chapter  1
4 Pages

Africa and the origin of humanity

In the 1950s and 1960s the Senegalese genius Cheikh Anta Diop, scientist, linguist, and historian, proposed the important thesis that Africa was not only the cradle of humanity but also the cradle of civilization (Diop 1993). He was not the first to make such a suggestion but he was the first African scholar to defend the thesis in several provocative books including The African Origin of Civilization ([1974] 1993) and the major anthropological work Civilization or Barbarism (1991). Diop’s work challenged the very heart of the doctrines of racism and the negative arguments that had been made against Africa by many European and American authors. It was Diop’s contention in his doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne in France not only that Africa was the home of humanity and civilization but that Europe had “stolen” or “distorted” much of the African record. This charge created a wave of intellectual resistance that would follow Diop for most of his life because he had challenged the idea of European superiority. Diop’s arguments gained in respectability as the wall of ignorance established by decades of racist science came tumbling down. Indeed, a host of other scientists in fields as dissimilar as archaeology and linguistics wrote books and articles that illuminated the findings of Cheikh Anta Diop. Authors such as Martin Bernal, Theophile Obenga, and Basil Davidson have shown the truth of Diop’s initial thesis. Indeed, Africa is the home of all living humans. Furthermore, it is source of many of the technological innovations that laid the foundation for modern industrial and informational societies.