Fascinating article from the February 1989 issue of Ebony magazine. It starts talking of “Black biographies” with names from Africa’s Mali empire. Then it precedes to connect “Black” history with American history. The image with the ad is of people from Kush in the tomb of Seti I of Kemet. Yet the word Africa is mentioned no where in the ad. Fascinating.
History, it’s been said, is biography. yet some of the world’s greatest biographies, Black biographies are all but lost to history.
Sundiata. Mansa Musa. Sunni Ali. Askia Muhammad. Not exactly household names, but they were honored in their time as leaders of empires. Yet it appears their honors have vanished along with their empires.
But they weren’t the end of Black history. Only the beginning. Because Black history is an ongoing entity; a progression of brilliant biographies still being written.
And this time, they won’t be lost.
American history could itself be said to have begun with a piece of Black history when the death of Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre made him the first of America’s 600,000 war dead. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams made Black history, if not world history when he performed the first successful open heart surgery. Edward M. Bouchet made history when Yale made him the first Black in America to be awarded a doctorate. James B. Parsons went into the history books as the first Black federal judge in the continental U.S.
Charlotte Ray joined black history when she became America’s first Black woman lawyer. Madame C.J. Walker, when she became America’s first millionaire Black woman.
Black biographies have made and will continue to make Black history. That’s a lot of history, too.