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Introduction to When the World was Black, Part One

“History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.” –… Read More »

“History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.” – John Henrik Clarke

Why are there are Black communities all over the world, from southern Russia to southeast Asia, from South America to the islands of the South Pacific? Some of them are no longer around, but we know they were there. They were everywhere.

But who were these people? Where did they come from? How did they get to distant outposts like Easter Island, Tierra del Fuego, and even the frigid regions of northern Europe, Canada, and Siberia? And what role did these people play in establishing the world’s first cultures and civilizations? Finally, what happened to them?

These are the questions we’ll answer in this book. In this book, you’ll learn about the history of Black people. I don’t mean the history you learned in school, which most likely began with slavery and ended with the Civil Rights Movement. I’m talking about Black history BEFORE that. Long before that. In this book, we’ll cover over 200,000 years of Black history.

For many of us, that sounds strange. We can’t even imagine what the Black past was like before the slave trade, much less imagine that such a history goes back 200,000 years or more.

Can you imagine what that does to a person? To grow up believing their people started out as slaves? Perhaps some of us know a little about Africa, but how much do we really know? How much do we know about the extent of the ancient Black empires that spanned far beyond continental Africa? Chances are, very little. In this book, we’ll tell the stories you haven’t been told.

We’ll talk about the Black migrations that settled the world. We’ll talk about the Black people who founded the first cultures and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and North and South America. No exaggeration. This book covers more than 200,000 years of Black history across every square inch of the Planet Earth. We’ll rediscover a past when the world was Black. As we learn the history of our ancestors, we’ll learn more and more about ourselves.

Why Study the Past?

Why are ancient Black civilizations important? What do they have to do with us nowadays? Could this information serve as anything more than a source of inspiration? Or are these stories mere reminders of the greatness that once was?

I could answer those questions myself, but it makes sense to draw on the wisdom of those who came before me. People like historian John Henrik Clarke, who said the profound words quoted above. Or Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop, who said, “Intellectuals out to study the past, not for the pleasure they find in so doing, but to derive lessons from it.”[i]

This is what Malcolm X meant when he said in his 1963 “Message to the Grassroots”:

Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research. And when you see that you’ve got problems, all you have to do is examine the historic method used all over the world by others who have problems similar to yours. And once you see how they got theirs straight, then you know how you can get yours straight.

He was echoing the sentiments of his teacher,[1] the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who said in the classic Message to the Blackman:

The acquiring of knowledge for our children and ourselves must not be limited to the three R’s – ‘reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. It should instead include the history of the Black nation, the knowledge of civilization of man and the universe and all the sciences. It will make us a greater people of tomorrow. We must instill within our people the desire to learn and then use that learning for self.[ii]

Later in the book, he connects the study of history with the pursuit of self-knowledge:

I am for the acquiring of knowledge or the accumulating of knowledge – as we now call it; education. First, my people must be taught the knowledge of self. Then and only then will they be able to understand others and that which surrounds them. Anyone who does not have a knowledge of self is considered a victim of either amnesia or unconsciousness and is not very competent. The lack of knowledge of self is a prevailing condition among my people here in America. Gaining the knowledge of self makes us unite into a great unity. Knowledge of self makes you take on the great virtue of learning. [iii]

What they’ve been telling us is that history is a rich subject because it can illuminate the problems of the present, and present solutions that have already worked for such problems.

History can also highlight the failures of the past, to help us see what not to do again. The past is like an alternate universe that obeys the same laws as our own, where we can see what happens when different things are attempted.

Studying the past also allows us to see how our present-day conditions came to be. Both our strengths and our weaknesses are born from the triumphs and tragedies of our collective past. Thus, if we want a better present and future, we must come to understand the past.

In writing this book, I gave myself the daunting task of covering all the cultures and civilizations of the world, going back as far as the earliest evidence of human settlement, and extending up to the point of European contact. That’s quite a lot of history. Thus, this book had to be split into two parts.

Part One covers history from 200,000 to 20,000 years ago. These were the “prehistoric” cultures of the Paleolithic Age. This might make them sound “primitive,” but we’ll soon see that these cultures were actually highly advanced.

Part Two covers history from 20,000 years ago to the point of European contact. This is the time that prehistoric cultures grew into ancient urban civilizations, a transition known to historians as the “Neolithic Revolution.”

Right now, you’re looking at Part One. In this book, you’ll learn:

  • Who the Original People of this planet are.
  • Why a branch of these people left Africa and settled the rest of the world.
  • How and when these people settled the entire Earth.
  • Why these people settled everywhere from the arctic tundra of Siberia to the deserts of Peru, and what cultures they established there.
  • The “extinction event” that nearly wiped out half of the human race.
  • The people who were here before humans, and the threat they posed to human survival.
  • How these threats affected those who survived and became us.
  • How the actions and choices of these Original People affect our lives over 100,000 years later.
  • What kind of culture the earliest humans had, and if they were “primitive savages” or scientifically and culturally advanced?
  • The innovations and technology these Original People introduced to all of the world’s earliest human cultures.
  • The threats faced by the direct descendants of these Original People who have survived into modern times.
  • How we can apply the lessons of the past to the problems of the future.

This book is, of course, not the first to explore the subject of ancient Black history. And it will certainly not be the last. What makes this book different is its scope, its depth, and its approach.

This book covers the Black history of Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas, whereas most texts focus on a very specific area, typically limited to popular regions like the Nile Valley. This book is also different because of how much work it took to put it together.

To summarize, here are ten reasons why this book was so insanely difficult to research and write:

  1. Most popular texts on ancient Black history are NOT multidisciplinary (with a few exceptions, like They Came Before Columbus). This book is one of only a few works that looks at archaeological, linguistic, genetic, skeletal, mythological, and anthropological data to give readers the “whole picture.”
  2. Few works have attempted to dig any further back than 4,000 BC. This book covers the human journey from over 200,000 years ago, up to our first encounters with Europeans. That’s quite a lot to condense into one text. We did however find a way to fit it in two books. Thus, this book is split in two parts, one half covering the distant prehistoric part (where the foundations were laid), and the other half covering the ancient Black past when big cities were built.
  3. This book covers not just one part of the world, but the entire world. Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Americas, the Pacific Islands, you name it, it’s covered. In many of these areas, you seriously have to dig to find any of the data you’re looking for.
  4. Our goal is to be respectful to Original People throughout the world, and considerate of their unique local heritages, while still being truthful about the Black foundations of these people, and later Black infusions into their civilizations.
  5. It’s not just a reference book, it’s an easy-to-read reference book. This book is meant be encyclopedic in nature, yet inviting and easy to read. The content is specific enough to warrant quoting in academic papers, while not so technical that readers can’t keep up. So by all means, quote us in your research papers! If you find us using conversational language to make something easier to understand, you may not want to quote THAT line.
  6. It’s just not as simple as saying “Black folks did this.” There is no such thing as a monolithic Black culture or people. Black people are the most diverse people on Earth. There were at least three separate waves of Black people who populated the planet, each with their own unique contributions. Many of these people branched off and evolved locally into smaller subgroups.
  7. We have to exemplify the methods of responsible scholarship. It’s too easy to offer bold claims that can’t be proven, but that goes against everything SDP stands for, and we believe that kind of “scholarship” is part of the problem plaguing our communities today.
  8. This isn’t a collection of “famous firsts” or disconnected Black history trivia. We’re actually telling the story of how this world came to be the way it is today. Telling the processes behind the highlights (for example, the backstory to the construction of the pyramids) isn’t as exciting as just listing the highlights, but that’s what separates a history book from a book of “fun facts.” We’re not just telling what happened, we’re explaining how it happened. As you can imagine, you won’t find stories about 10,000-foot-tall temples on page one. And while it IS amazing that the Black people of the Indus Valley had toilets and sewers 4,000 years ago (in contrast to Europeans who were throwing their bodily waste out the window as recently as the 1600s) we have to understand how much actually led up to these developments.[2]
  9. This book is part of our company’s campaign to engender empowered readers. Too often, our great historians and scholars have died without anyone to continue their work as intended. In other cases, lecturers and academics refuse to teach others how to find what they’ve found. We’re doing things differently. This book is full of open-ended questions and theories to research or expand upon, as well as guidelines on how to do the research. On our website, we’ve created a forum where a new scientific community can come together and continue writing this history. We call it “open source history.”
  10. Finally, we work life lessons into all of our books. This can’t just be a history book. This has to be a window into our past that allows us to better plan our futures.

This book is also different because we don’t resort to fantastic claims without proof. That’s just something we don’t do, even if readers nowadays tend to let other authors get away with it. We want to teach critical thinking, so we lead by example. If it’s an extraordinary claim, it requires extraordinary evidence. If we can’t back it up, we won’t say it. If it’s just a theory, we’ll say that, and we’ll identify all that facts that suggest our theory is plausible.

Finally, we are big on reality. The facts are amazing by themselves. We don’t need to make it seem like Black people built civilizations all over the world with magic or psychic powers. Doing so makes the accomplishments of the past seem effortless, and that sets us up for failure today – because nation-building nowadays is certainly not effortless. Doing so also requires no explanation of the process by which nation-building occurs, so you’re left with some fun stuff to believe in, but nothing you can actually use. We actually consider this kind of “teaching” to be a form of exploitation, and advise you to keep your eyes out for the people who peddle this kind of fantasy to those who deserve better.

The following guidelines should make it easier to read and understand this book:

  • Think of this book like a reference book. It’s full of literally thousands of years’ worth of content. To support many of the arguments we make, I’ve had to incorporate lots – and I mean lots – of data. Sometimes, this can be overwhelming. The vocabulary isn’t always easy either. But here’s the first step: relax.
  • You can reread this book as many times as you need to. And unlike The Science of Self, Volume One, you don’t necessarily have to read this book from front to back. You can skip around, because this work is meant to be encyclopedic like The Hood Health Handbook – a useful reference on over 1,000 different historical topics.
  • In other words, if you come across a difficult concept, a technical-sounding quote, or a section that simply doesn’t catch your interest, skip it. Often, those long block quotes are followed by an explanation in laymen’s terms. And what doesn’t catch you on your first read might catch your interest on your second read.
  • However, it might be easiest to understand if you don’t skip around too much, because difficult concepts are explained the first time they’re mentioned, but not again afterwards.
  • If you don’t feel like keeping a dictionary next to you while you read, there are free dictionary apps for most smartphones, and is easy to use as well. Wherever we can, we define tough words, but you still might run into a few that you need to clarify. Don’t stress! You’re improving your vocabulary. Soon, you’ll be able to use “anthropometry” in a sentence.
  • When you read, write in the margins and highlight text as often as you can. You may even want to use one of those colorful sticky-tab bookmarking systems.
  • It’s also helpful to keep a notebook where you take notes and record your thoughts.
  • We always ask that you share our work with others. We appreciate when you take pictures of our books and share them online, or post quotes with the necessary credits. SDP thrives off word-of-mouth.
  • At the same time, you may not get great results if you introduce this book to a friend who doesn’t like reading. You may need to start with a book like How to Hustle and Win, or Rap, Race, and Revolution, or Knowledge of Self. Those books are better suited for general audiences. This book, like The Science of Self, Volume One, is much heavier reader and will be tough for the uninitiated.
  • Still, carry the book with you. We delay our eBook releases (sometimes for a year or more) for a reason! We want people to bring this knowledge into the REAL world. We love the internet as much as you do, but we’re trying to kill all that disconnectedness and “reinvent the world” by bringing our people back together. (You’ll get it when you read this book).
  • So take this book out with you, and let those random conversations begin. You’ll be surprised how much good can come from such a small gesture.

[1] It should, of course, be noted that Malcolm X also consulted heavily with others, including Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Queen Mother Moore.

[2] They say “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but Rome was copied off nearby Black civilizations that took thousands of years to establish. So what took Rome so long?

[i] Cheikh Anta Diop. (1974). African Origin of Civilization. Lawrence Hill Books.

[ii] Elijah Muhammad. (1965). Message to the Blackman. Elijah Muhammad Books.

[iii] Elijah Muhammad. (1965).

The post Introduction to When the World was Black, Part One appeared first on SDP Books.

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