Tuesday, July 25, 2006
When I was growing up we had this incredible set of encyclopedia; The Encyclopedia Britannica.
This was the original, made in England, set of books that explained the universe of thought in every minute detail. Surely, I can attribute much of my intellectual headstart in life to the presence of this great library of British intellect. There was just one thing that I noticed early on, an extreme Euro-centric, white supremist view of the world that was shocklingly matter of fact.
Written into the informative text histories of the yellow, brown and black world were little racist concepts that were included as fact. I would reread things like: "the Africans as part of their nature are not inclined towards hard work..." in disbelief. If you doubt this fact all you have to do is dust off an old copy of Encyclopedia Britannica, British Edition. Nothing of value was attributed to people of African descent and we were largely missing from the pages of great accomplishments.
When I first became aware of the work of people like JA Rogers, John Henrik Clarke and Arturo Schomburg I was amazed at how marginalized they were within the world of academia.
I thought that eventually the world would gradually change and inellectual fairness would win out. Instead, a new generation of educated racists have taken their place.
Today, more anti-intellectual Afro-American streotypes exist than ever before.
If an African-American male college student is on a major university campus it is assumed that he is a student-athlete. A shocking number of African-American males are not even graduating from high school! I feel compelled to celebrate the lives of some African-American historians who have dedicated their lives to toiling in virtual obscurity to collect our stories.
Being a "World Musician" brings me in contact with many social and cultural phenomena.
In the US, being classified as a world musician brings me into contact with several social realities. I am increasingly aware of the demographics that sustain my chosen musical genre.
- It has been determined that world music followers are primarily people who have a college education.
- People with a college education are more likely to have been exposed to other cultures.
- Most world music format radio shows are on college campuses.
- Most world music in the United States is performed in university concert halls.
- This audience would also tend to be mostly female since upwards of 60-70% of all college students in America are female.
What that means to me is; the African-American audience for world music should be expected to be extremely low. It also suggests that a male African-American is much less likely to be a world music fan that all others.
Maybe I need to prepare a marketing plan for basketball & football players.
Joel Augustus Rogers was a man without peer in gathering up and binding the missing pages of African history.
"Rogers came from Jamaica in the West Indies. He settled in Chicago. He eventually took a job as a Pullman porter so he could visit different cities and libraries and do research. I got an interesting story about that. The story was that in a lot of large cities a lot of libraries were for whites only. Black people weren't permitted to go into them. So Rogers had to pay the Pullman conductor to go to the libraries and take out books from them. The conductor said, "Rogers, I believe you're a damn fool. But if you want to throw away your money that way, I'm willing to cooperate."
JA Rogers was a meticulous researcher, astute scholar and very concise writer. He traveled tirelessly on his quest for knowledge which often took him directly to the source for information for his books. While traveling in Europe he frequented libraries, museums, castles and many places of interest that would help to prove Africans had an ancestry and history that the world could and should be proud of. He challenged the biased viewpoint of Eurocentric historians and anthropologist eventually destroying the myth of African inferiority through his books Sex and Race Vol.(1-3)
Rogers worked to prove that color of skin is not what determines intellectual genius and that Africans have contributed much more to the world than what was previously stated.
Rogers was self-financed, self educated, self-published. His collections of works are enormous exstensive complete with detailed references documented ever so carefully to prevent scrutiny of his facts are a testament to his due dilligence, work ethic and commitment to not only African people, but the world, its history and culture.
Rogers was linked to both Haile Selassie and Marcus Garvey, whom he knew from their youth in Jamaica. He wrote regularly for Garvey's UNIA's weekly newspaper, the Negro World. In 1923 he covered the Marcus Garvey trial and he also interviewed Garvey in prison for the New York Amsterdam News in 1926. In 1930 Rogers went to Ethiopia as a correspondent for the New York Amsterdam News to attend the coronation of Haile Selassie I.
A prodigious and meticulous detective, Rogers did exhaustive, primary research into the global history of African people. In 1925 he went to Europe for investigations in the libraries and museums there.His travels made easier by the fact that he spoke Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and German. In 1927 he returned to Europe for research lasting three years, and journeyed to North Africa during the same period. Between 1930 and 1933 Rogers continued his explorations in Europe, while in 1930, 1935 and 1936 he pursued his researches in Egypt and Sudan.When publishing houses refused to publish his works, undeterred, Rogers published them himself. All told, J.A. Rogers wrote and published at least sixteen different books and pamphlets. These publications became classic works--works that were circulated primarily in African communities. Rogers' texts covered the entire spectrum of the global African community, from ancient and modern Africa, to Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
Among Rogers' most acclaimed and prominent works are: From Superman to Man, One-Hundred Amazing Facts About the Negro, The Real Facts About Ethiopia, Sex and Race, Nature Knows No Color-Line, and World's Great Men of Color.
Rogers' first publication, From Superman to Man, was published in 1917 and focused on "the stupidity of racism." The book was called; "a genuine treasure," and "the greatest book ever written in English on the Negro by a Negro."
One Hundred Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro went through many printings and at least eighteen editions. A singularly provocative quote in One Hundred Amazing Facts About the Negro is by the English scholar and traveler Samuel Purchas (ca. 1575-1626)). According to Rogers, Purchas claimed that "of all (the kings of Ethiopia), Ganges was most famous, who with his Ethiopian army passed into Asia and conquered all as far as the River Ganges, to which he left that name." In the same book Rogers mentioned that "Beethoven, the world's greatest musician, was without a doubt a dark mulatto. He was called `The Black Spaniard.'"
In 1935, dissatisfied with the reporting of news by the White press concerning the Italian invasion and occupation of Ethiopia, Rogers served as war correspondent in Ethiopia for the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. After returning to the United States in 1936 he published a highly popular illustrated pamphlet entitled The Real Facts About Ethiopia.
Sex and Race was published in three volumes from 1941 to 1944. The first volume focuses on antiquity and is arguably the most fundamental of the three. As to ancient Asia, for example, Rogers devoted several pages of Sex and Race to the Black presence in early Japan. In the process he cites the studies of a number of accomplished scholars and anthropologists, raising the question "were the first Japanese Negroes?"
Other chapters are devoted to "The Negro in Ancient Greece," "Negroes in Ancient Rome and Carthage" and "Were the Jews Originally Negroes?" The appendices of Sex and Race are equally fascinating, focusing on "Black Gods and Messiahs" and the "History of the Black Madonnas." In Volume Two of Sex and Race Rogers examines "racism and race-mixing in the New World," while Volume Three of Sex and Race seeks to define the concept of race itself. Like most of his works, all three volumes of Sex and Race are lavishly illustrated.
"Ethiopians, that is, Negroes, gave the world the first idea of right and wrong
and thus laid the basis of religion and all true culture and civilization."
--Joel Augustus Rogers