THE GLOBAL AFRICAN COMMUNITY
H I S T O R Y N O T E S
Runoko Rashidi (pictured left)
in Namibia, Southern Africa
THE AFRICAN ROOTS OF HUMANITY AND CIVILIZATION:
KEYNOTE ADDRESS FOR AFRICA DAY 2000 COMMEMORATION
PRESENTED IN WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA ON MAY 26, 2000
SPONSORED BY THE PAN-AFRICAN CENTER OF NAMIBIA
By RUNOKO RASHIDI
DEDICATED TO PRESIDENT SAM NUJOMA
It has been said that "history is a light that illuminates the past and a key that unlocks the door to the future." This paper is designed to help reconnect and refocus the history and present conditions of the Global African Community from the periphery of our imaginations to the center of our attention, and is devoted to the review of what has been referred to as "That Other African." This is not the stereotypical African savage, but the African that first peopled the earth, and gave birth to or significantly influenced the world's oldest and most magnificent civilizations. This is the African that first entered Asia, Europe, Australia, the South Pacific, and the early Americas not as slave, but as master. We now know, based on recent scientific studies of DNA, that modern humanity originated in Africa, that Black people are the world's original people, and that all modern humans can ultimately trace their ancestral roots back to Africa. If not for the primordial migrations of early African people, humanity would have remained physically Africoid, and the rest of the world outside of the African continent absent of human life.
Our concern is not only with Africa as the cradle of human culture, but as the birthplace and the cradle of humanity itself. For a long time the cradle of humanity was "placed" in Asia. This was apparently done for at least two basic reasons: the ancient presence in Asia of all three major human ethnic types (Black, White, and Yellow); and the discovery of Homo erectus in Asia at a time when Africa had not yet become a significant target for palaeontological excavations.
Homo erectus, whose origins have been traced back to about 1.6 million years before present, was the first hominid to leave Africa. More than 500,000 years ago, having domesticated fire and possessing rudimentary methods of transporting food and water, Homo erectus, with physical characteristics distinctly marked by dark complexion and tightly curled hair, was ready to embark upon his Asia trek. Both the well known "Peking Man" and "Java Man" fossils are only regional variations of early, Africoid Homo erectus populations. The arrival of Homo erectus from Africa into Europe has been estimated at about 400,000 years ago.
In addition to Homo erectus, the Great Lakes region of East-Central Africa also produced the first modern human populations (Homo sapiens sapiens). New researches and discoveries in the relevant scientific fields confirm this. In 1986, for example, after a meticulous analysis of mitochondrial DNA, an elite group of scientists led by Oxford University's James S. Wainscoat, recorded the following statement: "The earliest fossils of anatomically modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens) have been found in Africa at Omo in Ethiopia, Border Cave [Ingwavuma] in South Africa and at Klasies River Mouth in South Africa. The data from the last site suggests that Homo sapiens sapiens was present in South Africa more than 100,000 years ago, and an adult mandible from Border Cave has been dated to about 90,000 years before present. Hence, it has been argued that the evolution of modern man took place in Africa. Our data are consistent with such a scheme, in which a founder population migrated from Africa and subsequently gave rise to all non-African populations."
In 1987, less than a year after the initial publication of their findings, Wainscoat was even more convinced of their validity. In a more specific report,Wainscoat noted that, "It seems likely that modern man emerged in Africa and...that subsequently a founder population left Africa and spread throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas."
Douglas Wallace, another scientist actively engaged in DNA research, adds that, "The scientist's Eve--subject of one of the most provocative theories in a decade--was more likely a dark-haired, black-skinned woman, roaming a hot savanna in search of food." According to Diop: "The man born in Africa was necessarily dark-skinned due to the considerable force of ultraviolet radiation in the equatorial belt. As he moved toward the more temperate climates, this man gradually lost his pigmentation by process of selection and adaptation."
Throughout the 1990s DNA research has continued and has given added weight to the African origins of humanity. As the direct result of migrations then, African people came to populate the rest of the world. There were different routes with varying degrees of difficulty that the migrants could have taken as they left the Great Lakes region. These routes include the Nile Valley, the Suez Isthmus into Asia, and the Straits of Gibraltar into Europe. It is in the light of these routes that the presence of modern humans in Asia, Europe, and, ultimately the Americas, can be traced.
GREAT AFRICAN CIVILIZATIONS: HISTORY, CULTURE & HERITAGE
Although it was Africa's Upper Nile Valley--the highly regarded Ethiopia ("land of the burnt-faced people"), that gave birth to the world's oldest monarchy of which we are informed (Ta-Seti), it is in pharaonic Egypt (ancient Kmt), the greatest nation of antiquity and Ethiopia's most celebrated offspring, that the tremendous volume of historical inquiry has been made. The world is enthralled by Kmt. And why should it be otherwise? When we examine Kemetic civilization we examine perhaps the proudest and loftiest accomplishments in the whole of human annals. Her list of achievements is extremely long and strikingly notable. Ancient Kmt has been, and probably will continue to be, the primary focus of our studies for some time to come.
These studies are demonstrating with rapidity and increasing precision that not only were Kmt's origins African, but that through the mass of her dynastic period (3250 to 341 B.C.E.), African people endowed with dark complexions, full lips, broad noses, and tightly-curled hair were dominant in both the general population and the reigning elite.
Modern Pharaohs of Nile Valley Studies
Of the recent towering figures in the struggle to completely eradicate the pervasive racial myths clinging to the origins of Kmt, two men in particular stand out. Cheikh Anta Diop, born in Diourbel, Senegal on December 29, 1923, was the founder and Director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) at the University of Dakar. Diop was a multi-disciplinary scholar who helped introduce an uncompromising and eminently systematic approach towards the study of Africa and the numerous civilizations that she has produced and influenced. Included among the effective range of methodologies utilized in his researches were: the study of human images; analyzes of the epidermis of royal Kemetic mummies for verification of their melanin content; osteological measurements and physical anthropology; comparison studies of Upper Egyptian and modern West African blood-groups; comparison studies demonstrating linguistic affinities and phonetic correspondences between Kemetic and West African languages; documentation of the divine epithets and ethnic designations employed by the Kamites themselves; investigations of Biblical testimonies pertaining to Kemetic race and culture; and investigations of early Greek and Roman eye-witness accounts concerning Kemetic ethnicity. Diop died on February 7, 1986.
Chancellor Williams, born December 22, 1898 in Bennetsville, South Carolina, is probably best known as the author of the 1971 publication, The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. Uncompromising, broadly sweeping its range, and immensely powerful in its scope, there has probably been no other single book focusing on antiquity, particularly the Nile Valley, that has so profoundly affected the consciousness of the present generation of African-Americans. Williams began direct field studies in African history in 1956. The final field studies, which covered 26 countries and 105 language groups, were finished in 1964. Williams is a retired professor of African History at Howard University.
The Royal Dynasties of Kmt
While Narmer (ca. 3250 B.C.E.) is regarded as Kmt's first monarch, he may have seen himself as the culmination of a historical epoch, rather than the beginning. Narmer was the heir to at least a millennium of African brilliance, and assumed charge of an already advanced and highly-evolved society. The Old Kingdom (2260-2180 B.C.E.), comprising Dynasties III through VI, witnessed a real flowering of Kemetic culture. It produced such personalities as: Zoser, Imhotep, Nae-maet Sneferu, Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure, Hesyre, Ptah-hotep, and Neferkare Pepi II--whose 94 years on the throne remains the longest single reign in world history.
The Old Kingdom was also the famous epoch of pyramid building. The great pyramids are arguably the world's most enduring expressions of architectural prowess. The invading Arabs of post-pharaonic Egypt were so awed by the pyramids that they coined the expression: "Men fear time, but time fears the pyramids." Jean Francois Champollion, regarded by many as the chief figure in the decipherment of Kemetic hieroglyphs, remarked that "the Egyptians built like men a hundred feet tall."
Ancient Kmt's Middle Kingdom, the significant period in Kemetic history encompassing Dynasties XI (ca. 2130-1991 B.C.E.) and XII (1991-1786 B.C.E.), was one of the most remarkable epochs in the long history of the African people. Kmt's Middle Kingdom was founded by nobles from Southern Kmt--the Mentuhoteps and Intefs--a distinguished and aggressive family of African nobles from Waset, the then little-known city in Kmt's Scepter nome that the Greeks were to call Thebes.
With Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II's assumption of the Upper Kemetic throne around 2060 B.C.E. began another sustained, and ultimately successful, drive for the reunification of all Kmt. Like the Old Kingdom before it, the Middle Kingdom is especially noteworthy for its tremendous engineering and architectural achievements. Nymare Amenemhet III (1843-1797 B.C.E.), for example, raised two major pyramids--at Dahshur and Hawara. The Hawara pyramid possessed a sepulchral chamber of yellow quartzite--22 feet long, eight feet wide and six feet high. The total weight of the chamber was 110 tons. The roof of the chamber itself was composed of three massive pieces of yellow quartzite--with a combined weight of 45 tons.
Around Lake Moeris in the Faiyum Oasis of Middle Kmt was constructed a vast embankment 27 miles long that secured more than 27,000 acres of fertile land for cultivation. At the Nile's entrance to the Lake was established a great dam, which regulated the mighty river's flow, and thus minimized the risks of a poor harvest. Amenemhet's officials at the Kemetic fortress of Semneh, located at the second cataract, recorded the height of the Nile on the rocks there.
North of Lake Moeris were placed stone platforms filled with earth. Atop these were added two huge pedestals, each of which held a colossi of the king, 39 feet high. Carved from quartzite and polished until they shone brilliantly, they glittered across Lake Moeris. Fragments of these statues can still be seen in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.
On the south side of the Lake stood the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth may have been the largest single building in world history. The Labyrinth contained 3000 rooms, 1500 below the ground and 1500 above. The building itself was 800 by 1000 feet. Herodotus (ca. 450 B.C.E.) said that it surpassed the pyramids, and noted that, "It is beyond my ability to describe. It must have cost more in labor and money than all of the walls and public works of the Greeks put together."
W. M. Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), who excavated the site in 1888, provided additional information on this building of buildings:
"The mere figures will not signify readily to the mind the vast extent of construction; but when we compare it with the greatest of the other Egyptian temples it could be somewhat realized. On that space could be erected the great hall of Karnak, and all the successive temples adjoining it, and the great court and pylons of it; and also the temple of Mut, and also the two great temples of Luxor; and still there would be room for the whole of the Ramesseum. In short, all the temples on the east bank of Thebes, and one of the largest on the west bank, might be placed together in the one area....Here we certainly have a site worthy of the renown which the Labyrinth acquired."
William Leo Hansberry considered Dynasty XVIII "one of the greatest, if not the greatest, royal family to ever sit on any throne anywhere at any time." Kmt's Dynasty XVIII began about 1580 B.C.E. Under the leadership of Nebpehtyre Ahmose I and his highly venerated wife and queen, Ahmose-Nefertari, the African armies grew strong enough to eject the despised Hyksos ("shepherd kings")--Kmt's first foreign invaders. After having experienced an 150 year period of foreign occupation, the Kamites vowed "never again" and quickly proceeded to conquer the whole of Western Asia. The spoils of war that flowed into her treasuries catapulted Kmt into position as the world's leading superpower. In addition to Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari, Dynasty XVIII is the period of such notables as: Djeserkare Amenhotep I, Akheperkare Thutmose I, Makare Hatshepsut, Senemut, Menkheperre Thutmose III, Nebmare Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye, Akhenaten and Nebkheprure Tutankamen.
Cheikh Anta Diop believed that "The highest point of Egyptian history was the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ramses II." The Nineteenth Dynasty was indeed an extraordinarily pivotal phase in African history. Akhenaten's determined efforts towards a social-religious revolution several decades earlier had effectively polarized the Kemetic state. A tremendous power struggle ensued with the monarchy on one side, and the priesthood on the other. The result of this conflict of interest was a prolonged period of political instability. Many precincts within the vast regions conquered during the military campaigns of the Dynasty XVIII warrior-kings had been lost. The nation's military readiness and national prestige had sharply declined, a situation that the enemies of Kmt observed with keen interest and growing anticipation. These hostile forces, including numerous Semitic and Indo-European speaking elements, rose in defiance of their African overlords, and instituted a series of steady attacks that threatened Kmt's very existence.
The sixty-seven year reign of Ramses II was for Kmt an era of general prosperity, stable government and extensive building projects. Ancient gods like Ptah, Ra and Set were elevated to high status. The worship of Amen was restored and his priests reinstated. Major wars were fought with the Libyans, Hittites and their allies. Wondrous new temples from Nubia to the Kemetic Delta were carved out of the naked cliffs. Splendid tombs in the hills of western Waset and Aabdju were constructed, renovated and beautified. The new Kemetic city of Pi-Ramses made its impressive debut.
Ramses was actually deified in his own lifetime, and through the unrelenting projection of his own incomparable personality, he made the name Ramses synonymous with kingship for centuries. Ramses II was truly great. He was the towering figure of his age, and established the models and set the standards that others used to rule by. In regards to the ethnicity of Ramses, Diop expressed in unmistakable language that:
"Ramses II was not leucoderm and could have been even less red-haired, because he reigned over a people who instantly massacred red-haired people as soon as they met them, even in the street; these people were considered as strange beings, unhealthy, bearers of bad luck and unfit for life....Ramses II is black. Let's let him sleep in his black skin, for eternity."
Ramses initiated enormous building activities in Nubia. He commissioned temples at Beit-el-Wali, Gerf Hussein, Wadi-es-Sebua, Derr, Abu Simbel and Aksha in Ta-Seti (Lower Nubia), and at Amara and Barkal in Upper Nubia. The temple of Abu Simbel, one of the largest rock-cut structures in the world, is no doubt a unique piece of architectural work. It is hewn into a mountain of sandstone rock on the left bank of the Nile that was held sacred long before the great Ramses' temple was cut there. It was dedicated to Ra-Harakhte, the god of the rising sun, who is represented as a man with the head of a falcon wearing the solar disc. It is a masterpiece of architectural design and engineering. The whole purpose and position of the temple was devoted to the adoration of the sun at dawn, and it was only at sunrise at certain times of the year that the vast interior was illuminated, when the light penetrated the sanctuary. It must have been for the faithful an unforgettable experience to stand in the main hall at dawn, and watch the life-giving rays of the sun gradually penetrate into the majestic inner sanctuary of an ancient religion.
Having lived vigorously for more than nine decades, Ramses II died in the second month of his 67th regnal year. In actuality however, there was no death in the African way of thinking; only gradual decay and periodic renewal. Kmt was perhaps the earliest nation to clearly articulate the purely African notions of resurrection and immortality. As one writer succinctly stated, within the context of Kmt, "If Osiris, the Nile, and all vegetation, might rise again, so might man." Man could rise, but only if he made God's words, which were truth, justice and righteousness, manifest on earth. This was fundamental to the African psyche.
Although Kmt declined in prominence following the end of the New Kingdom, the Africans of the ancestral south, Kush, remained strong and made a final stand during against foreign invasions during Dynasty XXV (750-656 B.C.E.). The rulers of Dynasty XXV--Piankhi, Shabaka, Shabataka, Taharqa and Tanutamon--sparked a powerful movement of cultural revival and national resurgence in Kmt. But the entire history of the dynasty was a supreme effort to form a united front against foreign invaders. For nearly one hundred and fifty years the strong African forces held their own, but in 661 B.C.E. the Assyrian army attacked Kmt and pillaged the city of Waset. According to Diop, "The fall of the most venerated city of all antiquity aroused deep emotion in the world of that time and marked the end of the Nubian Sudanese or Twenty-Fifth Ethiopian Dynasty. That date also marked the decline of Black political supremacy in antiquity and history."
The challenge to the African global community to rise up and aggressively reclaim its heritage of great civilizations must be seen as an integral part of the Pan-African liberation movement. Kmt was the heart and soul of Africa, and we only need glance at her regal splendors to measure our true descent from power. We must see in Kmt the knowledge that what African people did, African people can do. In this manner, the immortal accomplishments of our illustrious ancestors are resurrected, and the distant past not only merges with the present, but outlines the possibilities of the future.
THE AFRICAN PRESENCE IN ASIA
The First Asians
The earliest modern human (Homo sapiens sapiens) populations of Asia were also of African birth. Here we are speaking of the Diminutive Africoids--the extremely important and much romanticized family of Black people phenotypically characterized by: unusually short statures; skin-complexions that range from yellowish to dark brown; tightly curled hair; and, in frequent cases (like many other Blacks), steatopygia. They are probably more familiar to us by such pejorative terms as pygmies," "negritos" and "negrillos." Similar peoples who live today in Southern Africa have been titled Bushmen." More accurate names for these latter people are San (translated as "original inhabitants").
Moving slowly and sporadically from their African birthplace, beginning perhaps 100,000 years ago and continuing through the millennia, untold numbers of Diminutive Africoids began to people Asia. Although they currently exist in limited numbers, and are generally found in heavily forested, barren, isolated or similarly forbidding terrains, the Diminutive Africoids were at one time the supreme lords of the earth. It is indeed unfortunate that the histories of the Diminutive Africoids, including distinct and fundamental contributions to monumental civilizations characterized by agricultural science, metallurgy, advanced scripts and urbanization, are so little understood.
Next, in the sequence of the Black presence in Asia, were the Afro-Australoids. These are the Blacks who spread into Asia, and ultimately Australia itself, at least 50,000 years ago. What the forces and factors were that gave rise to their migratory movements we do not know. Like the Diminutive Africoids, no comprehensive histories of the Afro-Australoids have been written, and all we really have are the tattered and tantalizing fragments of what this archaic period must have been like.
The Afro-Australoids constituted a significant factor in the initial peopling of South Arabia; with their skeletal remains also having been exhumed from sites in Iraq. In South Asia they proliferated, and are six million strong today in eastern and central India, where they are known as Mundas and Kolarians. A Munda sub-group, the Gonds, form the root word of the semi-mythical, submerged continent of Gondwanaland, reputed to have formed an extensive land-bridge joining East Africa to South Asia. The Veddas--an Afro-Australoid population in Sri Lanka, represent the oldest known occupants of that island-nation.
It was perhaps waves of Afro-Australoids, who, characterized by straight to wavy hair textures, and dark to near black complexions, after having ventured into the northeastern stretches of Asia, through a process that is only vaguely understood, diverged from the original parent stock into the Mongoloid or "yellow" ethnic types of modern times.
Certainly, traces of Blacks have been found in both the prehistoric and historic periods throughout the latitudes of northeastern Asia. A recent Associated Press report, for example, stated that, "The oldest Stone Age hut in Japan has been unearthed near Osaka.... Archeologists date the hut to about 22,000 years ago and say it resembles the dugouts of African bushmen." A Japanese proverb states that "Half the blood in one's veins must be black to make a good Samurai." We also have knowledge, in Japan, of Sakanouye Tamura Maro (ca. 800 C.E.), the Black general who led the Japanese armies into battle against the Ainu. Tamura Maro's successful generalship ultimately won him the Japanese shogunate.
In China an Africoid presence is visible from remote antiquity through the major historical periods. The Shang, for example, China's first dynasty, apparently had a Black background, so much so that the conquering Chou described them as having "black and oily skin." The famous Chinese sage, Lao-Tze (ca. 600 B.C.E.), was "black in complexion." Lao-Tze was described as "marvelous and beautiful as jasper." Magnificent and ornate temples were erected for him, inside of which he was worshipped like a god.
Funan is the name given by Chinese historians to the earliest kingdom of Southeast Asia. Its builders were a Black people known as Khmers, a name that loudly recalls ancient Kmt (Egypt). In remote antiquity the Khmers seem to have established themselves throughout a vast area that encompassed Myanmar, Kampuchea, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Emerging during the third century, the kingdom of Funan spread over southern Kampuchea and Vietnam. A Chinese observer described the Funanese men as small and black, and noted the Khmer's impressive libraries and high regard for scholars.
The story of Southeast Asia's Black kingdoms is essentially the story of the African people in early Asia itself: the creators and innovators of nation-states and powerful civilizations, only to be overwhelmed in the end. The Black presence in Asia, however, has been deeply etched, and the Asian nations of today, whether conscious of it or not, have merely raised themselves under a guiding African tutelage.
Sumer (the Biblical land of Shinar) was the formative civilizing influence in early West Asia. Flourishing during the third millennium B.C.E., Sumer set the tone and established the guidelines for the kingdoms and empires which succeeded her. Frequently designated as, or linked with, Chaldea and Babylonia, Sumer embraced the Tigris/Euphrates river valley from the base of the Persian Gulf north to Akkad, a distance of about 300 miles.
While Sumer's many cultural and technical achievements are much celebrated, the important question of her ethnic composition is frequently either glossed over or left out of the discussion altogether. Independent and objective study of the available data however, reveals the very real question of whether the so-called "problem of Sumerian origins" is actual or artificial. The Sumerians did, after all, refer to themselves as "the Blackheaded people," and their most powerful and pious leaders, such as Gudea, consistently chose very dark (and preferably black) stone for their statuary representations. There is also no doubt that the oldest and most exalted deity of the Sumerians was Anu, a name that loudly recalls the thriving and widely-spread Black civilizers found at history's dawn in Africa, Asia and even Europe. Eye-witness accounts, religious similarities, linguistic affinities, skeletal evidence, Biblical references, architectural patterns, and oral traditions all point to an early African origin for the Sumerians of Iraq.
Elam was the first civilization of Iran (formerly called Persia), and shared Sumer's eastern border. Diop points to the Africoid presence in early Elam, focusing especially on the region's artistic and sculptural remains identified by Marcel Dieulafoy from his late nineteenth century excavations at Susa. The district of Susa was generally thought by the ancients to be the residence and capital city of Memnon--the illustrious Black warrior-king. The heroic story of Memnon--his courage and prowess at the siege of Troy--was one of the most widely circulated and celebrated of antiquity. Memnon is mentioned repeatedly in the works of such writers as Aeschylus, Apollonius of Tyana, Athenaeus, Catullus, Dio Chrysostom, Hesiod, Ovid, Pausanias, Philostratus, Pindar, Quintus of Smyrna, Seneca, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo and Virgil. Arctinus of Miletus composed an epic poem entitled Ethiopia in which Memnon was the leading figure.
Quintus of Smyrna credits Memnon with "bringing the countless tribes of his people who live in Ethiopia, land of the black man," to Priam's Troy in support of his war for survival against the hostile coalition of Greek city-states. "Memnon came to help them. Memnon was lord over the dark Ethiopians, and the host be brought seemed infinite. The Trojans were delighted to see him in their city."
Herodotus (ca. 450 B.C.E.) regarded Colchis, a land located along the western slope of the Caucasus mountains near the Black Sea and considered the home of the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology, as an actual Kemetic colony. He not only pointed to the Colchians' black skin and woolly hair, but also to their oral traditions, language, methods of weaving, and practice of circumcision. He notes that:
"It is undoubtedly a fact that the Colchians are of Egyptian descent. I noticed this myself before I heard anyone else mention it, and when it occurred to me I asked some questions both in Colchis and in Egypt, and found that the Colchians remembered the Egyptians more distinctly than the Egyptians remembered them. The Egyptians did, however, say that they thought the original Colchians were men from Sesostris' army. My own idea on the subject was based first on the fact that they have black skins and woolly hair (not that that amounts to much, as other nations have the same), and secondly, and more especially, on the fact that the Colchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians are the only races which from ancient times have practised circumcision.... There is a further point of resemblance between the Colchians and the Egyptians: they share a method of weaving linen different from that of any other people."
Saint Jerome, writing during the fourth century, called Colchis the "Second Ethiopia." Two hundred years later, Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem, described an "Ethiopian" presence in the same region. Even today, in the same district about which Herodotus wrote, exists a minute black-skinned and woolly-haired community.
Phoenicia was the name given by Greeks in the first millennium B.C.E. to the coastal provinces of modern Lebanon and northern Palestine, although occasionally the term seems to have been applied to the entire Mediterranean seaboard from Syria to Palestine. Phoenicia was not considered a nation, in the strict sense of the word, but rather as a chain of coastal cities, of which the most important were Sidon, Byblos, Tyre and Ras Shamra. To the Greeks, the term Phoenician, from the root "Phoenix," had connotations of "red," and it is likely that the name was derived from the physical appearance of the people themselves.
The Phoenicians were a coastal branch of the Canaanites, who, according to Biblical traditions, were the brothers of Kush (Ethiopia) and Mizraim (Egypt): members of the Hamite, or Kamite, ethnic family. The Bible says that the Canaanites, Ethiopians and Egyptians were all Black and of Nile Valley origin. Diop claims that "Phoenician history is therefore incomprehensible only if we ignore the Biblical data according to which the Phoenicians, in other words, the Canaanites, were originally Negroes, already civilized, with whom nomadic, uncultured white tribes [as represented by Abraham] later mixed." From this period, towards the middle of the second millennium B.C.E., the term Leuco (White) Syrians came to be applied to the newly arrived populations. Ultimately, says Diop, the people of Abraham and the already settled Canaanites fused to become the historical Hebrews. It was among the Canaanite peoples that one of the most momentous inventions in human history is attested--the alphabet.
While acknowledging the Biblical data, the economic relations shared by the Kamites and the Phoenicians should not be minimized in explaining the strong sense of solidarity which generally existed between them. There was frequently a Kemetic presence: military, diplomatic, religious or commercial, both in the Canaanite hinterland and the Phoenician city-states themselves, and Diop goes on to state that, "Even throughout the most troubled periods of great misfortune, Egypt could count on the Phoenicians as one can count more or less on a brother."
Spurred on by increasing population pressures, the Phoenicians, who were becoming increasingly mixed racially, had, by the middle of the second millennium B.C.E. developed a prowess on the seas, and were in the process of establishing a network of colonies and trading posts that not only brought them fame and prosperity, but introduced in some cases, and reinforced in others, vital elements of the cultural attributes of the Southern world. Phoenician inscriptions have been found as far north as central Turkey and at least as far west as Tunisia, where the famous ancient city of Carthage was founded.
The Arabian peninsula, first inhabited more than 8,000 years ago, was early populated by Blacks. Once dominant over the entire peninsula, the African presence in early Arabia is most clearly traceable through the Sabeans. The Sabeans were the first Arabians to step firmly within the realm of civilization. The southwestern corner of the peninsula was their early home. This area, which was known to the Romans as Arabia Felix, embraces the country that is today called Yemen. In antiquity this region gave rise to a high degree of civilization because of the fertility of the soil, the growth of frankincense and myrrh, and the close proximity to the sea and consequently its importance in the trade routes. The Sabeans have even been called "the Phoenicians of the southern seas."
On of the earliest known Sabean construction project was probably the Marib Dam (possibly South Arabia's most enduring technical achievement). Serving the South Arabians for more than a thousand years, the Marib Dam is traditionally believed to have been conceived by Lokman, the sage and multi-genius of pre-Islamic South Arabia. In effect, the Dam was an earthen ridge stretching slightly more than 1700 feet across a prominent wadi. Both sides sloped sharply upward, with the Dam's upstream side fortified by small pebbles established in mortar. The Marib Dam was rebuilt several times by piling more earth and stone onto the existing structure. The last recorded height of the Marib Dam was slightly more than forty-five feet.
Before the advent of Islam southern Arabia already possessed the sacred Kaaba sanctuary, with its black stone, at Makkah. Diop claimed that "The Kaaba was reputed to have been constructed by Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar the Egyptian (a Negro woman), historical ancestor of Mohammed, according to all Arab historians." "In Egypt he [Abraham] had married a Negro woman, Hagar, mother of Ishmael, the Biblical ancestor of the second Semitic branch, the Arabs. Ishmael was said to be the historical ancestor of Mohammed."
The city of Makkah was considered a holy place and the destination of pilgrims long before the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad himself, who was to unite the whole of Arabia, appears to have had a prominent African lineage. According to al-Jahiz, the guardian of the sacred Kaaba--Abd al-Muttalib, "fathered ten Lords, Black as the night and magnificent." One of these men was Abdallah, the father of Muhammad. According to tradition, the first Muslim killed in battle was Mihdja--a Black man. Another Black man, Bilal, was such a pivotal figure in the development of Islam that he has been referred to as "a third of the faith." Many of the earliest Muslim converts were Africans, and a number of the Muslim faithful sought refuge in Ethiopia because of Arabian hostility to Muhammad's teachings.
The ancient riverine civilization of the Indus Valley (named after one of its largest and most studied sites--Harappa) actually had extensions reaching from the river Oxus in Afghanistan in the north to the Gulf of Gambay in India in the south. The Harappan civilization flourished from about 2200 B.C.E. to approximately 1700 B.C.E. At its height, the Harappans engaged in regular commercial relations with Iraq and Iran. This much we know with certainty. We are equally certain that the founders of the Harappan civilization were Black. This is verifiable through the available physical evidence--skeletal remains, eye-witness accounts preserved in the Rig Veda, artistic and sculptural remains, the regional survival of Dravidian languages (including Brahui, Kurukh, and Malto) and the essential role of these languages which are now being used in the decipherment of the Harappan script. We should also take into account the prominence accorded the mother goddess in the Harappan cities and the sedentary nature of the Harappan people themselves. Walter Fairservis claims that the "Harappans cultivated cotton and perhaps rice, domesticated the chicken and may have invented the game of chess and one of the two of the great early sources of nonmuscle power: the windmill."
Exceptionally valuable writings expressing intimate connections between early India, Egypt and Ethiopia have existed for more than two thousand years. In the first century B.C.E., for example, the famous Greek historian Diodorus Siculus penned that, "From Ethiopia he (Osiris) passed through Arabia, bordering upon the Red Sea as far as to India....He built many cities in India, one of which he called Nysa, willing to have remembrance of that (Nysa) in Egypt where he was brought up." Apollonius of Tyana, who is said to have visited India near the end of the first century C.E., was convinced that "The Ethiopians are colonists sent from India, who follow their forefathers in matters of wisdom." The Itinerarium Alexandri, a Latin work written about 345 C.E. for the Roman emperor Constantius, says that, "India, taken as a whole, beginning from the north and embracing what of it is subject to Persia, is a continuation of Egypt and the Ethiopians."
The epic story of the African presence in Asia is one of the most exciting and, yet, least known aspects of the Black experience. It spans a period of more than 100,000 years and encompasses the largest single land mass on earth. Although many are startled by the notion, it is absolutely undeniable, that: as the first hominids and modern humans; as simple hunter-gatherers and primitive agriculturists; as heroic warriors and premier civilizers; as sages and priests, poets and prophets, kings and queens; as deities and demons of misty legends and shadowy myths; and yes, even as servants and slaves, the Black race has known Asia intimately from the very beginning. Even today, after an entire series of holocausts and calamities, the numbers of Blacks in Asia approach two-hundred million. The Black populations of Asia, what they have done and are now doing, are questions that beg and demand serious answers. These answers, which we must diligently seek to supply, cannot be sought merely to satisfy the intellectual curiosity of an elite group, but to further the vision of Pan-Africanism and reunite a family that has been separated far too long.
THE AFRICAN PRESENCE IN EARLY EUROPE
The first civilization of Europe was established on the island of Crete. It is called the Minoan Culture, after King Minos, an early legendary ruler of the island. It has been argued that the ancestors of the Cretans were natives of Africa, a branch of Western Ethiopians.
Minoan Crete, the forerunner of Greek civilization, is the earliest known European high-culture. Although modest in size (170 miles east to west, thirty-five miles north to south), Crete exercised immeasurable influence on the Aegean archipelago, Western Asia, and the Greek mainland. Throughout Crete the vestiges of complex palaces, paved highways, aqueducts, terracotta pipes for drainage, and irrigation canals provide plentiful proof of Minoan ingenuity in the areas of scientific and technical innovation. The Minoans possessed registered trademarks, uniform weights and measures, calendrical systems based on precise astronomical observations, and advanced scripts. Interestingly enough, there were few fortifications on the island.
While the cultural and technical prowess of ancient Crete appears relatively well known, the ethnic make-up of the early population and the direction from which sprang its impetus for civilization is much more hotly debated. John G. Jackson advocates the view that Minoan civilization is African-rooted. He believes that the ancestors of the Minoans "dwelt in the grasslands of North Africa before that area dried up and became a great desert. As the Saharan sands encroached on their homeland, they took to the sea, and in Crete and neighboring islands set up a maritime culture."
Arthur Evans (1851-1941), who conducted extensive excavations on the island, was convinced of African migrations to Neolithic Crete. He noted that: "The multiplicity of these connections with the old indigenous race of the opposite African coast, and with which we undoubtedly have to deal with in the predynastic population of the Nile Valley, can in fact be hardly explained on any other hypothesis than that of an actual settlement in Southern Crete."
Moorish Civilizers of Europe
It would not be inaccurate to say that the Moors helped reintroduce Europe to civilization. But just who were the Moors of antiquity anyway? Chancellor Williams has written that "The original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were Black Africans." Much of the apparent confusion about Moorish ethnicity may be related to the fact that the same people who were called Moors in Europe, were known in Arab literature as Berbers. Indeed, in Arabic texts the word Moor was fairly non-existent and the term Berber was applied to practically all the inhabitants of ancient northwest Africa.
Early in the eighth century, after a grim and extended resistance to the Arab invasions of North Africa, the Moors, or Berbers, joined the triumphant surge of Islam. Following this, numbers of them crossed over to the Iberian peninsula, where their swift victories and remarkable feats became the substance of legends.
The man chosen to lead the eighth century probe into Iberia was Tarif, son of Zar`a ibn Abi Mudrik. Tarif was one of the young generation of Islamized Berbers imbued with the military philosophy of Hassan ibn al-Nu`man and Musa ibn Nusayr--the two men who had just commanded the Arab conquest of northwest Africa. In July 710, Tarif, with four-hundred foot soldiers and one-hundred horse, all Berbers, successfully carried out a reconnaissance mission in southern Iberia. Tarifa, a small port in southern Spain, is named after him.
It is clear, however, that the actual conquest of Spain was undertaken upon the initiative of Tarik ibn Ziyad. Tarik ibn Ziyad ibn `Abd Allah ibn Walghu was a member of the Warfadjuma branch of the Nafza Berbers. Musa ibn Nusayr had previously appointed him governor of the far western Maghrib (Islamic North Africa west of Egypt), which covered what is today the southern part of the kingdom of Morocco. Tarik was in command of an army of at least 10,000 men, mainly Sanhadja Berbers.
In 711, with a Berber expeditionary force and a small number of Arab translators and propagandists (some say three-hundred), Tarik crossed the straits and disembarked near a rocky promontory which from that day since has borne his name: Djabal Tarik (`Tarik's mountain'), or, Gibraltar. In August 711, he won a paramount victory over the Visigoth army. It was during this conflict that Roderick (the last Visigoth king) was killed. On the eve of the battle, Tarik is alleged to have roused his troops with the following words: "My brethren, the enemy is before you, the sea is behind; whither would ye fly? Follow your general: I am resolved either to lose my life or to trample on the prostate king of the Romans."
Wasting no time to relish his victory, Tarik pushed on with his seemingly tireless Berber cavalry to Toledo and seized the Visigoth capital. Within a month's time, Tarik ibn Ziyad had effectively terminated Visigothic dominance of the Iberian peninsula.
Musa ibn Nusayr joined Tarik in Spain and helped complete the conquest of Iberia with an army of 18,000 Arab and Berber troops. The two commanders met at Talavera, where Tarik and his Berbers were given the task of subduing the northwest of Spain. With vigor and speed they set about their mission, and within three months they had swept the entire territory north of the Ebro River as far as the Pyrenees, and annexed the turbulent Basque country. There they left a small detachment of men under Munusa, a Berber lieutenant who was later to play a decisive role in the Muslim campaigns in southern France.
In the aftermath of these brilliant struggles, Berbers by the thousand flooded into the Iberian peninsula. So eager were they to come that some are said to have floated over on tree-trunks. Tarik himself, at the conclusion of his illustrious military career, retired to the distant East, we are informed, to spread the teachings of Islam.
St. Maurice: Knight of the Holy Lance
The name Maurice is derived from Latin and means "like a Moor." The Black St. Maurice (the Knight of the Holy Lance) was patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire. The earliest version of the Maurice story and the account upon which all later versions are based, is found in the writings of Eucherius, Bishop of Lyons (ca. 450). According to Eucherius, Maurice was a high official in the The baid region of Egypt--an early center of Christianity. Specifically, Maurice was the commander of a Roman legion of Christian soldiers stationed in Africa. By the decree of Roman emperor Maximian, his contingent of 6,600 men was dispatched to Gaul and ordered to suppress a Christian uprising there. Maurice disobeyed the order. Subsequently, he and almost all of his troops were martyred when they chose to die rather than persecute Christians, renounce their faith, and sacrifice to the gods of the Romans. The execution of the Thebans occurred in Switzerland near Agaunum (which later became Saint Maurice-en-Valais) on September 22, either in the year 280 or 300.
In the second half of the fourth century the worship of St. Maurice spread over a broad area in Switzerland, northern Italy, Burgundy, and along the Rhine. Tours, Angers, Lyons, Chalon-sur-Saone, and Dijon had churches dedicated to St. Maurice. By the epoch of Islamic Spain, the stature of St. Maurice had reached immense proportions. Charlemagne (768-814), grandson of Charles Martel and the most distinguished representative of the Carolingian Dynasty, attributed to St. Maurice the virtues of the perfect Christian warrior. In token of victory, Charlemagne had the Lance of St. Maurice (a replica of the holy lance reputed to have pierced the side of Christ) carried before the Frankish army. Like the general populace, which strongly relied on St. Maurice for intercession, the Carolingian Dynasty prayed to this military saint for the strength to resist and overcome attacks by enemy forces.
A center of extreme devotion to St. Maurice was developed in the Baltic states, where merchants in Tallin and Riga adopted his iconography. The House of the Black Heads of Riga, for instance, possessed a polychromed wooden statuette of St. Maurice. Their seal bore the distinct image of a Moor's head. The existence of nearly three hundred major images of the Black St. Maurice have been catalogued, and even today the veneration of St. Maurice remains alive in numerous cathedrals in eastern Germany.
Sir Morien: Black Knight of the European Middle Ages
Few documents portray the ethnicity of the Moors in medieval Europe with more passion, boldness and clarity than Morien. Morien is a metrical romance rendered into English prose from the medieval Dutch version of the Lancelot. In the Lancelot, it occupies more than five thousand lines and forms the ending of the first extant volume of that compilation. Neither the date of the original poem or the name of the author is known. The Dutch manuscript is dated to the beginning of the fourteenth century. The whole work is a translation, and apparently a very faithful translation, of a French original. It is quite clear that the Dutch compiler understood his text well, and though possibly somewhat fettered by the requirement of turning prose into verse, he renders it with uncommon fidelity.
Morien is the adventure of a splendidly heroic Moorish knight (possibly a Christian convert), supposed to have lived during the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Morien is described as follows: "He was all black, even as I tell ye: his head, his body, and his hands were all black, saving only his teeth. His shield and his armour were even those of a Moor, and black as a raven."
It is noted that Morien was as "black as pitch; that was the fashion of his land--Moors are black as burnt brands." Ultimately, and ironically, Morien came to personify all of the finest virtues of the knights of medieval Europe. According to Gerald Massey (1829-1907), "Morion is said to have been the architect of Stonehenge.... Now, as a negro is still known as a Morien in English, may not this indicate that Morien belonged to the black race, the Kushite builders?" It should be noted that for a very long period the Dutch language used Moor and Moriaan for Black Africans. Among the Lorma community in modern Liberia, the name Moryan is still prominent.
The Expulsion and Dispersal of the Moors
In Iberia, Christian pressures on the Moors grew irresistible. Finally, in 1492, Granada, the last important Muslim stronghold in al-Andalus, was taken by the soldiers of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and the Moors were expelled from Spain. In 1496, to appease Isabella, King Manuel of Portugal announced a royal decree banishing the Moors from that portion of the peninsula. The Spanish king Philip III expelled the remaining Moors by a special decree issued in 1609. Fully 3,500,000 Moors, or Moriscos, as their descendants were called, left Spain between 1492 and 1610. Over a million Moors settled in France. Others moved into Holland. A very curious story in the Netherlands is that of Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). By some accounts Zwarte Piet, the companion to Sinterklaas (Santa Claus), was a Moorish orphan boy whom Sinterklaas adopted and trained as his assistant!
Britons and Vikings
David MacRitchie (1851-1925), author of Ancient and Modern Britons, was convinced that the Moors were Black people who played an important role in the early settlement of Britain:
"For although it may not be easy to trace their route hither, and the date of their arrival, a branch of this family did inhabit Britain, and are not only known as Mauri and Moors, but also as Moravienses, Morienses, Murray-men, and people of Moray or Moravia.
The `Moors' are still largely represented throughout the British Islands; although of course the crossing and re-crossing of thirty generations, while increasing the number of descendants, has lessened the intensity of the resemblance to the ancestral stock. But the swarthy hue asserts itself still, though in a modified degree. Last century, when Martin described the Western Islands of Scotland, he remarked that the complexion of the natives of Skye was `for the most part black,' of the natives of Jura he said that they were generally black of complexion,' and of Arran that they were `generally brown, and some of black complexion.'
The legends and the history of the Scottish Highlands are both witnesses to the existence of purely black people. The Welsh traditions bear a similar testimony. The hero Peredur, Son of Evrawc, discovers a company of `bald, swarthy youths,' sitting at the hall- door of a black giant, playing at chess. This giant is styled the Black Oppressor, and seems to have been of the same genial nature as the `black knight' of Ashton-under-Lyne. He very frankly informs Peredur that `for this reason I am called the Black Oppressor, that there is not a single man around me whom I have not oppressed; and justice have I done unto none.'"
A prominent Viking of the eleventh century was Thorhall, who was aboard the ship that carried the Vikings to the shores of North America. Thorhall was "the huntsman in summer, and in winter the steward of Eric the Red. He was, it is said, `a large man, and strong, black, and like a giant, silent, and foul-mouthed in his speech, and always egged on Eric to the worst; he was a bad Christian.'" We also have knowledge of the "African sea-rovers, the Fomorians, who had a main stronghold on Tory Island, off the Northwest Coast," and who came to be regarded as the "sinister forces in Irish mythology."
Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin: Great Black Russian
Of all the Blacks in Russian history, few have achieved greater fame than Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin. Born in Moscow on May 26, 1799 of well-to-do parents--members of the Russian aristocracy, Pushkin was proudly descended, on his mother's side, from Major-General Ibrahim Petrovich Hannibal--an Ethiopian prince who became a favorite of Tsar Peter I (1682-1725). Pushkin has been positively identified as the very father of Russian literature. He composed in the Russian language at a time when most, if not all, Russian intellectuals were writing in French. Pushkin died prematurely, defending his honor in a duel, in January 1837. Today, Pushkin's name is loftily borne by twenty museums. Of Pushkin, Feodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) wrote:
"No Russian writer was ever so intimately at one with the Russian people as Pushkin... Without him (Pushkin) we should have lost, not literature alone, but much of our irresistible force, our faith in our national individuality, our belief in the people's power, and most of all our belief in our destiny."
Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) wrote that, "Pushkin is the greatest master in the world. Pushkin, in our country, is the beginning of all beginnings. He most beautifully expressed the spirit of our people." Allison Blakley writes that, "Pushkin was truly the Russian counterpart to Shakespeare."
THE AFRICAN PRESENCE IN EARLY AMERICA
The First Americans
Most modern scientists believe that the earliest immigrants to reach the Western Hemisphere were Asian Mongoloids. It would appear, however, that this general view ignores evidence that strongly suggests that the first people to arrive and settle in the Western Hemisphere were Black people of very ancient African ancestry.
European-American archaeologist Harold Sterling Gladwin (1883-1983) advanced that the first actual migrants to America were Afro-Australoids. The Afro-Australoid migrations to America probably began about 40,000 years ago and lasted for several millennia. These migrants are called "Australoids" because of their close physical and cultural relationships to the people who more than 50,000 years ago colonized much of Asia and Australia.
One of the most well-documented single pieces of evidence for the presence of Afro-Australoids in the prehistoric Americas during the period of Gladwin's writing was the Punin Skull: a female crania found in 1923, embedded in a stratum of volcanic ash near the small village of Punin in the Andean region of Ecuador. In addition to the skull itself, the stratum yielded the remains of a number of long extinct mammals; including an Andean horse--an animal known to have been extinct for more than 10,000 years. The Punin Skull's recovery by the American Museum of Natural History of New York created a sensation. It was, first of all, hailed as the earliest evidence of humans in the Americas, and, secondly, it was clearly of an Afro-Australoid type. On these two issues "the leading experts" agreed. According to British anatomist Arthur Keith (1886-1955):
"When the expedition returned to New York from Ecuador, the skull was transferred to the Anthropological side of the Museum, where it was examined and described by Drs. Louis R. Sullivan and Milo Hellman. Both anthropologists were struck by its resemblance to the skulls of the native women of Australia. I agree with them; the points of resemblance are too numerous to permit us to suppose that the skull could be of a sort produced by an American Indian parentage. We cannot suppose that an Australian native woman had been spirited across the Pacific in some migratory movement and that afterwards her skull was buried in a fossiliferous bed in the high plateau of Ecuador...The discovery at Punin does compel us to look into the possibility of a Pleistocene invasion of America by an Australoid people."
Harvard anthropologist Earnest Houghton echoed Keith, although in somewhat less detail:
"The Punin skull, found in 1923 in a fossiliferous bed in the Andean highlands of Ecuador...is a skull that any competent craniologist would identify as Australian in type. It is easier to find Australoid-looking dolichocephals in the more ancient burials in the New World than anything in the way of a skull that resembles a Mongoloid."
The second migration to the Americas, Asiatic-Africoids, began about 15,000 years ago. These migrants' physical appearance seems to have resembled the Melanesians--the proud Black Islanders of the South Pacific. After having first penetrated their way northward up the coasts of Asia, they began to gradually enter North America, where they ultimately developed the revolutionary and highly pivotal Clovis and Folsom fluted-point tool industries.
Clovis and Folsom were the respective locations (both of them in New Mexico, U.S.A.) that provided the first evidences of the earliest projectile points associated with the Big Game Hunting Traditions of North America. Clovis points have been reliably dated to between 11,000 and 11,500 years before present. Folsom points, which are usually smaller, more refined and sophisticated than their Clovis antecedents, were actually identified before the Clovis points, and have been dated to about 10,000 B.C.E. Both Clovis and Folsom spearheads were several inches long and were characterized by smoothly fluted or grooved channels extending lengthwise along both faces. Their precision and firepower were revolutionary and awesome; and their rapidly widespread usage, with the increasingly greater food supplies that resulted, laid the basis for steadily larger American populations.
It is of further interest that the first known modern discovery and revelation of the existence of these tool industries was made by an African-American; a tantalizingly and frustratingly obscure, self-taught naturalist and archaeologist named George McJunkin. The son of slaves, McJunkin, whose name may be searched for unsuccessfully in most history books, made the find in 1908 while riding out to check fence posts at a flooded creek. In 1925, three years after McJunkin's death, a dig at the Folsom site revealed a 10,000 year old spear point piercing the ribs of an extinct species of bison. It was McJunkin though, the obscure African-American, who had first documented Folsom points, which were then regarded (this was before the discovery of Ecuador's Punin Skull) "as the first unequivocal evidence of late Ice Age humans ever unearthed in the Americas."
The Clovis-Folsom Point Blacks seem to have come to North America in relatively small numbers. Later migrations of essentially the same physical type populated most of the rest of North America south of Canada. Their movements into the New World were then slowed, and later halted altogether, by the Australoid populations that were already well established in the North American Southwest. The later period Basket Makers of Arizona (the prehistoric culture bearers who eventually evolved into North America's Pueblo peoples) were probably the result of a fusion of Clovis-Folsom Point Blacks with the numerically larger Afro-Australoid populations.
Fossil remains of these early Black folk have been found in Baja, California, northeastern Mexico, Central America and in various parts of South America. Ancient Mongoloids, it now appears, followed the early Black immigrants and, after several thousand years, became the dominant people in the New World. Gladwin himself stated that, "The arrival of the Eskimo along the Arctic Coasts marked a fundamental transition in the anthropological history of North America. It was the last of a series of long-headed migrations, and the broad faces and slant eyes of the Eskimo marked the initial stage of a long period of Mongoloid domination in lands where Mongoloid people had therefore been unknown."
Mongoloid peoples, in fact, were soon coming to the Americas in such massive numbers, crossing the Bering Strait in boats rather than across the Beringia land bridge, that they eventually almost totally absorbed the New World's earlier arrivals. The resulting fusion of peoples constituted the native American populations at the time of the catastrophic European intrusions during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The earlier arrived Blacks (the very first Americans) tended to fade away with increasing rapidity into the shadowy realms of fairy tales, myths and legends. Some native legends of the Americas abound with exploits of early Black people. An Inuit legend, for example, explains that:
"A man and his wife and their only daughter lived in a remote place. Their daughter was outside, working when she saw a big black speck moving along the ground, coming towards her. When it got closer, she realized it was a man with a sledge. The man and the sledge were all black. He came towards the house, stopped, and said to the girl, `I have come to take you with me.' He was black all over, even his face. The girl replied, `Very well. I'll go and tell my parents.' She entered the igloo and the man followed her. He stood outside the door and told the father, `I have come to take your daughter away with me.' The father replied, `I won't have my daughter going away with a black man like you.' The stranger became angry and made a step forward with his right foot. The whole house shook. Then the father said to his daughter, `My daughter, you'll have to go away with this man. This will go badly with us if you don't.' She got ready and left the house, with the stranger behind her. Before leaving, he put his left foot down hard on the floor and the house shook again. He went out, put the girl on the sledge and shoved the sledge because it had no huskies. After a while they saw a house--the man's house. They stopped and entered. Everything inside was black, and his parents also were completely black."
For the Greenlander, the color black symbolizes strength and wisdom--traditionally he was not allowed to wear black boots until he had become a skilled hunter and reached a respectable age--but black is also associated with spirits and occult forces. In the Southwest Indian story of the Emergence, a story that is as important in the region as the Book of Genesis is to Christians, the First World is called the Black World.
The First Civilization of the Americas: The Olmecs
The Olmec (2000 B.C.E. to 300 C.E.) were an early people of Meso-America, who settled the Mexican Gulf Coast. This ancient American culture been labeled the first civilization of the western hemisphere, as they surpassed their neighbors in an attempt to settle certain problems of living together--of government, defense, religion, family, property, science and art. In this endeavor, the Olmecs laid the foundations of American civilization. No one knows whence the Olmecs came or whether they were direct derivatives of the indigenous population; but that much of their sculpture, especially the colossal heads, evidences an ancient Africoid presence in the Americas is beyond sane rebuttal. In fact, some scientists have concluded that the Olmecs may have originally have been an African settler-colony which conquered the indigenous population of southern Mexico. Others are convinced that the Black presence among the Olmecs merely consisted of a small but elite and highly-influential community.
Sculptural and skeletal remains found in ancient Olmec sites provide the most conclusive evidence yet discovered concerning the presence of African people in America before Columbus. The most pronounced and widely acknowledged Africoid sculptural representations to appear in the ancient "New World" were produced by the Olmecs. At least fifteen colossal stone heads, weighing ten to forty tons, have been unearthed in Olmec sites along the Mexican Gulf Coast. One of the first European-American scientists to comment on the "Olmec heads,"archaeologist Matthew Stirling, described their facial features as "amazingly Negroid."
In 1974, Polish craniologist Andrzej Wiercinski informed the Congress of Americanists that skulls from Olmec and other pre-Christian sites in Mexico (Tlatilco, Cerro de las Mesas and Monte Alban) "show a clear prevalence of the total Negroid pattern."
Other scientists have found a host of cultural parallels between ancient Africans and native Americans, including architectural patterns and religious practices. As for the latter, some native American communities worshipped black gods of great antiquity, such as Ekchuah, Quetzalcoatl, Yalahau, Nahualpilli and Ixtliltic, long before the first African slave arrived in the New World.
Harun Kofi Wangara (1928-1989) wrote that:
"Black seamen, who can be specifically identified as Mandinga, brought the West African gold trade to the Americas. This is established through African designations for gold, the West African method of alloying gold, its ceremonial as well as trade value and, more important, the identity of the Blacks who trafficked in it."
During his third voyage, Columbus recorded that when he reached Haiti the resident population informed him that Black men from the south and southeast had preceded him to the island. In 1513, Balboa found a colony of Black men on his arrival in Darien, Central American.
All of these facts, buttressed by skeletons and sculptures, make it clear that African people have had a profound presence and influence in pre-Columbian America. Some scholars, such as Carlos C. Marquez, have even concluded that "the youthful America was also a Negro continent.
THE BLACK PRESENCE IN AUSTRALIA AND OCEANICA
The Black Presence in Australia: Fighting for Survival
Australia was settled at least 50,000 years ago by people who call themselves Blackfellas, and who are usually referred to as the Australian Aborigines. Physically, the Blackfellas are distinguished by straight to wavy hair textures, and dark to near black complexions. In January 1788, when Britain began using Australia as a prison colony, an estimated 300,000 indigenous people were spread across the continent in about six-hundred small-scale societies. Each of these communities maintained social, religious, and trade connections with its neighbors.
The dumping of British convicts into Australia proved catastrophic for the Blacks. Victims of deliberate poisonings, calculated and systematic slaughters; decimated by tuberculosis and syphilis; swept away by infectious epidemics; their community structures and moral fibers shredded, by the 1930's the Blackfellas had been reduced to a pathetic remnant of about 30,000 people, and perhaps twice that number of mixed descent.
When the continent was invaded by Europeans in the nineteenth century, the white historians who wrote about Australia invariably included a section on the Blacks, and acknowledged that the original inhabitants of the continent had had an historical role. After 1850, however, few writers referred to the Blacks at all. The Black were thought of as a "dying race." By 1950 general histories of the continent by European-Australians almost never referenced the indigenous people. During this period--the indigenous people--whether part or full blood, were excluded from all major European-Australian institutions, including schools, hospitals and labor unions. They could not vote. Their movements were restricted. They were outcasts in white Australia.
Today, the Blacks of Australia are terribly oppressed, and they remain in a desperate struggle for survival. Recent demographic surveys, for example, show that the Black infant mortality rate is the highest in Australia. Aborigines have the shoddiest housing and the poorest schools. Their life expectancy is twenty years less than Europeans. Their unemployment rate is six times higher than the national average. Aborigines did not obtain the right to vote in federal elections until 1961, nor the right to consume alcoholic beverages until 1964. They were not officially counted as Australian citizens until after a constitutional amendment in 1967. Today, the indigenous people constitute less than two per cent of the total Australian population.
Perhaps the Blackfellas should consider themselves fortunate. The Black aborigines of Tasamania were completely destroyed. Tasmania, an island only slightly larger than West Virginia, lies two-hundred miles off Australia's southeast coast. In 1802, following mainland Australia, Tasmania was established as a British prison colony. The colonial government itself was not even inclined to consider the Tasmanians as full human beings. To the Europeans of the island, the Tasmanians were a people fit only to be exploited in the cruelest of manners. European convicts regularly hunted Tasmanians for sport, casually shooting, spearing or clubbing the men to death, torturing and raping the women. Europeans murdered Tasmanians for use as dog food. Tasmanian infants were burned alive. Tasmanian women were kidnapped and chained, and exploited as sexual slaves. Between 1802 and 1830 the Tasmanians were reduced from an estimated five-thousand people to less than seventy-five.
In May, 1876 Truganinni, the last Tasmanian, died at seventy-three years of age. Her mother had been stabbed to death by a European. Her sisters were kidnapped by Europeans. Her intended husband was drowned by two Europeans in her presence, while his murderers raped her. It might be accurately said that Truganinni's numerous personal sufferings typify the tragedy of the Tasmanian people as a whole. After her burial, Truganinni's body was exhumed, and her skeleton, strung upon wires and placed upright in a box, became for many years the most popular exhibit in the Tasmanian Museum, and remained on display until 1947. Finally, in 1976--the centenary year of Truganinni's death--despite the museum's objections, her skeleton was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea. Truganinni's life spanned to the year the beginning of the "association" between Europeans and Tasmanians. During this period the Tasmanians were humiliated, degraded, and eventually exterminated.
Melanesia: The Struggle Continues
In the 1970s Ben Tanggahma, Foreign Minister of Papua New Guinea, pointed out that "Africa is our motherland. All of the Black populations which settled in Asia over the hundreds of thousands of years, came undoubtedly from the African continent. In fact, the entire world was populated from Africa. Hence, we the Blacks in Asia and the Pacific today descend from proto-African peoples. We were linked to Africa in the past. We are linked to Africa in the present. We will be linked to Africa in the future."
C. Madang has described Melanesia (the Black Islands of the South Pacific) as the eastern flank of the black world, and the expression of ages past when an uninterrupted belt of Black populations stretched across Africa, Eurasia, Australia, Oceanica, and ancient America. To the contrary, the present Mongoloid inhabitants of Indonesia entered the region during relatively recent times; a period which some scientists have dated to as late as the first millennium C.E.
As was the case in Japan, the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, the Mongoloid invaders found the land already occupied by long-settled Black populations. These new peoples, to a very basic extent, eventually absorbed, vanquished or drove the Blacks into generally inaccessible areas, including the deep forests, high mountains, and remote islands where they remain to this day.
By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Muslim Indonesian sultanate of Tidore was raiding the coasts of New Guinea in search of chattels for the markets of Turkey, Iraq and the Chinese empire. It is even said that the Malay term "Papuan" (literally "kinky-haired"), which was applied to the Melanesians of New Guinea, was born out of scorn and contempt, and eventual became synonymous with "slave."
New Guinea itself is the biggest and most populous of the islands of Melanesia. Indeed, it is the largest island in the world after Greenland. It is tremendously wealthy in mineral resources, including: uranium, copper, cobalt, silver, gold, manganese, iron and oil. Now split into two by colonial design, New Guinea has until lately contained a racially homogeneous population of five to six million Africoid people. The eastern half of the island became independent in 1975 under the name of Papua New Guinea, with Michael Somare as its Prime Minister. The western half of New Guinea, however, along with a significant portion of the island's total population (estimated at three to four million people), has been seized by Indonesia as its twenty-sixth "province."
For the people of West New Guinea, Indonesia has been and continues to be a brutal and aggressive occupying power. Under Indonesian rule since 1963, the Melanesians have been prone to both physical and cultural genocide. Indonesians generally have a condescending view of Melanesians, who they consider their racial inferiors--except, of course, those who turn away from their own culture and choose to identify with Indonesian cultural values, behavior modes and language. Additionally, members of the Indonesian military and other high government officials possess considerable wealth in West New Guinea, and are firmly resolved not to share it with the Melanesians.
Melanesians living in the forest communities of West New Guinea have been subjected to forced labor schemes, while in urban areas Melanesians face overt racial discrimination. A major part of the Indonesian regime's genocidal policy, in fact, is the physical replacement of Melanesians with Indonesian nationals. This poses the distinct possibility that the Melanesians of West New Guinea, like those of Fiji, could become a minority in their own country.
Indonesia's naked offensive in New Guinea has not been met with passivity. In 1963, for example, when the Dutch occupation of West New Guinea ended and control passed to Indonesia, the struggle for national independence accelerated. In that year the Free Papua Movement (OPM) was formed. Interesting enough, the Republic of Senegal early on provided its territory as a base for the international activities of the self-proclaimed Revolutionary Provisional Government of West Papua New Guinea.
Indonesian territorial aggression in Melanesia has not been confined to New Guinea. In 1975, for example, East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, was formally annexed as Indonesia's twenty-seventh "province." A Timorese national liberation movement, the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (FRETILIN)was formed in September 1974, and was inspired by the revolutionary nationalism of African resistance leaders from other former Portuguese colonies--Dr. Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique, Dr. Agostinho Neto of Angola, and Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau.
During the course of East Timor's national independence struggle, Indonesia has coordinated an unrelenting extermination campaign against the indigenous people. The Timorese have been bombed, shot, tortured and starved by the invading Indonesian army, with more than fifteen per cent of the total East Timorese population murdered. Despite adverse official reactions by some Western governments, none of these countries has imposed economic sanctions or adopted forceful policies against Indonesia to coerce its withdrawal.
New Caledonia, another mineral wealthy South Pacific island, lies hundreds of miles to the southeast of Indonesia and is currently a French colony. To New Caledonia's Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), the grouping of political parties representing the majority of New Caledonia's 64,000 Melanesians, the principle of national self-determination is crystal clear. Although the Blacks are now said to constitute less than fifty per cent of the total New Caledonian population, they were in fact native to the land 4,000 years before the 1853 French invasion. The Melanesians of New Caledonia, known as Kanaks, want their island to become an independent country run by and for Melanesians.
There is an African proverb that says "Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be a hero." I would contend that not nearly enough energy is expended by us on the history of African people, whether in antiquity or modern times. Not nearly enough. All strong peoples emphasize their history all the time; weak peoples do not. Not only must intellectuals do their work, they must give the information to the masses. I believe that as Africans, if we are to be a strong people again, we must continually clarify who we are and where we are, and constantly emphasize the things that made us great in the past. Some peoples have gone as far as to essentially make their history sacred. No one questions the right of a people to engage in this process. Europeans, Chinese, etc., do it all the time as a matter of course. Even Malcolm X said, "Of all our studies, it is history that is most qualified to reward our research." And this is not just ancient history that Malcolm X was talking about, but history ancient and modern. Our greatest leaders and intellectuals, including David Walker, Martin Robison Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Marcus Garvey, J.A. Rogers, Drusilla Dunjee Houston, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B. DuBois, Kwame Nkrumah, Kwame Ture, Cheikh Anta Diop, Chancellor Williams, John Henrik Clarke, and many, many more were clear on this. Nkrumah, however, took it a step further and clarified the matter unmistakably when he said that "Thought without practice is empty, and action without thought is blind." I believe that we must use our history, not just for intellectual purposes, but to galvanize our people into action to solve our current problems. In other words, we must use our history as a springboard for struggle. I do not pretend to speak for everyone on this matter, but I do feel quite strongly about it. Nobody in their right mind would argue that we can simply return to the past. But certainly we must look at the past in another light. I say that history is a light that illuminates the past and key that unlocks the door to the future. We need that light and we need that key. Not only must we emphasize our historical greatness as a people, as well as analyze the mistakes that we have made, we must inject it into the minds of the masses of our people and build upon it. This is a fundamental step in our liberation process.
Africa will never be free until Africans outside of Africa are effectively integrated into the African liberation movement. At the same time, Africans scattered outside of Africa will not be free until Africa itself is free. And by African freedom I am talking about the complete unification of all Africa with her vast mineral resources utilized for and by African people. I believe that we must all, each one of us, see ourselves as endowed with a sacred mission in regards to African liberation. Mine, as a conscious African historian, is to help make Africans proud of themselves, to help change the image of Africa in the world at large, and, through the use of history and culture, clarify our identity as a people, and help reunite a family of people that has been separated far too long. Obviously, our individual missions will vary. But I am clear on mine. I believe that Ancestors have given me a divine task and I do not intend to flunk it. Thank you very much sisters and brothers.
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