The Black Athena Controversy: Introduction


Bernal's Models of History

Reactions to Black Athena

Greek Mythology

Nina Bellucci
Sri Gordon
evin Hofelmann

The Black Athena controversy is an outgrowth of two groundbreaking works by Martin Bernal. He named them fittingly Black Athena Volume 1 and 2. Black Athena is a reference to his assertion that the Greek god Athena has African or black origins. Bernal is a Professor trained in Chinese Studies. In the course of his studies he acquired a knowledge of "Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese as well as a little Chippewa." He then became interested in his Jewish roots and so began to study a little Hebrew. In the pursuit of the knowledge of this language he discovered that the Hebrew and Phoenician languages were both dialects of the Caananite language group. Furthermore he began to see a large correlation of words between Greek and Hebrew. Being as Hebrew was a Caananite language of the Semitic peoples, and Greek had so many words in common this caused him to reach a startling conclusion. Based upon Bernals experience with his study of languages he realized that classical Greek shared so many of the same words that there must be more than a passing relationship between the Semitic peoples and Greek culture. Bernal postulated that Greeks must have either had direct contact with the Caananite people early in their history or they were directly descended from a Caananite people. He finally states in Black Athena that more than 25% of Greek comes directly from Semitic roots, 40 to 50 percent came from indo-European roots and the final part of the language was from Egyptian.

From this discovery Bernal entered into a lenthy study of Classical Greek Culture. Eventually he came to the conclusion that Greek culture has been misrepresented as Indo-European in origin when in fact it is likely largely African or Semitic. His explanation for this which has been much cussed and discussed is that history was revised in order to flush out the African contribution to Greek Culture. Bernal contends in the late 1700's the anti-Semitic and anti-African sentiments of the time, resulted in those cultures being eliminated from establishment history. He directly charges that this changing of history was an act of unjustified racism.To prove his thesis Bernal defined three models of accepted history.One of the groups that favorably embraced Bernal's work were Afrocentric scholars. They felt that his argument lent validity to their field of study. Furthermore Bernal also legitimated his thesis by showing distinct links or borrowings of religion from the Egyptian civilization. Specifically he connected the Cretan Bull Cult of Minos and the Minotaur to origins in the Egyptian god Min who frequently required bovine sacrifices.

We have divided our project into the following three categories.

Bernal's Model's of History
Reactions to Black Athena
Greek Mythology