February 29, 2016
As I am sure most readers here will be acutely aware, many American universities and colleges now have schools of African studies. And at the core of such studies are claims that the role of Africans in history has been largely ignored or underestimated. And by recounting little-known stories of achievements by blacks in the past they certainly do no harm and may right a real imbalance in conventional history. Depending on the teacher, however, students may also be told that just about everything invented by whites was in fact invented by blacks.
I thought it was time for me to say something about that type of claim so I spent a little time looking at the writings of a man who was prominent in the creation of black studies and who made such claims, Dr. John Henrik Clarke. The child of sharecroppers, he was clearly a rather clever man and some of his aphorisms are good. I was rather taken with this one: "A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience's attention, then he can teach his lesson". That certainly holds true of a classroom full of black students but less so of my experiences in teaching white High School students.
There is surprisingly little of his writings available online but his essay here would appear to summarize most of his contentions. It starts out on a very strange note. He says: "Africa and its people are the most written about and the least understood of all of the world's people". Africans are more written about than the Jews, the Greeks or the Romans? It's clearly not true but Clarke gives neither reasoning nor reference for the statement. And it is a statement he repeated often so he clearly takes the claim very seriously.
And the rest of his essay is of that kind: A string of questionable assertions unsupported by any recitation of detailed facts or references to sources for each statement. So the essay is very unscholarly. More than that, I am sure that I am not the only psychologist who would recognize it as the ramblings of a paranoid schizophrenic. Paranoids do in general sound reasonable and even persuasive in their delusions -- until you check what they say and find that what they say happened did not happen or was grossly misinterpreted. Clarke is just imagining things.
But paranoid delusions are not random. They do have inspiration from somewhere. And Clarke does tell us his inspirations. He says that he and his ilk "are using neglected documents by radical White Scholars who are generally neglected by the White academic community". He is inspired by the distorted writings of hate-filled far Left historians. It is clear that their writings would suit him but, as with Leftists generally, they only tell half the story in arriving at their conclusions. Leftists have a very shaky relationship with the truth.
The thing that most clearly shows most of black history as fantasy is its lack of specificity. When an invention or discovery is mentioned in conventional history you usually get some details: The name and historical era of the inventor/discoverer, the year of the invention/discovery and some details of what led up to the invention/discovery. And you can normally find plenty of corroboration of those details and further details from multiple sources. When it is claimed that the claimed inventor/discoverer of something was not whom we are usually told but rather some black man, most of those details are missing. You are lucky if you even get a name for the alleged black man. So it is clearly wishful thinking, not fact.
So black studies contain a lot of pseudo scholarship.
Nothing that I have said does of course take anything away from those blacks who have made genuine contributions to knowledge, science and technology -- such as the remarkable George Washington Carver and Madam C. J. Walker, whose contributions are recognized in conventional history.
Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of longer writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs