Black Athena before <i>Black Athena</i>

Kenneth W. Goings and Eugene O'Connor

in African Athena

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199595006
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731464 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Black Athena before Black Athena

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)


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This chapter examines the teaching of the classics at Black colleges and universities (BCUs) from their founding immediately after the US Civil War to the early twentieth century. It looks at this development against the backdrop of emerging colonialist, imperialistic and racial attitudes in both Europe and America, in contradistinction to the ‘Africanist’ argument that African Americans at BCUs were making to legitimate their study of the classics as a manifestation of racial pride and self‐empowerment. This argument centered on the link made by African Americans between Egypt, and more broadly North Africa, and the classical world. This chapter concludes with a consideration of President Barack Obama's use of classical symbolism in his acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 in light of long‐standing racial assumptions about African Americans and the classics.

Keywords: classics; black colleges and universities; Barack Obama; Africanist; colonialism; racism

Chapter.  6684 words. 

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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