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    In the fall of 1991 I was asked to write a review-article for The New Republic about Martin Bernal's Black Athena and its relation
    to the Afrocentrist movement. The assignment literally changed my life. Once I began to work on the article I realized that here was
    a subject that needed all the attention, and more, that I could give to it. Although I had been completely unaware of it, there was in
    existence a whole literature that denied that the ancient Greeks were the inventors of democracy, philosophy, and science. There were
    books in circulation that claimed that Socrates and Cleopatra were of African descent, and that Greek philosophy had actually been
    stolen from Egypt. Not only were these books being read and widely distributed; some of these ideas were being taught in schools
    and even in universities.

    Ordinarily, if someone has a theory which involves a radical departure from what the experts have professed, he is expected to defend
    his position by providing evidence in its support. But no one seemed to think it was appropriate to ask for evidence from the
    instructors who claimed that the Greeks stole their philosophy from Egypt.
        -Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa

One is torn by two competing emotions in reading Not Out of Africa.  On the one hand, there's the visceral thrill of watching idiotic ideas get an old-fashioned butt-whipping.  But, on the other hand, there's something poignant about the need of black scholars to claim the accomplishments of the Greeks and Egyptians as their own.  It is very nearly painful to watch the ease with which Ms Lefkowitz disposes of the lunatic ideas that make up Afrocentrism, though she deserves great credit for taking them seriously enough to lay them out systematically, and demonstrating that they actually do have ancient sources,  before annihilating them.  Still, as you near the end of the book, the contest has been so uneven that it's natural to wonder if this bloodbath was really necessary.

However, in her conclusion, Ms Lefkowitz makes the case for why it is necessary to utterly destroy Afrocentrism, and here she is equally persuasive.  Her reasons are as follows :

    (1)    By claiming European civilization as a product of Africans, Afrocentrism has the perverse effect of making blacks responsible
            for the culture which justified their enslavement and oppression for centuries.

    (2)    By focussing solely on the achievements of the Egyptians, Afrocentrism fails to consider genuinely black African cultures, like
            that of Nubia.

    (3)    By teaching black students that white Europeans stole their culture, Afrocentrism fosters racial animosity.

    (4)    Afrocentrism is not only antihistorical it is also antiscientific--denying genetic, archaeological, linguistic, and other forms of data.

    (5)    It wastes precious educational time; the time that students spend learning the lies of Afrocentrism is time that they are not
            spending learning the truth.

And she closes with a very strong statement :

    Students of the modern world may think it is a matter of indifference whether or not Aristotle stole his philosophy from Egypt.  They
    may believe that even if the story is not true, it can be used to serve a positive purpose.  But the question, and many others like it,
    should be a matter of serious concern to everyone, because if you assert that he did steal his philosophy, you are prepared to ignore or
    to conceal a substantial body of historical evidence that proves the contrary.  Once you start doing that, you can have no scientific or
    even social-scientific discourse, nor can you have a community, or a university.

That's pretty bracing stuff, but it cuts to the quick : are we truly prepared to sacrifice our universities and our students on the altar of political correctness, self esteem, and multicultural hogwash?  One would certainly hope not, and we can only thank Ms Lefkowitz for having the courage to take on the racially charged task of confronting these issues head on.  She has done us all a great service.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Literary Criticism
Mary Lefkowitz Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Mary Lefkowitz
    -ESSAY: Did Ancient Greeks and Romans Really Believe in the Gods?: In Belief and Cult: Rethinking Roman Religion, Jacob Mackey argues that the ancient Romans’ participation in polytheistic rituals necessarily implied that they believed in their gods. But his discussion of Roman religion would have been even more persuasive if he had spent more time discussing ancient documents and less time explaining modern theories of belief and practice. (MARY LEFKOWITZ, 9/27/22, Public Discourse)
    -REVIEW: of GREEK GODS, HUMAN LIVES: What We Can Learn From Myths by Mary Lefkowitz (Oliver Taplin, NY Times Book Review)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Mary Lefkowitz (
    -Mary Lefkowitz (Skeptics Dictionary)
    -EXCERPT : Was Greek Culture Stolen from Africa? Modern myth vs. ancient history
    -REVIEW ESSAY : Not out of Africa. (Mary Lefkowitz, New Republic, 02-10-1992)
    -ESSAY : Willful distortions of history. (Mary Lefkowitz, Academic Questions, 06-01-1995)
    -REVIEW : of George G.M. James's  'Stolen Legacy'  (Mary Lefkowitz, Society, March-April 1994)
    -REVIEW : of FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE From Prometheus to Pornography. By Roger Shattuck (Mary Lefkowitz, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield (Mary Lefkowitz, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Truth: A History and a Guide for the Perplexed by Felipe Fernández-Armesto (Mary Lefkowitz, NY Times Book Review)
    -INTERVIEW : Fact, Fiction, and Feel-good History : Professor Mary Lefkowitz talks with Charlotte Hays ( Women's Quarterly, January 01 2001)
    -PROFILE : THE WOMAN WHO DEFIED POLITICAL CORRECTNESS : Mary Lefkowitz has outraged some academics by insisting that Socrates was Greek (Michael Gove, The Times)
    -REVIEW/RESPONSE : to Not Out of Africa (Martin Bernal, Cornell University, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.04.05)
    -REVIEW : of  Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History by Mary Lefkowitz (Martin Bernal, Cornell University, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.04.05)
    -REVIEW : of Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History by Mary Lefkowitz (Donald Kagan, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW :  of Not Out of Africa (Lawrence A. Tritle, Loyola Marymount University, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.5.7)
    -REVIEW : of Not Out of Africa ( Lynne Cheney, Insight on the News)
    -REVIEW :  of Not Out of Africa (Robert Mayhew, The Intellectual Activist)
    -REVIEWS : of Not Out of Africa by Mary Lefkowitz and Black Athena Revisited  by Mary Lefkowitz and Guy M. Rogers, editors  (Caitlin Burke)
    -REVIEW: of Not Out of Africa (Hugh F. Cole III)
    -REVIEW : Mary Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa. (Michael Lambert, University of Natal, Scholia Reviews)
    -REVIEW : Jun 20, 1996 Jasper Griffin: Anxieties of Influence, NY Review of Books
       Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History by Mary R. Lefkowitz
       Black Athena Revisited edited by Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers
       The Western Greeks edited by Giovanni Pugliese Carratelli, Catalog of the exhibition, and an exhibition at the Palazzo
       Grassi, Venice, through December 8.
       The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity a Bollingen Series XXXV by John Boardman
    -Letter to the Editors of the New York Times (Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.)
    -BOOK LIST : Reader's Choice Modern Library Top 100 : #80 Not Out of Africa

   Out of Africa: A pioneer of African studies explains why he left the field, and provokes a firestorm of debate within it (DANNY POSTEL, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -The Black Athena Controversy: Introduction
    -Afrocentrism, History, and Archaeology
    -MAAT News : (The Africentric Voice of The Internet)
    -RESPONSE : (Martin Bernal, Cornell University, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.04.05)
    -H-GIG Study Hall No. 1 :The Black Athena Debate
    -ESSAY : Uncivil War  : Inside the Years-Long Battle Over the Future of Afrocentricity and Its Place in the Black Studies Renaissance (Bakari Kitwana, Village Voice)
    -ARTICLE : Afrocentrism generates mixed results in Detroit and debate across nation (David C. Butty / The Detroit News, May 19, 1996)
    -RESPONSE : Race in Antiquity: Truly Out of Africa
    -Professor Tony Martin (Blacks and Jews)
    -ESSAY : Dr. Martin Sues Mary Lefkowitz for Libel (Blacks amnd Jews)
    -RESPONSE : to Keith Richburg, Out of America. (
    -Martin Bernal's Black Athena : A web page for Hum110 Conference #12
    -ESSAY : Still out of Africa (Dr. Charles S. Finch, III, MD, Morehouse School of Medicine, October 1, 1996)
    -ESSAY : Studying Egypt in the Context of Africa
    -ESSAY : The Afrocentric Controversy (Clyde Ahmad Winters)
    -ESSAY : "Who is the Nation?"--or, "Did Cleopatra Have Red Hair?": A Patriotic Discourse on Diversity, Nationality, and Race.(MELUS, December 22 1998 by John J. Bukowczyk)
    -REVIEW : of Wilson Jeremiah Moses. Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History (African American Review, March 22 2001 by Nell Irvin Painter)
    -LINKS :  Afrocentrism Web Sites (Excite)
    -ARCHIVES : Articles And Reviews (
    -ARCHIVES : afrocentrism (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : afrocentrism (Mag Portal)
    -BOOK LIST : Mixing it up : The author of "One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race" picks five books in which racial lines go blurry. (Scott Malcomson, Salon)

    -Internet  African History Sourcebook
    -REVIEW : of Trojan Horses: Saving the Classics from Conservatives, by Page DuBois (Christian Kopf, National Review)
    -REVIEW : A CARNIVORIZED VIEW OF AFRICA : A Review of Keith Richburg's Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa (AYELE BEKERIE, PHD, Cornell)
    -RESPONSE : to Keith Richburg, Out of America. (
    -ESSAY : Toward a Usable Black History (John H. McWhorter, Summer 2001, City Journal)