Despite archeological findings stating that Africa is the cradle of human life as well as historical evidence showing that the continent was once the gateway to civilization, writing and teaching African history has been difficult.
Ihediwa Nkemjika Chimee in an article titled, ‘African Historiography and the Challenges of European Periodization: A Historical Comment’, noted Africa’s historical records were left “in the hands of foreign adventurers, sailors, writers, and amateur historians, most of whom never ventured beyond the coastal fringes of the areas of Africa they visited.”
“This situation produced a medley of confusion in African historiography, as African history was written merely from the bird’s-eye view of aliens and, second, was sequenced following patterns of historical developments outside the continent,” he wrote.
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As a result, some European authors believed Africa and its descendants have no history, noting: “Africa had no history prior to European exploration and colonization, that there is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness”, her past “the unedifying gyrations of barbarous tribes in picturesque but irrelevant corners of the globe” (Trevor-Roper, 1963: 871).
The situation has become so appalling that Africa’s history is rarely taught in schools. For instance, kids in the U.S. and other places are constantly bombarded and fed stories about how savage their ancestors were when in reality that wasn’t the case.
On a mission to change the narrative is a couple. Matthew Goins and his wife Marnel, started Puzzle Huddle in January 2018 after realizing the lack of diverse images on commercially produced puzzles. The family began creating unique designs.
Their company provides puzzles that showcase diverse images of African Americans.
“As a new father, my first two children were girls and I really struggled getting into tea time and playing with dolls. I eventually discovered my kids interest in puzzles and I probably went a little overboard buying puzzles online,” Mathew told Because Of Them We Can.
“After some time, I looked around and realized that none of the puzzles featured diverse characters. Although the puzzles were fun, they didn’t have characters that looked like our kids, our family, or our community,” Matthew said.
Puzzle Huddle features an array of puzzles showcasing Black children in career images, bible stories, learning tools, and cultural images.
The puzzles come in four different sizes and have recommendations based on the child’s age, according to Because Of Them We Can.
For the couple, it’s important that children learn from their puzzles and see themselves reflected in their toys.
“The puzzles are a manifestation of a much bigger idea where we want to inspire and affirm children toward education and high achievement. Kids deserve to have toys that match their skin tones and hair textures which can provide them with a sense of confidence and value. We appreciate the opportunity to share positive images with families,” Marnell said.
Mathew further stated, “Children can be limited by what they are exposed to. There aren’t many outlets that communicate a broad range of narratives and career examples to diverse children. The puzzle can provide a platform to support and expand children’s imagination.”
“It’s also been important for me to communicate about the company as a father because the narrative around African American fathers is very limited and stereotypically communicated as dysfunctional.”