By Veronica Mackey
The Age of Ramses marked the beginning of the Nineteenth Dynasty (1320-1200 B.C.). King Ramses II (1279-1212 B.C.) is believed to be the Pharaoh of Egypt in the biblical Exodus story. A formidable military man, Ramses II fought against the Hittites to regain portions of Eastern Africa and Western Asia.
He is credited with building some of the most notable temples in Egyptian history and considered a model of what a king should be. The reign of Ramside kings continued into the 20th Dynasty (1200-1085 B.C.) until internal fighting and a series of weak kings brought down the reign of Egyptian imperial power.
The power of the priesthood rose as Egyptian kings became more enthralled with world affairs than their commitments to the Almighty. Egyptian priests held positions of tremendous power. They were the first men of learning—scribes, historians, scientists, architects, physicians, artists, mathematicians, astrologers, and chemists. Temples represented schools as well as places of worship. It was widely known among Europeans that Ethiopia was the world’s center of learning. An Ethiopian education was viewed with pride.
When Europeans conquered African kingdoms, they took with them the art, science and other achievements. They took full credit for Egyptian “civilization,” although many of the advancements were in place hundreds of years before their arrival. The Thebans, for example, were considered the oldest men on earth, and credited with establishing philosophy and astrology.
White historian Samuel Baker often wrote of swamplands, rotting vegetation, deadly insects and “strange people,” and used this perception to justify his belief that Africans were innately inferior. The accounts of African history by white historians are refuted by the Bible, and by noted historians like Pliny and Herodotus (known as the “Father of History”).
The Egyptian Myth
In ancient times, conquest and superiority were determined by political and military rule—not race. Asians who took over portions of Egypt did not consider themselves superior to blacks because of skin color. Racism, as we know it today, according to Chancellor, was “practically non-existent.” But it wouldn’t be long before skin color would take precedence over everything.
Whites and Asians living in Africa began to label themselves and their territory as something other than African. Some 1,500 years before the Middle Kingdom (2133 B.C.), Afro-Asians far outnumbered Asians. Unmixed Asians were called Asians and Africans were called Africans, but Afro-Asians were called the “New Breed.” Being rejected by White Asians, they called themselves “Egyptians.”
According to Williams, “with each mass invasion by whites, the physical characteristics of Egyptian people changed more and more. They became more Caucasoid.” The word “Egyptian” originally referred to blacks, but was changed to refer strictly to Afro-Asians. Racist historians have presented Egypt as an area separate from the rest of the continent. Noted scholar Dr. Jeremiah Wright said “Racism seeks to take Egypt out of Africa and put it in a nebulous Middle East.”
“One of the great tragedies has been that, in the last 400 years, Europeans and White Americans have created the whole ideology of white supremacy and they have, in the process, taken the images—sacred images as well as secular images—that are victorious and positive, and made those images white...By the same token, they have re-cast black into a negative image,” said Prof. Cain Felder, author of Troubling Biblical Waters.
The racial lineage of Jesus is often debated among religious scholars. The bronze feet and wooly hair referred to in the Bible is used as evidence by some black clergy that Jesus was black.”It’s more likely that Jesus was a man of color,” said Rev. Cecil Murray, Chair of Christian Ethics at the University of Southern California. According to Murray, God chose Egypt as the place for Jesus to flee because his skin color would be less noticeable there among his own people.
Setting aside the Bible debate and looking to geography, Jesus lived close enough to Africa to suggest that he was—if not black—definitely a man of color. The white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed images seen in the movies could not have been accurate considering his place of habitation. He was born a Jew in Bethlehem, just a stone’s throw away from Africa in an area known as Palestine. The area includes Jordan, Israel, Egypt and the Holy City of Jerusalem.
“Palestine is exactly where it’s always been,” says Prof. Felder. “If you sent one person from Jerusalem to Berlin, another from Jerusalem to Britain, and another from Jerusalem to Africa, the person walking to Africa would get there many, many days ahead of the others.”
Return to Greatness
We came from greatness, and to greatness we can return, but only if we have the vision to make it happen. The African Diaspora has endured more pain, rejection and setbacks than any other people on earth. We have proven our strength to survive and thrive under the most inhumane conditions.
But we need not be mere survivors. While it is important to know that we are a strong people, we need to also know that we are champions. Getting a positive revelation of ourselves begins not with our history in this country, but with our history on earth. We were much more than slaves in the Western world. We were kings and queens, inventors of science, art, language and mathematics.
Black history must be both a reminder of where we came from and where we can return to by discovering the truth of our heritage. Learning to believe in ourselves again, no matter how far we have fallen, is the key that can shape the future of our lives.
Note: This article, originally published in 2003 in Family Health Guide, has been edited.