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The rich heritage of Africa in the West

March 12, 2012

by DeBray Carpenter, aka Fly Benzo

These two Xochipala-style figurines at the Metropolitan Museum of Art date from the 13th-10th century B.C. Some historians believe this culture was a predecessor to the Olmecs.
The myth of Black inferiority has and continues to plague the Americas, resulting in the suppression and denial of the African influence in the Americas prior to Columbus’ trip in 1492. There is overwhelmingly convincing evidence that not only names Africa as the birthplace of modern human beings but also as the birthplace of civilization and of technology far ahead of its time. Though civilizations such as the Olmecs have numerous similarities which seem to connect them to Africa, many scholars, primarily Latino scholars, have unsuccessfully attempted to discredit the theory that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus, which helps explain the striking similarities between Egyptian culture and Mesoamerican culture.

According to Michel N. Laham, M.D., and Richard J. Karam, J.D., in their informative essay, “Did the Pheonicians Discover America?” evidence shows that there were actually two trips made to the Americas long before Colombia. The first of the two trips was taken circa 600 B.C. by the Egyptian Pharoah Necho with the aid of the seafaring Phoenicians. The second trip took place circa 450 B.C. by the Carthaginians. These voyages have for some reason been excluded for the traditional history books.

This, however, comes as no surprise considering the fact that much of the overwhelmingly convincing evidence that ties Native American civilization to Africa is suppressed. Genetic trees were recently produced which prove that the entire human population descends from an African female that the media named “Eve,” and geneticists subsequently found the same for the male they named “Adam.” Since the introduction of the “Adam and Eve” genetic trees, they have also been used to determine, in the first exodus, the routes the early Africans took out of Africa.

The Costa Chica region, near the Gulf of Mexico, is the area in Mexico with the highest population of Mexicans with African roots. This is primarily due to the fact that Veracruz, a city in the area, served as a slave port throughout the early colonial period.

However, there is sufficient evidence to prove that the African presence preceded the colonization of America by the Europeans. Some evidence introduced by Ivan Van Sertima in “Van Sertima’s Address to the Smithsonian,” the first chapter in “African Presence in Early America,” to support this claim would include ancient monuments such as the Olmec heads (statues with African features), pyramids with kings buried inside as they were in Egypt and dark figurines made to look exactly like some of the mummies in early Egypt (with arms crossed over chest, fingers spread and ribs outlined) as well as a sculpture of an Olmec woman from Xochipala in pre-Christain Mexico, approximately 3,000 years old with African headdress and ear pendants.

The Gulf of Mexico, the end-point of the currents that flow from Africa to the Americas, was the coastline upon which Olmec civilization, considered to be the “mother-culture” of America, thrived. Van Sertima reports that in 1964, the International Congress of Americanists argued, “There cannot now be any doubt but that there were visitors from the Old World to the New before 1492.”

To support this claim, in 1858 an enormous stone head was discovered and described as having “Africoid” features. Upon further examination, this head was discovered to have seven braids, signifying African headdress.

This portrayal of an Olmec king, showing his African hairstyle, is from the Tres Zapotes archeological site in Veracruz, a largely Black city on the Gulf of Mexico.
Brian Smith, in his scholarly essay, “African Influence in the Music of Mexico’s Costa Chica Region,” further supports the claim of the suppression of the African influence on Mesoamerican civilization and notes how the European and Indigenous contributions in Native American folk songs are thoroughly celebrated, but the instruments with African influence are not as highly publicized. Among those instruments are the marímbola, the quijada and the tambor de fricción. This serves as just another example of the suppression of the African contribution to Mesoamerican culture and tradition.

Discrimination in Latin America is also widespread and prevalent. John Logan, in his educational research paper, “How Race Counts for Hispanic Americans,” places Hispanic people in three categories: Hispanic Hispanics, Black Hispanics and White Hispanics. He reports that Black Africans are significantly more subject to discrimination, especially in major Latin American cities. He also stated that they live in more densely populated neighborhoods with similar conditions to non-Hispanic Blacks.

According to John Mitchell’s Los Angeles Times article, “Mexico’s Black History Is Often Ignored,” Mexicans are a “mixed race.” “But it’s the mixture of indigenous and European heritage that most Mexicans embrace; the African legacy is overlooked,” he adds. This only further solidifies the theory of discrimination and the myth of Black inferiority in Latin America.

Black inferiority is a notion so prevalent in America that mulattoes – people of mixed Black and white descent – are looked down upon and in Dr. David Pilgrim’s Ferris State University article, “The Tragic Mulatto Myth,” there are many examples of mulattoes, specifically females, portrayed in the media as unhappy and anxious to have a white lover, which would ultimately lead to their downfall. There are also other instances where a mulatto woman who could pass for white would have her secret exposed and commit suicide, other women were painted as seductresses and mulatto men were portrayed by the media as rapists who had both the “greed and ambition” of the white man combined with the “savagery and barbarism” of the Black man. Once again, the myth is Black inferiority is enforced and the Black condition exacerbated by the media.

With such vile conceptions of Africans, the question arises, if African history and Africa’s contributions to society and the world were celebrated, would discrimination and mass incarceration of Blacks be so prevalent? The obvious answer is yes; however, a lot of work still needs to be done in order to correct the wrongs inflicted upon Africans in America and beyond and a lot of effort will be needed to rewrite an accurate representation of the history of mankind.

Chicago advertising legend Tom Burrell, in his book, “Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority,” argues that the subliminal promotion of White superiority and Black inferiority has been the biggest and most successful marketing campaign in history. Burrell, leading into the first chapter of the book, quotes W.E.B. Du Bois’ statement:

“But in propaganda against the Negro since emancipation in this land, we face one of the most stupendous efforts the world ever saw to discredit human beings, an effort involving universities, history, science, social life and religion.”

With Black inferiority being so widespread and prevalent in the Americas, it comes as no surprise that people would want to disconnect themselves from their African lineage and would rather their history be considered “home-grown” or indigenous. Burrell is quoted in the Dawn Turner Trice’s Chicago Tribune article, “Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority,” stating, “We have to understand that images, symbols and words can be so powerful and ubiquitous that they affect behavior without us knowing it.” This just goes to show the subconscious effect of propaganda on our society and the way people are perceived and prejudged.

Burrell also writes in his book of the low expectations African Americans, due to propaganda, have of themselves and other African Americans and how even the images of successful Black figures can serve to support these thought patterns. He writes that successful Black figures being put in the spotlight are seen as “exceptions to the rule” and further accentuate the myth of a post-racial society by creating the illusion that anyone can succeed. Burrell calls this the “paradox of progress.” The common misconception of a post-racial society combined with propagandized images of African-Americans serve to subconsciously preserve the myth of Black inferiority and to preserve the subconscious aspect of discrimination and inequality in today’s society.

Wilma A. Dunaway, in her scholarly book, “The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation,” argues that there has been a preposterous notion that slavery was a “paternal institution” that “civilized and Christianized” Africans and that they were somehow better off than many free Northern workers due in part to the fact that they were “cared for” by their masters in their non-working hours and old age.

However, much of the research surrounding the institution of slavery in the United States has been conducted by the examination of journals and diaries kept by slave owners and therefore is extremely biased to make the slave owners seem humane and the slaves to seem inferior in order to justify the ridiculous institution of slavery and to downplay the impact that it had and continues to have on people of African descent as well as the shaping of Western society.

DeBray “Fly Benzo” Carpenter has been the target of incessant police harassment and brutality since he began leading protests against the police murder of Kenneth Harding on July 16, 2011. He was recently convicted by a jury that included no Blacks of three misdemeanors – resisting arrest, obstructing a police officer and assault on a police officer – stemming from a brutal assault on him by police in a public plaza in front of a crowd of witnesses. The trial, which lasted several weeks, made schoolwork difficult, but he is maintaining his straight-A grade average. Here he is working on an assignment in the Rosenberg Library at City College. – Photo: Sara Bloomberg, The Guardsman
The ever-present propaganda campaign of white superiority and Black inferiority, since slavery, has succeeded in rewriting history without its African roots and has continued to downplay Africa’s contribution to civilization and to the world as we know it. If Africa were more effectively promoted as the birthplace of civilization and the beginning source of all sophisticated culture, the myth of Black inferiority would be forced out of society because it would then be evident that we are all connected and, ultimately, all African.

Bayview Hunters Point community advocate and straight-A City College student DeBray “Fly Benzo” Carpenter can be reached on Facebook, at Fly Benzo’s Blog, where this story first appeared, or via

20 thoughts on “The rich heritage of Africa in the West

  1. John Mulligan

    American blacks are descended from West Africa. The Olmec culture is dated from about 1000 BCE to 400 BCE. The only West African culture around at that time was the Nok culture, in present day Nigeria. The Nok culture had no written language. The Olmec culture did have a written language. The Nok culture had no seafaring technology. If you look at the indigenous people from the region of Mexico where the Olmec culture existed, they look like the people in the carved Olmec heads. They are short and stout with broad features. Thus, there is no evidence that the Olmecs were blacks descended from West Africa. You can't just go claiming another people's culture.

    1. Yukhanan

      DNA testing has proven otherwise John Mulligan we are not all from West Africa a great portion of African Americans are from Central Africa some from the North and even a few from East Africa.

    2. Selina

      You have no clue about W. African culture or the history of the continent

      Your statement goes to show how much of an Idiot you are

      First of out of W. Afri come several societies Obi, HAUSa, Yoruba just to name a few and if they did or didn't have a written language they do speak a language which is Hausa or Yoruba verses CAVE man, which you came out of the CAVES you only grunted which is not a language at all

  2. Dr.G.

    DNA testing showed my ancestors of the Maya realm have kinship with the people of west Alkebulan. That is, 1/3 of us carry the DNA of the great kings and priests who came across the ocean and settled amongst the Maya, who were already there. The history of Central America should forever reflect the truth about the Children of the Corn: Yellow, Black Brown and Red!!!

  3. Dr.G.

    The pre-Islamic books of west Alkebulan were left in the mud after the Islamic Jihad of c.950AD. After the JIhad, there is recorded the west Alkebulan Islamic King Mansa Musa who describes an accurate history of his grandfather's fleet of sail ships who explored the western ocean. John Mulligan, you don't happen to hang out with mainly European-Americans, do you? Prolly why nobody ever cared to tell you this stuff…

  4. John Mulligan

    The Olmec civilization lasted until about 400 BC. The Mali Empire, home of Mansa Musa, was established in 1200, so 1,600 years later. If you search on the internet, you will find "scholars" having written that Africa is responsible for Greece, India, the Maya, the Olmec and Egypt, which is to say, sub-Saharan Africa is actually the source for all these cultures. You will read of mysterious fleets that did all sorts of amazing things, and yet, evidence of those technologies are no where in evidence in Africa. The truth, however, is that sub-Saharan Africa was quite divided from Northern Africa, given the enormous desert in between the two. There were however Nubian exceptions, as in the 25th dynasty of Egypt. What's really going on here is ethnocentric racism at the expense of indigenous Americans and other cultures. There has in fact been pervasive genetic testing of the Olmec over the past two decades with no proof shown of African origins. You are not alone however, there are racists who also claim that the Olmec were Chinese or Nordic. The bottom line is that Mesoamerica has its own vibrant history, and so does sub-Saharan Africa. No one needs to steal from anyone.

  5. Guillermo Herrera

    The bottom line, Mulligan, is that the Southern Atlantic ocean was traversed by people using sailing ships for a long time. You write, "The Olmec civilization lasted until about 400 BC. The Mali Empire, home of Mansa Musa, was established in 1200, so 1,600 years later.", but what's your point? Are you implying I did not consider… what exactly?
    What you fail to understand is that we live with a toxic legacy of Europe-centered worship. The Greeks got their knowledge from Africa, from people who were not the Arabs of today, who had scientists who happened to be dark skin. The place where the Greek scholars sought their info was in KMT (or Egypt). I forgive you for being blind by a legacy of Europe-centered history, but come'n, give it a break! I live in California, where we are a bit hip to being above petty "conservativism" against the bigger picture of World History.

  6. John Mulligan

    It is not Eurocentrism to incist that the Olmecs and Maya are the ancestors of present day Mesoamericans. It is not Eurocentrism to incist that the ancient Egyptians are the ancestors of present day Egyptians. You don't see Nigerians claiming that they are the descendants of ancient Egypt. Why? Because it's just as ridiculous as an Irish person claiming some link to ancient Greece. Afrocentrism is a brand of black American racism that seeks to rewrite history. The source of most African Americans is West Africa, countries like present day Nigeria, Ghana, etc. As I said, these countries have their own rich history. I've never understood this bizarre effort to steal self esteem.

  7. Guillermo Herrera

    ??? Nor is it racist to say West African had sail ship and crossed oceans. Again, Mulligan, you write something that don't make any sense: "I've never understood this bizarre effort to steal self esteem."
    The legacy of Jim Crow was also seen in academia. For hundreds of years, the fact that non-Arab people in Africa had sail ships was not recorded in USA or even British world history studies, despite the Timbuktu Library of books containing history of the Islamic phase of their culture which had trade with the Mongol Empire and had even sent embassies tot he court of Kublai Khan! The people of western Africa crossed the Atlantic, as long ago as people thought to float a bunch of tied sticks together in a river. Now… why is there so much resistance to take into account the African heritage in Mexico/Central America? As a El Salvadorean, I have no problem with accepting the proof in my ancestor's artifacts, as much as I have no problem with Vikings being in Vinland.
    Here is basic knowledge to us in the Bay Area, read it and get educated:
    According to the abstract of Columbus' log made by Bartolomé de las Casas, the purpose of Columbus’ third voyage was to test both the claims of King John II of Portugal that “canoes had been found which set out from the coast of Guinea [West Africa] and sailed to the west with merchandise” as well as the claims of the native inhabitants of Hispaniola that “from the south and the southeast had come black people whose spears were made of a metal called guanín…from which it was found that of 32 parts: 18 were gold, 6 were silver, and 8 copper.”[75] [76]
    75: Thacher, John Boyd (1903). Christopher Columbus: his life, his work, his remains, as revealed by original printed and manuscript records, together with an essay on Peter Martyr of Anghera and Bartolomé De Las Casas, the first Historians of America. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. pp. 379, 380.
    76:Gabriel Haslip-Viera; Bernard Ortiz de Montellano; Warren Barbour, "Robbing Native American Cultures: Van Sertima's Afrocentricity and the Olmecs", Current Anthropology, Vol.38 (3), June 1997

    1. Bakari

      "why is there so much resistance to take into account the African heritage in Mexico/Central America?"

      Africans do have a rich heritage in Latin America, but it is POST Columbus, not PRE.

  8. John Mulligan

    You simply copied and pasted your research from a wikipedia page. This is the wikipedia page:…. All you did was highlight and copy the footnotes at the bottom.

    The article itself notes the flaws in your argument, that this supposed fleet from Mali traveled to Central America, but more than two thousand years after the Olmecs were gone. Thus, even if it had existed, that fleet could have never influenced Olmec culture. The main thrust of the entire wikipedia page you rely on in this: "However, claims of such contacts are controversial and debated, due in part to much ambiguous or circumstantial evidence cited by proponents."

    If you read the entire wikipedia page you rely upon, you'll see all sorts of bizarre claims that the Irish discovered America, along with the Chinese, the Japanese, people from India, Romans and Jews. Here's another wikpedia page discussing extraterrestrials in the ancient world, perhaps you'll find it equally persuasive:

    1. Guillermo Herrera

      Duuude, YOU did it again: "that this supposed fleet from Mali traveled to Central America, but more than two thousand years after the Olmecs were gone."…
      You seem smart, but then again… what's your point.
      The "copy and paste" action I did does not negate the facts. People from West Africa crossed the Ocean… why do you seem insistant that since "one group existed later, the whole argument is false"? What's your logic. Olmecs are ancient, Muslims were later, THEY BOTH CROSSED THE ATLANTIC!!!

  9. Guillermo Herrera

    Mulligan: Your circular argumentation is very reminiscent of others who pooh-pooh believable and verifiable facts. I provided two sources from Europeans who saw the sail boats from Western Africa, and Africans in modern Panama, and you pooh-pooh all over the place with "bizarre claims that the Irish discovered America, along with the Chinese, the Japanese, people from India, Romans and Jews"… weird statement on your behalf which you use to claim it's all false.
    Again, are you able to see, or is your knee-Jerk attitude part of something worse. Why do you pooh-pooh anything proving people in West Africa crossed the Atlantic, even when the proof is right there? Maybe you're part of the Knights of Colombus, hee hee, whose mission is to deny anybody else crossed the Atlantic except for the lone Italian (?)…

  10. John Mulligan

    Because you didn't even read the entire article that you quoted from, if you had, you would understand why I wrote that. The article that you quoted from, and rely upon as your proof, doesn't actually provide you with proof. The article demonstrates why those sources are unreliable. You put that article at issue, I didn't, I just actually read the thing. The article that you quoted from goes on to discuss other, equally ridiculous, claims that other cultures also crossed the Atlantic, that's why I summarized those points. You should read your own "research" before quoting from it. You might feel that you're "hip" because you live in California, as you wrote, but it's hardly a substitute for basic scholarship and logic. Believe what you like, just know that you are only looking for what you want to see.

  11. Guillermo Herrera

    This entire discourse has been shown to many as an example about how Euro-centric history worshipers such as Mulligan continue to snipe down anything which threatens their view. Circular arguments, outright insistence on ignorance, and the like. Y'all know what we're looking at here. I like that Mulligan is playing along, and continuing to show us how folks like him think and phrase their racism…
    Thanks Mulligan, for keeping your ignorance and hatred of history out here on the web for all us to see!

  12. John Mulligan

    Since nothing I have written seeks to lay claim to the Olmec culture as European, I fail to see how you reached the conclusion that my points are Eurocentric. Rather, you seek to claim Meso-American cultures as having African origins. That's Afrocentrism. I am simply pointing out that Meso-American cultures are precisely that, Meso-American, ie., the indigenous people of Meso-America, not Africa, are responsible for the cultures of the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, etc.

    1. Bakari

      Anything is possible, I guess, but no, it is ridiculous to suppose that Mayans or Olmecs were direct descendants from Africans. There is simply no evidence that there were ever African or ever came from there. All evidence points to an indigenous origin.


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