Black History Month Feature: Who is…Mansa Musa?

By: Rick Jackson

Part Two in the “Who Is…?” Series

Musa Keita, better known as Mansa Musa is said to have been born in 1280. In 1312, Musa became the emperor of the West African Mali Empire following the death of his predecessor, Abu-Bakar II.
As a devout Muslim, it is a religious practice to visit the holy city of Mecca at least once during your lifetime. It took years of preparation before commencing the 4,000 mile journey, but once it began it is said that Musa had thousands of soldiers, civilians, and slaves accompany him on his journey.
He brought with him more gold than what could be accounted for and he gave so much gold to the poor during his journey, he temporarily declined its worth. Musa had so much power and control that he requested for universities and libraries to be built along the journey.
Musa gained so much attention during his pilgrimage to Mecca that Italian, German, and Spanish map creators, began making maps using Musa to illustrate the region of the Mali Empire. He became the face of West Africa. It can be argued that Mansa Musa, a black African King, was the richest man to ever live.

Musa died in 1337 after a 25-year reign. His son, Maghan I succeeded him.


  1. Sutton, J. E. G. (1997). The African lords of the intercontinental gold trade before the Black Death: al-Hasan bin Sulaiman of Kilwa and Mansa Musa of Mali. The Antiquaries Journal, 77(01), 221-242.

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