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Extracts from Books

By Femi Akomolafe. A review of Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality?, n.d.

Fellow Africans,

The purpose of the posting from extracts of books is to urge you to say NO to SELF-HATE, SELF-PITY and SELF-CONTEMPT. African cosmogony thrives on optimism, it is sad when Africans start referring to their race as 'CURSED.' That is exactly what Euro-Americans want to hear.

I do not write out of an atavistic nature. I am not romantic about Africa's glorious past. What is important is that we try and connect our past - pre-colonial to our present and see how we can start RECONSTRUCTING our lives which was devastated by Europeans.

Racism used to be a tri-polar thing. Europeans put themselves at the top, from where they look down on the Asians and the Africans. The Asians have rescued themselves, so much so that the French government in 1979 set up a committe whose sole purpose was to make France catch up with JAPAN! Racism has all but become a bi-polar affair. We remain the only race being humiliated by Euro-Americans.

Is the collapse of state structures and institutions in Africa sending us a message? Are the 'ORDINARY FOLKS' resisting these impositions telling us something? I do not see the demise of western-styled democracy in Africa as a cause for despair. I see it as a SALUTE to what brother Ngugi wa Thion'go called the CULTURE of RESISTANCE. IMO, it is a direct challenge to our academics and our intellectuals to START THINKING ORIGINAL THOUGHTS, instead of parotting Euro-Americans.

Gallant Africans are busy doing some useful works. Unfortunately their valiant efforts get drown out by the clangarous noises of Western scholars\leaders. A Nigerian economist, Professor Adedeji, mapped out a detailed economic plan for Africa, unfortunately, the IMF, the World Bank and their quangoes came with their vulturistic mis-plans, which have all but neo-colonized Africa.

I posted an extract of the book, African Origin of Civilzation, a few days ago. It, naturally, excited some western ideologists. Below is my review of the book. It is not a book to be read in isolation. Those who make it their business to SEEK KNOWLEDGE should try and read:

  1. Cheikh Anta Diop, Civilization or Barbarism
  2. Cheikh Anta Diop, The Cultural Unity of Black Africa
  3. Herodotus, Book II
  4. C.L.R. James, Stolen Legacy
  5. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of The Dead

The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality - a book review

"In all history, nothing is so surprising or so difficult to account for as the sudden rise of civilization in Greece. Much of what makes civilization had already existed for thousands of years in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and had spread thence to neighboring countries. But certain elements had been lacking until the Greeks supplied them. What they achieved in art and literature is familiar to everybody, but what they did in the purely intellectual realm is even more exceptional. They invented mathematics and science and philosophy; they first wrote history as opposed to mere annals; they speculated freely about the nature of the World and the ends of life, without being bound in the fetters of any inherited orthodoxy. What occurred was so astonishing that, until very recent times, men were content to gape and talk mystically about the Greek genius. It is possible, however, to understand the development of Greece in scientific terms, and it is well worth while to do so."

Thus began Bertrand Russell his book, A History of Western Civilization, published by Counterpoint.

By such clever semantic acrobatics, Bertrand Russell, like many Western scholars think they have succeeded in ascribing an ingenuity to the ancient Greek, which the Greeks neither claimed nor deserved. Only buffoons, who have not study history, could gape at the so-called genius of the Greeks. Greek civilization, however impressive and astonishing, could, and should, never be situated outside the civilizations (Egypt and Ethiopian) that preceded it. It didn't sprang up, suddenly, mystically, as Bertrand Russell and western scholars would like us to believe. The Greeks borrowed, stole, plagiarized ideas from those ancient civilizations.

"They invented mathematics and science." Surely, Bertrand Russell could not have expected to be taken seriously. The Egyptian invented mathematics, which he decided to denigrated as, 'form of rule of thumbs.' Pythagoras, whom the White people like to credit with the mathematical theorem that bore his name was a student in Egypt. So much for the so-called 'Father of mathematics!' This fact alone, which could not have escaped Bertrand Russell, demolished the argument that the Greek invented mathematics. Aristotle, Plato borrowed their ideas from the Egyptian - although without giving any credit. Not less a personage than Herodotus affirmed that Greece borrowed from Egypt all the elements of her civilization, even the cults of her gods. We have to ask Bertrand Russell how a people could could something as imposing as the pyramids with a working knowledge of trigonometry! The Papyrus of Moscow and the Rhind Papyrus greatly enrich our knowledge of these facts.

When it is not sufficient to ascribed any notion of ingenuity on the ancient Greeks, Western scholars fall back on an old-trick, looking for a mythical White origin of the Egyptian civilization - the most impressive of all ancient civilizations. To the prejudiced minds of the western intellectuals, nothing so beautiful, so marvelous, could be the hand-work of Negroes who, as one of them put it, are incapable of thinking thoughts that have nothing to do with food and sex!

The western intellectuals found the overwhelming evidence of an advance civilization, unknown in their part of the world, they simply allowed their racial prejudice to cloud their objectivity, and they, with all seriousness, started looking for an imaginary White origin of the Egyptian civilization.

To admit that Egypt was built by Black people would have annihilated all their racial theories that put the Black man at the lowest rung of the human ladder. Unprepared to re-write their own history, they took the easiest way out, and declare Egyptian civilization White. That there was no shred of evidence to support their theory doesn't seem to bother these 'scientists,' neither does the pertinent question of how a White people, could leave their barbaric abode, crossed rivers and deserts, to found a thriving civilization on the continent of Africa, such that was unknown in their own land, and then just disappear as mysteriously as they came?

The study of history is a serious business, and so seriously did the white scholars took themselves that a new discipline sprang up, dedicated solely to the study of Egypt of Antiquity - Egyptology. Another European way of dividing Africa.

If the Africans can claim Nubia, Ethiopia, and Egypt as their contribution to human civilization, and if the Asians can point to, Mesopotamia, what can the White people point to? Where in the Western world do we find civilization that dates back to antiquity? That is why the White people are devoting so much ink to Greco-Roman civilization which, is relatively new by the standards of Nubian, Ethiopia and Egypt. Unable to point to anything their ancestors contributed to civilization, they tried to steal that which belongs to other people. Egypt has to be painted White. There are even White anthropologists who are, with straight faces, claiming the Great Zimbabwean ruins for the White Race! Foundations and Institutes are contributing money to allow the white people drown in their own lies.

So low is the Black race today that Black people are generally believed to have contributed nothing to human progress. Through the system of colonial education, many Africans even believe this absurd, and patent lie. Since the White man today controls the world's mass-media, he can make Black becomes white. And since most of these Egyptologists are white people, they are busily selling themselves the same old lies.

That was until Cheikh Anta Diop, an African born in senegal, appeared on the scene.

So jaundiced is the West that this man, who almost single-handedly rewrote the history of the World (at least the Black world) remain relatively unknown to the world. Regrettably not many Africans know anything about this brilliant scholar, who did so much to debunk the lies of a White Egypt and re-trace the antiquity of Black history, distorted by colonialists and imperialist scholars.

Born on December 29, 1923, at Diourbel, Senegal, Anta Diop was a scholar's scholar. He was a physicist, anthropologist, historian and, until his death, Director of the Radio-carbon laboratory he founded.

The world of history, anthropology and Egyptology has never been the same again since Anta Diop published his great work, The African Origin of Civilization, Myth or Reality?

"Ancient Egypt was a Negro Civilization. The history of Black Africa will remain suspended in air and cannot be written correctly until African historians dare to connect it with the history of Egypt."

The world was astounded when Cheikh Anta Diop made those bold declaration. The whole world has been fed on the fallacy of an Egyptian civilization, built by a White race. Anta Diop was called all sorts of names, not at all pleasant ones. He was accused of being a romantic African - the usual staple. When European construct monstrous lies, they are not guilty of romanticism, it is only when Africans aspire to put the records straight that they are accused of being romantic. An eminent professor even goes as far as to advised him to leave the whole enterprise of historical research to the learned and the qualified - (i.e. the European liars).

"Our investigations have convinced us that the West has not been calm enough and objective enough to teach us our history correctly, without crude falsifications. Today, what interests me most is to see the formation of teams, not of passive readers, but of honest, bold research workers, allergic to complacency and busy substantiating and exploring ideas expressed in our work, such as: In particular, the study of languages, institutions, and so forth, cannot be treated properly; in a word, it will be impossible to build Africa humanities, a body of African human sciences, so long as that relationship does not appear legitimate. The African historian who evades the problems of Egypt is neither modest nor objective, nor unruffled; he is ignorant, cowardly, and neurotic. Imagine, if you can, the uncomfortable position of a western historian who wants to write the history of Europe without referring to Greco-Latin Antiquity and try to pass that off as a scientific approach.

"The ancient Egyptians were Negroes. The moral fruit of their civilization is to be counted among the assets of the Black world. Instead of presenting itself to history as an insolvent debtor, that Black world is the very initiator of 'western' civilization flaunted before our eyes today. Pythagorean mathematics, the theory of the four elements of Thales of Miletus, Epicurean materialism, Platonic idealism, Judaism, Islam, and modern science are rooted in Egyptian cosmogony and science. One needs only to mediate on Osiris, the redeemer-god, who sacrifice himself, dies, and is resurrected to save mankind, a figure essentially identifiable with Christ.

A visitor to Thebes in the Valley of the Kings can view the Moslem inferno in detail (in the tomb of Seti I, of the Nineteenth Dynasty), 1700 years before the Koran. Osiris at the tribunal of the dead is indeed the 'lord' of revealed religions, sitting enthroned on Judgement Day, and we know that certain Biblical passages are practically copies of Egyptian moral texts. Far be it from me to confuse this brief reminder with a demonstration. It is simply a matter of providing a few landmarks to persuade the incredulous Black African reader to bring himself to verify this. To his great surprise and satisfaction, he will discover that most of the ideas used today to domesticate, atrophy, dissolve, or steal his "soul," were conceived by his own ancestors. To become conscious of that fact is perhaps the first step toward a genuine retrieval of himself; without it, intellectual sterility is the general rule, or else the creations bear I know not what imprint of the subhuman.

In a word, we must restore the historical consciousness of the African people and reconquer a Promethean consciousness.

2. Anthropologically and culturally speaking, the Semitic world was born during protohistoric times from the mixture of white-skinned and black-skinned people in Western Asia. This is why an understanding of the Mesopotamian Semitic world, Judaic or Arabic, requires constant reference to the underlying Black reality. If certain Biblical passages, especially in the Old Testament, seem absurd, this is because specialists puffed up with prejudices, are unable to accept documentary evidence.

3. The triumph of the monogenetic thesis of humanity (Leakey), even at the stages of "Homo sapiens-sapiens," compels one to admit that all races descended from the Black race, according to a filiation process that science will one day explain."(pp.xiv-xv)

'What were the Egyptians?' was the first chapter in this excellently researched work. To answer this mother of all questions, Anta Diop didn't rely on conjectures. He went straight to quote ancient sources, he quoted Herodotus, the Greek historian whom Western scholars love to call the 'father of history.' It was Herodotus who informed us that: "It is certain that the natives of the country are black with the heat."

Why would Herodotus, whom the Western scholars like to roll out like an oracle, whenever it suits them, affirmed the Egyptians Blacks if they weren't? So jaundiced were these scholars that they refused to believe what they read, many of them simply declared, without justification, Herodotus to be in error.

The Western scholars also like to use the Bible to support their arguments, again whenever it serves their purposes. And Anta Diop reminded us that, according to the Bible, Egypt was peopled by the offspring of Ham, ancestors of the Blacks! The Egyptian called their country Kemit, which means 'black' in their language." The Hebrew rendered this Ham, also meaning black or burned. That was the origin of the word, Ham.

If Old Egypt was indeed established by the Whites, there should be, at least, some surviving elements to connect them to the Western world. Is this the case? In contrast to the Western scholars who had searched in vain for a shred of evidence to support a white origin of the Egyptian civilization, Anta Diop presented eight cogent argument to support his thesis of a Black origin:

  1. Totemism (totem - 'an object that has a ritual association'): No part of the Western world, as far as we know, used totem. Ancient Egypt was a totemic society, as is most of Africa, up until today.
  2. Circumcision: "The Egyptians practiced circumcision as early as prehistoric times; they transmitted this practice to the Semitic world in general (Jews and Arabs)" p.135. To counter the argument of a Semitic origin of circumcision, Anta Diop reminded us that, according to the Bible, Abraham was circumcised when he was already ninety years old; and that was after he married a Black woman, Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, the Biblical ancestor of the second Semitic branch, the Arabs. Moses was not circumcised until he wed his Madianite wife. So much for the Semitic origin of circumcision. "Only among Blacks does circumcision find an interpretation integrated in a general explanation of the universe, in other words, a cosmogony." p.135
  3. Kingship: "The concept of kingship is one of the most impressive indications of the similarity in thinking between Egypt and the rest of Black Africa." - p.138. The institutions of kingship, down to the ritualistic killing of monarchs, was practiced by the Egyptians, as is still the case in some African societies today.
  4. Cosmogony: 'Negro cosmogonies, African and Egyptian, resemble each other so closely that they are often complementary. To understand certain Egyptian concepts, one must refer to the Black world, as is attested by what we have said about kingship... The similarity of mores, customs, traditions, and thinking has already been sufficiently stressed by various authorities. Perhaps it would take more than a lifetime to report all the analogies between Egypt and the black world, so true is it that they are one and the same.' - p.139 Anta Diop cited several authorities to support his contention that the mental structure of the Black world is the basis of the ancient Egyptian philosophy.
  5. Social Organization: This is among the most remarkable traits of ancient Egypt that could still be found in Africa today. Ancient Egypt was stratified as follows: peasants, skilled workers, priests, warriors, and government officials, the king. In Africa today, we have a social order which is as follows: peasants, artisans or skilled workers, warriors, priests, the king. We should contrast this with the western society, where the institution of kingship was a recent invention.
  6. Matriarchy: This is perhaps the most telling trait shared by Old Egypt and Modern Africa. Egypt was a matriarchal society, so is most of Africa today - Islam and Christianity had withered the practice away in some part of the continent. Astigmatized western scholars have not been able to reconcile their contention that white people build the civilization in Egypt, and the simple fact that the society these whites were supposed to have built was organized on matriarchal line, in sharp contrast to much of the western world which remain, until today, rigidly patriarchal.
  7. Kinship of the Meroitic Sudan and Egypt: There are some evidence to suggest a Sudanese (Nubia) origin of the Egyptian civilization. Nubia is undoubtedly older than Egypt, and the migration was south-north. This argument is supported by the fact that all the objects of worship in Egypt are Nubian. Among others, the oldest pyramids are located in present day Sudan, a fact that western scholars are glossing over, since it will require their looking for a White origin. Also glossed over is the fact that Nubian writing is more evolved than Egyptian writing - this does not conform with the 'experts' jaundiced view that African didn't have written language! Egypt and Nubia are the Biblical children of Ham - Mesraim and Kush. 'Until the close of the Egyptian Empire, the kings of Nubia (Sudan) were to bear the same titles as the Egyptian Pharaoh, that of the Hawk of Nubia. ' p. 147 There should exist no contestation of this if white scholars are prepared to believe the records the Egyptian left of their Nubian origin. So long as their was no mention of a white ancestry, neither Herodotus, nor the Egyptian are qualified, in the eyes of the white scholars, to write their own history.
  8. Geography: Let's imagined a antique civilization at the northern part of Europe, how would one react to some Black scholars laying claim to originating that civilization? This is what white scholars want Africans to accept. With all seriousness, they have been pouring resources into discovering a mythical White origin of the Egyptian civilization.

The question provoked by all the vain attempt to paint Egypt white is: Why would white people leave their heartland to go and found a civilization in Africa, and withdrew as miraculously as they came? As Anta Diop wondered, 'No less paradoxical is the fact that the Indo-Europeans never created a civilization in their own native lands: the Eurasian plains. The civilization attributed to them are invariably located in the heart of Negro countries in the Southern part of the Northern Hemisphere: Egypt, Arabia, Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, Elam, India.

In all those lands, there were already Negro civilizations when the Indo-Europeans arrived as rough nomads during the second millennium. The standard procedure consists of demonstrating that those savage populations brought all the elements of civilization with them wherever they went. The question which then comes into mind is: Why did so many creative aptitudes appear only when there was contact with Blacks, never in the original cradle of the Eurasian steppes? Why did those populations not create civilization at home before migrating?' p. 152

As to scholars like Bertrand Russell who like to credit the Greek with mythical ingenuity, Anta Diop reminded them about all the great Greek intellectuals and philosophers were trained in Egypt. On page 232, we read ' Solon, Thales Plato, Lycurgus, Pythagoras encountered difficulty before being accepted as students by the Egyptians.' He then quoted from one authority to buttress his argument, ' I then realized, and realized clearly, that the most famous Greek systems, notably those of Plato and Aristotle, had originated in Egypt. I also realized that the lofty genius of the Greeks had been able to present Egyptian ideas incomparably, especially in Plato; but I thought that what we loved in the Greeks, we should not scorn or simply disdain in the Egyptians. Today, when two authors collaborate, the credit for their work in common is shared equally by each. I fail to see why ancient Greece should reap all the honor for ideas she borrowed from Egypt.' p.232.

To those who asked how the Black people happened to sank to their lowly status, Anta Diop said we could ask the same of the Greeks, who were the ancestors of western civilization, and of the Italians. When a Roman general invaded Britain, he was so appalled by the savagery of the people he saw that he doubted if he could make a successful slave of them. Today, Britain is arrogating to itself a front-row among civilized nations, while Greece glory has receded.

If one accept the African origin of humanity, which no serious scholar, black or white, contest today, why the reluctance to accept that the parents of the human race were also the pioneers of human civilization? It is true that the Black race lay weakened and prostrated today, but this has not always been the case. One example will suffice: Ghana Empire was thriving long before the Anglo-Saxon settled in what is today's England. How many English people would like to admit that when their forebears were just waking up from their savage state, Ghana Empire was at the peak of its glory?

Aside from unremitting aggression and wholesale violence, the White race contributed little to ancient human civilization. All that Euro-America now claims were borrowed from other people, especially the Black people. When the White man discovered the gunpowder - which both the Chinese and Egyptian priests have been using for ages, the road was open for him to plunder, despoil, ravaged and pillaged. That was the beginning of his glory!

Anta Diop wrote more than an history book. He blazed a trail. He was a pioneer who courageously took up the prejudiced white scholars, who have been promoting racial arrogance in the name of scholarship. Anta Diop was a pioneer who, more than any other person, confronted the western scholars, challenged them and made them retreat from peddling the lies they have been promoting about Africa. Since the publication of his book, western scholars has ceased to take it for granted that Africans will remain silent. It was to this great scholar that Africa owed so much of her historical redemption.

Every African owed it to himself to read this book, it more than set the records straight - it is a journey in self-discovery.

massive greetings,

Femi Akomolafe