Were there class issues in pre-colonial Africa? If so, how did it shape the attitudes and actions of those on top of the hierarchy vs those at the bottom? Is there much of a difference today?

Africa is a massive continent, with hundreds of civilizations.  There are over 1500 distinct languages spoken there; the social and class stratifications were very diverse across nations and tribes as well.

You have societies that were egalitarian and classless like the Twa, and you had nations that had strict class divisions like the Egyptians (or Khemites).  

It’s hard to discuss Class in pre-colonial African because we will all fall back on Western Class stratifications, and just as Slaver, War, Monarchy, and Economics were both in Africa and Europe but were so dissimilar that they really shouldn’t share the same name.  

The ultimate impact of Class in African was stability, over thousands of years.  African civilizations lasted longer than any notable European nations, empire, or State.  Only Chinese Dynasties and Native American Civilization rival African in the longevity and stability of their systems.  

Status was not rooted in ownership of fiat, land (cuz most nations didn’t have private ownership of land), or even gold.  It was often rooted in your rank in your particular society or clan, based on the “house” you were initiated in, and other academic or social achievement.  

Also, since most classes were established by divisions of labor and land ownership, and Africa had a decentralized labor and land was communally held, class divisions were not as hard and fast as in Europe. 

Above all Elders were the most venerated class throughout Africa, which proved useful to our enemies because they came to find out that corrupting (converting) or buying off a few elder would make their conquest of a nation or region much easier and quicker.  

There were also Kings and Religious figures, who held status above average citizens, but again, in pre-colonial Africa, in most societies the royals didn’t have much more materially than the citizens. Their status was again was not materially based but rooted in cultural and social capital.  There were exceptions, such as the Mali Empire and again, Egypt.    

Today, Class in African it a reflection of the Feudal, exploitive Class stratifications the European and Arab invaders brought with them. 

Again, my answer is admittedly vague, but you asked about Africa, and not any particular nation or people; so I can’t give you a proper answer without writing a multivolume book.  I hope I at least give you some grounding to further study.  

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