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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 6: The Whitening of Ancient Kemet/Egypt

ClassOverview cont.

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

  • Analyze artifacts, monuments, and images of Ancient Egyptians in relation to modern concepts of race.

  • Compare and contrast the observations made by the Ancient Greeks vs. 18th-20th century Western scholars regarding the origins of Ancient Egyptians.

  • Analyze contemporary depictions of Ancient Egypt in Hollywood films and popular culture.

  • Define scientific racism and explain its impact on the shaping of historical narratives.
Most of the artifacts and images of Ancient Egypt that are commonly shown in history books, documentaries, and Hollywood films emphasize an era of Greek and Roman rule following the reigns of Alexander the Great through Cleopatra VII, 336 - 30 B.C.E. and the subsequent Roman occupation. By this time the Egyptian population had intermixed with foreign people for over a millennium, creating a multi-racial population. Ancient Kemet – or Ancient Egypt under African rule, lasted for well over 2,000 years before Greek and Rome were established as nations. All of the pyramids, major monuments, statues and temples in Ancient Egypt were constructed under African rule. Yet rarely are the contributions and images of Ancient Egypt before foreign invasion highlighted in historical studies and popular culture. Images of the original architects of the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, as well as statues and tomb paintings, for instance, reflect men and women of African descent in varying shades of black and brown, affirming their identity as African people.

It is important to note that the ancient world did not subscribe to the same racial concepts we use today. Racism as we know it did not exist. Many of the most prominent ancient Greeks and Romans openly acknowledged the genius of the "Ethiopians" — a term used to refer to Africans in general — and Greek scholars spent many years studying in Egypt. However, throughout the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, Egyptologists, scientists and intellectuals challenged this established knowledge by claiming that Egypt should be classified as a “Caucasian” civilization. This preoccupation with portraying the ancient Egyptians as non-African and non-Black has had a lasting impact on both the shaping and erasure of African history, and by extension world history. 

Some of the most explicit testimony regarding the race of Ancient Egyptians came from Ancient Greeks. Many Greek scholars including Herodotus, Pythagoras, Aesop and Plato traveled to Egypt for study, and they credited Egypt as the model for classical Greek civilization. At that time, the race or color of the Egyptians was not a mystery. For instance, Herodotus, often celebrated as the “father of history,” described the Egyptians as “black-skinned and wooly-haired.” Similarly, the famed Greek philosopher, Aristotle referred to both the Egyptians and Ethiopians as “very black.” In fact, the name “Ethiopia,” a term that was used to describe Africans more broadly, derives from the Greek words ethios and ops meaning, “burnt faces.” In ancient times, black skin did not carry the negative stigma it does today. Racism and white supremacy are modern inventions with origins in late 18th century Europe and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. 

The Legacy of Racial Theories

The images of Ancient Egypt as a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian or Caucasian civilization are so common in historical and popular imagination that it is difficult for many to believe that Black Africans are responsible for its founding and development. Rarely are Ancient Egyptians depicted as Black unless they are portrayed as slaves. Why do dominant historical and cultural narratives deny African origins of Ancient Egyptian civilization? And why do many scholars continue to omit and distort evidence of African rule over Ancient Egypt?

In this lesson students will contemplate the merits of the “great race debate” by examining a range of physical evidence including statues, papyri, tomb paintings; monuments; eyewitness accounts from the ancient Greeks; archeological and historical research; and the personal testimony of the Ancient Egyptians themselves. Students will reflect on their own perceptions of Ancient Egypt and identify how education and culture have influenced their perspectives.  

Homework Assignment
Read/View the Following:

Cheikh Anta Diop and the New Light on African History (10 min) 

10 Arguments That Prove Ancient Egyptians Were Black (10-15 min) 

EFLA Article: Egyptology and Scientific Racism (20 min) 

Ancient Greek Testimony Regarding the Ancient Egyptians (20 min)

​DNA Analysis of King Tut
 (5 min) 

DNA Analysis of Ramesses III 
(5 min) 

SLIDESHOW: How the Ancient Egyptians Depicted Themselves (10 min)

SLIDESHOW: Greco-Roman Egypt: 332 B.C.E. - 476 A.C.E. (7 min)

 Hollywood Depictions of Ancient Egyptians (5 min)

Studio Apologizes for all white cast for Gods of Egypt (10 min) 


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