A Book Review by Femi Akomolafe
Title: Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust, Slavery and the rise of European Capitalism.
Author: Dr. John Henrik Clarke
Publisher: A & B Publisher Group,
ISBN: 1-886433-18-6According to Euro-centric mythorians (myth-creators masquerading as history scholars), some well-fed European adventurers sailed down the coast of West Africa in their pleasure boats and chanced upon some naked savage Black people hopping from tree to tree, and their Christian, civilized hearts sank, and they decided to help. Always the altruists, the Europeans set up camp and began the enterprise to bring the savages to God and also to civilization.
accomplished, the Europeans left the natives to manage their own affairs, and within fifty years look at the mess the noble savages have made of things! The slave trade, oh, the savages were doing it all the time? And colonialism, oh, that was necessary to teach the Africans the art and science of self-government!
It is these types of make-me-happy fabrications European scholarship continue to pass on as history, and sadly it is the same kind of sophomoric nonsense African governments continue to spend their money on - passing it on to African children as history!
The very idea that Europeans were pioneers of civilization and that they brought civilization to Africa draws only laugh of derision and not anger from a properly educated African.
Dr. John Henrik Clarke should require no introduction to any educated African. For more than half a century until he joined the ancestors in 1998, the erudite African-American professor taught African-centered world history. He wrote numerous books and gave countless lectures. Dr. Clarke was among those that rescued
In ‘Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust,’ (an answer to the celebration of Christopher Columbus in 1994), Dr. Clarke sets out to explain to Africans (continental and disporan) why the colossal trade in African slaves happened; how it happened and, more importantly, what we, as a people, can and should do to ensure that that such monstrous calamity does not befell us again. He also gives us ideas to enable us prepare for a meaningful future. It is a short book (106 pages), but it contains gems of information that should help the African trying to understand his\her position in today’s world. It also should send each of us into thinking about what we can contribute individually to the task of Pan-African national redemption.
In the book, Dr. Clarke analyzes the role played by Cristobal Colon, aka, Christopher Columbus in this horrendous crime against the African people which led to consequences such like racism that African people still confront today in their daily lives. To Dr. Clarke, “The Columbus anniversary is a celebration of mass murder, slavery, and conquest. More: it exalts the continuing oppression of billions of people today.
Another popular misconception fabricated by European scholars is that Europeans somehow miraculously sprang from nowhere and got things figured out – inventing philosophies and sciences and technologies. This is pure fabrication. The basis of European civilization lays in the ideas Europe borrowed or stole from ancient
Dr. Clarke easily debunks the myths Europeans created to justified their cruel dealings with non-Europeans among which are:
1. The myth of people waiting in darkness for another people to bring them light. “In most countries where the Europeans invaded or influenced they put out the light of local civilizations and culture and destroyed civilizations, civilizations that were old before Europeans were born.”
2. The myth of a people without a legitimate God. “Europeans made no serious attempt to understand the religious culture of non-European people wherever they went in the world…”
3. The myth of the invader and conqueror as civilizer: “Generally speaking, no people ever spread any civilization anywhere or at anytime in human history through invasion and conquest. The invader and the conqueror spread his way of life at the expense of the victim. They generally destroy civilization in the name of civilization.”
And: “Actually, most of the great civilizations of
To Dr. Clarke, the very idea of enslavers posing as civilizers is simply repugnant: “This indeed, was a contradiction because the acts committed against these people were uncivil.” And to those who said enslaving people was necessary to bring them closer to God, he says: “When a people assume their God approves of their criminal action against another people, they have made God ungodly.”
Not only did European succeeded in enslaving and colonizing other people, but the most disastrous aspect of such colonization is what Dr. Clarke calls the ‘colonization of information about history and the colonization of the image of God.’ “They denied the conquered people the right to see God through their own imagination or to address God in a word that came from their own language. Every effort was made to wipe from their memory how they ruled a state and how they related to their spirituality before the coming of the Europeans. Most of the people of the world were forced to forget that over half of human history was over before anyone knew that a European was in the world.”
Too often it is assumed that African history began with the slave trade and the colonization of
Dr. Clarke divides African history into three categories (he admitted that it was an arbitrary, but a necessary, utility) which he calls the First, Second and Third Golden Age. “The first two reached their climax and were in decline before
It is usually forgotten that those empires and kingdoms were built by Africans and that they were in no way inferior to what existed in any other part of the world in terms of social, political and military organizations. The Songhai Empire, for example, was in fact larger than all of
The death of Askia in 1528 brought the decline of the last of the
Dr. Clarke also considers the deliberate misconception that the African slave trade was the only system of slavery known in history. He gives examples of slavery in ancient
According to Dr. Clark, the mistake our ancestors made, and which African leaders continue to make unto this day is that: “Non Europeans people, especially Africans and the Indigenous Americans in the Caribbean Islands referred to as “Indians” initially attributed to the Europeans a humanity and spirituality that they did not have, and still do not have in their relationship with most of non-European people of the world. This brings us to a conclusion that might be difficult for a lot of people to accept. Maybe the world outside of
There have been interactions among the world cultures since the dawn of history with each culture respecting the other. Africans have sailed to the
“The historical facts: in December 1492,
Chapter 7, “Sorrow in a
In the last chapters of the book Dr. Clarke made some suggestions as to what we as African people should have done to recover from the disaster of slavery. Like most of the great Pan-African scholars, he believes in the essentiality and the imperativeness of UNITY. He laments that while the Caribbean had produced the greatest of Pan-African thinkers, they did not federate all of the
“In the 21st century there will be a billion African people on the face of the earth. Where is our economy going to come from? If we built a shoe factory and made shoes for that many people our shoe factories would be running all night and all day!”
“Our enslavement and the rape of the services of our countries helped to lay the basis of present-day capitalism. Again the Europeans have squandered their wealth on stupid wars and conflicts that could have been avoided. They have already proven that they have one mission in mind, irrespective of religion, politics or cultural affiliation and that mission is to dominate the world and all of its resources by any means necessary. Our mission should not be to conquer Europe, but to contain Europe within its borders and let it be known that anything
“If we understand our mission, I think we will become aware of the fact that we are in a position to give the world a new humanity that will bring into being a new world of safety and respect for all people. The
In chapter eleven, Dr. Clarke poses a question which he says was also the purpose of the book: “Why haven’t we as a People, without asking foundations to do it, why haven’t we set up a suitable memorial for the Africans who died in the Middle Passage? Why haven’t we done it ourselves? Why haven’t we done it in the past, why can’t we do it now, although belatedly? Why can’t we also have a slave museum either adjacent to it or separate from it to preserve, so that our children will remember, the chains and the neck irons and the foot irons and the leg irons? This is what we came through and we are obligated never to let this happen again. First, we are obligated never to let it happen again to us. That is our first obligation and the world’s obligation, after we take care of the first, is to join others of good will, if you can find them, to make sure that it never happens to anybody else in the world.”
This is a most profound question and I scratched my head in vain to find a suitable answer! The Kingdom of the
Dr. Clarke asks: “Why haven’t we memorialized our dead? It was almost like the crime of not burying them!”