The White Supremacy of Egyptologist Dr. James Henry Breasted
"The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." -Steve Biko (Assassinated Anti-Apartheid Freedom Fighter)
"The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
"It must be noted, however, that the word "Ethiopians" (Blacks) came from the root— "Ethiopia" (the nation) or the African "Ithiop;" and that this word was originally used by the ancients of Europe to identify the entire continent now called-"Africa," which the indigenous people had given the name "AL-KEBU-LAN." Because of these facts, it is exceedingly strange that the United States of America's most distinguished Egyptologist of all times, Professor James Henry Breasted, Ph.D., equivocated over the same set of facts about the "Negroness" of certain Africans which his forerunners found no reason to be protective of; this being inexcusable even when one takes into account the racist nature of the University of Chicago, Illinois (as most universities and other institutions of higher-learning), Departments of Oriental Studies he established and developed."
-Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan (Africa: Mother of Western Civilization page 454-455)
As I prepare to finally finish my graduated studies in history, I am pulling out scholarly articles, documentaries, manuscripts, magazines, maps, and books out of my library to prepare myself to write a dissertation on the creation of White supremacist ideology and Black people's reactions to White hegemony. I thank the Creator and our Ancestors that I have a great and massive library. I have been building my personal library since 1989 after becoming Afrikan centered in my Black consciousness in the late 1980s and early 1990s. One of the books sitting on the shelf of my library is Ancient Times by Egyptologist James Henry Breasted. The very first edition was published in 1916, and then revised throughout the 20th century. The book is a well written documentation of the majesty of the earliest civilizations of the planet earth, starting with Kemet (Egypt). The name Kemet is the Afrikan word for the land of the Blacks. However, the book unapologetically supports White hegemony. This leads me to my mission to exposed the intellectualization of White supremacy as the justification for Black oppression. Dr. Breasted's book is important to study, not only for its recording of history; but because it's a case study of his contribution to the creation of White supremacist Ideology.
Dr. Breasted was America's premier Egyptologist. He was born on August 27, 1865. Dr. Breasted completed his undergraduate studies at North Central College. He then finished his Masters of Arts degree at Yale University.
Dr. Breasted went on to pursue a PhD in graduate school . He choose the University of Berlin in Germany. After completing his PhD, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in Illinois. In 1901, he became director of the Haskell Oriental Museum at the university, where he continued to concentrate on Kemet (Egypt). In 1905 Dr. Breasted was promoted to full professorship. He ascended to permanent Chair of Egyptology and Oriental History at the university. He became the first American professor to hold that position in the United States of America.
Eventually, he helped to establish the school of Egyptology at the university. The school of Egyptology at the University of Chicago is presently one of world's most premier programs on the study and science of Kemetic (Egyptian) history, religion and culture in today's world. His work on the history of Kemet (Egypt) is great and credible. It is worth reading and studying.
In his research, Dr. Breasted acknowledges that Kemet (Egypt) is the world's first major civilization. He shows that Kemet (Egypt) is the author of the world's civilizations and western religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Al-Islam). Dr. Breasted has documented that Kemet (Egypt) led the world in science, mathematics, agriculture, government, law, theology, philosophy, ethics, a written language, monotheism, the idea of the aseity of God, medicine, architecture, the invention of paper, the invention of 3651/2 day calendar, the belief in the afterlife, the belief in a soul, the belief in the judgement of a the soul, the belief in spirituality, and the resurrection story thousands of years before there was such a thing called Europe, Mesopotamia, Western Asia (the Middle East), China, Greece, Rome, Judaism, Christianity, and Al-Islam in the known world.
However, his beliefs in White supremacist notions about Afrika and Black people would not allow him to go on record to say that before the invasions of the Assyrians (676 B.C.E), the Persians (525 B.C.E.) the Greeks( 332 B.C.E.), the Romans (30 B.C.E.) and the Arabs (646 A.D.) in history; Kemet was an indigenous all Black civilization from 5000 B.C.E to the foreign invading forces from Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Arabs. After these invaders and conquerers came to Afrika, Kemet (Egypt) became a mixture of different cultures from the Black, White, and West Asians (Middle eastern) worlds. However, Dr. breasted argued that Kemetic (Egyptians) people were White people from the beginning to the end of Kemetic (Egyptian) dominance on the earth. We know this to be untrue.
Historian Stanford Lewis, a retired Afrikana Studies professor, says that the purpose of many racists White intellectuals were to intentionally justify the inferiority of Black people in fictitious scholarship. Lewis, the Harvard and Cornell University trained professor, has challenged White supremacist notions about Kemet (Egypt) and Black people in his ground breaking book called-The Falsification and Fabrication of Ancient Egypt 3400 BCE to 500 BCE: A Survey of the Literature. Published in 2002, he writes on page 9, "consequently, the propaganda establishing the inferiority of Afrikan people-and its chief corollary, the supremacy of European peoples-became one of the primary aims of European scholarship."
This was why starting in the late 1800s to the 20th century, many radical Black scholars rose up to challenge many racist White scholars on their distorted research on Afrikan history and culture, particularly ancient Kemet (Egypt). These radical Black scholars, who were consistent in their struggle against racist white intellectuals, comprise of the following giants in academia such as, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Dr. George G. M. James, Joel A. Rogers, Alfred G. Dunston, St. Clair Drake, Frank M. Snowden, John G. Jackson, Drusilla Dunjee Houston, William Leo Hansberry, Chancellor Williams, Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan, Dr. Jacob H. Carruthers, Dr. Maulana Karenga, Dr. Molefe Kete Asante, Dr. Lenonard Jeffries, Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, Dr. Theophile J Obenga, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. Runoko Rashidi, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. Marimba Ani, Dr. James Turner, Dr. Charshee McIntyre, Dr. Amos Wilson, Professor Ashra Kwesi, Professor Tony Browder, and Dr. John Henrick Clarke, to name a few. Using research from ancient and radical White scholarship (i.e. Herodotus, Hippocrates, Jean-Francis Champollion, Count C.F. Volney, Diodorus Siculus, Gerald Massey, Leo Frobenius, E.A. Wallis-Budge, Charles Darwin, Dr. Louis S.B. Leakey, Basil Davison, Martin Bernal, etc), they labored to present the factual evidence of the Afrikan origins of humanity, the Afrikan origins of western religions, the Afrikan origins of western philosophy, the Afrikan origins of ancient Kemet (Egypt), Afrikan History, Afrikan culture, and Afrikan spirituality. And Black scholars did this with the threat of loosing their teaching jobs and their lives. However, radical Black scholars saw how many White scholars were creating White supremacist ideology to justify the origins of humanity being in Europe not Afrika, Kemet (Egypt) as a White civilization, European slavery, European colonialism, White American segregation, the incarceration of Black people in America, and biological warfare on the Black community.
Professor Lewis sums it up this way on the great work of radical Black scholars. He writes on page 15 of his book, "it is evident that 20th century Afrikan American scholars who write from an Afrikan centered perspective continue in the classical intellectual traditions of 19th century Afrikan American thought and responded to the racist propaganda of their time. They were and are using the classical understanding of world history to show that White scholars were and are deviating from the ancient scholarly tradition to promote a Eurocentric or White supremacist revisions of history."
All of this leads me back to the White supremacist scholarship of Egyptologist Dr. James Breasted.
The professor has published many books on ancient history in his lifetime, such as The Dawn of Conscience, Survey of the Ancient World, and A History of the Egyptians, to name a few. But his book-Ancient Times: a History of the Early World Volume 1-The Ancient Near East (revised second edition of 1967)- is the one that stands out for me because of its blatant racism. It is a rare book now. You can not go to your local bookstore to purchase Ancient Times. You will have to special order it online. However, Dr. Breasted's Ancient Times is steeped in White supremacy. In fact, the scholarship in this book has contributed greatly to the ideology of White supremacy and the system of racism in America and in the world; particularly in the field of Egyptology. Dr. Breasted writes on page 12, "in North Africa these people were dark-skinned, but nevertheless physically they belong to the Great White Race." On the very next page is a map of North Afrika, the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia, and West Asia (the Middle East). Right on that page in highlighted black ink it reads the following: THE GREAT WHITE RACE.
Now Dr. Breasted made these White supremacist statements despite the fact that radical scholarship revealed that Kemet (Egypt) was a Black civilization and that Afrika is the mother of humanity. For example, Count C.F. Volney went to Kemet (Egypt) with Napoleon Bonaparte's team of European scholarly professionals in 1798. At this this time Napoleon was the Emperor of France, but he had an interest in the ancient world. They discovered that Kemet was a great Black civilization in Afrika and that she influenced the world. But Volney's research already lead him to see that Kemet (Egypt) was a Black civilizations years before his trip to Kemet (Egypt) with Napoleon. In 1787, Volney writes in his book, Voyages on Syrie Et En Egypt on pages 74-77, about Kemet (Egypt) being a Black civilization. He writes, "all have a bloated face, puffed up eyes, flat nose, thick lips; in word, the true face of the mulatto. I was tempted to attributed it to the climate, but when I visited the Sphinx, its appearance gave me the key the riddle. On seeing that head, typically Negro in all its features, I remember the remarkable passages where Herodotus says: "as for me, I judge the Colchians to be a colony of the Egyptians because, like them, they are Black with wooly hair......" In other words, the ancient Egyptians were true Negroes of the same type as all native-born Africans. That being so, we can see how their blood, mixed for several centuries with that of the Romans and Greeks must have lost the intensity of its original colour, while retaining nonetheless the imprint of its original mould. We can even state as a general principle that the face is a kind monument able, in many cases, to attest or shed light on historical evidence on the origins of peoples.....But returning to Egypt, the lesson she teaches history contains many reflections for philosophy. What a subject for meditation, to see the present barbarism and ignorance of the Copts, descendants of the alliance between the profound genius of the Egyptians and the brilliant minds of Greeks! Just think that the race of Black men, today our slaves and the object of our scorn, is the very race to which we owe our arts, sciences, and even the use of speech. Just imagine, finally, that it is in the midst of peoples who call themselves the greatest friends of liberty and humanity that one has approved the most barbarous slavery and questions whether Blackmen have the same kind of intelligence as Whites!"
In conclusion, Dr. James Henry Breasted's work is important to study. He died on December 2, 1935. However, we must challenge his racism, and all racist intellectuals, on their distortions of Afrikan History, Afrikan culture, and Afrikan spirituality. For the ideology of White supremacy did not just come from poor miseducated Whites. It came from Europeans professionals, then and now. We as Black people must be clear on the science of White domination. The ideology of White supremacy was concocted by highly educated White people to insure the permanent exploitation and oppression of Black people in America and in the world. This has happened back in the centuries leading up to 20th century, during the 20th century, and it is still happening now in the millennium. Dr. Breasted's work has contributed to a White supremacist fictitious notion that White people are superior and Black people are inferior. These ideas of White supremacist racial dynamics, and in racist politics, are playing themselves out in the lives of White people, Asia people, Arabs, Latino people, Native Americans, Black people, and the entire human family everyday all day. And as a consequence of White supremacy, Black people have internalized Whiteness to the point that we have developed issues of Black-self hatred and Black inadequacies. But those with white skin have develop a false sense of Whiteness. White supremacy and the system of racism promotes a belief that White people are genetically and culturally superior to Blackness on the planet earth. This is why White supremacy and the system of racism must be obliterated from the face of the earth in order for the minds of Black people and humanity to be liberated from the shackles of White hegemony.
Asante sana (Kiswahili for thank you very much) for reading my commentary.
O Dabo (Yoruba for go with God until we meet again)!!!
-Bashir Muhammad Akinyele is a History Teacher, Black Studies Teacher, Community Activist, Chairperson of Weequahic High School's Black History Month Committee in Newark, NJ, commentary writer, and Co-Producer and Co-Host of the All Politics Are Local, the number #1 political Hip Hip radio show in America.
Note: Spelling Afrika with a k is not a typo. Using the k in Afrika is the Kiswahili way of writing Africa. Kiswahili is a Pan -Afrikan language. It is spoken in many countries in Afrika. Kiswahili is the language used in Kwanzaa. The holiday of Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 to January