Getting world history right: real African history

By Dr Kwame Nantambu
August 13, 2019
Kent State University

Dr. Kwame NantambuYears after the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2011 as “The International Year for People of African Descent”, it must be realized that the European enslavement of African people or the “MAAFA” (“great disaster”) only represents .01 per cent of the history of African people on this planet. Put another way, for the 99.9 per cent of their history, Africans were a free people.

Furthermore, “there were a thousand years of independent state formation and state management in inner West Africa called the western Sudan before the (European) slave trade.”(1)

The purpose of this article, therefore, is to posit in its proper historical perspective, a unique Afri-centric, geo-political linkage analysis of African history.

Thesis

At the outset, it must be stated quite equivocally, categorically and emphatically that contrary to the public, callous, xenophobic description/label to describe Haiti and countries in Africa directly resembles and refers only to countries in Europe in the 15th century A.D. ; it certainly neither resembles nor refers to countries in Africa prior to that period.

Anti-Thesis

In the case of Haiti, the leaders of the successful, violent, Islamic Haitian revolution 1791-1804 were Jean Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe, Toussaint L’ Ouverture and Dutty Boukman- a Jamaican-born Muslim and also known as a “man of the book”. According to Sylvaine Diouf in his treatise titled “The Muslim Factor in the Haitian Revolution” (2013): “the Muslims were essential in the success of the Haitian revolution.”2 During the 1791-1804 period, these Africans defeated the Euro-British and the Euro-French. In fact, these Africans defeated the all-mighty French general Napoleon Bonaparte who at that time commanded the most powerful army in Europe.

According to deceased historian C. L. R. James in The Black Jacobins (1938), the most significant, historical aspect/impact of the Haitian revolution is that it “killed the West Indian slave trade and slavery.”3 Furthermore, it not only served as the catalyst for subsequent slave revolts throughout the Caribbean but also most importantly, it ushered in Haiti as the first independent, sovereign nation-state in the entire Western Hemisphere ruled by Africans. Ipso facto, the stark, historical reality check is that Africans in Haiti won their political independence from Euro-France per armed revolution.

On 1st January 1804, Jean Jacques Dessalines, as Governor-General, proclaimed himself “Emperor of the New State.” In essence, then, the ultimate, albeit indisputable, historical legacy of the African- Haitian revolution is : “Europeans are not unbeatable.”

In the case of Africa, deceased, erudite, Afri-centric scholar/historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke has specifically pointed out and elucidated the salient historical reality that:

Civilization did not start in European countries and the rest of the world did not wait in darkness for the Europeans to bring the light…. Most of the history books in the last five hundred years have been written to glorify Europeans at the expense of other peoples…. Most Western historians have not been willing to admit that there is an African history to be written about and that this history predates the emergence of Europe by thousands of years. It is not possible for the world to have waited in darkness because Europeans themselves were in darkness. When the light of culture came for the first time to the people who would later call themselves Europeans, it came from Africa and Middle Eastern Asia. It is too often forgotten that, when the Europeans emerged and began to extend themselves into the broader world of Africa and Asia during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they went on to colonize most of mankind. Later, they would colonize world scholarship, mainly to show or imply that Europeans were the only creators of what could be called a civilization. In order to accomplish this, the Europeans had to forget, or pretend to forget, all they previously knew about Africa.4″ And this Afri-centric, historical assertion is corroborated by R.R. Plamer and Joel Colton in their book titled A History of the Modern World (1984) to the extent that:

Europeans are by no means the pioneers of human civilization. Half of man’s recorded history had passed before anyone in Europe could read or write. The (High)priests of Egypt began to keep written records between 4,000 and 3,000 B.C., but more than two thousand years later, the poems of Homer were still being circulated in the Greek city-states by word of mouth. Shortly after 3,000 B.C., while the Pharaohs were building the first pyramids (in Egypt), Europeans were creating nothing more distinguished than huge garbage heaps.(5)

In regard to the aforementioned quotes, it is indeed imperative to distinguish clearly between “History” and “His-story.” By way of elucidation, “History is the truth about the past. His-story is the white man’s (European’s) version of the past, a distorted, racist and often fictitious story.”(6)

The stark reality that Western “His-storians have also contended that the Egyptians were tan-Europeans”, provides de jure evidence to distinguish between these two conflicting assertions.(7)

However, this historical confusion is aptly clarified by the Euro-French historian Count C. F. Volney in his Ruins of Empires (1980) as follows: “There a people, now forgotten, discovered while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race of men now rejected for their black skin and wooly hair founded on the study of the laws of nature these civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.”

And this historical narrative now reaches the vital juncture of the three “Golden Ages” of African civilization. According to Dr. John Henrik Clarke in his article titled “Africa: The Passing of the Golden Age” : “The first age coincides with archaeological work… during this period, the basic institution of all human societies was formed: the family. The establishment of a family structure forced the development of ways and means to preserve the family as an institution. In this phase too, the purely African communities… mastered the smelting of iron and the fashioning of tools and weapons and gave impetus to the high civilization of Egypt in 1600 B.C.. The second Age begins in 1700 B.C. when Egypt expels Asian invaders, the Hyksos and the eighteenth Egyptian dynasty was established. The third Golden Age is that which contains the rise of the Western Sudanic kingdoms– Ghana, Songhay and Mali.”

Indeed, “the first of the great empires of the Western Sudan to become known to the outside world was Ghana. It began as a small settlement during the second century of the Christian era. It would later develop into a state and reached the height of its greatness during the reign of Tenkamenin, one of its greatest kings, who came to power in 1062 A.D. The king lived in a palace of stone and wood, which was built to be defended in time of war.” Dr. Clarke further elucidates that this “empire was well organized. The political progress and social well-being of its people could be favorably compared to the best kingdoms and empires in Europe at that time. The country had a military force of 200,000 men.”

In the final analysis, Ghana was invaded by the Almoravides under Abu Bekr in 1076 A.D. This conquest ended Ghana’s age of prosperity and socio-cultural development. In its heyday, Ghana was described as “the greatest kingdom of the Blacks” and “the most commercial of the Black countries.”

On the other hand, Timbuctoo, “the queen city of the Western Sudan”, was “the great intellectual nucleus of the Songhai Empire.” These scholars were known and respected throughout most of Africa and Europe. During this age of African history, “the University of Sankore was the educational capital of the Western Sudan.”

Mansa Musa was the emperor of the famous Kingdom of Mali. He epitomized “the whole wealth of Africa.” In addition, “he conquered the Songhai Empire and rebuilt the University of Sankore” plus, “he was the most colorful of the Black kings of the 14th century.” The empire of Mali experienced a drastic decline after the death of Mansa Musa. Songhai replaced Mali in position of power and importance in Africa under King Askia the Great. According to Dr. Clarke, King Askia the Great’s claims to fame are (1) when he came to power in 1498, he “consolidated the territory conquered by the previous ruler Sonni Ali and built Songhai into the most powerful State in the Western Sudan His realm, it is said, was larger than all Europe” (11) he is known as “one of the most brilliant and enlightened administrators of all times” (111) he ” reorganized the army of Songhai, improved the system of banking and credit and made the city-states Gao, Walata, Timbuctoo and Jenne into intellectual centres” (1v) he “encouraged scholarship and literature. Students from all over the Moslem world came to Timbuctoo to study grammar, law and surgery at the University of Sankore; scholars came from North Africa and Europe to confer with learned historians and writers of this Black empire” and (v) “Askia has been hailed as one of the wisest monarchs of the Middle Ages.”(8)

Ergo, it need occasion no great surprise hat in book titled The Progress and Evolution of Man in Africa (1961), the Euro-British historian Dr. L. S. B. Leaky asks the formidable/logical question: “What has Africa contributed to world progress?”. He further suggests that “the critics of Africa forget that men of science today, with few exceptions, are satisfied that Africa was the birthplace of man himself and that for many hundreds of centuries thereafter, Africa was in the forefront of all human progress.

And this progress is further amplified by John W. Weatherwax in his pamphlet titled The African Contribution (1966) in which he zeroes in on The African Contribution to the early development of humankind as follows:

The early Africans made hooks to catch fish, spears to hunt with, the bola, with which to catch birds and animals, the blow gun, the hammer, the stone axe, canoes and paddles, bags and buckles, poles, bows and arrows.

The pre-history of mankind is called the Stone Age. It may have lasted half a million years. Canoes made it possible for man to travel farther from his early home. Over many centuries, canoes went down the Nile (river) and up many smaller rivers and streams. From the blow gun of ancient Africa, there followed, in later ages, many devices based on its principles. Some of them are the bellows, bamboo air pumps, the rifle, the pistol, the revolver, the automatic machine gun and even those industrial guns that puff grain. African hunters many times cut up game. There still exists from the old Stone Age, drawings of animal bones, hearts and other organs.

The early drawings are a part of man’s early beginnings in the field of anatomy.(10)

The fact of the matter is that until recently, the typical Euro-centric Western historian has always maintained that the origin of all humankind had been in Asia, specifically the Java region of Southern Asia. However, the first modern-day person to suggest that Africa is “the cradle of civilization and humankind” is Charles Darwin in his magnum opus Descent of Man (1871). Of course, Darwin had already shaken up the scientific world with his theories of evolution and natural selection. His prophecy that “Africa would be found to be the origin of the human species was rejected out of hand by the scientific community and considered heresy in the social and political world.”(11)

Conversely, scholars of the ancient world, uncontaminated by the need and desire to conform to the presumption of European superiority and supremacy, had routinely hypothesizes that indeed “Africa had been the birthplace of man.”

The stark historical reality is that Diodorus Siculus, a Euro-Roman scholar writing in the first century B.C. concluded that:

The Ethiopians say that they were the first man that ever were in the world and that to prove this they have clear demonstrations. It is most possible that those who inhabit the South were the first living men that sprang out of the earth. It is rational to conclude that those nearest to the sun should have been the first parents of all living creatures.(12)

The salient reality is that for centuries, the Euro-Western world and scholars have bitterly resisted the notion that Africa should be recognized as the birthplace of all humankind. But the evidence is too overwhelming to deny that truism out of existence. In fact, Dr. John Henrik Clarke surmises that “although much remains to be learned and several academic controversies continue to boil concerning specific details of these early ancestors, the broad outline of early human history has become increasingly clear.” It includes the following indisputable, historical truths:

1. “As early as 600,000 B.C., there were only Africans. That is, the only ancestors of humans alive, lived on the African Continent.

2. Between 500,000 — 400,000 B.C., Africans began to migrate to other parts of the world.

3. Isolation and environmental differences worked to produce differing physical characteristics within migrating groups.”(13)

Furthermore, in his book titled A Lost Tradition : African Philosophy in World History (1995), Dr. Theophile Obenga quotes the Greek philosopher Aristotle ranking ancient Kemet (Egypt) as “the most ancient archeological reserve in the world” and “that is how the Egyptians whom we (Greeks) considered the most ancient of the human race.” According to Dr. Obenga “the ancient Greeks traced all human inventions to the Egyptians from Calculus, Geometry, Astronomy and to Writing. Since the time of Homer, Egyptian antiquity functioned strictly as a highly memoralized component of Greek history; Herodotus said it, Plato confirmed it and Aristotle never denied it.” In fact, Aristotle himself confesses : “Thus, the mathematical sciences first originated in Egypt (Africa), the cradle of mathematics.”(14)

Indeed, it must be pointed out here that most of the now renowned/revered Greeks (the world’s first Europeans) all studied at the Temple of Waset in ancient Kemet (Egypt) Africa. This Temple is the world’s first university. It is known as the “royal septer” and was built during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep 111 , in the XV111 Dynasty circa 1391 B.C. At its zenith, it educated 80,000 students. This Temple was re-named Thebes by the Greeks, namely, Alexander the so-called “great” when he invaded Kemet (Egypt) in 332 B.C. and Luxor by the Arabs when they invaded Egypt in 641 A.D.

For example, Plato studied at the Temple of Waset in ancient Kemet (Egypt) Africa for 11 years; Aristotle for 11-13 years; Socrates was there for 15 years; Euclid studied there for 10-11 years; Pythagoras for 22 years ; Hypocrates was there for 20 years ; and the other Greeks who matriculated in Africa were Solon, Thales, Archimides and Euripides. Indeed, the Greek, St. Clement of Alexandria once stated that “if you were to write a book of 1,000 pages, you would not be able to put down the names of all the Greeks who went to Kemet (Africa) to be educated and even those who did not surreptitiously claim they went because it was prestigious.”

Moreover, contrary to Euro-centric geo-political, historical mis-information, (albeit edjumacation), the world’s first Olympics that was held in Olympia, Greece in 776 B.C., was not held to promote and reward sportsmanship, physical brawn or brinkmanship; instead, it was held as a public spiritual ceremony to worship the African deity Amon, “ruler of the Gods.”

In fact, historiography proves quite convincingly that the European Gods and Goddesses were actually of African origin but given European names. As prima facie evidence, the African God Amon was re-named Zeus by the Greeks and Jupiter by the Romans; the African God Heru was called Apollo by both the Greeks and Romans; the world’s first recorded multi-genius the African Imhotep (builder of the Step pyramid at Saqqara in 2630 B.C.) was re-named Asclepius by the Greeks and Aesclapius by the Romans; the African God Djhuti/Thoth (God of science, writing and knowledge) was called Hermes by the Greeks and Mercury by the Romans; the African God Pluto was re-named Neptune by the Romans and Poseidon by the Greeks; the African God Ausar (God of resurrection) was re-named Osiris by both the Greeks and Romans; the African Goddess Hathor (Goddess of love and beauty) was called Aphrodite by the Greeks and Venus by the Romans ; the African Goddess Ist/Aset (Goddess of maternity) was re-named Isis and worshipped as “the Black Madonna.” More specifically, this African Goddess had such an impact on Europeans that if one were to decipher the capital city of Euro-France, it is Paris which means “Per Isis” plus the Cathedral of Notre Dame is also in honor/worship of this African Goddess Ist/Aset.

Indeed, there is absolutely no field of human endeavor, contribution, achievement in which Africans have originated save the field of medicine. And this unique African medical originality informs the Euro-centric geo-political, historical mis-information about the “Caesarean Section.”

The fact of the matter is that the two principal individuals in this scenario are the then Pharaoh of ancient Kemet (Egypt) Cleopatra V11 (Winter 69 B.C.—12 August 30 B.C.) and Euro-Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.

In her seminal opus titled Cleopatra : From History to Legend (1997), Edith Flamarion states that when Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy X11 died in March 51 B.C., he decreed that his successors should be his two eldest children, namely, Cleopatra V11, who was then eighteen years old and Ptolemy X111, who was just ten years old.

“According to Ptolemaic dynastic law, Cleopatra had to marry Ptolemy X111 ” but this was not a sexually consummated marriage. Ergo, Cleopatra V11, then, became “mistress of the two lands”, that is, Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Kemet (Egypt). Circa 48 B.C., there was an “internal revolt against Cleopatra V11” and Julius Caesar entered the city of Alexandria “as a conqueror” and was able to pacify the Alexandrians that “as consul, he represented Roman Law.”

Julius Caesar then “summoned both Cleopatra and her brother in order to settle the conflict between them.”

However, before the meeting with Julius Caesar Cleopatra sent several “emissaries ” to him in order to ascertain “his good intentions” When she finally agreed to go to Alexandria to meet Caesar, Cleopatra travelled “in the dead of night” and hidden and wrapped “in a coverlet … rolled in a carpet” because she feared “her brother’s spies and his attempts to impede her.”

Legend has it that Cleopatra (“glory of the father”) was “smuggled into (Caesar’s) apartment.” They had sexual intercourse that night, either “for reasons of political convenience” or mere human physical attraction.

However, in the Spring of 47 B.C., both Julius Caesar and Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra V11 went “on a long voyage up the Nile abroad a luxurious pleasure barge.”

Depicted as “a lover’s outing”, it was a political tour intended to show the people of the country their true master. Nevertheless, when Julius Caesar left Kemet /Egypt in May 47 B.C., Pharaoh Cleopatra V11 was pregnant. This “lighting-hike eastern campaign” has given rise to Julius Caesar’s famous or infamous historical quote : “Veni, vidi, vinci”– “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Julius Caesar was circa 52 years of age at the time.

Indeed, the record reveals that on 23 June 47 B.C., Pharaoh Cleopatra V11 gave birth to her first child, a baby boy named Caesarion which means “Little Caesar”.(15)

However, what is most significant in this scenario and in terms of real African history is that Pharaoh Cleopatra V11’s delivery was not normal. The high priests of ancient Kemet (Egypt) Africa had to perform an original, special medical procedure to deliver Pharaoh Cleopatra V11’s baby boy. And this historic, original African medical procedure performed in the B.C. era, is now globalized as the “Caesarean Section” — to our African ancestors be the glory!.

In terms of real African history in the A.D. era, evidence of this African “human progress” is clearly corroborated in 711 A.D. when the African general Tarikh ben Zaid also known as Gibral Tarik ( the “Rock of Gibraltar”) and a 10,000 army of African Muslims (Moors) invaded Spain and routed the “savage” Europeans. As J.C. de Graft-Johnson, “a dean of African historians”, points out in his master-piece African Glory: “The conquest of Spain was an African conquest. They were Mohammedan Africans who laid low the Gothic Kingdom of Spain.(16)

In terms of prior 15th century world historiography, Baba Zak Kondo validates in his book titled The Black Student’s Guide to Positive Education, the historical African linkage analysis that:

Tarik and his (African Moors) made Spain the most advanced society in Western Europe for 700 years. These Africans, among other things, introduced the common bath and udergarments to the Europeans and built Europe’s first universities. Moreover, (these Africans) made Spain a center for the arts and sciences. Moorish civilization in Spain was most visible in (the) tenth century.(17)

Indeed, the historical record reveals that the first university these Africans/Moors established/built in Europe was the University of Salamanca in Spain in 900 A.D. In other words, prior to the 15th century A..D., Africans humanized, educated and civilized European in the B.C. era. During that era, ancient Kemet/Egypt was known as “the land of the Blacks”, “the Black land’ or “the Light of the world.”

Indeed, the 700 plus years the African Moors occupied Spain (711-1485) gave rise to the emergence of Europeans on a global scale during the period 1400-1600. As Dr. John Henrik Clarke explains in his book titled Christopher Columbus & the Afrikan Holocaust.

This was a point in history when Europeans freed themselves from the lethargy of the Middle Ages, the aftermath of the Crusades and the famines and plagues (as in the “bubonic plague”) that had taken one-third (20 million) of the population of Europe. It it also the period when Europeans freed themselves from almost a thousand year fear of Islam and what they referred to as the Infidel Arabs, who had been controlling the Mediterranean and its trade routes since the decline of the Roman Empire in the middle of The 7th century. The renewal of European nationalism, the marriage of (King) Ferdinand and (Queen) Isabella of Spain, the expulsion of the Arabs, Moors and the Jews from Spain in 1492 and the introduction of the slave trade gave Europe a new economic lease on life.

Europeans (then) had to create a rationale and a series of myths to justify their new position (in the world) and what they intended to extract from non- European people (from the 15th century onward).(18)

On the one hand, deceased Guyanese African history scholar Dr. Walter Rodney has expounded on the first aspect of European 15th century rise to global power in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa). And in this process of Africa’s underdevelopment, it must be remembered that for over 400 years disparate Europeans took the “most productive elements” (skilled agricultural artisans) out of Africa, that is, young people between ages 15-25 years, at least two men to one woman. And that is exactly how Europe became developed/industrialized and Africa became underdeveloped and still remains in that status as of this writing.(19)

On the other hand, “the greatest achievement of the Europeans was the conquest of the mind of their victims” and in this process, Europeans not only colonized the world but most importantly, they colonized/Europeanized information about the world as “part of the manifestation of the evil genius of Europe.”

Through this process of Euro-centric global miseducation, the world was “forced to forget that over half of human history was over before anyone knew that a European was in the world.” In addition, Europeans made “every effort to wipe from ( the African) memory how they ruled a state and how they related to their spirituality before the coming of the European.(20)

Synthesis

In the final analysis, when the Europeans entered Africa in the 15th century, “the Africans were (too) open-minded and politically naïve in their relationship with non- African people, especially the Europeans. They did not know the intentions and the temperament of the Europeans then and they do not know it now” 21 so opines Dr. John Henrik Clarke. As the deceased leader of the 1960s Mau Mau anti-colonial revolution Jomo Kenyatta correctly surmised: “When the (European) missionaries arrived, the African had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” However, as P. Olisanwuche Esedebe has prognosticated in his Pan-Africanism: The Idea and Movement, 1776-1991: Africa peoples “must live in the hope, that in the process of time, their turn will come, when they will (again) occupy a prominent position in the world’s history and when they will command a voice in the (global) council of nations (as their ancestors once did in the B.C. era)”. (22)

Indeed, historiography postulates that Africans are the Alpha and the Omega— the beginning and the end. And in the poignant but immortal words of the millennium African hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey to African peoples all over the world :” Up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will.” And the flip side of this geo-political notion is strongly reinforced in the speech by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to the United Nations General assembly on 23 September 1960 in which he warned that “as long as a single foot of African soil remains under foreign domination, the world shall know no peace”

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is Professor Emeritus, Kent State University.

Notes:

1) Clarke, J.H.(1992). Christopher Columbus & the Afrikan Holocaust. New York: A & B Books Publishers, 35.

2) Diouf,S. (2013). Servants of Allah : African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York: NYU Press.

3) James, C. L.R. (1938). The Black Jacobins : Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. United Kingdom: Secker & Warburg, Ltd.

4) Clarke, J.H. (1971) Introduction in George Jackson, African Civilization. New Hyde Park, NY : University Press.

5) Palmer, R.R. and Joel Colton. (1984). A History of the Modern World. New York : Knopf, Ltd.

6) Kondo, B.Z. (1996). The Black Student’s Guide to Positive Education. Washington, D.C. : Nubia Press, 10.

7) Ibid.

8) Clarke, J.H. (1992). Africa : The Passing of the Golden Age” in Edward W. Crosby, Leroy Davis, Jr. and Anne Adams Graves (eds.). The African Experience in Community Development: The Continuing Struggle in Africa and the Americas.1(11). Boston, MA: Simon & Schuster Custom Publishing, 77-83.

9) Leaky, L.S.B. (1961). The Progress and Evolution of Man in Africa. London: Oxford University Press.

10) Weatherwax, J.W. (1966). The African Contribution. Los Angeles, CA : John Henry and Mary Louisa Dunn Bryant Foundation.

11) Darwin, C. (1871). Descent of Man. United Kingdom: John Murray.

12) Cited in Nantambu, K. (2002). Afrikan History is World History. http:// www.trinicenter.com

13) Cited in Nantambu, K. (2002). Afrikan History is World History. http://www.trinicenter.com

14) Obenga, T. (1995). A Lost Tradition: African Philosophy in World History. Philadelphia, PA : The Source Edition.

15) Flamarion, E. (1993). Cleopatra: From History to Legend. Italy: Editoriale Libraria, Trieste.

16) De Graft-Johnson, J. C. (1986). African Glory. Washington, D.C.: Black Classic Press.

17) Kondo, op.cit.

18) Clarke, J.H. (1992). Christopher Columbus & the Afrikan Holocaust. New York : A&B Books Publishers, 35.

19) Rodney, W. (1974). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C. : Howard University Press.

20) Clarke, op. cit., 34.

21) Clarke, Ibid., 35.

22) Esedebe, P.O. (1994). Pan- Africanism: The Idea and Movement, 1776-1991 Washington, D.C. : Howard University Press, 22.

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