Before Columbus: How Africans Brought Civilization to America - Global Research (2022)

Before Columbus: How Africans Brought Civilization to America - Global Research (1)

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2014.

On Monday [October 13 2014], America’s government offices, businesses, and banks all grind to a halt in order to commemorate Columbus Day. In schools up and down the country, little children are taught that a heroic Italian explorer discovered America, and various events and parades are held to celebrate the occasion.

It has now become common knowledge amongst academics that Christopher Columbus clearly did not discover America, not least because is it impossible to discover a people and a continent that was already there and thriving with culture. One can only wonder how Columbus could have discovered America when people were watching him from America’s shores?

Contrary to popular belief, African American history did not start with slavery in the New World. An overwhelming body of new evidence is emerging which proves that Africans had frequently sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas, thousands of years before Columbus and indeed before Christ. The great ancient civilizations of Egypt and West Africa traveled to the Americas, contributing immensely to early American civilization by importing the art of pyramid building, political systems and religious practices as well as mathematics, writing and a sophisticated calendar.

The strongest evidence of African presence in America before Columbus comes from the pen of Columbus himself. In 1920, a renowned American historian and linguist, Leo Weiner of Harvard University, in his book, Africa and the discovery of America, explained how Columbus noted in his journal that Native Americans had confirmed that “black skinned people had come from the south-east in boats, trading in gold-tipped spears.”

(Video) Africans Discovered America Centuries Before Columbus Ever Left Europe | Sankofa Pan African Series

One of the first documented instances of Africans sailing and settling in the Americas were black Egyptians led by King Ramses III, during the 19th dynasty in 1292 BC. In fact, in 445 BC, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the Ancient Egyptian pharaohs’ great seafaring and navigational skills. Further concrete evidence, noted by Dr. Imhotep and largely ignored by Euro-centric archaeologists, includes “Egyptian artifacts found across North America from the Algonquin writings on the East Coast to the artifacts and Egyptian place names in the Grand Canyon.”

In 1311 AD, another major wave of African exploration to the New World was led by King Abubakari II, the ruler of the fourteenth century Mali Empire, which was larger than the Holy Roman Empire. The king sent out 200 ships of men, and 200 ships of trade material, crops, animals, cloth and crucially African knowledge of astronomy, religion and the arts.

African explorers crossing the vast Atlantic waters in primitive boats may seem unlikely, or perhaps, far fetched to some. Such incredible nautical achievements are not as daunting as they seem, given that
numerous successful modern attempts have illustrated that without an oar, rudder or sail ancient African boats, including the “dug-out,” would certainly have been able to cross the vast ocean in a matter of weeks.

As time allows us to drift further and further away from the “European age of exploration” and we move beyond an age of racial intellectual prejudice, historians are beginning to recognize that Africans were skilled navigators long before Europeans, contrary to popular belief.

Of course, some Western historians continue to refute this fact because, consciously or unconsciously, they are still hanging on to the 19th-century notion that seafaring was a European monopoly.

After all, history will tell you that seafaring is the quintessential European achievement, the single endeavor of which Europeans are awfully proud. Seafaring allowed Europe to conquer the world. The notion that black Africans braved the roaring waters of the Atlantic Ocean and beat Europeans to the New World threatens a historically white sense of ownership over the seas.

(Video) Who Discovered America First?

When most people think about ancient Mexico, the first civilizations that come to mind are the Incas, Aztecs and the Maya. However, during the early 1940’s archeologists uncovered a civilization known as the Olmecs of 1200 BC, which pre-dated any other advanced civilization in the Americas.

The Olmec civilization, which was of African origin and dominated by Africans, was the first significant civilization in Mesoamerica and the Mother Culture of Mexico.

Olmecs are perhaps best known for the carved colossal heads found in Central Mexico, that exhibit an unmistakably African Negroid appearance. Ancient African historian Professor Van Sertima has illustrated how Olmecs were the first Mesoamerican civilization to use a written language, sophisticated astronomy, arts and mathematics and they built the first cities in Mexico, all of which greatly influenced the Mayans and subsequent civilizations in the Americas. “There is not the slightest doubt that all later civilizations in [Mexico and Central America], rest ultimately on an Olmec base,” once remarked Michael Coe, a leading historian on Mexico.

Africans clearly played an intricate role in the Olmec Empire’s rise and that African influence peaked during the same period that ancient Black Egyptian culture ascended in Africa.

A clear indicator of pre-Columbus African trans-Atlantic travel is the recent archeological findings of narcotics native to America in Ancient Egyptian mummies, which have astounded contemporary historians. German toxicologist, Svetla Balabanova, reported findings of cocaine and nicotine in ancient Egyptian mummies. These substances are known to only be derived from American plants. South American cocaine from Erythroxylon coca and nicotine from Nicotiana tabacum. Such compounds could only have been introduced to Ancient Egyptian culture through trade with Americans.

Similarities across early American and African religions also indicate significant cross-cultural contact. The Mayans, Aztecs and Incas all worshipped black gods and the surviving portraits of the black deities are revealing. For instance, ancient portraits of the Quetzalcoatl, a messiah serpent god, and Ek-ahua, the god of war, are unquestionably Negro with dark skin and wooly hair. Why would native Americans venerate images so unmistakably African if they had never seen them before? Numerous wall paintings in caves in Juxtlahuaca depict the famous ancient Egyptian “opening of the mouth” and cross libation rituals. All these religious similarities are too large and occur far too often to be mere coincidences.

(Video) Ivan Van Sertima - African History in America before Columbus

Professor Everett Borders notes another very important indication of African presence, which is the nature of early American pyramids. Pyramid construction is highly specialized. Ancient Egypt progressed from the original stepped pyramid of Djosser, to the more sophisticated finished product at Giza. However, at La Venta in Mexico, the Olmecs made a fully finished pyramid, with no signs of progressive learning. Olmecian and Egyptian pyramids were both placed on the same north-south axis and had strikingly similar construction methods. Tellingly, all of these pyramids also served the same dual purpose, tomb and temple.

Ancient trans-Atlantic similarities in botany, religion and pyramid building constitute but a fraction of the signs of African influence in ancient America. Other indicators include, astronomy, art, writing systems, flora and fauna.

Historically, the African people have been exceptional explorers and purveyors of culture across the world. Throughout all of these travels, African explorers have not had a history of starting devastating wars on the people they met. The greatest threat towards Africa having a glorious future is her people’s ignorance of Africa’s glorious past.

Pre-Columbus civilization in the Americas had its foundation built by Africans and developed by the ingenuity of Native Americans. Sadly, America, in post-Columbus times, was founded on the genocide of the indigenous Americans, built on the backs of African slaves and continues to run on the exploitation of workers at home and abroad.

Clearly, Africans helped civilize America well before Europeans “discovered” America, and well before Europeans claim to have civilized Africa. The growing body of evidence is now becoming simply too loud to ignore. It’s about time education policy makers reexamine their school curriculums to adjust for America’s long pre-Columbus history.

Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on [emailprotected]

(Video) Africans Discovery of America Before Columbus

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FAQs

How did Africans get to America before Columbus? ›

Back in 445 B.C., the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of King Ramses III leading a team of Africans at sea with astounding seafaring and navigational skills. Together, both accounts would point to Africans sailing over to the New World before Columbus.

Who discovered America before Christopher Columbus? ›

We know now that Columbus was among the last explorers to reach the Americas, not the first. Five hundred years before Columbus, a daring band of Vikings led by Leif Eriksson set foot in North America and established a settlement.

When did Africans discover America? ›

Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. discusses two of the earliest Africans to arrive in the Americas—men who journeyed to this continent a century before the first “20 And Odd” Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619.

Were there any African explorers? ›

Yes, there were black explorers before Columbus. Almost 200 years before him, Abubakari II, also called Mansa Musa II, reached America. Abubakari II was ruling the kingdom of Mali, one of the wealthiest in the world at the time.

Who was the first known person of African descent to come to the Americas? ›

For example, as historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. has pointed out, Juan Garrido became the first documented black person to arrive in what would become the U.S. when he accompanied Juan Ponce de León in search of the Fountain of Youth in 1513, and they ended up in present-day Florida, around St. Augustine.

Who were the first people to migrate to the Americas? ›

During the second half of the 20th Century, a consensus emerged among North American archaeologists that the Clovis people had been the first to reach the Americas, about 11,500 years ago. The ancestors of the Clovis were thought to have crossed a land bridge linking Siberia to Alaska during the last ice age.

Who first found America? ›

Explorer Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) is known for his 1492 'discovery' of the New World of the Americas on board his ship Santa Maria.

What was America called before it was named America? ›

Before that time, there was no name that collectively identified the Western Hemisphere. The earlier Spanish explorers referred to the area as the Indies believing, as did Columbus, that it was a part of eastern Asia.

What was America called before? ›

On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a new name for what had been called the "United Colonies.” The moniker United States of America has remained since then as a symbol of freedom and independence.

Who discovered Africa first? ›

Portuguese explorer Prince Henry, known as the Navigator, was the first European to methodically explore Africa and the oceanic route to the Indies.

When did humans arrive in the Americas? ›

The emerging picture suggests that humans may have arrived in North America at least 20,000 years ago—some 5,000 years earlier than has been commonly believed.

Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived? ›

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Native Americans lived as autonomous nations (also known as tribes) across the continent from present-day Alaska, across Canada, and throughout the lower 48 United States.

When did slavery start in America? ›

However, many consider a significant starting point to slavery in America to be 1619, when the privateer The White Lion brought 20 enslaved African ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

How old is Africa? ›

Africa is sometimes nicknamed the "Mother Continent" due to its being the oldest inhabited continent on Earth. Humans and human ancestors have lived in Africa for more than 5 million years. Africa, the second-largest continent, is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Why is Africa called motherland? ›

We Call Africa the "Motherland" Because It's the Birthplace of the Human Race.

Where did most African Americans come from? ›

The majority of all people enslaved in the New World came from West Central Africa. Before 1519, all Africans carried into the Atlantic disembarked at Old World ports, mainly Europe and the offshore Atlantic islands.

Where did African Americans originate? ›

African Americans are mainly of African ancestry, but many have non-Black ancestors as well. African Americans are largely the descendants of enslaved people who were brought from their African homelands by force to work in the New World.

How did the first humans get to America? ›

The settlement of the Americas began when Paleolithic hunter-gatherers entered North America from the North Asian Mammoth steppe via the Beringia land bridge, which had formed between northeastern Siberia and western Alaska due to the lowering of sea level during the Last Glacial Maximum (26,000 to 19,000 years ago).

How did the first people come to America? ›

People travelled by boat to North America some 30,000 years ago, at a time when giant animals still roamed the continent and long before it was thought the earliest arrivals had made the crossing from Asia, archaeological research reveals today.

How did the earliest people come to the Americas According to one theory? ›

According to one theory, how did the earliest people come to the Americas? Asians walked across the Bering land bridge.

Who were the first Native Americans? ›

The earliest ancestors of Native Americans are known as Paleo-Indians. They shared certain cultural traits with their Asian contemporaries, such as the use of fire and domesticated dogs; they do not seem to have used other Old World technologies such as grazing animals, domesticated plants, and the wheel.

Who colonized America? ›

Following the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492, Spain and Portugal established colonies in the New World, beginning the European colonization of the Americas. France and England, the two other major powers of 15th-century Western Europe, employed explorers soon after the return of Columbus's first voyage.

Where did Native Americans come from? ›

The ancestors of living Native Americans arrived in what is now the United States at least 15,000 years ago, possibly much earlier, from Asia via Beringia. A vast variety of peoples, societies and cultures subsequently developed.

Who were the first settlers in North America and where did they come from? ›

It's widely accepted that the first settlers were hunter-gatherers that came to North America from the North Asia Mammoth steppe via the Bering land bridge.

Was there a name for America before Columbus? ›

Before 1492, modern-day Mexico, most of Central America, and the southwestern United States comprised an area now known as Meso or Middle America.

Who chose the name America? ›

Who Is Amerigo Vespucci? German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller is credited with first using the name America in 1507 on a large 12-panel map based on traveling accounts of explorers of the New World, and in particular those of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

How old is American civilization? ›

With more than 5 thousand years old, Caral is considered the oldest civilization in the American continent. Between the years 3000 and 2500 B. C., the people from Caral began to form small settlements in what is now the province of Barranca, that interacted with each other to exchanged products and merchandise.

What is Africa real name? ›

In Kemetic History of Afrika, Dr cheikh Anah Diop writes, “The ancient name of Africa was Alkebulan. Alkebu-lan “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden”.” Alkebulan is the oldest and the only word of indigenous origin. It was used by the Moors, Nubians, Numidians, Khart-Haddans (Carthagenians), and Ethiopians.

What was Africa called before? ›

Alkebulan. According to experts that research the history of the African continent, the original ancient name of Africa was Alkebulan. This name translates to “mother of mankind,” or according to other sources, “the garden of Eden.” Alkebulan is an extremely old word, and its origins are indigenous.

Why Africa is called Africa? ›

Roman theory

According to this school of thought, the Romans discovered a land opposite the Mediterranean and named it after the Berber tribe residing within the Carnage area, presently referred to as Tunisia. The tribe's name was Afri, and the Romans gave the name Africa meaning the land of the Afri.

Who were the very first humans in America? ›

Earlier research led scientists to believe the first humans that settled in North America belonged to the Clovis culture, who left behind stone-wrought tools 16,000 years ago. But carbon dating analysis on collagen extracted from the mammoth bones date the butchering site at 36,250 to 38,900 years old.

Who was first human? ›

The First Humans

One of the earliest known humans is Homo habilis, or “handy man,” who lived about 2.4 million to 1.4 million years ago in Eastern and Southern Africa.

When did humans leave Africa? ›

Though it is unclear when some modern humans first left Africa, evidence shows that these modern humans did not leave Africa until between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago. Most likely, a change in climate helped to push them out.

What tribes were in America before colonization? ›

The People.

European colonists initially encountered Native Americans in three distinct regions. Eastern Woodland tribes included the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, Abenakis, Shawnees, Delawares, Micmacs, Mahicans, and Pequots.

Who started slavery in Africa? ›

Slavery in northern Africa dates back to ancient Egypt. The New Kingdom (1558–1080 BC) brought in large numbers of slaves as prisoners of war up the Nile valley and used them for domestic and supervised labour. Ptolemaic Egypt (305 BC–30 BC) used both land and sea routes to bring slaves in.

Who were the first slaves in ancient history? ›

The oldest known slave society was the Mesopotamian and Sumerian civilisations located in the Iran/Iraq region between 6000-2000BCE.

Who ended slavery? ›

On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states (three-fourths) ratified it by December 6, 1865.

Who named Africa? ›

All historians agree that it was the Roman use of the term 'Africa' for parts of Tunisia and Northern Algeria which ultimately, almost 2000 years later, gave the continent its name. There is, however, no consensus amongst scholars as to why the Romans decided to call these provinces 'Africa'.

What was Africa called in the Bible? ›

Cush, Cushitic and Cushi

In the Major Prophets, the terms used to refer to Africa and Africans appear more than 180 times. Cush appears also as a geographical location.

Is Africa a country Yes or no? ›

The most important thing to know is that Africa is not a country; it's a continent of 54 countries that are diverse culturally and geographically. It's so diverse because Africa is really, really big — about as big as the combined landmasses of China, the United States, India, Japan and much of Europe.

Who is mother Africa? ›

Mother Africa is the common ancestor of all people of African descent irrespective of their physical characteristics and current location on this planet. However, there is a universal principle or a golden rule of nature to the effect that as a person thinks so is that fellow.

What is Africa famous for? ›

It's brimming full of BIG things. As the second biggest continent in the world, Africa is jam-packed with some of the world's biggest things: The largest desert in the world, the Sahara Desert (explore it on our Morocco itineraries). The longest river in the world, the Nile River, runs for 6,853km (4,258mi).

Are the Olmecs from Africa? ›

Olmec terracotta art show people involved in a variety of activities from wrestling to pottery making. In retrospect, there is no doubt that the ancient Olmecs of Mexico and the Olmec language, religion, culture were of African origins and specifically of the Mende group of West Africa.

Did Africans sail across the Atlantic? ›

Contrary to popular belief, African American history did not start with slavery in the New World. An overwhelming body of new evidence is emerging which proves that Africans had frequently sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas, thousands of years before Columbus and indeed before Christ.

Who discovered Africa in 1492? ›

The explorer Christopher Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain: in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502.

Did Christopher Columbus go to Africa? ›

Between 1482 and 1485, Columbus traded along the coasts of West Africa, reaching the Portuguese trading post of Elmina at the Guinea coast (in present-day Ghana).

What race is Olmec? ›

While historians have speculated that the facial features of some monumental carved heads indicate an African origin of these people, most scholars believe that the Olmec, like other native Americans, descended from Asian ancestors who entered North America during the Great Ice Age.

What is the oldest civilization in the Americas? ›

With more than 5 thousand years old, Caral is considered the oldest civilization in the American continent. Between the years 3000 and 2500 B. C., the people from Caral began to form small settlements in what is now the province of Barranca, that interacted with each other to exchanged products and merchandise.

Who was in Mexico before the Aztecs? ›

Early History – The Aztecs

Mexico was first populated more than 13,000 years ago by complex indigenous civilisations. The great Aztec empire was preceded by advanced civilisations including the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec and Maya.

Who started slavery in Africa? ›

Slavery in northern Africa dates back to ancient Egypt. The New Kingdom (1558–1080 BC) brought in large numbers of slaves as prisoners of war up the Nile valley and used them for domestic and supervised labour. Ptolemaic Egypt (305 BC–30 BC) used both land and sea routes to bring slaves in.

Who first discovered Africa? ›

Portuguese explorer Prince Henry, known as the Navigator, was the first European to methodically explore Africa and the oceanic route to the Indies.

When did the moors first come to America? ›

Muslims first came to North America in the 1500s as part of colonial expeditions. One of these explorers, Mustafa Zemmouri (also known as Estevanico), was sold by the Portuguese into slavery in 1522.

Who founded America? ›

Explorer Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) is known for his 1492 'discovery' of the New World of the Americas on board his ship Santa Maria.

What was America called before? ›

On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a new name for what had been called the "United Colonies.” The moniker United States of America has remained since then as a symbol of freedom and independence.

Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived? ›

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Native Americans lived as autonomous nations (also known as tribes) across the continent from present-day Alaska, across Canada, and throughout the lower 48 United States.

Where did Christopher Columbus bring slaves? ›

Until the European discovery of America, there was only a relatively small slave trade between Africa and Europe. Needing labor to replace the rapidly declining Taino, the Spanish introduced African slaves to Hispaniola in 1502; by 1510, the trade was important to the Caribbean economy.

What are 5 facts about Christopher Columbus? ›

Here are five things you may not have known about Christopher Columbus:
  • Christopher Columbus wasn't his given name. ...
  • He didn't discover that the earth is round. ...
  • He never set foot in North America. ...
  • He was convinced he had landed in Asia. ...
  • Columbus was sent back to Spain in chains and stripped of his governorship.
12 Sept 2022

When did slavery start in America? ›

However, many consider a significant starting point to slavery in America to be 1619, when the privateer The White Lion brought 20 enslaved African ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

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