Kante created N'Ko in 1949 after a night of deep meditation, in response to what he felt were beliefs that Africans were a "cultureless people", and since there was, prior to this time, no indigenous African writing system for his language. N'ko came first into use in Kankan, Guinea as a Maninka alphabet and was disseminated from there into other Manding-speaking parts of West Africa.
New findings by Haitian researcher Rodney Salnave, based on the 1791 writing of Tamerlan, a literate slave in Saint Domingue (now Haiti), as shown that Souleymane Kante was not the inventor of the N'Ko alphabet in 1949. N'Ko was in fact invented 2 centuries earlier, in the early part of the 1700s, by future Segou Empire King Ngolo Diarra (1718-1790) who studied in Timbuktu, Mali, in his youth. Although born in Guinea, Souleymane Kante's family came from Segou in Mali where N'Ko was in use. And Souleymane Kante who revived the N'Ko writing, must have had that alphabet in his family's possession for generations.
- Malenfant, Colonel (1814). Des colonies et particulièrement de celle de Saint-Domingue : mémoire historique. Paris: Audibert. p. 213.
- Traoré, Samba Lamine (2012). La Saga de la ville historique de Ségou. Paris: L'Harmattan. p. 43.
- Amselle, Jean-Loup (1996). "Le N'ko au Mali". Cahier d’études africaines. 36 (144): 823–826.
- Conrad, David C. (2001). "Reconstructing Oral Tradition: Souleymane Kanté’s Approach to Writing Mande History". Mande Studies 3, 147-200.
- Kaba, Diaka Laye (1992). "Souleymane Kanté: l’inventeur de l’alphabet N’ko". L’Educateur: Trimestriel Pédagogique des Enseignants de Guinée 11-12, 33
- Kanté, Bourama (1996). "Souvenir de Kanté Souleymane". Somoya Sila: Journal Culturel de l'Association ICRA-N'KO 19.
- Kanté, Souleymane (1961). "Alphabet de la langue N’ko: ‘N’ko sebesun’." In Méthode pratique d’écriture N’ko. Kankan, reprinted by Mamady Keita (1995), Siguiri.
- Vydrine, Valentin, ed. (2001). "Lettres de Souleymane Kanté et Maurice Houis". Mande Studies 3, 133-146.
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