The New Invention of WritingDuring the first half of the 19th century, native cultures without writing came into contact with European colonists that did have writing. Native individuals of genius saw that writing gave the white man great power and therefore invented writing systems for their own people. Rather than copying the white man's writing systems, they used imagery from their own traditions to accomplish this. This remarkable development took place in at least two areas on two continents, North America and west Africa.
(Of course, we must qualify "writing" here as symbol systems that represent sounds, rather than morphographic systems such as Chinese which represent ideas. )
To start, let us call the roll of the New Inventors.
SEQUOYAH, of the Cherokee people of east-central North America;
We shall also show the Mende syllabary of Sierra Leone and many samples of other West African scripts, but we do not know the names of their inventors.
August 26, 2001