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Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop: Anthropologist, historian, physicist and scholar

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Amsterdam News Staff | 5/23/2013, 3:42 p.m.

In 1963, Diop and former member of the BMS formed a new party, the Front National Senegalais (FNS). This party, though not as strong as the BMS, continued under the same political lines of protest. Diop held fast to his position against negotiating with Senghor unless all political prisoners were released and that there would be open discussions on real government ideas, not just a distribution of government jobs. When Senghor again refused to release political prisoners, Diop dropped from political life until 1975.

Diop's book "The African Origins of Civilization" was translated into English and, with that, the English-speaking world was introduced to his work. The book openly challenged European scholars and archeologists who continued to devalue and understate the evidence of Black civilizations and their influence and contributions to the Western world.

Diop concentrated on his research. He established and was the director of the radiocarbon laboratory at the Institute Fondamental de L'Afrique Noir (FAN). It was here that he became the pioneering developer of the scientific method of radiocarbon dating. His technique provided the science to identify the racial identity of Egyptian mummies, proving their race as well as dating the remains and other artifacts.

Among Diop's most important findings was evidence that there were five species of man, originating in Africa, on the latitude of Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania and going on a north-south axis to South Africa. Any humanity that had its birth in that region (sub-equatorial, i.e., below the equator) could not have survived without pigmentation (color of the skin). For that reason, the first man had to be a Black man. It is only after that race left Africa to people other parts of the world that different climate phenomenon caused man to take on a different look. Nature created six specimens of man before we got to man as we know him today.

Based on his findings, Diop determined that the first three had not developed the sufficient potential to leave their own area. The other three, however, did leave Africa. The fourth and fifth of the species disappeared--and what remains is man as we know him today.

Check Anta Diop died on Feb. 7. The FAN was renamed Cheikh Anta Diop University in his honor. The university bears the motto "Lux Mea lix," which is Latin for "Light is my law." Today, the university remains a premier institution and among the most successful on the African continent.

Activities

  • Look it up: Use the Internet or other reference source to learn more about the life and work of Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop.
  • Talk About It: Why is Diop's work so critical and important then and now? How do his finding contradict many myths and stereotypes?
  • Check it Out: See an interview with Diop on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl7FKb4NPiI.
  • Read It: Check out Diop's work "The African Origins of Civilization."
  • Write It Down: What questions would you ask Diop? What are some key things you've learned in your brief study of Diop's life and work?

This Week in Black History

  • Feb. 18, 1867: The Augusta Theological Institute was established in the basement of the Springfield Baptist Church. It would later become Atlanta's Morehouse College, one of the nation's most prestigious Black colleges.
  • Feb. 19, 2002: Vonetta Flowers becomes the first Black gold medalist in the history of the Winter Olympics when she and partner Jill Brakken win the two-person bobsled event.
  • Feb. 21, 1965: El-Hajj Malik E-Shabazz was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
  • Feb. 24, 1864: Rebecca Lee Crumpler becomes the first Black woman to receive a medical degree. She graduated from the New England Female Medical College.