Forget 1776 and 1619: The story of African-Americans began thousands of years ago with the dawn of civilization as we know it.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there are always plenty of starry-eyed reminiscences about the life of Dr. King. There are somber reflections on his legacy, how much progress he made and how much work remains to be done.
Politicization, polarization, popular culture; Martin Luther King Day has become, in our time, nearly as fraught as other previously uncontroversial, uniquely American holidays like Independence Day and Thanksgiving.
What would his next steps have been, had an assassin’s bullet not found him? What would he think of the modern day social justice movement and its leaders?
Lost in the crushing scrum of our modern political landscape, is the longer view of the holiday, of the visionary leader, his works and the Civil Rights blueprint he left behind.
Something often overlooked as an inconvenience, on the progressive left anyway, is that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of profound Christian faith. Before he was a counter-cultural political icon successful enough to attract a coterie of FBI agents to surveil him, he was a respected leader in the church and in the faith community.
The Christian faith is one of the many institutions that has drawn the crosshairs of the progressive left in recent years. In taking aim at something activists are already insisting is a racist, colonialist, white supremacist, misogynistic, homophobic danger to minorities and LGBTQ+ people, progressives are regrettably missing over half the story.
Ironically, it is the same half believers like Dr. King have been trying to shout from the mountaintops since long before the Civil Rights era.
Almost all of modern western civilization as we know it- from architecture to the faith tradition that shaped early America- is African.
The United States of America adopted its culture primarily from Great Britain; Great Britain got its culture from the Romans. The Romans were copying the Greeks, who in their turn had admired and copied the advanced Ancient Egyptian civilization which has been so well preserved into modernity.
The Ancient Egyptians, for all their successes, were merely copying an even older, far more advanced civilization further south…in Ethiopia.
The earliest Ancient Egyptians were really ancient Africans, which is why the earliest pyramids are so much better than those which were built later. Later Ancient Egyptians hadn’t forgotten how to do it, they never forgot anything and were a nation of tax accountants if ever there was one; they never knew in the first place.
The iconic pyramids at Giza which still stand today are some of the very oldest, the newer built models having fallen down long since. That is the equivalent of Henry Ford perfecting the Ferrari before inventing the Model-T.
The Sphinx, which was probably built around the same time and is thought to depict the builder of the Great Pyramids, shows a face that unmistakably reflects an ancient African ancestry. The truth, as it so often does, has been staring humanity in the face since Herodotus first cast eyes on the astonishing monument.
For everything we know about Ancient Egypt, we know almost nothing about the early advanced African civilization in Ethiopia.
However, those of the Abrahamic religions- Christianity, Judaism, and Islam- have probably already heard about this ancient lost civilization of highly-advanced Africans, if only in passing reference; the Queen of Sheba is thought to have hailed from there.
Those familiar with the passages which mention the Sheba Queen will note that the nation from which she was an emissary was said to be every bit as advanced, learned, wealthy and powerful as that presided over by Solomon.
The erasure of the contributions of African civilizations isn’t confined to antiquity, either.
Dan Brown’s blockbuster book The Da Vinci Code may not have won him many friends in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church, but he did mainstream a fringe theory about the true nature of the Holy Grail.
Brown wasn’t the first writer to attempt to do so, but he did, arguably, keep back what is perhaps the most exciting potential conclusion of the theory- the origins and fate of Mary Magdalene.
Many religious scholars think Mary Magdalene may have hailed from a place called Magdala; but some think she hailed from Migdal, which was farther south in what is now Ethiopia. The idea that Mary Magdalene, a close companion of Jesus and the first person to whom he appeared after being resurrected according to the Bible, was a dark-skinned African woman, isn’t new at all; it is the most likely origin for the images of the “Black Madonna” which are still prevalent in some parts of France to this day.
There is no Western history and African history; both are so intertwined, so inextricably linked, it is impossible to separate the two without ripping humanity apart. That half of the human story still remains largely untold is one of the greatest tragedies in the modern age. It’s positively Shakespearean.
Those “Greek Doric” columns ubiquitous in western architecture; African. Even monotheism probably originated in ancient Africa.
Nobody had to tell people in Africa about God; Africans told the world about God. Written on ancient temples long before Cleopatra or King Tut, were declarations to a singular God.
Genealogy, culture, government, religion; all roads ultimately lead to Africa, where they all began.
A story about an ancient people stolen away and enslaved in the 1600’s, whose descendants still populate those areas today, is missing context if we insist on leaving out everything which came before.
On Martin Luther King Day, if on no other, the full story- the proud story of an ancient advanced people who handed down a great heritage- should be told and retold.
Until Dr. King’s dream comes true at last.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)
For more about ancient Africa and a more balanced view of history, the work of the late and lamented “scholar liberator” and educator, Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III is a vast treasure trove sadly overlooked by the mainstream.