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Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop: The Pharaoh of Knowledge, Part One

By Dr. Josef Ben Levi

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University




“The history of Africa will continue to be suspended in air and cannot be correctly written until African historians dare to connect it with the history of Egypt.” 

Ancestor Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop


Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel, Senegal on December 29, 1923. During his youth, he attended elementary school in Diourbel and high school in Dakar, Senegal. Dr. Diop then traveled to Paris, France for completion of his advanced degrees. He obtained his doctorates, after much difficulty and controversy, from the University Sorbonne in Paris and then returned to Dakar to further his scientific knowledge at the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (I.F.A.N.) at the University of Dakar which was renamed the Universite Cheikh Anta Diop after his untimely death on February 7, 1986.


Dr. Diop is best known for his writings on classical African civilizations and his contributions to the physical sciences. In 1962, he founded the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (I.F.A.N.) at the University of Dakar. This scientific institute took four years to complete. It became functional in 1966 with the aim of establishing a low-energy radioactivity research program and chronological dating system for African antiquity.Dr. Diop spent a lot of time working and experimenting in his laboratory. 


Because of his outspoken political views and activities against the government of Leopold Senghor, he was never allowed to teach. thus on depriving Senegal -and the African world- a legion of African-trained scholars to carry on his vast work. He became one of the very few Africans with access to some of the most advanced scientific knowledge available at that time. This background is  esantial to our assessment of his contribution to African historical knowledge.


He believed in using a pluridisciplinary approach,i.e. utilizing more than one discipline, to his research while developing a chemical process for testing the level of melanin in the skins of ancient Egyptian mummies in order to prove their African origins. This  vital research led to a  publication entitled "The Pigmentation of then Ancient Egyptians: Test by melanin Analysis".  The goal of this research was to demonstrate that the proportion rate of melanin is a fundamental racial characteristic and that the rate can be measured by various methods in the laboratory setting for all creatures living as well as dead.This research can be summed up thusly:

 The ancient Egyptians , along with other ancient Africans, constitute the founders of classical civilizations as we have come to know them. The establishment  of the African origin of the Egyptians is indispensable to the struggle to correct the the historiography  of all African people- those at home as well as those in the Diaspora. 


Dr. Diop was also outstanding in the field of linguistics. Even though Wolof was the language of his people, he also spoke French fluently and had a command of several other languages including the ancient Egyptian language which uses the misnomer hieroglyphics instead of the proper term (mDw nTr) or “Divine Speech”.


In January 1974, Dr. Diop and his distinguished fellow-African scholar from the Congo, Dr. Theophile Obenga ,whose role in these debates is inestimable,  organized a conference sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization /UNESCO, to engage in a major discourse-with some of the leading European and Asian Egyptologists in that field-on the question of whether or not the ancient Egyptian people and their ancient language was of African origin as well as that other African languages are genetically related to ancient Egyptian. At that point, the discussion as to the African ethnicity of the ancient Egyptians should have been exhausted. However, as  events over the discourse of the Cleopatra movie have shown, frivolous challenges continue to emerge.It is of interest to all Black people and scholars since it reveals the state of the European discipline of Egyptology at that time and the defensive stand they had taken, which some of them continue to maintain, over the issue of ancient Egypt’s Blackness.


At a time when only a handful of people in the world understood Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Dr. Diop had translated a major portion of it into the Wolof language, the language of his people. This was something European scholars had previously argued was impossible to do.


Dr. Diop was not only a consummate scholar, he was also a very active and powerful political leader. In 1960, he founded "The Black of the Masses of Senegal," a revolutionary political party. The party was later banned, and he was arrested. He founded a second political party in 1964, "The Senegalese National Front." This party was declared illegal by the Senghor government and Dr. Diop was arrested again. He founded a third political party in 1976 called "The National Democratic Rally." His political vision was idealistic and practical in many waysl.


Dr. Diop was also a theorist. He worked out a theoretical model for the political, economic, and social reconstruction of the African continent. He led the struggle for the formation of an African technological consortium out of which he hoped to see the growth of a body of African sciences. This association combined all the sciences and both scholars and scientists directed their efforts toward solving the most vital scientific and sociological problems confronting the Black world. His thesis is presented in his work: Black Africa: The Social, Political, and Economic Basis for a Federated State.  


In April 1985, Dr. Diop made his first visit to the United States. In his speech at -"The First Nile Valley Conference", at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, he stated that he was… “convinced that his family had been divided in two. Half in Africa and the other half was here.” He also stated that he…" was very impressed with his contacts in the Black community of America.” His coming was like the arrival of an African Head of State, and he was received like one. 


In a classic article on Dr. Diop’s "Two Cradles Theory and the Origin of White Racism," Vulindela Wobogo assesses Dr. Diop’s theory of two opposing cultures based on two separate cradles of civilization: Southern (Africa) and Northern (Europe), in which he delineates the distinctions between traditional African and European societies. In it he elaborates on Dr. Diop’s view that the matriarchal (African) and patriarchal (European) social organizations bred certain axiologies,i.e., values, into each of its inhabitants. He shows the difference in habits and ways of thinking between those raised in a sedentary, i.e., African environment versus those brought up in a nomadic, i,e., European society .


According to Dr. Diop, each has certain distinct features. The Southern Cradle (sedentary societies): -matrilineal descent, -abundance of vital natural resources, - One Universal Supreme Deity, collectivity,  -xenophilia (love of strangers), -burial, -agrarianism, and a gentle, idealistic, peaceful nature endowed with a spirit of justice, matriarchal family, emancipation of women in domestic life, territorial states, cosmopolitanism, social collectivism, material solidarity of right for individual which makes moral or material misery unknown, ideas of peace, justice, goodness and optimism, Literature emphasizing novel tales, fables, and comedy.


In contrast, the Northern Cradle (nomadic societies) are distinguished by: -patrilineal descent, -familistic gods, -individualism, -xenophobia (fear of strangers), 

-cremation and -nomadism, bareness of resources, nomadic hunting and piracy, -ferocious and warlike nature with a spirit of survival. Patriarchal families, debasement and /or enslavement of women, city-state parochialism, individualism, moral solitude, disgust for existence, pessimism and literature favoring tragedy.


These distinctions, according to Dr. Diop; are the reason behind the rise of white racism, along with its associated violence, as a mass- based social philosophy. The caste system of Vedic India and the origin of capitalism.


BlogNote

[1]A summary of this conference, which may be found on UNESCO’s website; in the UNESCO Journal entitled: The Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering of the Meroitic Script,


Bibliography

“BBB Interviews Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop”, Black Books Bulletin, October 1976.


Carew, Jan, “Conversations with Diop and Tsegaye: The Nile Valley Revisited”, in Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers. Vol. 1: Cheikh Anta Diop”, Journal of African Civilizations, Vol.8, no. 1, June 1986.


Carruthers, Jacob H. Cheikh Anta Diop: The man who refuses to be forgotten. Private papers, 1976.


Carter, Edward L. “Cheikh Anta Diop’s First Visit to the United States” in Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Clarke, John Henrik, “Cheikh Anta Diop and the New Concept of African History”, in Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, Africa’s Contribution to the Exact Sciences” in Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality. N.Y.: Lawrence Hill and Co., 1974.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, L’Antiquite Africaine Par L’image. Dakar: Fundamental Institute of Black Africa: University of Dakar. No. 145-146, January-April 1975.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State: Westport: Lawrence Hill and Co., 1978.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, The Cultural Unity of Black Africa. Chicago: Third World Press, 1978.


Diop, Cheikh Anta. Parente Génétique de L’Egyptien Pharaonique et des Langues Négro-Africaines. Dakar; Universite de Dakar (IFAN) 1977.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology. Westport; Lawrence Hill Books. 1991.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, Egyptians and Senegalese are the same people. Zaire: UNESCO, 1982.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, “The Introduction to the Study of Migrations to Central and Western Africa. Berkeley: U. of California, 1984.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, “The introduction and First Two Chapters of From Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology”. In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization.


Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, “Iron in the Ancient Egyptian Empire”. In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, “Origin of the Ancient Egyptians”: General History of Africa, Vol.1.: N.Y. UNESCO, 1974.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, Precolonial Black Africa. Westport: Lawrence Hill and Co., 1987.


Diop, Cheikh Anta, “Pigmentation of the Ancient Egyptians: Test by Melanin Analysis “Translated by Darryl Prevost, Berkeley: U. of California, 1984.


Finch, Charles “Further Conversations with the Pharaoh” In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Finch, Charles, Meeting the Pharaoh” In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Gray, Chris. Conceptions of History: Cheikh Anta Diop & Theophile Obenga. London: Karnak House, 1989.


Hilliard, Asa G. “The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domain of Patriarchy and Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity: A Review. In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Jefferies, Leonard, “Civilization or Barbarism: The Legacy of Cheikh Anta Diop” In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Moore, Carlos, “Interview with Professor Cheikh Anta Diop”, Afriscope, Vol.1, no.2, February 1977.


Moore, Shawna, “Interview with Cheikh Anta Diop” In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers: Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Myers-Williams, A.J., “The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality: A Review. In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers: Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Rashidi, Runoko, “Dr. Diop on Asia: Insights and Highlights” In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers: Cheikh Anta Diop”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


Spady, James, “The Changing Perception of C.A. Diop and his Work; The Preeminence of a Scientific Spirit”. In Ivan Van Sertima’s “Great African Thinkers: Cheikh Anta Diop:”, The Journal of African Civilization. Vol.8, no.1, June 1986.


The peopling of ancient Egypt and the deciphering of the Meroitic script: Proceedings of the Symposium held in Cairo from 28 January to 3 February 1974. Belgium: UNESCO, 1978.


Wobogo, Vulindela, “Diop’s two cradle theory and the origin of white racism”, Black Books Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1976.

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