Simon Webb on Black History’s Appropriation of Other Cultures

In this video, Simon Webb of History Debunked critiques another Black history book promoting racial propaganda and fake history. The book’s Black History Matters, published by Franklin. The book follows Martin Bernal’s Black Athena, published in the 1980s, in viewing ancient Egypt as not only a Black civilisation, but the ultimate source of western civilisation as its cultural achievements were taken over by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Webb states he read the book in the 1980s, and while it was interestingly written he thought it was a load of rubbish. Since its publication there has been further research into the ethnic origins of the ancient Egyptians, including DNA analysis. This has found that the ancient Egyptians didn’t descend from Black Africans, but were genetically related to the people’s of the ancient Near East, such as Mesopotamia. The Black component of the modern Egyptian genome was introduced later during the Arab occupation. The book has pages on ancient Egypt,, and at one point declares one of the manuscripts recovered to be a ground-breaking medical compendium. Well, sort of, but not really. It’s a collection of spells for use against various diseases. This was pretty much the standard practice in the ancient Near East at the time. Similar spells against disease are known from Babylon and the Hittite Empire. But it ain’t medicine as it’s now understood, Jim.

The book goes on to discuss Ethiopia, but neglects to mention that this was an Arab colony, as shown by the Semitic nature of its languages, Amharic and Tigrinya. These are descended from various South Arabian languages, like Sabaic, the language of the ancient kingdom of Sheba, now Marib, in Yemen. The book also discusses the Swahili civilisation without acknowledging that it, too, was the result of Arab colonisation. The Swahili culture was founded by Arabs from the Sultanate of Oman, who were also responsible for setting up a slave trade in east Africa. However, while there is plenty of material in the book on the transatlantic slave trade, there is absolutely nothing whatsoever on the Arab slave trade. This is despite the fact that the Arab slave trade captured and transported the same number of slaves as White Europeans.

The belief that the ancient Egyptians were Black and were the ultimate source for western culture is widespread in the Black community and passionately held. Much of it comes from the Senegalese Afrocentrist scholar, Cheikh Anta Diop in the 1960s, and Webb has also made a video debunking this fake history. It goes back further back, however, to Black American travellers to Egypt in the 19th century. It’s understandably based on a simple syllogism: Africa is the home continent of the Black race. Egypt is in Africa, therefore the ancient Egyptians were Black. There’s also a psychological need behind the identification of the ancient Egyptians as Black: much western scholarship before the rise of the modern Black power movements scorned African culture as worthless, and Blacks themselves as racially and intellectually inferior. This has created a need amongst Black activists to demonstrate their cultural and intellectual equality, if not superiority to Whites. And as the best known, and most magnificent ancient African civilisation, ancient Egypt fits this requirement. There also seems to be a conspiracy grown up about the Black identity of the ancient Egyptians as well. I remember being told by a Black American exchange student at College that the reason so many statues from Egypt missed their noses and lips was because they had been hacked off by those evil imperialist Victorians determined to hide their true race. As noses and lips are some of the features most likely to be chipped off over time, regardless of the race of the statue, I don’t believe that at all. But it shows the paranoia and racial suspicion among some Afrocentrists.

There have been a number of attempts outside of Afrocentric history to find an African component in ancient Egyptian civilisation. A few years ago archaeologists examining a number of mummies found that the features of their occupants were more characteristically African than the portraits on the cases. This fuelled speculation that, due to first the Greek and then the Roman domination of Egypt, indigenous Egyptians were deliberately having themselves painted to appear more European. If this was the case, it would come from the oppressive system of apartheid the Romans operated which reduced indigenous Egyptians to second class citizens. A head of Queen Tiyi, which has rather African features, was also adduced as proof that the ancient Egyptians were Black, or had some Black ancestry.

In the 1990s New Scientist also published a piece speculating about a prehistoric sub-Saharan contribution to ancient Egypt. An ancient stone circle had been found further south, and the central stone seemed to be roughly carved to resemble a cow. The archaeologists behind the discovery speculated that the circle dated from the time when the Sahara was still green and had been made by a Black, pastoralist people. As these people’s livelihood and culture was based on their cattle, they naturally worshipped a cow goddess. As they climate changed and the region became a desert, the herders moved north to join the White ancestors of the Egyptians, and the cow goddess became the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor.

There were also programmes by the Beeb at the same time that claimed that the Egyptians were Black until the race became lighter following the Arab conquest. On the other side, I don’t recall any of the Roman or Greek authors, like Herodotus, who visited ancient Egypt, describing its people as Black.

To be fair, not every Black intellectual believes this. Caryl Phillips wrote a book, Afrocentrism, debunking it way back in the ’90s/ early 2000s, which was reviewed in the Financial Times. I’ve seen the Egyptians as a race somewhere between White and Black. They certainly portrayed themselves as darker than Europeans. Ancient Egyptian art stereotypically shows men as reddish-brown in colour, and women as yellow. European cultures, like the Minoans, painted themselves as pink. The Egyptians also, however, painted the Black cultures further to the south as Black. However, it makes more sense to see ancient Egypt as part of the ancient Near East because it was part of that geopolitical and cultural area. Basil Davidson, a White Afrocentrist, defended his view that the ancient Egyptians were ultimately the source of Greek and Roman culture and science by stating that it was what the Romans themselves said. Perhaps, but the majority of the foreign contribution to Greek science actually comes from the Middle East, such as Babylonia and Phrygia, rather than Egypt.

Davidson also wrote an interesting history of the Swahili culture, which I found in Bristol’s Central Library years ago. This was written as a kind of ‘bottom-up’ history. Instead of viewing it as an Arab culture that had been imposed on Black Africans, he saw it as Black Africans accepting Arab culture. However, he did not deny or omit the Arab contribution, as this book appears to do.

The book’s title clearly shows that it’s been rushed out to cash in on the Black Lives Matter movement. Unfortunately, instead of being proper history it’s just pushing racial, if not racist, propaganda. I’d argue that any attempt to argue that Black Africans are the unacknowledged source of White culture and dwelling on the transatlantic slave trade while saying nothing about the Arab is racist against Whites.

African culture and history is genuinely fascinating without its reduction to myths and racial propaganda, and there are a number of excellent books about it. Unfortunately it looks like they’re going to be ignored in favour of extremely flawed and biased treatments like this.

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5 Responses to “Simon Webb on Black History’s Appropriation of Other Cultures”

  1. Brian Burden Says:

    I always read your blog whether I comment or not. It is unfailingly interesting.

  2. Que? Says:

    Ethiopia and the Swahili city-states were never ‘Arab’ colonies.

    For Ethiopia.

    I don’t dispute the genetic and linguistic evidence of Gulf Arab migration but that doesn’t make it an Arab Colony. Polities like D’mt and Axum were indigenous to the area.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%CA%BFmt

    The Swahili City-States
    “The book also discusses the Swahili civilisation without acknowledging that it, too, was the result of Arab colonisation.
    The Swahili culture was founded by Arabs from the Sultanate of Oman, who were also responsible for setting up a slave trade in east Africa.”

    Wrong on many levels.
    Swahili culture predates the Sultanate of Oman (including the Arab slave trade). Arabic is barely spoken on the Swahili Coast. Hell, there isn’t even an indigenous form of Arabic spoken among the Swahili. Why do the Swahili speak Kiswahili and not Arabic? Not to mention that the Swahili had their own version of Ajami Arabic script.
    Most of the Swahili cities don’t have Arab names.
    The Swahil were defo Arab (as well as Persian and South Asian) influenced but so were many other places.

    Ancient Egypt
    I agree that Ancient Egypt wasn’t ‘black’. Yet, there is growing evidence that Ancient Egypt is a mix of Indigenous (mainly from Upper/Southern Egypt) and Middle Eastern cultures. Ancient Egyptian deities and cosmology is very much indigenous and had very little influence from outside of it (e.g. their deities depicted with animal heads, you seldom find this outside of AE).

    I find your dismissive tone of Basil Davidson (labelling him a ‘white afrocentrist’) quite worrying and damn near ‘poisoning the well’. The man was a thorough researcher and journalist when it came to African politics and histories. You don’t have to agree with him on everything (I certainly don’t). However, his assertion that “Ancient Egyptians were ultimately the source of Greek and Roman culture and science by stating that it was what the Romans themselves said.” does have some merit. Ancient Greeks were heavily influenced by the Ancient Egyptians.

    I won’t tell you whom and what you can watch but I do have a suggestion. Avoid History Debunked/Simon Webb. His crap will rot your brain.

  3. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Que – thanks for your comments. Regarding my description of Basil Davidson as an ‘Afrocentrist’, this isn’t meant as a slight. I believe that’s how he described himself, from what I remember of one of his books. And I don’t dismiss his scholarship either, by a very long way. I can remember watching his history of Africa when it appeared on Channel 4 way back in the 1980s.

    As for the colour of the ancient Egyptians, actually I agree with you that they were a mix of Near Eastern and Black African elements. The animal heads are unique to the ancient Egyptian deities, I also agree. Interestingly there was a theory a few decades ago that the deities of many other cultures were originally zoomorphic but changed to anthropomorphic representations as these cultures advanced. Egypt’s animal headed deities were thus still at the zoomorphic stage.

    I also agree with you about Axum being indigenous to the area. I haven’t heard of D’mt though. Perhaps you could tell me a little more? Incidentally, I do find it frustrating that while can read Meroitic, the language has died out and has no known relatives, so we don’t know what the inscriptions mean. There’s doubtless a wealth of information there, if only we did have a Rosetta stone.

  4. beastrabban Says:

    As for the Swahili, I always understood that the language is Bantu but with Arabic loanwords, derived from contact with the Arabs. But years ago I started reading an interesting book by Davidson, who turned the traditional attitude towards the origins of the Swahili on its head. Instead of being an Arab culture that had been imposed on the indigenous Black people, it was a Black African culture that had taken over elements of Arab culture.

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