Dr. Edward W. Blyden 

(1832-1912)

 

Dr. Blyden is considered the “Father of Pan-Africanism” Born in the Dutch (now U.S.) Virgin Islands in 1832, he set out for Liberia, as a missionary, after being rejected by a few US colleges because he was Black.  As a missionary he was told that the Africans were savages and heathens in need of the white man’s religion—Christianity.  However when he got there he realized the Africans were civilized with customs that long pre-dated the arrival of the Europeans.  Of the most noted customs he found was Islam.  He was thoroughly impressed with the positive effect Al-Islam had of the African as compared to Christianity’s debilitating effects.  He was to spend the rest of his life in West Africa as a statesman for Liberia and at the end of his life in charge of Islamic Education in Sierra Leone, where he was known as “Abdul Karim.”  The Blyden Historical Society was founded in his honor among African-centered scholars in New York. His books include:

Christianity, Islam  and The Negro Race(1887)

African Life and Customs (1908)  West  Africa Before The European: And Other Addresses In England in 1901 &1903 (1905).

 

Dr. Martin Delany (1812-1883)

 

Martin Delany is considered the “Grandfather of Black Nationalism.”  Born in Charles Town, Virginia (now, Charlestown, West Virginia), a free man.  His grandparents on both sides were born in African of royal lineage. His paternal grandfather was a  Gola chief in what is now Liberia and his maternal Grandfather was a Mandinka prince.

In 1822, his mother moved him and his siblings to Pennsylvania in order for them to learn to read and write as it was illegal in the state of Virginia to educate any Black person, free or slave.  He was one of the first three Blacks admitted into the Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Delany was also a writer who help Frederick Douglas in his abolitionist newspaper, The North Star.

He joined the military during the Civil War.  His rank as Major was the highest rank among African-Americans at that time.  After the war he was stationed at the Freeman’s Bureau in SC, where he strongly advocated for the former slaves to be given land.

While living in Pittsburgh in 1853,  he wrote a book; The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered (1852).   In his book he realized that Black people had no future in white controlled US society and that it was necessary to migrate elsewhere, to the Caribbean or to South America.  He died in Wilberforce, Ohio at age 72.

Joel Augustus (JA) Rogers

(1880-1966)

 Born in Jamaica, West Indies and died in New York, JA Rogers was perhaps the most prolific writer and author of African– American History.  He was never a college professor or a college graduate.  He worked in many fields as a young adult before settling on journalism.  His groundbreaking book: Superman To Man (1917)  was to start a series of books that set the stage for the enlightenment of new generations of scholars.  He came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance (1919-1935), a period where we African-Americans began to link with our African heritage and developed Black conscious thought and expression. Some of his other books include:  100 Facts About The Negro (1934); World’s Greatest Men Of Color, vols. 1& 2 (1940); Sex & Race, vols. 1-3 (1947); Africa’s Gifts To America.(1959); FIVE NEGRO PRESIDENTS (1965).

 

Dr. John Hendrik Clarke (1915-1998)

Born in Union Springs, Alabama to Sharecroppers, Dr. Clarke left the south, at age 18, for Harlem, N.Y. in the event called, “The Great Migration” in 1933 during the Harlem Renaissance period.  Though he never officially attended High School, he attended New York University and Columbia University.  He was a member of the Blyden Historical Society among other Black Studies Associations. He came prominent during the Black Power Movement of the latter 1960”s, as he was a leading advocate establishing Black Studies in the universities and colleges.  He was a founding chairman of Black & Hispanic studies programs at Hunter College and Cornell University. His books include:

New Approach to African History (1967)

The Boy Who Painted Jesus Black (1975); Editor, Malcolm X: Man and His Times (1991), an anthology of the activist’s writings

Author and editor, Who Betrayed the African World Revolution?: And Other Speeches (1993)

African People in World History (1993);

Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism (reprinted 2011)

Dr. Yosef Ben-Johannon (1918-)

 

Affectionately known as Dr. Ben, the 96 year old professor of African studies was born to an Ethiopian father and a Puerto Rican mother.  He educated in Puerto Rico, Spain and Cuba where he got his doctorate before

arriving in the U.S. in the 1940’s.  He claims to have been appointed the chairman of UNESO African Studies Committee in 1945– 1970.  Between 1950-1987, he taught at Malcolm King College, City College of NY (CCNY), and Cornell University.  Despite of his controversial teachings, he is highly respected in the Pan-African and Kemetic communities.  He currently lives in Harlem.  I visited his office and small bookstore in the 1980’s.  He authored 49 books some of which are:

African Origins of Major Western Religions (1970);  Black Man of the Nile and His Family (1972);  Africa: Mother of Western Civilization. (1971) ; We the Black Jews (1983); Abu Simbel to Ghizeh: A Guide Book and Manual; Cultural Genocide in the Black and African Studies Curriculum. New York (1987);  New Dimensions in African History (1991); The Myth of Exodus and Genesis and the Exclusion of Their African Origins (2002)

 

 

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (1935-2009)

Born in Guyana, Dr. van Sertima studied in his home country then at the University of London.  He came to the U.S. for graduate studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he taught as an Associate professor.  Dr. van Sertima’s groundbreaking book,  They Came Before Columbus (1976),  revitalized the subject first presented in the 1920 book by Dr. Leo Weiner,  African Discovery of America.  Dr. van Sertima would go on to publish the Journal of African Civilizations, while authoring and/or editing or co-editing several books.  Dr. van Sertima retired in 2006 as a professor at Rutgers University.  He was elected to the Rutgers Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004. He died in New Jersey.  His works include:

As author:

Caribbean Writers: Critical Essays, London & Port of Spain(1968)

They Came Before Columbus, New York(1976)

As editor:

The Journal of African Civilizations (1979–2005); Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern (1983); African Presence in Early Europe (1985); Great African Thinkers, Cheikh Anta Diop (1986); Great Black Leaders: Ancient and Modern (1988);  Black Women in Antiquity (1988);  Cheikh Anta Diop (1988); The Journal of African Civilizations (1988);The Golden Age of the Moor (1992);   Egypt Revisited (1993); Early America Revisited (1998)

As co-editor

The Journal of African Civilizations,(1985); with Runoko Rashidi, African Presence in Early Asia

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