Chinua Achebe witnessed firsthand the cruelties of the British colonization of Nigeria. He also understood that almost all of the literature about Africa promoted the colonialist view, justifying slavery and painting Black people in a bad light.
But what could he do about it? He wasn’t an activist or a powerful politician.
He didn’t sugarcoat his work. His first novel, Things Fall Apart, centered on the struggle between native African culture and its oppression by white Christian missionaries and the colonial government.
He directly contradicted white revisionist tellings of this fight.
He created a space for African writers that had not existed before. White writers had stolen the African story – he took it back. His legacy earned him the title of the Father of African Literature.
Achebe reminds us of something we must never forget what we bear witness to in the past shapes our liberation in the future.