Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 16:07:18 GMT-5
Sender: H-NET List for African History <>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject: REPLY: Bernal, a South African perspective
To: Multiple recipients of list H-AFRICA <>

Date: Tue, 7 Feb 95 07:57 GMT+200
From: Isak Cornelius, University of Stellenbosch ic@MATIES.SUN.AC.ZA

Bernal: a South African perspective

By Isak Cornelius, University of Stellenbosch, 7 February 1995

Having studied Bernal’s volumes myself and having followed the discussion on the internet, I would like to add some remarks to the discussion from South Africa. Up to now I have not seen any response from the African continent itself. [How many ANE-listserver/internet members are there on the African continent?]

As far as the “African continuities” are concerned, I may cite an example from my own experiences. When I once spoke (on invitation) at a Black South African University (I am from a White University—both the result of 350 years of segregation!) on the Egyptian and Nubian cultures, the response was overwhelming—scores of students wanted a copy of my paper and a bibliography for further study (esp. on the Nubians). I mentioned Bernal in my introduction, but it was interesting to me that none of the Black scholars present seemed to know his books. They all knew Asante and esp. Ante Diop. [I wonder if this is the case in other parts of Africa or the world and why?]. Bernal has not gone unnoticed in South Africa. I mention it in my classes (esp. vol. I and criticizes vol. II quite severely). Some classicists in this country have dealt with Bernal and at my University we once had an interesting Classics/Ancient Near Eastern Studies debate on Bernal.

In the New South Africa (the last of the colonies to be democratized) everyone is trying his best to move away from euro-centrism (which was the base of the whole Apartheid ideology). Perhaps Bernal vol. I can help, keeping in mind that the political purpose of Black Athena is “ to lessen European cultural arrogance” (Bernal 1987, 73).

The history which had been taught in for the last 300 years of colonial rule and 50 years of Apartheid (which is nothing else than the South African version of colonialism) largely ignored the African past (e.g. Zulu culture), overemphasizing the achievements of White settlers. The historical curriculum is presently been re-written and the role of Black South Africans are included. Egypt also plays an important part.

The point I would like to make is that the discussion should not be limited to the “Europeans”, but perhaps the Africans should also be given the change to state their case in a world where the North still dominates!

Best wishes from the Cape of Good Hope.