CHEIKH ANTA DIOP AND THE NEW CONCEPT OF AFRICAN HISTORY

By John Henry Clarke (1986)

 

Cheikh Anta Diop, one of the most able of present day scholars writing about Africa, is also one of the greatest living African historians. His first major work, Nations, Negres et Culture (1954) is still disturbing the white historians who have made quick reputations as authorities on African history and culture. In this book Dr. Diop shows the interrelationships between African nations, north and south, and proves, because in this case proof is needed again and again, that ancient Egypt was a distinct African nation and was not historically or culturally a part of Asia or Europe. More myths about Africa are put to rest in another one of his books, The Cultural Unity of Negro Africa (1959). The publication of his first book in the United States, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, is a cause for celebration. This book and others of recent years, all by African writers, have called for a total reconsideration of the role that African people have played in history and their impact on the development of early societies and institutions."

"Cheikh Anta Diop was born in the town of Diourbel, in Senegal, on the west coast of Africa in 1923. His birthplace has a long tradition of producing Muslim scholars and oral historians. This is where his inspiration and interest in history, the humanities and social sciences, from an African point of view, began. After the publication of his first book, Nations, Negres et Culture, which had been rejected as a Ph.D. thesis at the Sorbonne in Paris, he became one of the most controversial of present day African historians. Nations, Negres et Culture is both a reassessment of the African past and a challenge to Western scholarship on Africa. He refutes the myth of Egypt as a white nation and shows its southern African origins. It is his intention to prove that, through Egyptian civilization, Africa has made the oldest and one of the most significant contributions to world culture. This is not a new argument that started with Cheikh Anta Diop’s generation of Africans. The Ghanaian historian, Joseph B. Danquah, in his introduction to the book United West Africa at the Bar of the Family of Nations, by Ladipo Solanke, published in 1927 (three years after Cheikh Ant Diop was born), said exactly the same thing. His statement reads:

                “By the time Alexander the Great was sweeping the civilized world with conquest after conquest from Chaeronia to Gaza, from Babylon to Cabul; by the time the first Aryan conquerors were learning the rudiments of war and government at the feet of the philosopher Aristotle; and by the time Athens was laying down the foundations of European civilization, the earliest and greatest Ethiopian culture had already flourished and dominated the civilized world for over four centuries and a half....”

Here Dr. Danquah is showing that African history is the foundation of world history. In the present book by Cheikh Anta Diop, and in most of his other works, his objective is the same. In his first major work on history, Dr. Diop said:

                “The general problem confronting African history is this: how to reorganize effectively, through meaningful research, all of the fragments of the past into a single ancient epoch, a common origin which will re-establish African continuity...if the ancients were not victims of a mirage, it should be easy enough to draw upon another series of arguments and proofs for the union of the history of Ethiopian and Egyptian societies with the rest of Africa. Thus combined, these histories would lead to a properly patterned past in which it would be seen that (ancient) Ghana rose in the interior (West Africa) of the continent at the moment of Egyptian decline, just as the Western European empires were born with the decline of Rome.”

While using Africa as the vantage point and the basis for his thesis Dr. Diop does not neglect the broader dimensions of history.  He shows that history cannot be restricted by the limits of ethnic group, nation, or culture. Roman history is Greek as well as Roman, and both the Greek and the Roman history are Egyptian because the entire Mediterranean was civilized by Egypt; and Egypt in turn borrowed from other parts of Africa, especially Ethiopia.” 

 

Source: Van Sertima, Ivan, (Editor) GREAT AFRICAN THINKERS: Cheikh Anta Diop, Vol. I., The Journal of African Civilizations Ltd., Inc. 1986.  P. 111-112.

 

ARF EDITORIAL COMMENTS: There is a need for a new generation of Afrikan scholars to undertake studies and research in Afrikan Classics (Khemetology), which formed the foundation of Graeco-Roman classics that have dominated the studies of humanities in Western civilization. By this Africology will be bereft of superficialities and be grounded in the authentic origins of Afrikan history.

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