Dr. Ivan Van Sertima

March 18, 1935 – January 2, 2016

Throughout his career as a scholar and author, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima worked to transform the way people viewed and taught African history. In 1967, he published a dictionary of Swahili legal terms. While earning his graduate degree, he published his most famous work, They Came Before Columbus, in 1976. The book introduced his argument that people of African origin came to Central and South America long before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. The book achieved widespread attention in the African American community and gave a different insight into African history.

In 1977 Van Sertima received his Master’s degree and became an Associate Professor of African Studies at Rutgers in 1979. In the same year he founded the Journal of African Civilizations, editing and publishing the journal for decades. The Journal of African Civilizations helped transform how African history was viewed and taught. Its articles described early African advances in agriculture, mathematics, arts, engineering, architecture, writing, medicine, astronomy, and navigation.

Van Sertima also discussed many of these topics in his several published books including Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern (1983), Black Women in Antiquity (1984), The African Presence in Early Asia (1985), Great Black Leaders, Ancient and Modern (1988), and Egypt: The Child of Africa (1994).  His research also discussed the early African civilizations which had disappeared from history. In 1999, Van Sertima republished, in the African Renaissance, earlier essays which discussed the scientific contributions of Africans. He also published critical essays questioning the work of previous historians and authors about the African continent.

The great Runoko Rashidi reflected on Van Sertima’s contribution to African history by stating, “With absolute certainty it can be stated that, due to his consistent and unrelenting scholarship over the past twenty-five years in the rewriting of African history and the reconstruction of the African’s place in world history, particularly in the field of the African presence in ancient America, Ivan Van Sertima has cemented his position as one of our greatest living scholars. Indeed, during this turbulent and exciting period, he has been in the vanguard of those scholars fighting to place African history in a new light.”

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima will continue to be a powerful intellectual force in counteracting dominant myths and stereotypes of Africa’s contributions to human development

They Came Before Columbus

Published: 1976
African People in World History

Published: 1989
African Presence in Early Europe

Published: 1985
African Presence in Early Asia

Published: 1985
Black Women in Antiquity

Originally published: 1984
Early America Revisited

Published: 1998
African Presence in Early America

Published: 1992
Golden Age of the Moor

Published: 1992

Video Resources

Little Known African Achievements

Ancient High Science, The Golden Age

African History in America before Columbus




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