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Ivan Van Sertima: Fighting Racism Through Science

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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"Prof. Van Sertima almost single-handedly introduced and defended the proposition that Africans made significant contact with the people of the Americas, not just before Columbus, but before the birth of Christ." By bringing multi-disciplinary evidence to back up his claims, Van Sertima "debunked" European contentions "that only white people were capable of moving around the world in a methodical manner." Van Sertima labored heroically to break the white choke-hold on the human narrative.

 

Ivan Van Sertima: Fighting Racism Through Science
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
His body of work was a powerful challenge to the insane idea that Europeans were the main actors in world history.”
There are men and women who change the paradigms of history. Ivan Van Sertima will be remembered as one of those men. Prof. Van Sertima almost single-handedly introduced and defended the proposition that Africans made significant contact with the people of the Americas, not just before Columbus, but before the birth of Christ. In a larger sense, Van Sertima’sbody of work was a powerful challenge to the insane idea that Europeans were the main actors in world history.
Prof. Van Sertima is most famous for his book, They Came Before Columbus, published in 1976. At the heart of this magnificent volume is a group of huge stone heads, weighing ten to forty tons, dating to the Olmec culture of Mexico at least 800 years before Christ. The Africanness or Negroidness of the heads is visually undeniable – unless one is a racist, intent on reading Africans out of history. As Van Sertima explained, the evidence goes far beyond fullness of lips and broadness of nose. The heads wore helmets that match Egyptian military helmets of the era. The hair is depicted in stone braided in the Ethiopian style. And most importantly, it is following the period of African contact that the people of that region of America begin building pyramids.
Van Sertima also makes the case for a much later African trade and exploration expedition to the Americas, this one from Mali in West Africa in the 14th Century, A.D.
Even more than the striking visual evidence of the stone heads, Van Sertima compiles convincing data from a range of sciences and disciplines: mechanical evidence, metallurgical evidence, documents as evidence, African oral histories, and navigational evidence – all pointing to intercontinental contact that impacted on the culture and technologies of Americans and Africans.
Van Sertima understood that his scientific mission was ultimately a political struggle, as well.”
Most compelling, is the fact that ocean currents made contact between Africa and the Caribbean and Gulf Coast region of the western hemisphere absolutely inevitable. At least three currents off the African coast will deposit any boat that ventures into them into American waters. It is a conveyer belt between continents. That is how Chistopher Columbus got to the Caribbean, in 1492, and on succeeding voyages – by sailing south to the Canary Islands off the African coast, and then turning into the America-bound currents. And that, said Van Sertima, is how Africans traveled across the ocean, many centuries before.
Van Sertima, a native of Guyana, began his 30-year teaching career at New Jersey’s Rutgers University in 1972. By title, he was a professor of African Studies, but his work required a thorough knowledge of literature, linguistics, anthropology, history – all of the disciplines necessary to trace the human footprint on the planet. Van Sertima also worked as a journalist. He understood that his scientific mission was ultimately a political struggle, as well. As he has remarked, Europeans assumed that only white people were capable of moving around the world in a methodical manner. By their logic, if evidence was found of Africans outside of Africa, then someone else must have brought them there. Van Sertima spent much of his adult life debunking such white supremacist assumptions, through sound application of science. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
 

 

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Comments

Brilliantly thought provoking

 This really is a gem of historical footage.
Not simply for the fact that itbrings to light a plethora of evidence supporting the theory of Africans visiting the new world before Columbus; something that The Before Columbus Foundation, w/ Ishmael Reed and his cohorts were illuminating with respects to Chinese as well as Africans decades ago as well. But ,  it reveals Van Sertima as a brilliantly, enthralling lecturer who's passion for his work can hardly be containedby the proper walls of academia. And, like all  eyeopening research theories, it raises as many question as it answers. It inspires me to ask:
1. Given the fact that most if not history pertaining to mans migration patterns over thounds of yearshas revealed that man migrates (even contemporary man) out of neccessity for want of food and or materials with which man can can better accomidate himself to his environment and not simply out of curiosity. Why would Africans, with its abundance of resources and foodstuffs, need to venture so far? Unless those privilaged persons of Africa had the luxury of sailing for pleasure and decided to give the local gentry of whatever land they stumbled onto a workshop in their own latest building and artifact making techniques; that serve by and large decidedly, well documented, different functions indeed.
2. If said journey's by Africans had been undertaken for purposes of trading with The Puebla of this Continent or were serendiptous discoveries; Where are the artifacts  revealing that exchange, in Africa nations to be found? His example of a particular breed of cotton is revealing, yet subject to scruntiny, for the fact that it could have arrived there in other ways; for example, it could have been brought in the bowels of migrating birds, or it could be a cotton that was brought to the Americas by those Migrants passing through the Berring Land bridge from Asia 30 thousand years ago, in which case said cotton could have found itself depossited in Africa prior or later or simutaneously.
Lastly, I find the facial features theory to be the weekest, because those features are and can be found in humans in so many regions of the world including Europe.Yet, with that little bit said. The facts he presenty and the questions he inspires make for intriguing and interesting discussions for many years since to be sure as well as years to come and I again appreciate your posting this fascinating lecture by a brilliant mind.
Also, I Icould'nt help from being reminded of Bayard Rustin when watching him speak.

Van Sertima's legacy

I found the article fascinating.  I attended a lecture by Van Sertima at one time. I also found Cool Breeze's reply thought provoking as well.  We all know the conspiracy of exclusion exist when it comes to Africa's role in world history in terms of culture, politics, art and scientific discoveries, or at least I hope we do. Nevertheless, I appreciate anyone who insist on thinking for him or herself and is not afraid to challenge even the most compelling theories, and evidence.  Cool breeze makes some very interesting and valid points, and raises some interesting questions, without an attempt to discredit the volumes of carefully and tediously researched, and compiled works of Van Sertima,  works which are a great tribute to a great man.  Let's all keep an open mind to rational and sober scrutiny of any theories, regardless of the source.  long live Van Sertima, thanks Glen and Thanks Cool Breeze
peace
 
hamadi

Americas by those Migrants

Americas by those Migrants passing through the Berring Land bridge from Asia 30 thousand years ago, in which case said cotton could have found itself depossited in Africa prior or later or simutaneously.
 
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