Reconnecting our African legacy of mastery and genius with America’s Black “First” – Debunking the mythMay 5, 2014 // 0 Comments
By Taki S. Raton
African Americans along with the Western world have been taught only the presumed achievements of the European and Asian from an exclusionary European perspective. All said cultures – and in particular, the African American – have been oriented and conditioned never to question the indigenous nature, foundation, origin or beginnings of European or Asian groupings on the world stage of time and achievement.
However, in a critical historical and factual world accounting of these cultures, we come across the European and to some extent the Asian, says Ivan Van Sertima in “Egypt – Child of Africa,” only as they are evolving towards their respective heights of global civilizational dominance or in the author’s phrasing: “In the flower of their ascendancy.” On the other hand, the world, and in particular the Black man in America says Van Sertima has “been trained to see and to imagine only one kind of African – that of the primitive, the slave, the colonial” or the colonized African/Black; the tragic outcast and misfit “on the edge of the modern world.”
He would add that anytime we find the African at the center of world civilization, the matter then becomes “highly suspect.” Such a mythical conclusion and fabrication of the world historical matrix has origins from the pens and letters of the Eurocentric worldview regarding the African presence in the chronology of humankind development on the planet.
Says Chancellor Williams in “Destruction of Black Civilizations,” much of the history of African has been written by anthropologist whose primary objective “is to make (ancient) Africa Caucasian from the beginnings of its history, and to give the Blacks not just a subordinate role, but no significant role at all in that history.”
He adds that this particular worldview would receive “favorable reception by the White audiences to which they address themselves,” not to mention the Euro-historians and academicians whose work relies almost entirely on such false racial classification. We might also want to include within this category of academicians those Black PhD’s who would reflect in their teachings this same false Eurocentric worldview in their quest for tenure track and the “nod” to be published.
But indeed, just the opposite was the case. To contextualize this point to yet another level, Williams tells us that in ancient times and even later, “there were Caucasians who regarded the Blacks as a superior people.” Any questions concerning the matter of an inherent inequality in his words, “would have been absurd to entertain.”
Prof. Small posits that, “most of world history, or at least ninety-percent of world history is African history. And within that ten-percent, Africa was extraordinarily involved in making it (world history) what it is.”
Dr. Kwame Nantambi in his June 15, 2001 essay, “Ancient Egypt’s Role in European History” records that, “Europeans were by no means the pioneer of human civilization. Half of man’s recorded history had passed before anyone in Europe could read or write.”
To this point, it is noteworthy to cite that the ancient African had invented the world’s first 360 plus five-day calendar 6,250 years ago in 4236 B.C.E., some 1,136 years prior to the beginning of the Egyptian (Kemetic) dynastic era.
There is absolutely no evidence anywhere on the world stage of presence and accomplishment; nowhere within the factual annals of the European world, nor the Asian world; nowhere within the Christian or Islamic religions is there any indication reflecting an indigenous contribution towards the physical foundational advancement of primal world civilizing activity, growth and progress above, apart from, beyond, separate, and independent of an African cultural influence, African falsification, African re-imaging and/or African displacement by said cultural entities over the expansive corridors of time.
This is where the myth of the Black “First” has to be dealt with, challenged, debunked and destroyed. Were Black people to adopt the mythical and falsified view that it was the Caucasian who was at the sunrise of civilized history, then it would automatically and psychologically be falsely assumed that anything that the Black man accomplished here in America was a direct imitative reflective copy of Whites and that we thereby are “proved worthy” of equal consideration and placement in his American “house” because of such “up from slavery” accomplishments.
When the European came over to West Africa and kidnapped the African, he did not just capture what he stereotypically viewed as a “savage,” a “primitive” or a grouping of uncivilized human beings eternally marginalized on the periphery of civilized man and just ripe for lifelong bondage. No, no, no! He captured, kidnapped and brought to these North American shores a long standing African World bloodline of doctors, artists, merchants, builders, scientists, astrologers, astronomers, bankers, architects, heavier-than-air flight technologists, engineers, spiritualist, musicians, writers, metallurgist, teachers, scholars, thinkers, philosophers, cosmetologist, warriors, historians, poets, mathematicians, inventors, statesmen.
This African World bloodline of achievement, mastery and genius is anchored by the ancient African Egyptians (to whom we ancestrally refer to as the Kemetic people of the “Black Land,” Kemet) who were the earliest builders of monumental civilizations over the nearly 3000 years from 3150 B.C.E. to 332 B.C.E. to include the development of paper, script, spiritual systems, science, engineering, medicine, architecture, art, music, advances in agriculture, the taming of animals, maritime science, astrology, astronomy, philosophy, cosmetics, board games, government, mathematics, temple building, education, and the creators of the world’s first university.
Williams tells us that, “The strength and greatness of African people can be measured by how, in the face of what at times seemed to be all the forces of Hell, they fought through and survived it all and reconstructed kingdoms and empires, some of which endured for centuries.” Not to discount the predecessors of Ghana or Mali, but for the purpose of this exploration, most symbolic of such a reconstructed empire was the kingdom of Songhay in West Africa which endured over the 119 years from 1475 C.E. to 1594 C.E. It would be here during this era that we see a continuation of African World accomplishment, mastery and genius in the African bloodline.
This proud legacy was spirited at the University of Songhay in Timbuktu.
Attracting students and scholars from all of West Africa and from foreign countries, this university, describes Williams, consisted of a Faculty of Law, and departments of Medicine and Surgery, Grammar, Geography, and Art.
Distinguished African intellectual Ahmed Baba, reflecting a long line of Timbuktu scholars, served as the last academic head of the Songhay academy. His title today would be akin to that of a “Chancellor.” He was the author of 42 books covering such topics as astronomy, law, science, theology, grammar, appropriate speech, and logic.
It should be noted that the fall of Songhay was in 1594, only 24 years before the arrival of the first twenty Africans in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Again, be aware that Songhay attracted and trained the likes of scholars, mathematicians, poets, musicians, engineers, architects, writers, artists, astronomers, spiritualist and thinkers.
Therefore it would be more than conceivable that at the end of the Songhay empire – if not during its reign given the migration, movement and mixing of Africans in and around its West Coast – scholars, mathematicians, poets, musicians, engineers, architects, writers, artist, astronomers, spiritualist, thinkers, builders and the like would very well be among the population of West Africans who would be captured and forcibly shackled on slave ships just 47 years later when in 1641 Massachusetts became the first colony to legalize enslavement. It’s in the blood!
Our legacy of African World achievement, mastery and genius continues with the Moors’ occupation of Europe (in the region then known as Andalus/Spain) for 781 years from 711 A.D. to January 2, 1492 A.D. The Moors, who were Black and of African descent, due to their occupation of Europe, brought this population out of their Dark Ages.
The Moors shared with Europe their learned academies, architecture, created cosmopolitan cities with lighted streets; instructed in the ways of their culture, literature, sciences, government, medicine, social etiquette, astrology, astronomy, geometry, calculus, poetry, art, philosophy, history, language, religious studies, geography and their classical music traditions. And yes, classical music is an African creation and not European.
Europe’s great university traditions grew out of the scholastic tutelage of the African Moor. In fact and indeed, the concept of a “university” is also an African tradition, not European. Europe’s oldest and finest universities were established during the same time that there was a flowering of Moorish scholarship on European soil. It is further highly believed that there would not have been a Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519 or a Galileo (1564-1642) had it not been for the Moorish/African schooling and wisdom that had preceded them thereby providing foundational studies for their work.
Thus, this bloodline legacy of African World accomplishment, mastery and genius could have been tightly huddled in the bowels of the slave ship sailing across the Atlantic towards North America.
The pattern that is now clearly emerging is that historically, wherever the African presence is on this planet throughout corridors of time, civilization, mastery and genius follows, even under the most horrific, oppressed, brutal, and subjugated of circumstances. During the period of enslavement over the 224 years from 1641 to 1865, the period of Reconstruction from 1866 to 1877, and during the period of Jim Crow over the 87 years from 1877 to 1964, the African in America remained resilient, resistant, masterfully adaptive, masterfully creative, masterfully skilled and masterfully equalizing.
By “equalizing,” it is meant herein that the African
(Colored/Negro/Black) during this time was able to match, improve upon, compete, excel, and master any and all progressive North American humankind societal and professional engagements. And this was due knowingly or unknowingly – not because of the drive to be this Black “First” as though the Caucasian was the “supreme model” of achievement, but due to the fact that such accomplishment, mastery and genius was naturally already within our DNA.
We therefore produced scores of doctors, artists, merchants, builders, scientists, astrologers, astronomers, bankers, architects, pilots, engineers, spiritualist, musicians, writers, metallurgist, teachers, scholars, thinkers, philosophers, cosmetologist, warriors, historians, healers, poets, mathematicians, inventors, statesmen and more on these shores from 1641 through the Jim Crow era. Even during the era of enslavement, we still had numbering over 60,000 free Africans (Blacks) who had developed enterprises in almost every area of the business community to include merchandising, real estate, manufacturing, construction, transportation, extractive industries, service, and carpentry.
As of 1838 (still during the era of enslavement), the “Register of Trades of Colored Peoples” in the city of Philadelphia listed 8 bakers, 75 blacksmiths, 3 brass founders, 15 cabinet makers and carpenters, 5 confectioners, 2 caulkers, 2 chair buttoners, 15 tailoring enterprises, 31 tanners, 5 weavers, and 6 wheelwrights.
Even in 1865 at the moment of Emancipation Proclamation, according to published accounts, despite having no more than a 3rd grade education in most cases, Blacks following their freedom, became blacksmiths, bricklayers, carpenters, merchants, teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, ranchers, cooks, soldiers and more. Blacks back then also built houses, towns, communities, businesses, families, schools, universities, institutions and strongly invested in their collective future. Social compliments, civilizing activity, entrepreneurial endeavors, the pursuit of knowledge, independence, creativity, inventiveness and the desire for self-reliance were moving forward driving forces.
Born in 1843, Elijah McCoy at the age of 29 during the Reconstruction period in 1872 invented the first version of his lubricator for steam engines. This was the first in a series of forty-two patents, most of which were designed to facilitate machine lubrication. Engineering technology is no stranger to the African bloodline
Edward Alexander Bouchet at the age of 24 became the first African American to earn a doctorate in the United States earning a Ph.D. in physics at Yale in 1876. Bouchet was also during this Jim Crow era nominated to the esteemed honor society, Phi Beta Kappa in 1884.
Grandville T. Woods is recognized as one of the most prolific American inventors in history for his over 50 patients which revolutionized the transportation and communication industries. One of his major accomplishments is the invention of the railway telegraphy system between trains in 1887.
In 1893, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first open heart surgery at Provident Hospital which he founded in Chicago and in 1923, Garrett A. Morgan invented the traffic light.
A people who over millennium populated the earth and through migratory patterns out of Africa and laid the foundation for all of the world’s civilizing activity in Europe and in Asia beginning around 32,999 B.C.E; created the world’s first calendar in 4236 B.C.E., formed the world first civilizations in Kemet, established a world class university in West Africa, brought the European out of the Dark Ages – these people can certainly and most assuredly survive and master the peculiar circumstances that befell us on these shores over the 345 years from 1619 to the end of Jim Crow in 1964. This phase of our history should also be prominent in our classrooms, in our homes, from the politician’s podium and from the pastor’s pulpit.
And again in the words of Williams to paraphrase – the strength of African people is measured by how, “in the face of what at times seemed to be all the forces of Hell,” we fought through, survived, and reconstructed our greatness. It’s in our blood.
What should we do? We have to first extract the exclusive placement of our history from its North American captive sojourn, scholastically and culturally liberate it, and reconnect African American history with our total African World historiographical existence on this planet. In this regard, the legacy of African World achiement, mastery and genius is not severed and remains connected from an African perspective. This also avoids defining African American “First” as being a false replica of another person’s non-existent historical imagery.
Secondly, the Black man in America must cease to see himself as being the sole product of his enslavement past. He therefore should remove/separate himself, his family, and his children from belief systems, practices, organizations and institutions in his community that would keep him and his children in a perpetual state of being less-than their true African potential, dependent upon others, colonized by and mentally operating within the mindset of other people,
intergenerationally inferior, and perpetually ethno-historically non-existent.
This we must do for ourselves as these ailments (being less-than, dependent upon others, acting from the mindset of other people, etc.) are now a practice that is cultivated and reinforced within our own culture. Neither racism nor White Supremacy is imposing these conditions on us. We are doing this to ourselves.
In this regard, our esteemed scholar-warrior ancestor Dr. Asa Hilliard used the term “Conceptual Incarceration” to describe the mental conditioning affecting the thinking process of millions of people of African descent. Due to the consistent presence of Eurocentric myths and fabrications, Blacks remain historically confused, experientially isolated on the global arena of civilized contributory presence, and disoriented and disconnected as to a collective group sense of identity, purpose and direction.
Thirdly and lastly in this particular sharing, we need to identify and continuously train master teachers and set up institutions of learning, research, scholarship, and reorientation not just for our children but certainly and clearly also for the adults, parents, community leadership and community stakeholders. We know the model for these teachers, who they are, where they are and the manner in which they should be prepared to teach.
A twofold objective is to first and foremost return African people to their rightful place on the world stage of time and achievement and secondly to properly prepare our African American cultural membership, and in particular our young, for a dignified, self-respecting, confident, competent, successful and competitive participation in America’s multicultural pluralistic society.
We must feel comfortable with our history – all of it – and build upon the greatness which is ours to rescue, reclaim, reinterpret, reconstruct, restore and redeem.
Only then will our children have a proud future into which to grow and one that they will be proud to claim as their own.
Taki S. Raton is an adjunct professor of African American History at Springfield College Milwaukee campus. A staff development specialist in the African Centered curriculum model, Raton is also President and CEO of African Global Images, Inc.
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