Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (1935-2009)
In the video below, Dr. Van Sertima gives a powerful tribute to Dr. Cheik Anta Diop.
Click the graphic on the right to watch the video.
Dr. Ivan Van Sertima was a Guyanese-born associate professor of African Studies at Rutgers University in the United States.
Van Sertima attended the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London from 1959. Van Sertima completed his undergraduate studies in African languages and literature at SOAS in 1969, where he graduated with honours. From 1957 to 1959, worked as a Press and Broadcasting Officer in the Guyana Information Services. During the 1960s, he worked for several years in Great Britain as a journalist, doing weekly broadcasts to the Caribbean and Africa.
In doing field work in Africa, he compiled a dictionary of Swahili legal terms in 1967.
In 1970, Van Sertima immigrated to the United States, where he entered Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey for graduate work. He was best known for his discussion of the Olmecs as the "mother civilization" of the Americas. which he documented in his book They Came Before Columbus (1976). He published his as a Rutgers graduate student. The book deals mostly with his arguments for an African origin of Mesoamerican culture in the Western Hemisphere, but among other things also writing that the kings of the 25th Dynasty of Egypt were Nubians. The book was a best-seller and achieved widespread attention within the African-American community for his claims of prehistoric African contact and diffusion of culture in Central and South America.
Van Sertima completed his Master's Degree at Rutgers in 1977. He became Associate Professor of African Studies at Rutgers in the Department of Africana Studies in 1979. Also in 1979, Van Sertima founded the Journal of African Civilizations which he exclusively edited and published for decades. He published several annual compilations, volumes of the journal dealing with various topics of African history. His article "The Lost Sciences of Africa: An Overview" (1983) discusses early African advances in metallurgy, astronomy, mathematics, architecture, engineering, agriculture, navigation, medicine and writing. Van Sertima also discussed African scientific contributions in an essay for the volume African Renaissance published in 1999 (he had first published the essay in 1983). This was a record of the conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1998 on the theme of the African Renaissance.
On 7 July 1987, Dr. Van Sertima testified before a United States Congressional committee to oppose recognition of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's "discovery" of the Americas. He said, "You cannot really conceive of how insulting it is to Native Americans ... to be told they were 'discovered'."