Black Athena Revisited

By Mary R. Lefkowitz; Guy MacLean Rogers | Go to book overview

is the best purpose of education. And even if a myth helps people to gain confidence, it will teach them simultaneously that facts can be manufactured or misreported to serve a political purpose; that origins are the only measure of value; that difference is either a glory or a danger, when in fact it is a common, challenging fact of life; that the true knowledge of customs, language, and literature is unimportant for understanding the nature of a culture.

The Greeks, least of all peoples, deserve the fate to which the Afrocentrists have subjected them. The great historian Arnaldo Momigliano observed that "what I think is typically Greek is the critical attitude toward the recording of events, that is, the development of critical methods enabling us to distinguish between facts and fancies. To the best of my knowledge no historiography earlier than the Greek or independent of it developed these critical methods; and we have inherited the Greek methods" ( 1990, 30). Momigliano was not a Greek. He was an Italian Jew, and a refugee from one of the most terrible political myths of all time, the not very noble lie of Jewish inferiority that provided the justification for the Holocaust. But the rational legacy of Greece belonged to him, too, exactly as it belongs to people of African descent, whatever their skin color or their exact place of origin. Like everyone in both the African and the European diasporas, and like everyone in the American melting pot, they should take pride in the Egyptians, in the Phoenicians, and in the ancient Greeks, and give them each their due for their actual achievements, as well as for their contributions to other civilizations. For all these civilizations, like everything else in the past, belong equally to all of us.


Reprinted by permission from The New Republic, 10 February 1992. I am grateful to Leon Wieseltier and Ann Hulbert for many improvements in the original version of this article.

I do not believe that Socrates could have been black just because it is conceivably possible that Socrates (or any other Greek) might have bad an African ancestor; cf. Lefkowitz 1993b, 13-14. But here is how Asante interprets this incident: "Lefkowitz's response to the student and use of the student's alleged statements demonstrates one of the major issues involved in the attacks on Afrocentricity: white racism. Most whites cannot believe that a person with the reputation of Socrates or his teachers could have been black because of the institutional disregard for Africans. Of course there is no indication that he was black, and for me, it is not a question of interest, but for whites it strikes right at their souls" ( Asante 1993a, 39).
The student wrote: " Cleopatra's father was not a full blooded Greek. Generations after Ptolemy I and many interracial marriages the Greek ancestry was no longer pure. By the time Cleopatra was born she was almost, if not all Egyptian" (as quoted in T. Martin 1993, 59). Similar "information" may be found in J. H. Clarke 1984. According to the known facts, Cleopatra VII was the daughter of Ptolemy XII


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Black Athena Revisited
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Maps viii
  • Preface ix
  • Ancient Egyptian Chronology xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Introduction 3
  • Notes 22
  • Egypt 25
  • On the Aims and Methods of Black Athena 27
  • Conclusion 46
  • Egypt and Greece the Bronze Age Evidence 49
  • Black Athena an Egyptological Review 62
  • Notes 98
  • Race 101
  • Ancient Egyptians and the Issue of Race 103
  • Note 111
  • Bernal's "Black" and the Afrocentrists 112
  • Notes 128
  • Clines and Clusters Versus " Race" a Test in Ancient Egypt and the Case of a Death on the Nile 129
  • Notes 162
  • The Near East 165
  • The Legacy of Black Athena 167
  • Linguistics 175
  • Notes 203
  • Science 207
  • Black Athena, Afrocentism, and the History of Science 255
  • Notes 256
  • Greece 267
  • The World Turned Upside Down 269
  • Note 279
  • Did Egypt Shape the Glory That Was Greece? 280
  • Black Athena Vision or Dreams of Greek Origin 303
  • Historiography 331
  • When is a Myth? Not a Myth? Bernal's "Ancient Model" 333
  • Notes 348
  • Eighteenth- Century Historiography in Black Athena 349
  • Appendix 2: Two Notes on Bernal's Methodology 388
  • Appendix 2: Two Notes on Bernal's Methodology 392
  • Appendix 2: Two Notes on Bernal's Methodology 394
  • The Tyranny of Germany Over Greece? 403
  • Bernal and the Nineteenth Century 411
  • The Bathwater and the Baby 421
  • Multiculturalism and the Foundations of Western Civilization 428
  • Conclusion 445
  • Quovadis? 447
  • Bibliocraphy 455
  • Contributors 505
  • Indexes 507


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