Comparative histories of racial thought tend to focus, understandably, on the varied iterations of white supremacy that accompanied the spread of Western empire, as well as their inflections in anti-racist racial modernism and pan-Africanism. But what of forms of thought that construct racial differences among African populations themselves, including those that have led to violence in places such as Rwanda, Darfur, Ivory Coast, and northern Nigeria? To understand those, one must dispense with simplistic models of colonial rulers imposing Western ideas on their subjects. African racial thought had a multiplicity of sources, including locally-inherited discourses of difference with deep histories in African intellectual history (discourses that later become entangled with Western forms). They included African forms of stadial historicism that, in a convergence with Enlightenment concepts, imagined racial difference as a product of the different positions that communities of descent occupied on ladders of civilizational progress. Pursuing these and related issues requires rethinking many assumptions about the nature of racial thought, including our own, and its relationship to other forms of ethnicity and groupness.