- Every October Americans pause to celebrate Columbus Day.
Children are taught that the Italian navigator discovered America. Parades
are held in his honor and tributes tell of his skill, courage and perseverance.
- Historians, archeologists, anthropologists and other
scientists and scholars now know that Columbus did not discover America.
Not only were native Americans present when he reached the New World,
but also Africans, Asians and Europeans, among others, had been sailing
to the Americas thousands of years before Columbus ventured across the
- Of the various people who reached America before Columbus,
Black Africans appear to have made the most contacts and to have had the
greatest impact. During the 19th and 20th centuries, several scholars
wrote books and articles about this subject and urged the academic establishment
to change primary and secondary curricula across the country to reflect
the great contributions of African people to early America. Unfortunately,
such pleas fell on deaf ears; so again this October our children are being
taught the myth that Columbus discovered America.
- In August of this year, a group of 13 African Americans
participated in a study-tour of numerous Mexican archeological sites.
Led by the renowned Black historian and architect, Mathu Otir, and two
Mexican guides, we visited numerous museums, temples, pyramids and cities,
most of which reflected the genius of the native American Mayas and Aztecs.
Toward the end of the tour, in southern Mexico, we began to see the remains
of an ancient Black presence.
- Evidence of the early Africans is widespread and varied.
Dozens of majestic stone heads have been found at ancient sacred sites,
such as La Venta and Tres Zapotes in southern Mexico (See photograph).
Ranging up to 9 feet and 4 inches in height, with a circumference of 22
feet, and weighing 30 to 40 tons, these colossal statues depict helmeted
Black men with large eyes, broad fleshy noses and full lips. They appear
to represent priest-kings who ruled vast territories in the ancient New
World from provinces near the Gulf of Mexico.
- In the holy city of La Venta, dating back to at least
1500 BC, four of these large stone heads were discovered on a ceremonial
platform featuring a miniature step pyramid and a conical pyramid - the
earliest of such monuments to appear in the Americas.
- Other art-work also serves as evidence of Africans in
America before Columbus. For years the late art historian, Alexander Von
Wuthenau, collected ancient clay figurines that provide clues regarding
the diversity of America's pre-Columbian population. His remarkable African
collection depicts priests, chiefs, dancers, wrestlers, drummers, beautiful
women and stately men - a collage of Black people who occupied every stratum
of society from Mexico to South America.
- Negroid skulls and skeletons have also been found throughout
the New World. Polish professor Andrzej Wiercinski has revealed the discovery
of African skulls at Olmec sites in Tlatilco, Cerro de las Mesas and Monte
Alban. Furthermore, very ancient African skeletons have been unearth
in California, Mexico, Central and South America.
- The best evidence of the Black presence in America before
Columbus comes from the pen of the "great discoverer" himself.
In his Journal of the Second Voyage, Columbus reported that when he reached
Haiti the native Americans told him that black-skinned people had come
from the south and southeast in boats, trading in gold-tipped medal spears.
At least a dozen other European explorers, including Vasco Nunez de Balboa,
also reported seeing or hearing of "Negroes" when they reached
the New World.
- Nicholas Leon, an eminent Mexican authority, recorded
the oral traditions of his people. Some of them reported that "the
oldest inhabitants of Mexico were blacks[T]he existence of blacks and giants
is commonly believed by nearly all the races of our sail and in their various
language they had words to designate them."
- Early Mexican scholars were convinced that the impact
of the Black explorers on the New World was profound and enduring. One
author, J.A. Villacorta, has written: "Any way you view it, Mexican
civilization had its origin in Africa." Modern excavations throughout
Latin America appear to confirm Villacorta's conclusions.
- The Olmec civilization, which appears to have been of
African origin or to have been dominated by Africans, was the Mother Culture
of Mexico. Of this, Michael Coe, the leading American historian on Mexico,
has written that, "there is not the slightest doubt that all later
civilizations in [Mexico and Central America], rest ultimately on an Olmec
- Ivan Van Sertima, the foremost authority on the African
presence in ancient America, has built a strong case demonstrating that
many Olmec cultural traits were of African origin: "A study of the
Olmec civilization reveals elements that so closely parallel ritual traits
and techniques in the Egypto-Nubian world of the same period that it is
difficult to maintain [that] all these are due to mere coincidence."
Other scholars believe that Africans introduced a calendar, writing, pyramid
and tomb construction, mummification, as well as certain political systems
and religious traditions to the native Americans.
- Who were the Africans who sailed to America before Columbus?
Indian scholar R.A. Jairazbhoy states that the earliest settlers were Ancient
Egyptians led by King Ramesis III, during the 19th dynasty. Van Sertima
also believes that most of the explorers sailed from Egypt, but during
the much later 25th dynasty. Many other scholars insist that the navigators
came from West African nations, such as Ghana, Mali and Songhay
- Whoever these Black people were, they most certainly
sailed to America in ancient and medieval times and left a profound imprint
on New World soil. As Jairazbhoy notes: "The black began his career
in America not as slave but as master."
- Our Mexican guides agreed. As we ended our tour and
prepared to return to the U.S., one of them proclaimed: "I would
like to thank the African people for bringing civilization to the New World."
It is high time for the American media and academic establishment to admit
- Attorney Legrand H. Clegg II is producer of the award
winning videotape "When Black Men Ruled the World." He may be
reached at www.melanet.com/cleggseries or 1-800-788-CLEG.