Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Incorporating the readings by Asante and Roth, as well as the film, Black Athena, analyze the debate between the Classicists, Afrocentrists, and Egyptologists about the extent of Egyptian influence on Ancient Greece? To WHOM do you think that question is most important and WHY is that question most important to that group? - Writeden


Incorporating the readings by Asante and Roth, as well as the film, Black Athena, analyze the debate between the Classicists, Afrocentrists, and Egyptologists about the extent of Egyptian influence on Ancient Greece? To WHOM do you think that question is most important and WHY is that question most important to that group? Be sure to define the arguments of all debate sides. Have the arguments of the different sides changed over time? HOW and WHY? Analyze the evidence presented by the different sides and make an argument as to which side is the strongest. Where does Bernal and his work, Black Athena, stand in this debate? Do you think he was an Afrocentrist? Provide evidence to back up all of your arguments.


Identifies an issue and why it is important

Incorporates and addresses the essay prompt (but does NOT restate the question)

Outlines the key themes that the paper will address

Identifies the central argument that underlines your analysis


Each paragraph

Introduces a theme of the topic (this is the topic sentence – what is the central argument of this paragraph)

Provides evidence from primary and/or secondary sources to support your argument

* Introduces multiple perspectives when possible


Restates the central issue

Reiterates key points

emphasizes the implications of the points (why is it important?)

Requirements: 2-3 PAGES LONG

REACTION PAPERS: ¥ The Reaction Papers offer you the opportunity to record your observations, raise questions, develop ideas, and draw conclusions about what you have read. o You should think seriously about the relationship between the readings, documents, and/or films and all other course materials and discussions and articulate these ideas in written form. o The purpose is to stimulate thinking and encourage the generation of new ideas. ¥ Generally, I prefer to give you a free hand to record your personal comments and reactions to the relevant reading assignments and films. o Tie them into the knowledge you gained from readings and lectures. o The advantage is that it gives you the greatest latitude to react to the material and make your own connections between the materials. o Now there are undoubtedly a few of you who will convince yourself that you have nothing to write about. This is lazy. You havenÕt tried. § But, if this is so, try to look at some of the questions for analysis that are sometimes included with the readings. A. You will have to incorporate a brief description of the basic meaning of the document (i.e., what are two or three main points?). Most of you already know how to describe things like a Òplot summaryÓ a. But keep in mind that all readings and films may contain sarcasm, irony, or rhetorical questions. Through exposure, you will also develop the ability to extract less-obvious interpretations from documents. b. You must also determine the point-of-view of the author (social class, role in the issue being discussed, his/her education, background, etc) B. Analysis/Significance is the most important, and most difficult, aspect of the papers. a. What is significant about the reading and how does it comment on the historical subject? b. How could this/these documents help you write a historical essay or provide evidence on a specific subject? ¥ Try to find a unifying theme (or themes) around which you can synthesize your discussion of the documents. ¥ Show how each of the documents could be used to reflect on this theme with specific details. o Lastly, think about what information or tools you might be lacking that would make you understand the meaning more clearly or make your case stronger. o Try to understand the evidence on its own terms and how they reflect on the historical past and a different culture (i.e. make inferences and logical deductions based on the evidence) ¥ Bottom line is there is no substitute for practice when it comes to writing.

Race in Antiquity: Truly Out of Africaby Dr. Molefi Kete AsanteProfessor Molefi Kete Asante is the author of 38 books including The Afrocentric Idea; Kemet, Afrocentricity andKnowledge; Classical Africa and soon to be published by Temple University Press, The African IntellectualHeritage edited with Abu Abarry. Dr. Asante teaches Nile Valley Civilizations in the Department of AfricanAmerican Studies at Temple University. Along with Maulana Karenga he is now editing Truly Out of Africa anAfrocentric response to Mary Lefkowitz. Africa’s influence on ancient Greece, the oldest European civilization, was profound and significant in art,architecture, astronomy, medicine, geometry, mathematics, law, politics, and religion. Yet there has been afurious campaign to discredit African influence and to claim a miraculous birth for Western civilization. Anumber of books and articles by white and some black conservatives seek to disprove the Egyptian influenceon Greece. One of the most recent works in this genre is a book by Wellesley professor Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa. Itcontinues what Martin Bernal calls in Black Athena the Aryanist tradition of attacking African agency in regardto Greece by raising strawpeople arguments and then knocking them over. This is unfortunate but to beexpected by an intellectual tradition that supports the dominant mythologies of race in the history of the Westby diverting attention to marginal issues in the public domain. Afrocentricity seeks to discover African agency in every situation. Who are we? What did we do? Where did wetravel? What is our role in geometry? How do we as a people function in this or that contemporary situation?But the Afrocentrist does not advance African particularity as universal. This is its essential difference fromEurocentricity which is advanced in the United States and other places as if the particular experiences ofEuropeans is universal. This imposition is ethnocentric and often racist. Afrocentricity advances the view that itis possible for a pluralism of cultures to exist without hierarchy but this demands cultural equality and respect. Mary Lefkowitz’ book has sought to re-assert the idea that Greece did not receive substantial contributions fromKemet, the original name of Egypt, which is the Greek name for the ancient land. Professor Lefkowitz hasoffered the public a pablum history which ignores or distorts the substantial evidence of African influence onGreece in the ancient writings of Aetius, Strabo, Plato, Homer, Herodotus, Diogenes, Plutarch, and DiodorusSiculus. A reader of Lefkowitz’ book must decide if she or he is going to believe those who wrote during theperiod or someone who writes today. History teaches us that a person is more likely to distort an event thefarther away from it she happens to be. If you have a choice, go with the people who saw the ancient Egyptiansand wrote about what they saw. Conservative white columnists have felt a tremendous need to respond in the most vigorous fashion with theirapplause to shore up their racial mythologies. And now George Will (Newsweek, February 12, 1996) and RogerKimball (Wall Street Journal, February 14, 1996) have seen fit to bless Professor Mary Lefkowitz’ Not Out ofAfrica as a sort of definitive moment in intellectual history. It is no such moment. It is a racial argument clearlyfast back-stepping. As is too often the case these days, however, Lefkowitz received the go-ahead to attackAfrocentricity by writing this book of blacks such as Anthony Appiah and Henry Gates. They have, of course,had a real problem with the Afrocentric idea. What this indicates is that we have gone full circle from the Hegelian “Let us forget Africa” to a late 20th centuryattack on African scholarship by declaring, in the face of the evidence, that major influences on Greece were notout of Africa. And as such it will simply confirm the inability of some scholars to get beyond the imposition ofHOMEBlack Athena Debate of 41/20/10 10:48 AM

their particularism of Europe. No one can remove the gifts of Europe nor should that ever be the aim ofscholarship but Greece cannot impose itself as some universal culture that developed full-blown out of nothing,without the foundations it received from Africa. The aim of Professor Lefkowitz is to support the unsupportable idea of a miraculous Greece and thus toenhance a white supremacist myth of the ancient world. Perhaps George Will and Roger Kimball believe thatthat they have found a savior of the pure white thesis. They are wrong. The thesis cannot be supported withfacts although Professor Lefkowitz goes to great length to confuse the picture by concentrating onirrelevancies. Professor Mary Lefkowitz’ work pales besides the research done by Cornell professor Martin Bernal, BlackAthena, the late Cheikh Anta Diop, author of Civilization or Barbarism, and Temple professor Theophile Obenga,author of the important La Philosophie Africaine de la pŽriode Pharonique, (African Philosophy in the Age of thePharoahs) or the forthcoming work by Professor Maulana Karenga on ancient Egyptian ethics. The press fanfare granted Not out of Africa, however, does demonstrate how noise can be confused with music.But what is more worrisome is that it demonstrates a glee, although misinformed, of those who feel some senseof relief that a white scholar has taken on the Afrocentrists, a kind of white hope idea. This stems, as I believeGeorge Will has shown in his essay on the subject, from what is viewed as white salvation from the irrationalityof Afrocentrists. It originates in an historical anti-African bias and Roger Kimball nearly gloated that readerswould “savor” Lefkowitz’ “definitive dissection of Afrocentrism.” Contrary to any definitive dissection ofAfrocentrism what Professor Lefkowitz offered was a definitive exposure of the principal assumptions of a racialstructure of classical knowledge. Professor Lefkowitz is conversant with many Greek sources but as she admits this is the first time that she hasventured into these waters. This is unfortunate because she has created a false security among those whobelieve that Greece sprung like a miracle unborn and untaught. Bringing Frank Snowden in the discussion ofthe ancient world does not help because Professor Snowden’s book Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in theGraeco-Roman Experience is fatally flawed as a Eurocentric interpretation of the African past. His objective wasto demonstrate that Africans existed in the imaginations and experience of Greece and Rome. He succeeded instripping all agency from Africans. The problem is that Ethiopia in the form of Nubia and Kemet (Egypt) existedthousands of years before there was a Greece or Rome. To start a discussion of the ancient world with 800 B.Cis certainly poor scholarship. But Professor Lefkowitz reliance on Snowden is the least of her problems. The book is badly written and terribly redundant as if she is in a hurry to enlarge a relatively poor argument.How many times can you really say that George G. M. James should not have used the term “stolen legacy”when he claimed that the Africans influenced the Greeks? Professor James certainly had just as much rhetoricaljustification as Professor Lefkowitz who chose the unsubtle title “Not Out of Africa” probably for the samereason as Professor James called his book Stolen Legacy. Ruling classes always seek to promote and to maintain their ruling mythologies. Professor Lefkowitz’ passion intrying to walk a tight rope between support of the false mythology of a Greek miracle and the facts of Egyptianinfluence on the early Greeks is telling. She seeks to minimize the role Egypt played in civilizing Greece byclaiming that only in art and architecture was there real influence. This flies in the face of the ancient observersand beneficiaries of the largesse of the Africans. Mary Lefkowitz’s Not Out of Africa, has demonstrated the tremendous power of a false idea especially when it isadvanced in the halls of the Academy. I have come to believe that it is a part of a larger falsification thatencompasses the various right-wing ideologies that parade as truth. They are rooted in the same dogma: reasonis the gift of the Greeks. The Greeks are Europeans, Europeans are white, white people gave the world reasonand philosophy. This is not only a bad idea it is a false idea. It is a bad idea because it preaches a Europeantriumphalism and it is a false idea because the historical record is contrary. Tragically the idea that Europeanshave some different intellectual or scientific ability is accepted doctrine and some scholars will go to any lengthto try to uphold it. Usually, as Lefkowitz does, they commit four fundamental flaws: 1. They attack insignificant or trivial issues to obscure the main points. Professor Lefkowitz has three main axes to grind in her book. The first is that a student told her that shebelieved Socrates was black. The second is that the Greek gods came from Africa which she attributes to MartinBlack Athena Debate of 41/20/10 10:48 AM

Bernal, the author of Black Athena, and to Cheikh Anta Diop, the author of The African Origin of Civilization. Thethird is that freemasonry is the source of George James’ claim in his book Stolen Legacy that the Greeks gotmany of their major ideas from the Egyptians. The main point made by Afrocentrists is that Greece owes a substantial debt to Egypt and that Egypt wasanterior to Greece and should be considered a major contributor to our current knowledge. I think I can saywithout a doubt that Afrocentrists do not spend time arguing that either Socrates or Cleopatra were black. I havenever seen these ideas written by an Afrocentrist nor have I heard them discussed in any Afrocentric intellectualforums. Professor Lefkowitz provides us with a hearsay incident which she probably reports accurately. It is notan Afrocentric argument. I believe that both Bernal and Diop have done admirable jobs making their own cases on the legendary originsof the Greeks and I believe that readers should go to the sources themselves to see whose case, theirs orProfessor Lefkowitz’, is most plausible. I am convinced from my reading that the relationship between ancientGreece and Africa was closer and more familiar than Greece’s relationship to Northern Europe. 2. They will make assertion and offer their own interpretations as evidence. Professor Lefkowitz makes a statement on page 1 of her book that “In American universities today not everyoneknows what extreme Afrocentists are doing in their classrooms. Or even if they do know, they choose not to askquestions.” We are off to a bad start. Who are these extreme Afrocentrists? She does not provide us with oneexample of something that an extreme Afrocentrist is teaching in a classroom. Not one. But already the reader isinclined to believe that something exists where nothing exists. No matter how passionate, assertion is notevidence. What Afrocentrists do teach is that you cannot begin the discussion of world history with the Greeks.Creating clouds of suspicion about scholarly colleagues in order to support a racial mythology developed overthe past centuries to accompany European enslavement of Africans, imperialism, and exploitation will notdissipate the fact of Greece’s debt to Africa. 3. They will undermine writers they previously supported in order to maintain the fiction of a Greek miracle. Professor Lefkowitz and others who once considered Herodotus to be the Father of History now find fault withHerodotus because as Afrocentrists read Book Two of Histories we find that Herodotus glorifies theachievements of Egypt in relationship to Greece. But Herodotus is not the only ancient Greek writer to bedismissed by classicists who accept what Bernal rightly calls an Aryan interpretation of the ancient world. Aristotle reported that the Egyptians gave the world the study of geometry and mathematics and the Aryanistsargue that Aristotle made mistakes in what he observed. Professor Lefkowitz carries the denial of the ancientGreeks to a new level saying essentially that you cannot trust Homer, Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, or Strabo.Her position is that Strabo, like Herodotus, depended too much on what the Egyptian priests told him. EveryGreek who wrote on the overwhelming impact of Egypt (Africa) on Greece (Europe) is discredited or set up to bediscredited by the Aryanists. The idea to abandon the Greek authors rests on the belief that these ancient Greekwriters cannot be counted upon to support the theories of whitesupremacy. 4. They will announce both sides of an issue are correct, then move to uphold only the side that supportsEuropean triumphalism. Professor Lefkowitz could have admitted that Egypt during the times of the Pharaohs, whatever interpretationyou have of that ancient society, for example, as ornamented with Mystery Schools or simply filled with keepersof mysteries at the temples of Ipet sut, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae, Esna, Abydos, and other cities, was the sourceof much of Greek knowledge. Rather she claims that the only real impact of Egypt on Greece was in art andarchitecture. This is to state an obvious fact in order to obscure the deeper influences in science, astronomy,geometry, literature, religion, mathematics, law, government, music, medicine, and philosophy. Professor Lefkowitz’ major points are not only flawed but her reasoning is faulty and cannot be sustained byany inquiry into the Greek or Egyptian languages or into ancient history. She wonders why the Afrocentricperspective is plausible to so many intelligent people. Clearly it is plausible to intelligent people because theydo not believe that there was some unique brand of intelligence that struck the Greeks and created a Greekmiracle willy-nilly without contact with the civilized world. In most cases knowledge builds upon knowledge. Inthe case of the ancient Greeks they tell us that they built upon the Egyptians. Should we believe them or shouldBlack Athena Debate of 41/20/10 10:48 AM

we believe the modern Aryanist interpreters who want to dismiss the ancient Greek observers? What are the substantial arguments advance by Afrocentrists, not the hearsay comments of a student or somerhetorical repartee between public debaters? What Afrocentrists articulate is that the Greeks were students ofthe Egyptians. Readers should see the works of Yosef Ben-Jochannon and George G. M. James for themselvesrather than rely on the misinterpretations and distortions of others. On these facts we stand: *Ancient Egyptians were black people. *Egyptian civilization precedes Greece by several thousand years *The pyramids are completed (2500 BC) long before Homer appears (800 BC) *Philosophy originates in Africa and the first Greek philosophers (Thales, Isocrates) studied in Egypt * A discussion of the wise, wisdom, (sb) appears on tomb of Antef in 2052 BC *Thales of Miletus is not a philosopher until 600 BC Among Greek historians and others who wrote about what the Greeks learned from Egypt are Homer,Herodotus, Iamblicus, Aetius, Diodorous Siculus, Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, and Plato. Who were some of theGreek students of Africans, according to the ancient records? They were Plato, Solon, Lycurgus, Democritus,Anaxamander, Anaxagoras, Herodotus, Homer, Thales, Pythagoras, Eudoxus, and Isocrates and many others.Some of these students even wrote of their studies in Egypt as well. In the end I have asked myself, what is Professor Lefkowitz’ point, why does she see the need to challengeBernal, James, Diop, or to question my integrity? She states very clearly that her project is about sustaining theAmerican myth of European triumphalism. In her own words: “Any attempt to question the authenticity of ancient Greek civilization is of direct concern even to people whoordinarily have little interest in the remote past. Since the founding of this country, ancient Greece has beenintimately connected with the ideals of American democracy.”No one could have given a better reason than that for Professor Lefkowitz’ spirited but misguided attempt todefend a falsification of history in the name of attacking Afrocentricity. When all is said and done a more perfectunion of this nation can only be based on facts.Black Athena Debate of 41/20/10 10:48 AM

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA – AFRICAN STUDIES CENTERBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism(Ann Macy Roth) BUILDING BRIDGES TO AFROCENTRISM: A LETTER TO MYEGYPTOLOGICAL COLLEAGUES[The author of this essay retains the copyright. Permission is hereby granted to make copies forpersonal or classroom use so long as this statement and the name and address of the author areincluded with each copy. The essay is also available via anonymous ftp or WWW at: where it was Þrst publicly posted on26 January 1995.It has also been submitted for publication in the Newsletter of the American Research Center inEgypt.Ann Macy Roth Visiting Assistant Professor of Egyptology Howard [email protected]”What color were the ancient Egyptians?” This is a question that strikes fear into the hearts of mostAmerican Egyptologists, since it so often presages a barrage of questions and assertions from theAfrocentric perspective. Few of us have devoted much thought or research to the contentions of theAfrocentric movement, so we nervously try to say something reasonable, and hope that the questionerwon’t persist and that we won’t end up looking silly or racist or both.In late 1993, I received a temporary appointment to the faculty of Howard University and beganteaching Egyptological subjects to classes that were almost entirely African-American. As a result, Ihave been dealing with Afrocentric issues on a regular basis, and have spent a good deal of time andenergy thinking and talking about them. Since my appointment, many of my Egyptological colleaguesat other universities have asked me about Afrocentric sentiment at Howard and my strategies forteaching traditional Egyptology to the students who espouse it. The tone of these inquiries hasdemonstrated to me both the curiosity and the discomfort that American Egyptologists feel aboutAfrocentrism. This attempt to write an account of my impressions is partly inspired by such questions,which I have had difÞculty answering cogently in short conversations. More importantly, however, Ihave come to believe that the Afrocentric movement has a great potential to advance or to damage ourÞeld. Which of these directions it takes will depend upon the degree to which traditionally- trainedAmerican Egyptologists can come to understand and adapt to its existence. This essay is my attemptto speed that process.”Afrocentric Egyptology,” as practiced today, has an international scholarly literature behind it. (Themovement is, if anything, more prominent in France than it is here, to judge from the numerousdisplays of Afrocentric books and journals I saw in Paris book shops last summer.) In America,however, Afrocentric Egyptology is less a scholarly Þeld than a political and educational movement,aimed at increasing the self- esteem and conÞdence of African-Americans by stressing theachievements of African civilizations, principally ancient Egypt. As such, it is advocated in popularbooks, textbooks, and even educational posters sponsored by major breweries. It has apparently thusBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

far enjoyed considerable success in its educational aims. As a result, it is being taught to students fromgrade school through the university level all over America, and its tenets are frequently cited asestablished fact by the media and the educational establishment. Coming to Howard as part of atentative Egyptological experiment, I was amazed at the quantity of Egyptology that was alreadybeing taught, in courses ranging from drama to mathematics to philosophy. (An Afrocentric work byIvan van Sertima on Egypt is included in the recommended reading for freshman orientation.) Themovement continues to grow in importance and inßuence, and, whatever one thinks of its content, ithas an increasing degree of popular acceptance by a large audience.This kind of Egyptology has little to do with the Egyptology that we professional Egyptologistspractice, and many of us currently regard its incursions upon our Þeld as a nuisance. We see it onlywhen its exponents ask aggressive and seemingly irrelevant questions in classes and public lectures,or make extravagant claims about ancient Egyptian achievements (the harnessing of electricity, theconquest of large parts of southern Europe), citing authors of dubious credibility and outdated theoriesand translations (often by E. A. W. Budge). Especially annoying are those who combine Afrocentrismwith the age-old mystical-crackpot approach to our Þeld, claiming for the Egyptians fantastic lostskills and secret knowledge. In most cases, our reaction to Afrocentrism is avoidance: we deal withthe issue by dismissing it as nonsense, by disparaging the knowledge of its proponents, and by gettingback to “real” Egyptology.By doing this, however, we are both ignoring a danger and missing an opportunity. The number ofAfrican- Americans who are taught this material is growing, and we will increasingly have to dealwith its inaccuracies and exaggerations simply in order to teach our students. This gap between ourÞeld and the Afrocentric version of it is not going to go away; if we ignore it, it will surely widen.And by setting ourselves against the whole phenomenon in an adversarial and often condescendingway, we make it impossible for the responsible educators involved in the movement (and there aremany) to tap our expertise and improve the accuracy of the materials they teach.At the moment, however, we have the opportunity to narrow the gap by taking a more positivedirection. By granting that an Afrocentric perspective may have something to offer our Þeld, we canexorcise the defensiveness and hostility that is so often engendered by the assertions of Afrocentrists.By making our classes more hospitable to those with Afrocentric views, we take the Þrst stepstowards training a new generation of Afrocentric scholars in the traditional methods of our Þeld. Theywill then be able to correct and improve the argumentation of Afrocentric scholarship so that thecontent of their movement beneÞts from traditional Egyptology’s decades of research and hard-wonconclusions. Afrocentric Egyptology need not necessarily conßict with traditional Egyptology; itseems to me possible to combine the two, to the beneÞt, perhaps, of both.First, however, it is necessary for traditional Egyptologists to understand the underpinnings ofAfrocentric Egyptology. Its contentions, as I have encountered them, fall under four rough rubrics: (1)that the ancient Egyptians were black, (2) that ancient Egypt was superior to other ancientcivilizations (especially that of the ancient Greeks, which is seen to be largely derivative), (3) thatEgyptian culture had tremendous inßuence on the later cultures of Africa and Europe, and (4) thatthere has been a vast racist conspiracy to prevent the dissemination of the evidence for theseassertions. Most traditional Egyptologists recognize these contentions, but do not understand themotives behind them, and so deal with them in a counter- productive way. I will address them one byone.1. The contention that the Ancient Egyptians were Black. Like most of us, it had never occurred to methat the ancient Egyptians were any color in particular. Neither black nor white seemed an appropriateBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

category- -they were simply Egyptian. This view, in fact, is probably the one held by most Egyptiansthemselves, both ancient and modern. As we know from their observant depictions of foreigners, theancient Egyptians saw themselves as darker than Asiatics and Libyans, and lighter than the Nubians,and with different facial features and body types than any of these groups. They consideredthemselves, to quote Goldilocks, “just right.” These indigenous categories are the only ones that canbe used to talk about race in ancient Egypt without anachronism. Even these distinctions may haverepresented ethnicity as much as race: once an immigrant began to wear Egyptian dress, he or she wasgenerally represented as Egyptian in color and features. Although there are occasional indications ofunusually curly hair, I know of no examples of people with exaggeratedly un-Egyptian facial features,such as those represented in battle and tribute scenes, who are represented wearing Egyptian dress,though such people must have existed.As for indigenous categories in modern Egypt, I have been told by most of the modern Egyptians withwhom I’ve discussed the question that, if they had to use the categories of the modern Western world,they would describe themselves as white. (There are some exceptions, but few would describethemselves as black.) As evidence of this, one can point to the consternation that was produced inEgypt when it was announced that the black actor Lou Gosset would portray President Anwar Sadatin a biographical Þlm. There exist terms in modern colloquial Egyptian Arabic to describe skin color,most commonly “white,” “wheat-colored,” “brown,” and “black.” In practice, however, these terms arefrequently applied inaccurately, so that people are (ßatteringly) described as lighter in color than theyactually are. The term “black” is viewed almost as a pejorative, and is rarely used. This categorizationof the modern population is only partly relevant to the question, although it contributes to thereluctance of Egyptologists working in Egypt to describe the ancient Egyptians as “black.”I have encountered arguments that the ancient Egyptians were much “blacker” than their moderncounterparts, owing to the inßux of Arabs at the time of the conquest, Caucasian slaves under theMamlukes, or Turks and French soldiers during the Ottoman period. However, given the size of theEgyptian population against these comparatively minor waves of northern immigrants, as well as thefact that there was continuous immigration and occasional forced deportation of both northern andsouthern populations into Egypt throughout the pharaonic period, I doubt that the modern populationis signiÞcantly darker or lighter, or more or less “African” than their ancient counterparts. It should benoted, however, that we really do not know the answer to this question. More research on humanremains needs to be, and is being, done.But what of scientiÞc racial categories? The three races we learned about in grade school? In talkingto several physical anthropologists, I have learned that these three races have no clear scientiÞcmeaning. Anthropologists today deal with populations rather than individuals, and describe ranges ofcharacteristics that occur within a population as being similar to or different from the ranges ofcharacteristics of another population, usually expressing the degree of afÞnity with a percentage.There is no gene for blackness or whiteness, and nothing that can allow a scientist to assign a humanbeing to one or the other category, beyond the social deÞnitions of the culture in which the scientist isa participant. While anthropologists sometimes describe people in terms of the traditional three races,this is not a result of applying objective criteria based on clear biological distinctions, but is instead ashorthand convenience. Such judgments work backwards from the social categories to arrive at anidentiÞcation that would be recognized by a member of society. For example, when a forensicanthropologist gives the race of an unidentiÞed dead body as “white,” it is simply a prediction that the”missing person” form with which it will be compared probably described the person that way.ScientiÞc determinations are thus just as dependent upon social categories as more impressionisticBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

judgments are.Even comparative studies can be biased by the assumptions that underlie them. Some “Eurocentric”criteria for race acknowledge the wide variety of physical characteristics found in Europe, and deÞneas “black” only those populations that differ markedly from all European populations. As a result,populations that resemble any European population are excluded from the category “black.” This isoften what happens when scientists are asked about the remains of ancient Egyptians, some of whomclosely resembled southern Europeans. By this model, only Africans living south of the Sahara desert,which separates them more markedly from European gene pools, are deÞned as “black.” Thecategorizations arrived at by reversing the same procedure are equally extreme. If the range ofphysical types found in the African population is recognized, and the designation “white” is restrictedto those populations that have none of the characteristics that are found in any African populations,many southern Europeans and much of the population of the Middle East can be characterized as”black.” This method was at one time adopted by “white” American schools and clubs, whichcompared applicants to the “white” physical types of Northern Europe, and found that many people ofJewish or Mediterranean heritage did not measure up. Neither of these ways of determining “race” canresult in a deÞnitive division between “black” and “white,” because those are not in fact distinctcategories but a matter of social judgment and perspective. What is a continuum in nature is split intotwo groups by our society. (The terms “African” and “European,” although easier to distinguishbecause of their geographic basis, are no less subjective and problematic as cultural categories.)Race, then, is essentially a social concept, native to the society in which one lives. It is anachronisticto argue that the ancient Egyptians belonged to one race or another based on our own contemporarysocial categories, and it is equally unjustiÞable to apply the social categories of modern Egypt or ofancient Greece or any other society, although all of these questions are interesting and worthy of studyon their own. The results tell us nothing about Egyptian society, culture and history, which is after all,what we are interested in.This is not, however, what the Afrocentrist Egyptologists are interested in. They want to show thataccording to modern Western categories, the ancient Egyptians would have been regarded as black.This approach is not invalidated by the cultural limitations of racial designations just outlined,because it is an attempt to combat a distinct modern, Western tradition of racist argument, a traditionwhich has the effect of limiting the aspirations of young African-Americans and deprecating theachievements of their ancestors. This argument contends that black peoples (that is, peoples that wewould describe as black) have never achieved, on their own, a satisfactory civilization, and byextension can never achieve anything of much value. “Look at Africa today,” argue the adherents ofthis notion, ignoring the added burdens imposed by economic exploitation, cultural imperialism, and acolonial past on most African nations, and ignoring the African states which do not appear regularlyin the newspapers. “Look at history,” they add, discounting Egypt as part of the Near East andignoring (generally through ignorance) the other great African cultures.These misconceptions are argued in many parts of American society. President Richard Nixon wasquoted as making several of these arguments in the recently released diaries of his chief of staff, H. R.Haldeman. Similar assertions were made occasionally in the more intemperate discussions of the LosAngeles riots. And I understand that the Pennsylvania chapters of the “Klu Klux Klan” give each newmember a leather-bound book with the gilded title Great Achievements of the Black Race, which isÞlled entirely with blank pages. Is it any wonder that the members of this maligned group want toinscribe on those blank pages the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, the gold of Tutankhamun, the Asiaticconquests of Thutmose III, and the fame and political acumen of Cleopatra?Building Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

At this juncture, however, many Egyptologists miss the point. “Why not use Nubia?,” I have beenasked, “or any of the other great African civilizations? Why can’t they leave Egypt alone?” Theanswer is that these other civilizations did not build pyramids and temples that impressed the classicalwriters of Greece and Rome with their power, antiquity, and wisdom. Nor have most modernAmericans and Europeans heard of the civilizations of Nubia, Axum, Mali, Ife, Benin, andZimbabwe. Hannibal is famous enough to be worth claiming, but few other non-Egyptians are. Thedesire to be associated with historical people who are generally acknowledged to be “great” by theWestern cultural canon accounts for the frequent and (to Egyptologists) puzzling contention thatCleopatra was black, despite the fact that she was demonstrably descended from a family ofMacedonian generals and kings who married their sisters, and therefore had little claim to either ablack or an African origin (although one of my Classicist colleagues at Howard tells me that herpaternal grandmother is unknown, and might have been Egyptian). The reason she is identiÞed asblack is that, among modern Americans, she is probably the best known ancient Egyptian of them all.Shakespeare and Shaw wrote plays about her, her life has been chronicled in several popular Þlms,and her name is regularly invoked in our popular culture to signal the exotic, the luxurious, and thesexy. In this sense, “Afrocentric” Egyptology is profoundly Eurocentric, and necessarily so: it plays tothe prevalent cultural background of its intended audience.If the question of the race of the ancient Egyptians is entirely subjective and political, then, why doesit bother Egyptologists at all? Why would we rather the Afrocentrists “used Nubia”? I think ourreasons are largely related to the tenuous place our Þeld holds in academia. Afrocentrists seeEgyptologists as a strong, academically supported, establishment force; but despite, and perhaps evenpartly because of, the popular fascination with its contents, Egyptology tends not to be taken quiteseriously by people who study other parts of the ancient world. Already many noted departments ofNear Eastern Studies with extensive faculty in ancient Mesopotamia and the Levant do not feel itnecessary to teach or support research in Egyptology at a similar level. We fear, perhaps, that if weendorse the view that ancient Egypt was a “black civilization,” we will further cut ourselves off fromour colleagues who study other civilizations contemporary with ancient Egypt. At the same time,there is no place for us in African studies departments, which generally tend to address questionsrelated to modern history and current political and social problems. While anthropologists working inAfrica may offer us insights and models, the methods and concerns of our Þeld require more, ratherthan less, contact with scholars studying other ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures. Wehave been too isolated for too long as it is.The politics of the situation, as well as the requirements of course topics such as archaeology, make itimportant for us to deal with the question of the race of the ancient Egyptians in our universityclasses. My own method, developed long before coming to Howard, is to be very explicit about myown views on the question. I give a lecture on the land and the people of Egypt, normally very earlyin the semester, before the question is brought up by students, and I try to present the questionneutrally, without defensiveness or antagonism. I explain the social nature of racial categories, and thecategories used by the Egyptians themselves, their representation of foreigners, and the frequency offoreign (Asian and African) immigration to Egypt in all periods of its history, extending back into thePaleolithic. Discussions of geography and language are also useful here. It is also necessary to addressthe political question. In doing so, I often make use of Bruce Williams’ observation (which really goesto the heart of the matter) that few Egyptians, ancient or modern, would have been able to get a mealat a white lunch counter in the American South during the 1950s. Some ancient Egyptiansundoubtedly looked very much like some modern African- Americans, and for similar historicalBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

reasons. Very few, if any, of them looked like me. I also explain the politics of the question in modernEgypt. Finally, I explain the irrelevance of the political question to the subject I will be teaching, acircumstance that allows me to respect the students’ political convictions (which I treat rather as Imight treat a religious conviction), and should allow them to learn about Egyptian culture in my classwithout violating their beliefs. By making my position clear at the outset, I forestall the Afrocentricstudents’ speculations and attempts to “trap” me into committing myself to the exaggeratedly”Eurocentric” views that they might otherwise assume I espouse. It also reassures students that theycan come to me with questions about their Afrocentric readings, or their own Afrocentric questionsabout course materials; the topic is no longer taboo. It is impossible to build bridges if we discouragediscussion.2. The contention that the Egyptians were the greatest civilization in history. Contrary to theexpectation of most Afrocentrists, most Egyptologists are less bothered by the contention that theEgyptians were black than by the exaggerated claims made about the achievements of Egyptiancivilization. These claims, including attribution to the Egyptians of great mathematical, scientiÞc, andphilosophical sophistication, are often based on misinterpretations or exaggerations of the evidence,and in some cases pure fantasy and wishful thinking. Many of the arguments advanced show acomplete ignorance of (or disregard for) the facts of chronology, for example, the contention that theGreeks “stole” their philosophy from the library at Alexandria and then burned it down to cover theirtheft, or the claim that the architecture of Greek peripteral temples was borrowed from the easternmamisi at Dendera.Paradoxically, while it is in the details of this contention that Egyptologists Þnd the most grounds foroutrage and dismissal of the entire movement, this is also the area where we can do the most to helpthe Afrocentrists move towards a more rigorous and respectable scholarship. In principle, fewEgyptologists would deny that ancient Egypt was a great civilization, and that the ancient Egyptiansachieved wonderful things and made unique contributions to history and global culture. It in no waydetracts from these contributions that they had terrible difÞculties adding fractions because of aludicrously clumsy system of notation, or that they did not understand the importance of the brain, orthat they may have borrowed the idea of writing from Sumerian civilization. On these points theAfrocentrists need to develop a better appreciation of where the strengths of Egyptian civilizationreally were. Most Afrocentrists do not want to be in the position of teaching their children things thataren’t true. However, because of the political desire to Þnd great Egyptian achievements in areas thatthe West values, and because of the limited material available to them and their limited familiaritywith the culture, they often misinterpret the evidence and seize upon unsubstantiated ideas that Þttheir agenda.The way we can help here is not, however, to argue against these misunderstandings and mistakenideas individually. There are too many of them, and the arguments tend to be both unpleasantlyadversarial and futile.”See, this is a model of an ancient Egyptian glider- plane.””Actually, it’s a Late Period model of a bird. If the Egyptians could ßy gliders at that period, don’t youthink Greek and Egyptian sources would have mentioned it? “”But it’s aerodynamically perfect!” “Well, of course it is; it’s a bird.” “But it’s different from all theother bird models. Besides, what do you know about aerodynamics?”This sort of argument gets us nowhere. The only strategy that is effective is more fundamental. Wemust familiarize students with the evidence and the way one argues from it. Students who have readtranslations of ancient Egyptian literature and other texts and discussed how social and culturalBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

deductions can be drawn from primary sources will generally not stand for assertions about ancientEgypt that are blatantly contradicted in these texts. Likewise students who have read about the formsof pyramids and the theories about their construction, or who have become familiar with Egyptiantomb iconography, will not believe claims that do not correspond to the evidence they have seen.(There will, of course, be ideologues who will hold on to their groundless convictions in the teeth ofthe evidence, but most of them will have dropped the class after the initial discussion of the race ofthe ancient Egyptians.) Teaching students a more source-based, critical approach not only willimprove their ability to evaluate the contentions of Afrocentric Egyptology, but should help them dealwith other subjects as well, and lays the foundation for academic and other work that will give thempride in their own achievements as well as their heritage. Moreover, an explicitly source-basedapproach has the added advantage of forcing us to reexamine our own basic assumptions.When Afrocentrists base their conclusions on the evidence, the results can serve their purposeswithout violating the sensibilities of scholars. The validity of the evidence also lends authority to theideological position being argued. One example that goes some distance towards this goal is anAfrocentric poster given me by one of my students, designed and produced by a group called theMelanin Sisters, for grade-school children. The poster is decorated with hieroglyphs and urges thereader to adopt behavior in accordance with the ancient Egyptian concept of Ma’at. As a guide to therequirements, the Negative Confession is quoted (albeit with some substitutions for the weird bits).Another student showed me a book called Hip-Hop and Maat, which again uses the NegativeConfession, as well as selections from Egyptian wisdom literature, to construct a system of moralitythat the author contrasts favorably with the street ethics prevalent among many young African-Americans. (Unfortunately, I did not make a note of the bibliographic information, and I’ve beenunable to Þnd the book again.) The use of actual Egyptian evidence in developing Afrocentricmaterials could be encouraged and made more authentic if Egyptologists took a less adversarialattitude toward its creators.If we teach Afrocentric students to Þnd evidence for their assertions and to construct convincingarguments, there will always be the possibility that they will use these tools to argue points that weÞnd uncongenial to our pictures of Egyptian civilization. At a conference some years ago, I praised aninnovative and provoking argument to a colleague, and his reply was, “Yes, I suppose it wasinteresting, but just imagine what they will do with it.” To use such fears of exaggeration in thepopular sphere (regardless of whether they are justiÞed) as an excuse for suppressing arguments thatcontradict our own reconstruction of the past is unjustiÞable and unscholarly. Political bias isunavoidable, so the current wisdom goes, and we all Þnd it more difÞcult to accept some argumentsthan others, depending upon our own previous ideas or our feelings about the person making theargument. But such predispositions are something that we all deal with frequently, and should havelearned to set aside. We are scholars, and we should not be afraid of the truth, whatever it turns out tobe.3. The contention that Egyptian civilization had extensive inßuence on Europe and Africa. Thisargument really has two parts, which are in some ways symmetrical, but which have two entirelydifferent motivations. The argument for Egyptian inßuence in Europe is an extension of the argumentfor the overall superiority of Egypt to other cultures: by rooting Greek and Roman civilizations inEgypt, Africa can be seen as the source of the civilization we Þnd most impressive: our own. Theargument for the inßuence of Egypt on other African civilizations, in contrast, is intended to allowmodern African- Americans (who are in most cases the descendants of people abducted from non-Egyptian parts of Africa) to claim the Egyptian cultural heritage as their own.Building Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

The half of this question that has been most discussed of late is the claim that Egypt colonized Greece,and that classical Greek culture is essentially Egyptian. Greece is traditionally viewed by Westernculture as the source of beauty and reason, so (again, for political reasons) it is felt especiallyimportant to show that ancient Egypt was extremely inßuential in its development. Black Athena,Martin Bernal’s work on the question, has been at the center of the recent debate on this claim, andhas given it a degree of prominence and respectability in the non- Afrocentric scholarly community.Despite this, I feel strongly that Bernal’s books do an ultimate disservice to the cause he is trying toadvance. In the short term, of course, they have brought both the issue and Bernal himself to theforefront of public consciousness. However, his arguments are so chosen and presented that theycannot serve as a solid foundation for the academically credible Afrocentric Egyptology that he hopesto create.In many cases, Bernal has either intentionally misled his readers by his selection of evidence or he hasneglected to investigate the full context of the evidence on which he builds his arguments. Heroutinely cites late Classical traditions that support his argument, and ignores the Egyptian evidencethat doesn’t. A good example of these problems is his discussion of the connections of Egypt with bullcults on Crete (vol. II, pp. 22-25, and more fully as Chapter IV, especially pp. 166- 184). After aninitial foray proposing dubious connections between Min, bulls, Pan, and the Minoan king Minos,Bernal connects Minos to Menes and the name of Memphis, Mn-nfr, because of their phoneticsimilarity and their connection with the bull cult of Apis. (Mn-nfr, of course, comes from the name ofthe mortuary temple of Pepi I and has nothing to do with Menes, who is called the founder of the Apiscult only by a late Roman writer.) The name of the Mnevis bull also contains the magic letters mn inthe Classical sources. The fact that the name was consistently written Mr-wr by the Egyptians is notmentioned in the summary, while in the fuller argument it is dismissed as “confusion among the threebiconsonantals mr, mn and nm” in words referring to cattle (possibly due to onomatopoeia). The factremains that the Mnevis bull is only rarely called anything but Mr- wr. The “winding wall” sign inMr-wr, which is also used in mrrt, “street,” is connected in his summary with the labyrinth of theMinotaur.The result of these arguments is a “triple parallel”: the connection of a bull cult in both Egypt andCrete “with the name Mn, the founding pharaoh, and a winding wall.” But in Egypt neither the nameMn nor the founding king was clearly connected to the Apis cult; and the connection of the “windingwall” sign with the Mnevis bull was probably purely phonetic. The triple parallel reduces to a singlecoincidence: the founding king of Egypt and the most famous king of the Minoans both had nameswith the consonants “Mn.” This relationship, as Bernal points out, has been discussed by previousscholars. That both countries had bull cults, like most other ancient Mediterranean cultures, is hardlyworthy of remark. The following discussion of “the bull Montu” is even more tenuous, since Montu isgenerally characterized as a falcon, and is no more to be equated with the Buchis bull with which heshares a cult place than the sun god Re is to be equated with the Mnevis bull. That these argumentsare ßawed does not prove Bernal’s conclusions wrong, of course; but such arguments can never provehim right, and in the meantime they obscure the debate.The connections and contacts between Egypt and the Greek world have long been recognized, andBernal misrepresents the degree to which modern scholars suppress evidence for them. Certainly theinßuence of Egyptian statuary on Archaic Greek kouroi is widely accepted, among Classicists as wellas Egyptologists, although the differences in their function and execution are obviously of importancetoo. In arguing for an Egyptian colonization of Greece, however, Bernal and his followers disregardthe extensive Egyptian textual tradition (surely if Thutmose III had conquered southern Europe andBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

set up colonies there he would have mentioned it in his annals, for example), as well as the argumentsof the scholars who have been investigating these questions for decades. Most of Bernal’s arguments,interestingly, rest on the Greek textual tradition, which was of course a product of its culture’s owncultural and political situation and requirements, and often made use of the Egyptians’ antiquity andreputation for wisdom. By crediting the Greek evidence over the Egyptian, European over theAfrican, Bernal takes advantage of the fact that his Western audience is more familiar with (and moreinclined to credit) the Classical tradition than the Egyptian. That few of the myriad reviews of theseries have been written by Egyptologists is an obvious indication of the European provenience of hisevidence.If we are honest, most Egyptologists would admit that we would like nothing better than to Þndindisputable evidence that all Western culture derived from Egypt; such a discovery would make usfar more important, more powerful, and wealthier than we are today. Because of this bias, we arejustiÞably cautious in making such claims.The other half of this contention, that Egyptian civilization had a wide inßuence in the rest of Africa,is argued most prominently in the writings of Sheikh Anta Diop. Many turn-of-the-century scholarsmade such a claim, and they are widely and reverently quoted in the Afrocentric literature to supportthe more recent contentions. Interestingly, their motivation was essentially racist. The invention of the”Hamitic” racial group, deÞned as a population essentially “white” in skeletal features, but with thepeculiar anomaly of dark skin, allowed some early Egyptologists to categorize the Egyptians and theNubians as “white.” Then, working on the racist assumption that “blacks” were incapable of highercivilization, they attributed anything that looked like civilization in the remainder of Africa to”ancient Egyptian colonization.” While there is a rather pleasant poetic justice in the fact that theßawed conclusions resulting from these racist assumptions are currently being used to argue for theconnection of all Africans and African culture with the glories of ancient Egypt, the evidence for theseconclusions is hardly acceptable from a scholarly point of view. As with the European conquests andcolonies hypothesized by Bernal, African conquests and colonies beyond Upper Nubia are unlikelybecause of the silence of the Egyptian records, although other kinds of contact are not impossible.These two contentions of Egyptian inßuence outside of Egypt are among the most difÞcultAfrocentric claims to deal with. Unlike the question of race, these are not subjective judgments, andyet like the question of race they are yes-no questions that lie at the heart of the Afrocentrichypothesis. In particular, to deny the claim that all Africans are descended culturally and geneticallyfrom the ancient Egyptians is seen as an attack on African- Americans’ right to claim the ancientEgyptian heritage as their own. At the moment, these claims have neither been deÞnitively proved nordisproved, so it is probably wisest to take an agnostic position regarding them. The nature and extentof Mediterranean connections with ancient Egypt are worthy of further study, and may offer scope toarguments more truly Afrocentric than those propounded by Bernal. In Africa, too, there clearly wereconnections of some kind with areas beyond Nubia, as we know from the depiction of trade goods;and the degree of contact with Western Africa through Libya and the Oases has not been exhaustivelystudied. All of these areas have been receiving more attention in recent years, and it may be that therewas more contact between Egypt and the rest of Africa, or between Egypt and Europe, than ourcurrent interpretations allow. If there was, let those who would argue it argue from evidence ratherthan authority.4. There has been a scholarly conspiracy among Eurocentric Egyptologists to suppress evidence aboutthe blackness of the ancient Egyptians, their greatness, and their inßuence on European and otherAfrican civilizations. This is probably the most offensive manifestation of Afrocentrism we encounter,Building Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

implying as it does that Egyptologists as a group have routinely abandoned their scholarly integrity,simply in order to further some racist agenda. (As an epigrapher, I Þnd the charge that we haverecarved the faces of Egyptians represented in tomb reliefs particularly ludicrous.) Its most frequentmanifestation is the Napoleon-knocked- the-nose-off-the-Sphinx-so-no- one-would-know-it-was-black contention, a silly argument that demonstrates the movement’s unattractive paranoia. For theevidence against this, incidentally, I refer the reader to a fascinating article by Ulrich Haarmann,”Regional Sentiment in Medieval Islamic Egypt,” BSOAS 43 (1980) 55-66, which records that,according to Makrizi, Rashidi, and other medieval Arab authors, the face of the Sphinx was mutilatedin 1378 A.D. (708 A.H.) by Mohammed Sa’im al-Dahr, whom Haarmann describes as “a fanatical suÞof the oldest and most highly respected suÞ convent of Cairo.”Although some Afrocentrists may have found individual Egyptologists uncooperative, for reasonsmade clear above, we are hardly likely to deny the achievements of the Egyptians. In one sense, weare far more Afrocentric than the Afrocentrists, since we try, where possible, to study Egyptiancivilization on its own terms, rather than comparing it to our own culture. Most of us have developeda great respect for the skills of the Egyptians: their abilities and sophistication as sculptors, writers,diplomats, theologians, painters, architects, potters, bureaucrats, builders, warriors, and traders willnot be denied by those who have studied the results of their work. Even greater skill is apparent in thesuitability of these achievements to the needs of the ancient culture as a whole, and this suitability isbetter appreciated the better one understands the cultural context in which the achievement occurred.To yank a building or a statue or a poem from its indigenous cultural milieu in order to compare itwith its Western counterparts is decidedly Eurocentric, especially when one uses the Western productsas the standard against which the Egyptian are to be judged; and yet, for political reasons, this is themost common approach of the Afrocentrists.In another sense, however, the contention that Egyptologists are Eurocentric has at its center a kernelof truth. Any Egyptologist who proposes to do something constructive about the Afrocentricmovement must admit that, in its origins and to some extent in its current preoccupations, Egyptologyis a Eurocentric profession. It was founded by European and American scholars whose primaryinterest was in conÞrming the Classical sources and in conÞrming and explicating the Old and NewTestaments for the furtherance of Christianity. A look at the earliest Egypt Exploration Societypublications illustrates the way that early scholars “sold” their work by connecting it to familiarClassical and (especially) Biblical names and places: The Store City of Pithom and the Route of theExodus (1885), Tanis (1885), Naukratis (1886 and 1888), The Shrine of Saft el Henneh and the Landof Goshen (1887), The City of Onias and the Mound of the Jew (1890), and Bubastis (1890).Furthermore, the fact that the cultures to the north and east of Egypt provide texts that we can use tocorrect and augment the Egyptian evidence, while those to the south and west do not, provides a thirdreason for concentrating our research on foreign relations to the northeast. Insofar as Nubian cultureshave been studied, they have until recently been seen as distorted and somewhat comical attempts toreplicate their great neighbor to the north. Because of these circumstances (the Classical focus ofWestern culture, Christianity, and the distribution of writing), as well as the often unconscious racismof early scholars which has affected the shape of our Þeld, Egyptologists have too often ignored therest of Africa.This ignorance has not been complete. As a result of the birth of cultural anthropology around the turnof the century, there was a great interest in Þnding the origin of Egyptian traditions in those of “otherprimitive cultures,” i.e., the societies of contemporary Africa, which were taken as models for whatEgypt was like “before civilization.” This rather weird perspective led to such anachronisms as theBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

claim that the ancient Egyptian jubilee ceremony “derived” from the alleged eighteenth- centuryAfrican practice of killing a king who became too old to rule effectively.Despite the nature of the underlying assumptions, this early work in anthropological comparisonscontains many interesting ideas. (I have found the work of A. Blackman especially rich.) Suchsimilarities between cultures, reviewed and reworked to accord with current scholarly standards, mayhelp explicate some of the puzzling elements in Egyptian culture. It must be remembered, however,that similarity does not prove inßuence, or even contact. As the archaeology and culturalanthropology of Africa becomes better known, and as Egyptologists, Afrocentric and traditional,become more familiar with and sophisticated about African cultures, it may be that patterns of suchsimilarities can be identiÞed, categorized, and traced with sufÞcient scholarly rigor to show routes ofcontact. These are important questions, and represent an area where the Afrocentric perspective mightmake substantial contributions not just to the education and self-esteem of African-Americans but tothe international scholarly Þeld of Egyptology as well. Such discoveries would add immeasurably tothe resources of the entire Þeld of Egyptology, widening our horizons and broadening ourunderstanding of Egyptian culture.Afrocentric Egyptology, properly pursued, has the potential to achieve important political goals:improving the self-image of young African-Americans and enhancing their belief in their ownpotential for achievement, by combating the racist argument that no one from Africa or with a darkskin has ever achieved anything worthwhile. The less exaggerated and the more rooted in acceptedscholarly argument its teachings are, the more authority the curriculum will have. As the movementgrows more sophisticated and better grounded, and as mainstream Egyptologists growcommensurately more accepting of its perspectives, it will, I hope, be possible to do away with thedefensiveness that so often characterizes Afrocentric teachings currently. Instead of learning adoctrine on faith, teachers of Afrocentrism should encourage students to investigate the primaryevidence and reÞne our knowledge of Egypt and other African civilizations on their own, trulyAfrocentric, terms. Teachers should not worry that students will Þnd that ancient Egypt was not agreat civilization after all–on the contrary, the deeper one goes into its cultural productions, the moreone comes to appreciate the ingenuity of the Egyptians.At the same time, Afrocentric scholars with traditional training can serve as a useful corrective to theEuropean vantage point inherent in traditional Egyptology, by focusing on questions that it might notoccur to traditional Egyptologists to ask. We all ought to help train these scholars. The level of interestand enthusiasm about ancient Egyptian culture is amazingly high in the African-Americancommunity. When I Þrst arrived at Howard University, I was stunned by the enthusiasm I met with,both from my own students and from students outside of my classes (not to mention the prevalence ofEgyptian- themed clothing and jewelry). At Howard, Egyptology is not a peripheral Þeld in which onemight take an elective as a novelty or to add an exotic line to one’s law school application–Egyptianculture is seen as a heritage to be proud of, and something worth learning more about. Whether or notone agrees with the premise that inspires this enthusiasm (and, as I’ve said, this is largely a matter offaith and deÞnition), there is a real potential for the expansion of our Þeld among these students.While some Afrocentric students will lose interest once they get past the political questions, otherswill remain fascinated by the culture. A few of these may go on to become Egyptologists, whetherwith an Afrocentric agenda or not. Others will enter other professions, enriched by an appreciation fora culture other than their own, but to which they feel some connection.In a time when university administrators talk endlessly of bottom lines and judge the validity ofscholarly Þelds by the number of students they attract, we cannot afford as a Þeld to ignore such anBuilding Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

audience for the material we want to teach. In view of the growing inßuence of Afrocentrism in theeducational and larger community, we cannot afford to maintain our adversarial attitude towards it andto refuse to contribute to its better grounding in Egyptological evidence and research. Mostimportantly, as scholars and teachers, we cannot afford to ignore enthusiastic, talented students withnew perspectives that have the potential to expand both our academic Þeld and our understanding ofancient Egypt.Editor: Ali B. Ali-DinarPrevious MenuHome PageWhat’s NewSearchCountry SpeciÞc Building Bridges to Afrocentrism of 121/20/10 10:50 AM

Guidelines for Writing a Historical Essay Ð Dr. Steven J. Salm Your essay should take on the following format: Introduction ¥ Introduce the problem ¥ Define key terms ¥ State the thesis ¥ Stems from good question (what is the significance?) ¥ Tentative answer is “hypothesis” ¥ Refine hypothesis into thesis ¥ The Body ¥ How is the paper organized? ¥ Paragraphs ¥ Topic sentence (mini-thesis) ¥ Argument supporting topic sentence ¥ Transition to next mini-thesis ¥ Arguing in paragraphs ¥ Mini-thesis ¥ Evidence ¥ Analysis (what does evidence support?) ¥ Conclusion ¥ Re-state the thesis ¥ Significance of thesis (why should we care about the problem?) Here are some additional suggestions from: GUIDELINES FOR WRITING HISTORICAL ESSAYS Understand what is being asked. This is a major area where students frequently run into trouble. Be sure to read the question carefully, paying special attention to the verbs (compare and contrast, trace, agree or disagree, explain, evaluate) used and any specific instructions. Also, adhere to the time frame required by the question (e.g., if it asks you to deal with the period 1607 to 1763, don’t end in 1750!) You might ask yourself why the instructor has chosen the time frame that he or she has. Decide what material is relevant to the question. Often students attempt to relate everything they know about the subject of the question in their essay. I call this a “data-dump.” It is an approach you should try hard to avoid. In order to allow yourself time to address a number of points and issues, you must decide what material is relevant to the question. You should further decide what of that relevant evidence is necessary to include and best supports your points. Integrate facts and ideas. Should you pay more attention to facts or ideas in writing a historical essay? The answer is that you should pay ample attention to both. Writing history involves the interpretation (rather than simply a narration) of historical facts. The lectures, readings, and videos provide you with a body of

information that you must not only be familiar with but also must interpret in relation to questions. This means that your essay should address how and why the evidence you have cited is significant to addressing the question posed. Remember that a historical essay is not simply a statement of opinion. You must demonstrate that you have an informed opinion by referring to specific evidence that support your points. While writers of fiction are free to create places, people, and events, historians must ground their interpretations in evidence. Writing a historical essay is a little like constructing a brick building. The bricks might represent the facts that historians must also use. Without bricks, you have little more than a blueprint of your building. Similarly, an argument cannot stand without facts to support it. Once you have collected your bricks, you need some mortar to hold the bricks together. The mortar might represent the historian’s interpretation and ideas. Just as a builder needs mortar to build a strong, solid, and hopefully grand building, the historian must bring facts together with his or her interpretations and ideas in order to construct a coherent and powerful essay. Develop a thesis. A thesis briefly summarizes your argument and furnishes general reasons for that argument. It should appear in the introduction to the essay. Your thesis should directly address the question posed. The rest of your essay is devoted to explaining and supporting your thesis, so save the details for the body of your essay. Often an essay question has no one correct thesis; several different arguments can be successfully developed. Avoid making simplistic, perfunctory, or limited arguments. This is perhaps the most important aspect of writing history. An historian’s most challenging task is to try to make sense of a complex and contradictory array of historical evidence. The best essays convey that complexity without descending into chaos and confusion. Historians should not ignore key pieces of evidence that contradict their argument but instead should either defend or modify their position in light of the evidence. Pointers for writing: ¥ Create an outline of your essay. An outline will allow you to view the big picture of your argument, so you can more easily revise or add to it as you examine the evidence. ¥ Use paragraphs. Each paragraph should develop a major point of your argument. ¥ You should introduce your paragraph with a topic sentence that tells the reader what you are going to do in the paragraph. Taken together, your topic sentences should clearly express your essay’s argument. ¥ Be warned that students often try to make too many major points in one paragraph. Each paragraph should develop only one major point of your general argument. ¥ Build a convincing argument. Your essay should lead the reader from paragraph to paragraph by carefully explaining each of its major points. The reader should not have to wander through your essay or read your mind. An essay is a form of communication, so explain your position as a clearly and cogently as possible and write legibly. Avoid “padding” (rambling and ranting). This suggests a lack of preparation. ¥ Your essay must have an introduction and conclusion. The intro should be fairly brief (3-5 sentences) and should include your thesis. The conclusion should summarize why yours is a persuasive argument.