Ivan Van Sertima's They Came Before Columbus essay

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Ivan Van Sertima's They Came Before Columbus: Critical Review

Author Biography

Born in a small village in Guyana South America in 1935, Ivan Van Sertima has established himself as an unrelenting scholar in the field of African history (Rashidi, 2003). Educated at London University Van Sertima is now considered a literary critic, anthropologist and linguist (Rashidi, 2003). Among his better known works include "They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America." This work follows the trail of the African as Sertima puts it through "every corner of the new world" and attempts to "set the record straight" regarding African presence in Ancient America (Rashidi, 2003). His ideas in fact help reshape or reconstruct the place African's hold in world history, suggesting that Africans have more influence than one might initially believe. Many refer to They Came Before Columbus as a "groundbreaking, historical work an literary hallmark" with ideas and themes that defy conventional wisdom (Rashidi, 2003).

Ivan Van Sertima is not without criticism. There are many critics who suggest that Sertima reads too much into his findings. Still it is difficult to argue with Sertima particularly in They Came Before Columbus simply because the work provided by the author is so detailed and provides the reader with many rich examples of African influence on early American culture. Subsequent authors have gone on to confirm Sertima's assertions, suggesting that an African presence did indeed exist in ancient America before European influenced touched the soil (Khpera, 2001).

Since the first publishing of They Came Before Columbus Van Sertima has gone on to publish multiple works regarding African presence in early America and the contributions Africans have made to world civilization. While many of his works still remain controversial at best they do insight much discussion and examination of the African influence and presence in early American artifacts.

Analysis of Work

In his work "They Came Before Columbus" Ivan Van Sertima proposes that native Africans were the first to visit America, even before Christopher Columbus and other European explorers. This is the primary thesis asserted by the author. The most important point Van Sertima attempts to drive into the minds of his readers is that a presence other than European came to and influenced ancient American culture. This idea or theory is asserted and re-asserted multiple times within the work, with ample supporting evidence.

Another main idea expressed by the author is that Africans influenced American culture as hence should be considered the "mother culture" within the Americas (Kphera, 2001; Amin, Davis & Harris, 1999). Sertima also asserts that the African influence exerted in Early America is significant enough that world scholars must acknowledge it and understand or determine how this influence shaped America as we know it today.

Sertima also points out in his work They Came Before Columbus the importance of exploring historical facts and scientific data to understand and truly uncover facts regarding ancient America's past, even going as far as suggesting that African influence may be seen in many other areas if researchers were willing to explore them.

Sertima begins his work by explaining that Africans entered the Americas in two waves, the first occurred some time between 1200 and 800 B.C. And the second arriving just before Columbus in a fleet of roughly 2000 ships under African king Abu Bakari (Van Sertima, 1976; Amazon, 2005). This theory has yet to be proven in as great detail by other authors as it is by Sertima. Sertima states very factually however that this did occur on the dates described by the author. Sertima uses much historical information to support his thesis, including Arab texts that seem to confirm the appearance of Abu Bakari in the Americas prior to Columbus (Amazon, 2005).

Sertima's theories are unconventional at best, thus a great deal of controversy exists regarding his work. This is primarily because for years scholars and historians have credited Christopher Columbus and other Europeans with exerting primary influence on native American people. However in cases like this it is often vital that historians and scholars take a step back to review the actual evidence that supports a theory. In this case Sertima provides ample evidence supporting his theories.

The author however presents much data suggesting that Africans did make contact in native America before Columbus. One example he uses is the parallels or similarities that exist between early pyramids discovered in America and…[continue]

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