"The indigenous peoples of the Congo," he wrote, "are all black in color, some more so, some less so. Many are to be seen who are the color of chestnut and some tend to be more olive-colored. But the one who is of the deepest black in color is held by them to be the most beautiful. Some are born somewhat light-skinned, but as they grow older they become darker and darker. This occurs because their mothers make use of the artifice of an ointment... with which they anoint their infants, exposing them once they have been anointed, to the rays of the sun, then leaving them there for long periods, and repeating this action over and over... There are some children who although their parents are black, are born white skinned and although they anoint them and use all manners of artifice they can never be transformed into blackskinned people. And these are regarded by the Congolese as monsters. They have the same features and the same tightly curled hair as the black Congolese, but their skin is white and they are short-sighted....As a result, children in those areas, where a white has never been seen before, would become terrified, fleeing in horror from us, no less than our children here are terrified by the sight of a black also fleeing in horror for them.
But they do not want us to call them Negroes (negros) but Blacks (Prietos); amongst them only slaves are called Negroes and thus amongst them it is the same things to say negro as to say slave."
[Teruel, Antonio de, Narrative Description of...the Kingdom of the Congo (1663-1664) Ms. 3533:3574/National Library, Madrid, Spain]
"It is a fact that in this country when a child is born they anoint him once a week with oil of sesame, and this makes him grow much darker than when he was born. For I assure you that the darkest man is here the most highly esteemed and considered better than the others who are not so dark. Let me add that in very truth these people portray and depict their gods and their idols black and their devils white as snow. For they say the God and all the saints are black and the devils are all white. That is why they portray them as I have described. And similarly they make the images of their idols all black."
[Marco Polo, The Travels, translated and with an Introduction by Ronald Latham, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1958]
"For the complexion of men, they consider black the most beautiful. In all the kingdoms of the southern region, it is the same."
[Nan Ts'i Chou, quoted by Rene Gaston Georges Maspero, The Kingdom of Champa. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949]
The GLOBAL AFRICAN PRESENCE - Articles by Runoko Rashidi