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The divide between Egyptology and Africana studies perpetuates the separation of Egypt from the rest of Africa. It privileges the people in Egyptology programs as “qualified” to speak about Egypt and, from the perspective of Egyptology, confers the opposite on people in Africana studies.
Many of the early archaeologists came to the study of ancient Egypt and ancient Nubia from the perspective of Semitic languages or the study of the Hebrew Bible. It was very important to them to bring Egypt specifically into the sphere of biblical studies, so they had to carve Egypt away from Africa to bring it into that sphere. The way that they did that was they used race. These early archaeologists effectively made ancient Egypt “white,” in the sense that they made it part of a dominant Western culture and ancient Nubia was separated from that. It was “Black.” This was how they took Egypt out of Africa and put it into this the Semitic sphere, this biblical sphere.
The pan-Africanism of Garveyism instilled pride in African descended communities and united them against colonial structures. Pan-Africanism also factored strongly in President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s conception of the modern nation-state of Egypt. Egyptian scholars from a variety of fields, including Nile Valley studies, continue to understand ancient Egypt as part of a network of African cultures.
Like other African Americans of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, she engaged with the history of the Nile Valley before the discipline of Egyptology was firmly established in the sphere of higher education in the US. Her serialized novel Of One Blood, published in 1902 and 1903, draws on a variety of sources, such as the English historian George Rawlinson, to tell a fictionalized story set in the contemporary present of the Upper Nile and to address issues related to the ancient past of that region.
Finally published are the results of excavations directed by George A. Reisner and led by Arthur C. Mace from 1903 to 1905. In keeping with Reisner’s earlier publications of Naga ed-Deir, this volume presents artifacts in chapter-length studies devoted to a particular object type and includes a burial-by-burial description. The excavators’ original drawings, notes, and photographs are complemented by a contemporary analysis of the objects by experts in their subfields.
Coming soon: African Americans and the Study of Ancient Egypt (co-authored with Mario Beatty)
The study and incorporation of Ancient Egypt as part of the collective memory of African people in America has a long history that reaches back into at least the late 18th century.
Coming soon: Booker T. Washington on Education and Nubia
Booker T. Washington believed in the power of education to transform lives. He did not, however, find much worth for African descended people in the US in studying ancient Nile Valley cultures. Washington ran in elite circles, interacting with university presidents and meeting and dining with heads of state. His wariness in accepting all interests and norms of those elite cultures, however, cautions us to remain aware of whom research benefits.
Programs that bring college-level learning into high schools demonstrate that young students are capable of and interested in college-level work. We need to engage students in this type of learning at an earlier stage in their education. With two-year or four-year college now a goal for a greater and greater number of people, colleges and universities must find ways to extend a hand across that traditionally great divide.
This online exhibition highlights two conferences on race relations that undergraduate students organized. The 1924 conference brought together students of many races to discuss their lived realities. The 1931 conference brought to campus African descended intellectuals such as Alice Dunbar Nelson, Ira Reid, A. Philip Randolph, and W. E. B. Du Bois.
Narratives about intellectuals of African descent in the Western hemisphere who contributed to the discipline’s early history must become part of the stories we tell about the formation of Egyptology’s disciplinary history. My project revises our history, offers readers a different perspective on Egyptology, and focuses on people of African descent as actors on the historical stage.
Also available in French as W. E. B. Du Bois, une nouvelle voix dans l'histoire de l'égyptologie.
In a letter he wrote to Booker T. Washington, Egyptologist James Henry Breasted expressed his view that the Meroitic people, not the Egyptians, were related to the race assigned to Booker T. Washington. To his credit, Breasted recognized that people of African descent in America had a history, something that many people at that time denied completely. Nonetheless, Breasted incorrect separation of ancient Egypt from Africa continues to reverberate in Egyptology today.
One of the world's oldest treaties provides the backdrop for a new analysis of the Egyptian concept of hetep ("peace"). Hetep is the result of action that is just, true, and in accord with right order (maat). Central to the concept of hetep are the issues of rhetoric and community.
See a related blog post and graphic illustration.
Coming soon: Introduction to New Perspectives on Ancient Nubia
A collected volume that addresses a range of topics related to ancient Nubia and documents just some of the rich array of material available for research.
The unique relationship between word and image in ancient Egypt is a defining feature of that ancient culture's records. All hieroglyphic texts are composed of images, and large-scale figural imagery in temples and tombs is often accompanied by texts. Epigraphy and palaeography are two distinct, but closely related, ways of recording, analyzing, and interpreting texts and images. This Handbook stresses technical issues about recording text and art and interpretive questions about what we do with those records and why we do it.