What was the color of ancient Egyptians?


Ozodi Osuji

      There is a group of African Americans who are bent on demonstrating that ancient Egypt was an African civilization, they want to show that Africans had a great, and powerful past, as opposed to their present apparent backwardness and poverty.

      These people are, among other reasons, on an ego-boosting quest, to make themselves seem powerful and admirable, albeit in the past, not in the present, and, hopefully, that sense of power from the past would motivate them to become powerful in the present.

      Given what we know about Europeans, not wanting to see any value in black folks, if black folks, in fact, manage to convince the world that ancient Egypt was an African civilization, since it was not based on science, I can imagine Europeans dismissing ancient Egypt as unscientific and disregarding it, as they did to ancient Aztec and Inca civilizations in the Americas.

    They say, be careful what you wish because if you get it, you may not like it. If you ask me, I suggest that Africans should concentrate on the present, try to modernize African countries and people by teaching them science and technology and stop trying to derive greatness from Africa’s alleged past glory (in Egypt).

     Please notice that those African Americans who sing praises to ancient Egypt seldom talk about contemporary black Africa or visit West Africa, where their ancestors came from, a place that is so misgoverned, in Franz Fanon’s terms, “the wretched of the world,” that few people want to see it



      What did the ancient Egyptians look like? Africans would like them to look black to prove to the world that Black people can have a great civilization. Europeans claimed that they were white to deny Africans the belief that their kind can have great accomplishments. What do I think?

     I do not have to think. People tend to look like those around them, to their left, right, north, and south. To the east of Ancient Egypt were Canaanites, Jews and Arabs. To the West of ancient Egypt, from Libya to Morocco were Imazighen (Berbers). To the south of ancient Egypt were Nubians (blacks), and to their north were Greeks, Romans and Anatolians, and other Southern Europeans.

      Considering all these factors, the ancient Egyptians were probably brown in color, like contemporary Amharic Ethiopians.

      Later, they were mixed with Mesopotamians, Jews, Anatolians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Black Nubians and Arabs. The result are Egyptians as they look today, like Latinos (Central Americans of mixed European, African, and Indigenous Indian folks).

     Much has been made that Egyptians called their country Kemet (which is said to derive from the black soil of the Nile Delta) meaning that they were Black (what has the color of the soil got to do with people’s colors?).

      Persians conquered Kemet about 2500 years ago; after them Greeks conquered Kemet around 2300 years ago; Greeks called the country Egypt and called their neighbors in the south Ethiopia.

     If Ethiopia means black, why didn’t Greeks call Egyptians Ethiopians?

      Herodotus’ visited Kemet around 440 BCE. In his “History,” he did not describe the Egyptians he saw when he visited the country as black but left out their color, probably because the people looked like any other Middle Easterners and North Africans, brown.

    It should also be noted that Egypt has Mediterranean climate, neither too hot nor too cold; those who inhabit Mediterranean climates, all over the world, tend to be brown in color, not white or black. Before our very eyes, Nordic Europeans now living in Southern California, a Mediterranean climate, are increasingly swarthy.

    I am aware that the ideas expressed in these brief observations will anger many black folks; I know that these folks tend to elevate the writings of Chancellor Williams (The Destruction of Black Civilization) and Cheikh Anta Diop (the African Origin of Civilization) to high heaven because they make Africans capable of producing great civilizations (in the past but not yet in the present).

     These African scholars were trying to refute the 19th century speculations on the origin of ancient Egyptians; Samuel George Morton (1844) was sure that ancient Egyptians were white; George Gliddon (1844) posited the Asian origin of Egypt and Charles Gabriel Seligman propounded the Hamitic origin hypothesis of ancient Egyptians.

     Let me just say that no scholar has really demonstrated the origin of ancient Egyptians; what we have are claims and counter claims.


  The truth of the origin of ancient Egyptians was somewhere in the middle, ancient Egyptians were probably brown people. This is my view; I am not here talking about demonstrated science but common sense.

     I am not trying to make me, black, feel good by claiming the African origin of Egypt (the moment I make that assertion, as Molefi Kete Asante does, a part of me asks, why didn’t similar civilizations arise in Sub Saharan Africa and why didn’t the supposed African Egyptians go into interior Africa and make it as developed as Egypt), and if I say that ancient Egypt was European, well, Europeans did not evolve in North Africa.

      The search for the truth leaves me no option but to settle for a brown people origin of ancient Egypt. Having taken this position I am aware that the shallow among us will say that I did so because of self-hatred and not seeing any good coming out of Africa and other such nonsense. I am trying to use pure logic to settle a problem that folks merely assert nonsensical positions on. Logic tells me that ancient Egyptians probably looked like their neighbors to the west, east, south, and north, most of them brown.

Ozodi Osuji

August 16, 2022

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