Shared aspects of language and belief. Diverse because of size and culture. Political forms: from hierarchical states to stateless societies. Built less clearly on prior precedents than other post-classical societies.
Organized through kinship. Lacked concentrated authority structures.
Belief in power of natural forces personified as deities.
In Ethiopia/Egypt before the arrival of Islam. Ethiopia stayed Christian even after the Muslim invasion. Oppression by the Byzantine Christians caused the Africans to welcome the Muslim invaders.
Won believers because of the principle of equality of believers. Also, the unity of political and religious worlds appealed to many Africans.
Created a unified state that became the Mali empire.
Extensive grassland belt at the southern edge of the Sahara. Exchange region between the forests of South and North Africa.