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The Standing on the Shoulders of Giants "Teach & Learn" Black History Curriculum​​

Specially designed for Parents, Teachers, Homeschool, or Independent Study, grades 5+

Where Black
History Lives!​

Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 3: The Beginnings of Civilization

Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:

  • Explain why European scholars of the 17th-19th centuries proclaimed that Africa had no history and that Africans where primitive, “child-like” people with no sense of culture.

  • Provide evidence of Africa’s many contributions to civilization.

  • Provide evidence of the African origins of Ancient Egypt.

  • Recognize the positive portrayals of Africans in Renaissance European art. 

Class Overview

As you have learned, modern human history began in Africa. Quite naturally Africa is also where the foundations of civilization began. It is the people of Africa who gave rise to the first and most powerful civilizations in the world – ancient Nubia and Kemet/Egypt, which began around 4500 BCE. 

Before the first wave of Africans migrated out of Africa they had already developed the tools and survival skills to survive and thrive under challenging conditions. They knew how to make boats, plant crops, hunt small and large prey, manipulate fire and the environment, and create sustainable shelter out of a variety of material. They also knew how to look to the stars, sun and moon for direction and planning for agriculture. Furthermore, they had developed a spiritual foundation and a family structure that consisted of a male and female head of household with a division of labor and hierarchy that respected the status of each member. They also gleaned invaluable wisdom from the forces of nature and the numerous animals they observed and followed, which revealed new sources of water and food. Thus, the beginnings of what one would call “civilization” was started in Africa before the first Africans migrated to Asia, Europe and the rest of the world.

The wonderment of ancient Egypt, which preceded Western civilization by 3,000 years, has sparked controversial debates and theories regarding the origin of the ancient Egyptians. Since the late 18th and 19th centuries, Western scholars refused to accept an African origin of ancient Egypt due to the racist ideologies that helped to shape the making of the modern world. But in ancient times and through the period referred to as the “Middle Ages” in Europe, it was understood that native Africans created ancient Egyptian civilization. Ancient Egypt, however, did not just appear out of nowhere. Egyptian/Nubian civilizations were rooted in the intelligence, inventiveness and migration patterns of African populations from the south and the regions of Central Africa, where the earliest evidence of human existence have been found. Thousands of years before there was ever contact with foreign populations in Asia or the “Middle East,” people from all over Africa migrated northward, following the current of the Nile River, to establish organized communities. Their cumulative genius and resourcefulness gave rise to Nile Valley civilizations that were insulated from foreign influences and protected from foreign invasion for ages. Archeological evidence, cultural artifacts and customs all confirm the African origins of ancient Nubia and Kemet/Egypt.

This lesson includes an episode from the documentary, Africa: A Voyage of Discovery by historian Basil Davidson. The episode, “Different but Equal,” introduces Ancient Egyptian and Nubian civilization and underscores their African origins. As Davidson reiterates, “The Egypt of the pharaohs did not spring whole and complete from its local genius. It owed much to inner Africa.” However, even though Basil Davidson is an Afrocentrist to a degree, he appears captive to the propaganda of the Western world when he surprisingly comments that the ancient Egyptians always painted themselves "reddish pink." Basil Davidson of all people knows very well that the ancient Egyptians painted themselves a variety of shades of black and brown - as they appeared in real life. This is the case for many of the most famous Egyptians, including Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye, King Tut, Rameses II and III. None of them are depicted "reddish pink" as you will see from the images they left of themselves in which you will see in this Class's slideshow. Despite this glaring "error," Davidson presents African history with respect, dignity and honesty, and devoted his life to fighting for African Independence and cultural sovereignty.