An Ethiopian Journal

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters"

‘INTELLECT OF NEGROES’ By Lydia Maria Francis Child

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An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans
By Lydia Maria Francis Child – Published by Allen and Ticknor, 1833

Ethiopia held a conspicuous place among the nations in ancient times.

Her princes were wealthy and powerful, and her people distinguished for integrity and wisdom. Even the proud Grecians evinced respect for Ethiopia, almost amounting to reverence, and derived thence the sublimest portions of their mythology.

The popular belief that all the gods made an annual visit to the Ethiopians, shows the high estimation in which they were held ; for we are not told that such an honor was bestowed on any other nation.
In the first book of the Iliad, Achilles is represented as anxious to appeal at once to the highest authorities; but his mother tells him: “Jupiter set off yesterday, attended by all the gods, on a journey toward theocean, to feast with the excellent Ethiopians, and is not expected back at Olympus till the twelfth day.”

In Ethiopia, was likewise placed the table of the Sun, reported to kindle of its own accord, when exposed to the rays of that great luminary. In Africa was the early reign of Saturn, under the appellation of Ouranus, or Heaven ; there the impious Titans warred with the sky ; there Jupiter was born and nursed ; there was the celebrated shrine of Ammon, dedicated to Theban Jove, which the Greeks reverenced more highly than the Delphic Oracle; there was the birth-place and oracle of Minerva ; and there, Atlas supported both the heavens and the earth upon his shoulders.
It will be said that fables prove nothing. But there is probably much deeper meaning in these fables than we now understand ; there was surely some reason for giving them such a ” local habitation.”

Why did the ancients represent Minerva as born in Africa, — and why are we told that Atlas there sustained the heavens and the earth, unless they meant to imply that Africa was the centre, from which religious and scientific light had been diffused some ancient writers suppose that Egypt derived all the arts and sciences from Ethiopia ; while others believe precisely the reverse. Diodorus supported the first opinion, — and asserts that the Ethiopian vulgar spoke the same language as the learned of Egypt.

It is well known that Egypt was the great school of knowledge in the ancient world. It was the birth-place of Astronomy ; and we still mark the constellations as they were arranged by Egyptian shepherds. The wisest of the Grecian philosophers, among whom were Solon, Pythagoras and Plato, went there for instruction, as our young men now go to England and Germany. The Eleusinian mysteries were introduced from Egypt ; and the important secret which they taught, is supposed to have been the existence of one, invisible God. A large portion of Grecian mythology was thence derived ; but in passing from one country to the other, the form of these poetical fables was often preserved, while the original meaning was lost.

Herodotus, the earliest of the Greek historians, informs us that the Egyptians were negroes. This fact has been much doubted, and often contradicted. But Herodotus certainly had the best means of knowing the truth on this subject ; for he travelled in Egypt, and obtained his knowledge of the country by personal observation. He declares that the Colchians must be a colony of Egyptians, because, ” like them, they have a black skin and frizzled hair.” The statues of the Sphinx have the usual characteristics of the negro race. This opinion is confirmed by Blumenbach, the celebrated German naturalist, and by Volney, who carefully examined the architecture of Egypt.
Concerning the sublimity of the architecture in this ancient negro kingdom, some idea may be conceived from the description of Thebes given by Denon, who accompanied the French army into Egypt : ” This city, renowned for numerous kings, who through their wisdom have been elevated to the rank of gods ; for laws, which have been revered without being known ; for sciences, which have been confided to proud and mysterious inscriptions ; for wise and earliest monuments of the arts, which time has respected ; — this sanctuary, abandoned, isolated through barbarism, and surrendered to the desert from which it was won ; this city, shrouded in the veil of mystery by which even colossi are magnified ; this remote city, which imagination has only caught a glimpse of through the darkness of time — was still so gigantic an apparition, that, at the sight of its scattered ruins, the army halted of its own accord, and the soldiers with one spontaneous movement, clapped their hands.”

The Honorable Alexander Everett, in his work on America, says : ” While Greece and Rome were yet barbarous, we find the light of learning and improvement emanating from the continent of Africa, (supposed to be so degraded and accursed,) out of the midst of this very woolly-haired, flat-nosed, thick-lipped, coal-black race, which some persons are tempted to station at a pretty low intermediate point between men and monkeys.

It is to Egypt, if to any nation, that we must look as the real antiqua mater of the ancient and modern refinement of Europe.

“The great lawgiver of the Jews was prepared for his divine mission by a course of instruction in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”

“The great Assyrian empires of Babylon and Nineveh, hardly less illustrious than Egypt in arts and arms, were founded by Ethiopian colonies, and peopled by blacks.”

“Palestine, or Canaan, before its conquest by the Jews, is represented in Scripture, as well as in other histories, as peopled by blacks ; and hence it follows that Tyre and Carthage, the most industrious, wealthy, and polished states of their time, were of this color.”


Written by Tseday

September 1, 2008 at 1:02 am

Posted in African History

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