Ralph E. Moore Jr.

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

To find out who the richest person in the world was to have ever lived, you have to go to the 14th century.  

His wealth was greater than that of Bill Gates, creator of Microsoft, or Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.  These men are the richest men in today’s world, but Musa was Black and rich—the richest ever.

Emperor Mana Musa, born Musa Keita I in 1312 died in 1337. He reigned over the ancient African kingdom of Mali for 25 years.  The Mansa in his name means “king of kings.” His wife’s name was Inari Kunata. Mansa Musa became emperor by default when the then Emperor Abu Bakr II took an exploratory journey from Mali toward the Atlantic Ocean and never returned. That is how Musa, in 1307, became the 10th ruler of the kingdom of Mali.

In his seventeenth year as a ruler, 1324, Mansa Musa took a Hajj, the sacred journey to the Holy City of Mecca for Moslems from around the world. What some find distasteful of his trip was the immense wealth he seemingly boastfully paraded with him in full view of the public.  Some say he showed off the massiveness of Mali’s fortune, and a few citizens of Mali –then and now– think his display benefitted him more than it profited his native countrymen and women.  It is a subject of debate and discussion that circles this fascinating historical figure.  He is believed to have controlled the price of gold in the area of the Mediterranean.

Mansa Musa was an aggressive builder of palaces, mosques and educational centers.  His magnificent palace has not survived the ages but his University of Sankore and Djinguereber Mosque are still standing after all these centuries. It was Musa who made the city of Timbuktu, located south of the Sahara Desert in Mali, world famous for education and trade.

It was ten years ago that a publication called Celebrity Net Worth researched and determined after calculations for inflation that Musa was the wealthiest person in history with a personal net worth of $400,000,000,000 (that’s billion with a “b”). He was wealthier than the entire Sam Walton family, who own WalMart and whose fortune is valued at $238 billion according to Investopedia, an information source for finances.

Finally, I recommend a book entitled, “Mansa Musa,” written by Khephta Burns and beautifully illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. I’ll give the final word about the book to Maya Angelou, who stated that “this gorgeous book is for those who know and for those who don’t know. This exquisite story and these delightful illustrations form an adult book for children and a children’s book for adults. Hallelujah!”

Learn what you can about this fascinating historical figure.

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