By Dr Clement APaak & Mawunyo H. Gbedze
The past year has seen many changes on the international stage, as well as new awareness of information in many areas of knowledge about our world. At the turn of the new decade of the 21st century the first black, African President was elected in what is still held as the most powerful nation on earth. The USA’s precedent setting election opened the doors to all kinds of topics as the world eagerly consumed new stories from the research and opinion of academic areas and the ordinary people who fuelled our new passion for roots and origins. For some the reception the Chinese gave USA President Obama might have come as a surprise. To Africans and to Chinese, however, an interesting chapter of Africa’s historic rule in China is just coming to light.
A Brief History Review
Since we are used to classifying China’s history into dynasties, we can say the first major Dynasty of China was the Black Shang Dynasty. Even after the killing by Chairman Mao of millions of what he deemed undesirables between 1940 and 1960, still 100 thousand of these original black Chinese remain.
Today, archeologists concur that skeletal remains from Southern China are predominately Negroid. The African ritual of single burials was practiced in that era, and it appears that Blacks founded many civilizations in Northern China. The three major empires of China were the Xia Dynasty (c.2205-1766 BC), Shang Yin Dynasty (c.1700-1050 BC) and the Zhou Dynasty.
Mongoloid people in China called Hua (Who-aa) founded the first such empire called the Zhou dynasty. The founders of Xia and Shang came from the fertile African Crescent via Iran. Chinese civilization began along the Yellow River. By 3500 BC. blacks in China were involved in raising silkworms and making silk.
A cultural hero Huang Di is a direct link of Africa. His name pronounced in old Chinese was Yuhai Huandi, but transliterated it is “Hu Nak Kunte.” He arrived in China from the west in 2282 BC and settled along the banks of the Loh River in Shanxi. Kunte is a common clan name among the Manding speakers.
The Africans or blacks that founded civilization in China were often called Li Min “black headed people” by the Zhou dynasts. They occupied China mostly from West Asia to China. They were forced from East and Southeast Asia by the expansion of the Thai, Annamite, Bak and Hua Mongoloids. Blacks ruled China until around 1000-700 BC. Historically, blacks of China were known in literature by many names, some of which were Negro, Austroloid and Oceanean to the Europeans. The East Indians and Mongoloid groups had other names like Dara, Yneh-chih, Yaksha, Suka, K’un-lun, Lushana and Seythians. Some of the new generation of Africans must surely wonder at the similarity of names, mostly
from West Coast of Africa where the great Madingue Empire was located. The names, similar to what we also hear as Chinese names include Atsu, Yao, Kojo, Komi,Yip and Koku.
Perceptions of Africa Today
Contrary to popular perceptions that Africa and Africans have nothing positive to contribute to the world, and have not contributed to our world and its civilizations, the facts from archaeology, anthropology, art, music, dance, linguistics and now DNA all show a different story now. Africa is the continent that has given the most and continues to give to the world and our humanity. In fact, the single most important and original gift of Africa to the world is the human race. Of course, the main stream media and the controllers of popular cultural media are not going to tell you of your African connection, or that your ancestors between 1.5 million and 100,000 years ago came from an African.
African Origins in the World
Anyone taking time to learn the real history of our humanity, and how we evolved over the last 3 million years, will realize that all human beings are related and that we are all African. We may look different today, and may have moved out of the motherland, Africa, at different times in the last 1.5 million years, but recent DNA studies shows that we are more alike than we claim to be different. Recent human DNA analysis shows that all the women of the world, regardless of their skin colour, can be traced to one woman and that that Black woman was closer to the common grand ancestral mother of all humans.
The researchers took blood samples from all the so-called racial types of women of the world from all continents for their analysis. The evidence, which led to what is now called the Eve Hypothesis, confirmed what has been known since the days of Charles Darwin, that is, we evolved from Africa. Physical evidence of the oldest specimen of our human precursors were found in the East African Rift Valley; Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and in South African dated to 4.5-3 million years ago and named Australopithecines. They evolved into Homo Habilis by 2 million years ago, then into Homo Erectus, or upright man by 1.5 million years ago. It was Erectus, fully bipedal, or walking upright, who domesticated and used fire, allowing Erectus to venture out of the motherland, to colonize what was essentially a human-less world.
Much later, it was from Africa again that our immediate ancestors, this time Homo sapiens or modern humans spread to colonize the world for the second time, interacting with the earlier ancestors. At ant rate, the oldest remains of these immediate ancestors have been found in Klasier River Caves in South Africa dated to 100,000 years ago. While anthologists are still debating the dynamics between the first African migrants and the later relatives between 1.5 million and 100,000 years ago, and which of these two waves are the ancestors of our modern European brothers and sisters, the fact remains that the ancestors of all humanity are originally African. Both the first and second waves of humans who colonized the wild world were African
Organization in old Africa
Africans who remained in the homeland continued to develop and advance. Until recently, they were ahead of their kin who moved out to occupy Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia. They built ships, and travelled the globe many years before Columbus and Vasco Da Gama. Africans were seafaring before the rise of the well-known African civilizations of Egypt, Kush and Aksum in the Sudan and Ethiopian regions. They were followed by the ancient empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. The founders of these civilizations used to reside in the then lush region, today’s Sahara. They moved out because it was unable to sustain human populations due to desiccation. The Sudanic kingdoms were followed by other empires including great Zimbabwe in southern Africa.
Evidence shows ancient African traders settled in the Americas forming their own territories. These people were black people who came to the so-called new world by themselves. Such evidence has been found in California, New York, and in Mexico, Brazil, and Columbia. Black people lived there before slavery brought more black people to the new world. Skeletal remains of black people have been found in the Americas dating to 1,500-1,000 B.C. More evidence is present in many early civilizations, including the Olmec civilization of Mexico. Take a look at the giant stone heads associated with the Olmec civilization; you will see the black West African connection in their features; the nose, the lips, as well as their writings, and associated shamanism.
Far reaching world innovations and personalities
It was in Africa that paper was invented; it was an invention of the ancient Egyptians, an African people. It was made from papyrus, a type of reed that grows in the Nile Valley. They also gave the world the calendar, astronomy, mathematics, and medicine, just to name a few important concepts. The artistic work and architecture of Africa and works by Africans has been a source of inspiration for most of the top professionals in those fields in recent times. The pyramids in Egypt, the Obelisks in Ethiopia, the Great Enclose of Great Zimbabwe, and the wonderful caves of the Dagon people in Mali all demonstrate their architecture skills and artistic work. Africans smelted ore and used iron to make tools, independent of external influences from about 800-600 B.C. as demonstrated by evidence from Buhaya in Tanzania and Taruga in Nigeria. They clearly understood sciences behind transforming ores into finished usable products.
The Black Emperor of Rome, Septimus Severus, who rebuilt the Hadrian Wall and gave the people of what was then Britain, peace for a100 years. He died in York in A.D. 211. St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, Popes Victor, Gelasius, and Mechaides as well as Maurice, the patron saint of Germans, Swiss and French were all African, by which we mean black. African-Black blood runs in the veins of European royals. Princess Charlotte Sophia, an African-Portuguese royal, married England’s King George III (1738-1820), and they had fifteen children. It was her line that gave us Queen Victoria, and her descendants including the present Queen, Elizabeth, her sons and grandsons William and Harry. Next time you see the Queen on TV take a good look at her, you will notice that her heir texture and facial features have African features; with these Black features clearer in Princess Anne. Next time you are in Charlotte town, know that it is named after beautiful Queen Charlotte.
The African-Black contribution in recent times is also evident in music and art of Europe. An African who influenced European music was Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780). The Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC demonstrated that Picasso copied the art style of the Itunba region of Congo; Bernard Heilger copied that of pre-dynastic Egyptians; Henri Laurens was influenced by the Dogon of Mail, and Max Ernest studied that of the Senufo. The list is long, just a few example to show illustrate the influences of Black people in European lives today.
When people in Africa were attending university of Timbuktu, Europe was still being overrun by Barbarians. Arab scholars have documented Timbuktu as a metropolis, and an intellectual capital of the world before the rise of Europe. Students and academics travelled from across the globe to study there. Not only has Africa and Africans contributed to our world civilizations, they started it all! We are now all beneficiaries and descendants of the African genius, one that stays calm, and perseveres in the face of challenges and obstacles. Most are not even aware that Africa is still the main source of raw materials and minerals used to make all the goods, items and toys that we have all come to love, including chocolate and cell phones.
Canada Africa connection
Mathieu Da Costa, a navigator and translator from Africa, traveled throughout the Atlantic world in the late 1500s and early 1600s. As a translator, he was in demand by the French and the Dutch to help in their trade with the Aboriginal people of Canada.
Mathieu de Costa (sometimes d’Acosta or da Costa, died 1623) is the first recorded black person in Canada. He was a member of the exploring party of Pierre Dugua, the Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s.
His multilingual talent portfolio of languages was thought to include Dutch, English, French, Portuguese and pidgin Basque, the dialect many Aboriginals used for trading purposes. This all led him to join the team of Champlain to seal, to trade and to explore Canada.
The contributions of Black people are there for those who care to look deeper in British Columbia. Historically, the modern Black history of BC started in 1858. The discovery of gold attracted hundreds of fortune-seekers to Victoria and to the banks of the Fraser River. The first Blacks to arrive in BC were part of that wave of immigration. They landed in Esquimalt, on Sunday, 25th April 1858.
Like elsewhere, Blacks became an integral part of the society in BC. However, their participation and deeds received little recognition or went unrecorded in the history books. The influence of the Black community on that cultural evolution is often omitted or forgotten outright. Here are a few examples of the black contributions to BC and Canada: Sir James Douglas, a Black man is the father of BC. He is best remembered as the founder of settlement, trade, and industry for British Columbia and in particular Vancouver Island. Douglas also helped the Hudson’s Bay Company become a trading monopoly in the Pacific Northwest. In 1858, Sir James Douglas was made governor of British Columbia. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), poet, playwright, and novelist wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and co-wrote The Three Musketeers. In 1909 Matthew Henson, explorer co-discovers the North Pole.
More Canadian context
Elijah McCoy’s (1843-1929) born in Colchester, Ontario, was an inventor and started the phrase “the real McCoy”. McCoy invented the lubricating cup or the drip cup and received the patent on his invention in 1872. It soon became standard practice for an equipment buyer to inquire if a machine contained “the Real McCoy.” This expression soon spread outside the machine industry and came to have the general meaning of the “real thing” or perfection. Between 1880-1884, Lewis H. Latimer invented the first electric light with a carbon filament. In 1951 Addie Aylestock became a minister – perhaps the first black woman in Canada to gain this distinction. In 1964, Lincoln Alexander became Canada’s first Black Member of Parliament. In 1994 Emery Barnes becomes the first Black British Columbia Speaker of the BC Legislature. In 1995 Justice Selwyn Romilly is the first black to be appointed to the British Columbia Supreme Court, and in 2005 Michaëlle Jean, a Black woman became Canada’s first black Governor General. The list again is long, but I am sure you appreciate the point.
Popular media, Hollywood, and both print and TV news have created the erroneous impression that Black people and Africans are just some struggling people not capable of development and progress. That is nonsense. Sadly, not much of the positive contributions of Africa, and Africans and black people as outlined in this article are talked about or taught in school. So, next time you see an African or a Black person, be respectful, for you are related to that person, have always been related and always will be.
It is why we say we are all African; mother Africa is the mother of all humanity. We hope this article has increased your awareness and knowledge of the historical and current contributions of Africa as well as African/Black people from provincial, national and global perspectives. We hope for what knowledge brings – an open mind that encourages you to reach out and embrace the peace and unity that makes the world a better place. We are all on a continuous path to explore and write history for the next generation.