions live peacefully together beside the Niger River filled with crocodiles and hippopotami (called mali in the Bambara language).

In studying Mali and the Sonrai dynasty, Virginia’s children will discover just how much Africa has given to America: our food (hush puppies and donuts), our music (jazz and hip hop) and our lifestyles (the southern porch).

 More importantly, Virginia’s children will learn from studying Mali that their African heritage is a noble and wonderful gift from the ancestors.

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