Diop grew up in Senegal under French rule. He knew whites ruled not just by the gun but also by the schoolbook, brainwashing blacks through education into believing that white was right and the West was best.
Whites taught a racist view of history: Europe was the height of civilization, what history had been leading up to all along, while Africa was sadly incapable of civilization. So Africa needs whites to help them.
There was Egypt, of course, but that did not count as a true African civilization: it was off in a corner cut off from the rest of Africa by the Sahara. Many of the common people may have been dark-skinned but the rulers at least were Caucasian. Besides, even if you count Egypt as “African”, what effect did it ever have on the rest of Africa? Nothing.
Diop was spared the worst of this racist thinking by receiving a Muslim education. After the Second World War he went to Paris to study physics, but soon was drawn into the student movement to free Africa from white rule – and into questions of African history.
He found that the white view of Egypt was not “natural” at all. For one thing the ancient Greeks did not share it: they saw the Egyptians as looking the same as Ethiopians – people with black skin and woolly hair. Even the Egyptians called themselves kemet – “black”.
So for his doctoral thesis he set out to prove that the pharaohs of Egypt were black. It was much harder than he thought: he spent all of the 1950s looking for proof.
Skulls: Ancient Egyptians, roughly speaking, generally had round heads like black people but long noses like white people. White scholars said the noses proved Egyptians were mixed with white so that must be where they got their civilization from. But there are plenty of black people all throughout Africa with long noses.
White scholars had broadened “Caucasian” and narrowed “Negro” just enough to claim northern Africa. It would be like if a black scholar said that the white-skinned, blue-eyed, yellow-haired people in Sweden were the “true” whites and therefore the olive-skinned, black-haired Greeks must be part black.
Language: Diop compared Wolof, his mother tongue in Senegal, with Ancient Egyptian. They were too much alike for it to be an accident – meaning they came from some common African root way back in time.
Society: Diop noticed how Egyptian society – unlike, say, Greek society – had many general features commonly found in African society, like matriarchy and circumcision.
Diop was wrong in many particulars but his main points have proved sound:
- The first humans were black Africans.
- The roots of Ancient Egyptian language, society and culture were African.
- Ancient Egyptians were native to Africa, they did not come from outside.
Meaning that Ancient Egypt was a true African civilization. It grew out of Africa and later spread across both Europe and Africa.
– Abagond, 2010.
- Diop: The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality
- Ancient Egypt
- How black was Ancient Egypt?
- Other black intellectuals who grew up under French rule: