Tuesday, 26 June 2012 20:35

Introduction to African Civilizations, John G. Jackson : Book Review By Ozodi Osuji

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This book was originally published in 1970. Thus, it preceded Chancellor Williams Destruction of Black Civilization (published initially in 1974).  The two books covered the same subjects. If I had known that they were dealing with the same topics, I would have written a review of this book before the Destruction of Black Civilization. This is because doing justice to this book means repeating what I said in the destruction of black civilization. I do not like to repeat myself. Therefore, I urge the reader to read either book for they are really covering the same terrain.

Mr. Jackson lived in Chicago, Illinois.  He worked in the school system of that city. He was aware of how white written textbooks for school children in America literally ignore black folks. It is as if black folks do not exist at all.

Consider the history of the United States of America. Englishmen first settled at James Town, Virginia in 1607. Twelve years later, 1619, African slaves were brought to James Town. That is to say that Africans have been in the United States for as long as white men have been in it.  If you look at the seminal moments in American history Africans were involved.

African- Americans were involved in the war of revolution that began with the declaration of American independence. In fact, the first soldier killed in that war was an African, Crispus Attucks.  If you examine the civil war you would see that Africans played an outsized role in it. And get this, Africans built the road, Alcan, that links Alaska to Canada (hence the lower forty eight states).

The major cities of America were either founded or built by Africans (Chicago was founded by an African, Los Angeles was founded by an African), Washington DC was largely constructed by an African.John G._Jackson

You cannot look at any facets of America’s life without seeing the role played by African Americans. There is no such thing as the United States of America without African Americans. American culture is literally derived from African culture.

You would not know these facts if you read textbooks on American history. What you would read is about the doings of the great white fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklyn, Alexander Hamilton, etc.  Indeed, if you looked at those founding fathers lives you would see that most of what they did was taken from their black slaves. Simply put, America is the product of African Americans contribution to it but white written history books leave out mentioning of black folks contributions.

The same goes with the history of other parts of the world. If you look at Europe itself you would see that Africans played seminal roles in its development.

The most annoying part of it all is that the history of Africa itself was written in such a manner that Africans were left out of their own continent!  This, apparently, pissed Mr. Jackson off (forgive my French, I choose to employ such language for I, too, am pissed off by being ignored).

Mr. Jackson, therefore, set about to correct the situation. His apparent goal is to show that Africans had a history that they could be proud of and that they contributed to human civilization.  He, in fact, provided more thorough write up on the history of Africans in North Africa than Chancellor Williams did (although Chancellor Williams gets more press coverage).

Both books are not history in the traditional sense of our understanding of history books; both seem conjectural stuff. However, I am not inclined to find faults in them for writing what seems to me, a whole bunch of fairy tales.

What is European and American history but a bunch of make-belief history?  American history is fairy tales told to make white folks feel fine about their peoples supposed great accomplishments Vis a Vis other races accomplishments. If white folks are going to tell fairy tales and call them history why shouldn’t Africans do the same?

Let us get on with telling fairy talkies as history. History is written by the strong, the victor telling us how powerful he is; history is seldom written from the perspective of the weak, the vanquished.

If you read American history as written by white folks you would think that their founding fathers were morally perfect beings. You would not know that most of them had African slaves and were having sex with African women.

Thomas Jefferson and the rest of them were busy fornicating with their African female slaves and producing mullato children and in the meantime presenting themselves as almighty white lords who had nothing to do with lowly Africans.

Perhaps, over 75% of African Americans are of mixed parentage, black and white with some Indian blood, all mostly due to white men having sex with black women since black men were not allowed such privileges (they were lynched for merely looking at white women).

In Africa itself white slave traders on the coasts were busy having sex with African women hence producing mixed race children on coastal Africa.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with white men having sex with black women. Human beings belong to the same species and women from so-called different races appeal to males from all parts of the Human Species. If a white man sees a black woman he feels like having sex with her and generally does so. By the same token, if a black man sees a white woman he feels like having sex with her and there is nothing wrong with that desire (but white folks prevent it).  There are no differences, other than color, between a black woman and a white woman. A white woman’s vagina smells exactly as a black woman’s vagina smells (which make men of both race sexually aroused).

The point is that human beings are motivated to relate to each other and do what human beings do, have sex, intermarry and produce children but white racists trying to live up to an unnatural view of life make simple things difficult.  Their vain opposition to racial intermixing notwithstanding, there is no doubt that within a thousand years the entire races of mankind would mix and people would return to their original color before they migrated to different geographical areas and climate changed their color, brown. The race of the future is brown; deal with it and stop fighting reality.

There is absolutely no difference between the races and it is about time that racists accepted this fact and get on with it.

Mr. Jackson, apparently, did his writing in the 1960s. This was an era when black folks were trying to respond to the degradation white folks had subjected them to.  White folks said that Africans had no history and did not contribute to history. Really? Are they sure that they know what they are talking about?

Mr. Jackson set out to prove that not only did Africans have history they had the first civilizations developed by mankind.  Sumerian, Egyptian etc. were African civilizations, Mr. Jackson said.

When Africans were building ziggurats in Sumeria and pyramids in Egypt white men were living in caves in Europe. So, look who is primitive and who is talking about some people being primitive!

Mr. Jackson, apparently, was in a reactive, defensive mood. His people, black folk, were accused of being primitive and he set out to prove that they were not. His book is a delineation of how Africans initiated the ancient civilizations of North Africa and the Middle East.  By and large, his claims are correct.

However, he did go overboard by claiming that Africans civilized Europe.  He tried very hard to make the Arab incursion into Spain an African thing.

In 711 AD Arab Muslims invaded Spain and got as far as France before the Franks under Charles Martel stopped them on October, 732 AD (the battle took place between Poitier and Tours in North Central France).  Mr. Jackson would like us to believe that the Arab Muslim army that invaded Europe was largely black army.  That is false.  Arabs are not black folk.

(If you called Arabs, even very black ones, black they would chop off your head. That is how much they hate Africans. To them Africans are to be used as slaves, period. As an editorial aside I must point out that Mr. Jackson seem sympathetic to what he called the “Moors” invasion of Europe. Apparently, he was thrilled that the Moors whipped the asses of his white enemies. He seemed not to know that Muslim Arabs did more damage to Africans than Europeans did; to the present Arabs are still enslaving Africans in the Sudan and Mauritania. One is not as positively disposed to Muslim victories in Europe as Mr. Jackson was. His jubilation at Moors successes in Europe is understandable but is based on poor understanding of the designs of Islam on the rest of the world. Islam is bent on conquering the world and transforming people to Muslim slaves worshiping its founder and looking towards Mecca for direction on what to do. Islam is a mechanism for Arab Muslim domination of the world. Islam is not conducive to democracy; at any rate, wherever Islam prevails theocracy and intolerance of different points of views prevail. The victory of Charles Martel, the Hammer, over the Arab Muslim army of Umayyad Caliphate led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, Governor-General of al-Andalus is good for Christendom and freedom. Mr. Jackson’s positive disposition towards Islam is the same kind of misguided disposition that leads African Americans to think that the alternative to their white masters’ Christian religion is Arab Islam hence many of them embrace Islam and change their Christian names to Muslim names. They ought to look to West Africa, where they came from, for names and religion, not to the Middle East, Arab or Jew or Christian. One should not replace one oppressor with another; one should liberate ones soul from all oppressors chaining one’s mind with their so-called religion.)

What, in fact, did take place was that as Arabs journeyed across North Africa (according to Mr. Jackson, they took Egypt in 640 AD) they encountered black folk and Berbers. At that time in history race was not the issue it is today. Thus, Semitic Arabs easily intermarried with Africans and Berbers.

We must also remember that Germans, Vandals, around 435 AD settled in what is now Libya (Cartage). Later, Visigoths, another Germanic tribe, settled in Spain and some in North Africa.  North Africans are a mixture of Africans, Berbers, Greeks, Romans, Hyksos, Persians, Arabs and Germans and other peoples.

The point is that a mix breed race of people was in the Muslim army that invaded Spain. Their color was largely brown, not white or black. They were called Moors (as in Moroccan and or Mauritanians who are Arabs mixed with Africans; in today’s Mauritania, actually in West Africa, the Moors that Mr. Jackson is so proud of do not see themselves as black folk; indeed, they are still enslaving black folk!).

Mr. Jackson made much ado about this Moorish Army that invaded Europe and took Greek and Roman civilization back to middle ages, dark ages Europe. He would like us to believe that Moors, Africans civilized Europe. He is wrong.

Moors are not Africans; they are a mixture of all the known races then cohabiting North Africa.  So, let us quit hearing African Americans claiming that Moors are Africans (the Moors in contemporary Mauritanians don’t consider themselves Africans; although they are a mixture of Africans and Arabs they are apparently ashamed of their African heritage and are proud of their Arab heritage).

Othello in Shakespeare was called a Moor; he was a mullato, not a pure African or pure Arab.

I understand that Mr. Jackson wanted to improve the damaged self-esteem of African Americans; white folks launched a war on the self-esteem of African Americans by telling them that their ancestors, Africans were primitive and did not initiate any civilization. Mr. Jackson was on a mission to rehabilitate the self-esteem of black Americans by telling them that Africans had great civilizations and civilized Europe. He over did it to the point of becoming ridiculous in his unsubstantiated assertions.

Africans were not the Moors that took Greek learning back to Europe. And even if the Moors were Africans they still took Greek learning from Alexandria to Europe, not from Owerri, Nigeria, to Europe. The European renaissance was stimulated by the recovery of Greek learning, not African learning.

African-Americans love for Moors is misplaced for those very Moors, such as the Almoravides destroyed African empires, such as Ghana in 1076 AD. As we speak, desert Moors (aka Tauregs, a Berber people) are fighting to destroy contemporary Mali Republic. African-Americans really, really ought to try to understand African history and politics, not their fantasy of African history and politics.

Western history books tell us that the Italian, Christopher Columbus, working for Spaniards discovered America in 1492. Mr. Jackson tells us that it is a bit more than that.  Columbus had worked with the Portuguese sailing around the coast of West Africa. Apparently, he had picked up a whole lot of knowledge of the world from Africans, Mr. Jackson said. He went on to tell us that Columbus picked up Africans who had in the past sailed to the Americas and those guided him to America.

In other words, Africans working with Columbus discovered America!  Truth or lies?  We know that the white man is capable of perfidy, is capable of hiding the presence of Africans in Columbus ships.

Not too long ago Senegalese soldiers helped to defeat Hitler’s Germany but you wouldn’t know that Africans fought in Europe to defeat the Third Reich by looking at the movies of the Second World War that white folks show us; they show us only white soldiers fighting to defeat the race crazed Hitler; they leave out the African soldiers fighting to destroy Hitler and his Nazi sociopaths.

One wouldn’t put it pass white folks to not tell lies. So, may be Columbus was guided to America by Africans?  I do not know (and it is not an issue with me).

The fact that there are (Olmec) sculptures in Central America with Negroid features indicates the presence of Negroes in the Americas before Columbus. Mr. Jackson claims that Africans have been in America for over three thousand years. Indeed, he boldly stated that the pyramids built in Mexico (Aztec civilization) were due to African influence.

Everything great in America and elsewhere in the world was initiated by Africans, Mr. Jackson insinuated. Why not make that claim; didn’t white folks claim to be responsible for everything good in life? One lie elicits another lie so let us move on, okay. History is make belief story told to beguile gullible folk into praising whoever the historian wants to praise.

Indeed, the Chinese are now claiming to have visited the West Coast of America before Columbus’ epic visit to the West Indies in 1492.

As I said before, we do not know what the truth is; the fat lady has not yet sang and the show continues. It used to be a one sided show of lies, white folks lies called history; now it is a two sided lying jamboree, black lies added into the mix.

One must kick back, relax and enjoy white and black lies. What else is new under the sun; since when are people truthful? Give me a break, will you. Don’t tell me that white history is truth or that black history is truth. And if you insist that you are telling me the truth, like Pontus Pilate I am prevailed upon to ask: what is the truth? How do you know what the truth is? Because somebody told you? Because of your thinking, opinion? Let us move on.

The balance of the book gave an interesting survey of African empires, such as the empires in West Africa, (Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Mossi, Kanem-Bornu, Hausa States; the forest empires of Ashanti, Benin, Oyo), the Monomotapa, Zimbabwe, the Kongo, the Buganda, the Ndebele, the Zulus and other states in East and southern Africa.

This is history presented in non-traditional manner; they would not pass muster in any college history class. But as I said before, hay, white folks write history to suit their pride so why shouldn’t Africans write history to make them feel proud.

As we talk, African tribes are writing revisionist histories making their tribes that only yesterday were running around naked seem on par with the United States of America in post second world war world. Why not?

I say let the brothers tell us their own fairy tales for what is the truth, do you know? I certainly do not know what the truth is.

On the whole this book is trying to tell us that white folks destroyed black culture and civilization and it wants to tell black folks that they had great cultures and civilizations that they ought to be proud of.  The idea is to help engender positive self-esteem in Africans worldwide. I am all for that even if telling lies contributes to it. What is a lie?  Isn’t all history lies told to serve the interests of certain people?

As long as white folks tell lies and live lies why shouldn’t Africans tell lies?  At any rate, what is the truth?  Science? Does science tell us what the truth is?

Science is a methodological approach to phenomena not phenomena itself. We do not know what reality is.

I personally hope that in the future science would enable us know what the truth is, at least, the truth of matter, energy, space and time. I hope for a world based on universalistic scientific culture, not all these rubbish that folks call their particularistic culture.

Give me science or give me nothing. In the meantime it is good to read a book written from an African perspective; the book confronts the reader with a choice of what to accept; African lies about the past, or European lies masquerading as empirically based historiography.

Welcome to our lie based world. I recommend that you read this book; it will help you juxtapose Western and African pictures of the world and from them learn that whatever we see in the perceptual world is exactly that, perceptual.

Perception is made of pictures that our minds create from supposedly seeing the external world. How do you know that the external world exists?  Could it not be in your mind?

Perception even at its purest is never true. We do not know what the truth is in the world of perception. We are just going to have to live with ambiguity and uncertainty, not knowing the truth of who did what in history.

In conclusion, this book served its purpose at the time it was written. In the 1970s African Americans were smarting from what white folks did to them. White folks had told them that their people were savages who had no history. African Americans self-esteems were damaged by the constant barrage from white America that they are a primitive people with no contribution to civilization. Some African Americans thus felt that to remove the damage white folks did to their people’s self-confidence they had to present them with images of a glorious African past. This book tried very hard, too hard, to come up with Africa the victorious not Africa the conquered people. What it did served its purpose.  However, it is not good history. It is now time to do better history writing. White European history is not that much better than Africans history. European history is really  documentation of criminal gangs murdering people and using force to intimidate them into accepting the rule of one gang and not another. There is very little to be proud of in Europe. Without Science and technology Europeans are terrorists. What Africans need to do is embrace science and technology and try to excel in it and give up this whole business of trying to show the world that Africans produced civilizations such as Chiekh Anta Diop did in his writing.

*The next Book Review is Cheikh Anta Diop,  African Origins of Civilization - Myth or Reality: Chicago, Ill, Lawrence Hill Books 1974, followed by Yosef Ben-Jochannan, Black Man of the Nile and His Family, publisher: Black Classic Press, 1989; Carter G. Woodson, "The Miseducation of the Negro". Joy DeGruy Leary, Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing (Uptone Press, 2005 ) 246 Pages.Jacob H. Carruthers, Intellectual Warfare. (Chicago: Third World Press, 1999).

Ozodi Osuji

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176