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Ben-Jochannan, Clarke & Van Sertima’s Reading Lists

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (Jan 26, 1935 – May 25, 2009),  Dr. Yosef “Dr. Ben” Ben-Jochannan (Dec 31, 1918 – March 19, 2015), and Dr. John Henrik Clarke (Jan 1, 1915 – Jul 16, 1998) are three of the most respected historians and teachers of African history.

During a broadcast (original air date, June 13, 1982) of Gil Noble’s (Feb 22, 1932 – Apr 5, 2012) television program Like It Is, these intellectual giants provided their respective reading lists.   Several of these books are frequent bestsellers.   These books are all worth checking out.

(l to r) Ivan Gladstone Van Sertima, Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan and John Henrik Clarke

Dr. Ben’s List

Map of Africa
by Treaty by Sir Edward Hertzlett

Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: Nabu Press (August 21, 2010)

This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.

The Berlin Conference and the Congo Free State, 1884-1910 by J. Scott-Keltie

The Berlin Conference is included in the 1910 book Africa
Paperback: 380 pages
Publisher: Forgotten Books (May 20, 2012)

This book was digitized and reprinted from the collections of the University of California Libraries. Together, the more than one hundred UC Libraries comprise the largest university research library in the world, with over thirty-five million volumes in their holdings. This book and hundreds of thousands of others can be found online in the HathiTrust Digital Library.HP’s patented BookPrep technology was used to clean artifacts resulting from use and digitization, improving your reading experience.

In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period
by  A. Leon Higgenbothan, Jr.

Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 29, 1980)

“Chronicles in unrelenting detail the role of the law in the enslavement and subjugation of black Americans during the Colonial period.”

In his first book, Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., one of the first five African Americans to become a federal judge, shows how the law itself contributed to inflicting injustice on millions of Americans, solely on the basis of their color. For many readers – even those well-steeped in African-American studies or American history or the law – this book will stir new passions.

Destruction of Black Civilization : Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C to 2000 A.D.
by Chancellor Williams

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Third World Press (June 1, 1987)

The Destruction of Black Civilization took Chancellor Williams sixteen years of research and field study to compile. The book, which was to serve as a reinterpretation of the history of the African race, was intended to be “a general rebellion against the subtle message from even the most ‘liberal’ white authors (and their Negro disciples): ‘You belong to a race of nobodies. You have no worthwhile history to point to with pride.'” The book was written at a time when many black students, educators, and scholars were starting to piece together the connection between the way their history was taught and the way they were perceived by others and by themselves. They began to question assumptions made about their history and took it upon themselves to create a new body of historical research. The book is premised on the question: “If the Blacks were among the very first builders of civilization and their land the birthplace of civilization, what has happened to them that has left them since then, at the bottom of world society, precisely what happened? The Caucasian answer is simple and well-known: The Blacks have always been at the bottom.” Williams instead contends that many elements—nature, imperialism, and stolen legacies— have aided in the destruction of the black civilization.

The Destruction of Black Civilization is revelatory and revolutionary because it offers a new approach to the research, teaching, and study of African history by shifting the main focus from the history of Arabs and Europeans in Africa to the Africans themselves, offering instead “a history of blacks that is a history of blacks. Because only from history can we learn what our strengths were and, especially, in what particular aspect we are weak and vulnerable. Our history can then become at once the foundation and guiding light for united efforts in serious[ly] planning what we should be about now.” It was part of the evolution of the black revolution that took place in the 1970s, as the focus shifted from politics to matters of the mind.

The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality
by Cheikh Anta Diop

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (July 1, 1989)

This classic presents historical, archaeological, and anthropological evidence to support the theory that ancient Egypt was a black civilization.

The Black Egyptians are the original settlers of KMT. “The native Sudanese are one of the original pigmented Arabs in that region. They are members of the same ethnic family with the ancient Egyptians, the Ethiopians, the Southern Arabians, and the primitive inhabitants of Babylon. All founders and sustainers of the mighty Nilotic civilization we still admire today.  They are very great nation of Blacks, who did rule almost over all Africa and Asia in a very remote era, in fact beyond the reach of history of any of our records.  Read more about this important work.

World’s Great Men of Color
by J.A. Rogers

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (January 23, 1996)

In this first volume: outstanding blacks of Asia and Africa, and historical figures before Christ — including Akhenaton, Aesop, Hannibal, Cleopatra, Zenobia, Askia the Great, the Mahdi, Samuel Adjai Crowther, and many more.

World’s Great Men of Color is a comprehensive account of the great Black personalities in world history. J. A. Rogers was one of the first Black scholars to devote most of his life to researching the lives of hundreds of men and women of color. This first volume is a convenient reference; equipped with a comprehensive introduction, it treats all aspects of recorded Black history. J. A. Rogers’s book is vital reading for everyone who wants a fuller and broader understanding of the great personalities who have shaped our world.

The companion volume covers the great Blacks of Europe, South and Central America, the West Indies, and the United States, including Marcus Garvey, Robert Browning, Dom Pedro, Alexandre Dumas, Joachim Murat, Aleksander Sergeevich Pushkin, Alessandro de’ Medici, St. Benedict the Moor, and many others.

Black man of the Nile & Family
by Josef Ben Jochannan

Paperback: 428 pages
Publisher: Black Classic Press (November 22, 1996)

Black Man of the Nile and His Family, first published in 1972, is Dr. Ben’s best known work. It captures much of the substance of his early research on Ancient Africa. In a masterful and unique manner, Dr. Ben uses Black Man of the Nile to challenge and expose “Europeanized” African history. He points up distortion after distortion made in the long record of African contributions to world civilization. Once exposed, he attacks these distortions with a vengeance, providing a spellbinding corrective lesson in OurStory.

Dr. Ben provides readers with an important and foundational history of Africa, written from a decisively African perspective. Black Man of the Nile is reprinted in its entirely, along with a new selected bibliography and an extensive name and subject index.

Dr. Clarke’s List

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
by Walter Rodney

Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Howard University Press; (Nov 1981)

Africa, the second largest continent on earth, is among the least developed. In a penetrating and perceptive analysis, Walter Rodney examines this phenomenon in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, delving into the European and African past showing how the present came into being, and what the trends are for the near future.

In simple language, the author illuminates the concept of development and underdevelopment; shows us the growth of Africa before the coming of the Europeans(using concrete examples); then illustrates how Africa contributed to European capitalist development, both in the pre-colonial and colonial periods.

The author avoids the pitfall of treating a continent as a monolithic structure; thus the reader can perceive the varying rates of development in Africa from region to region, and even within regions. Rodney also touches on the subject of the European slave trade, and shows how it was a factor in African underdevelopment and technical stagnation.

Stolen Legacy: The Greeks Were Not the Authors
by George G.M. James

Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: African American Images (April 1, 2002)

Challenging the notion that civilization started in Greece, this uncompromising classic attempts to prove that the true authors of Greek philosophy were not Greeks but Egyptians. The text asserts that the praise and honor blindly given to the Greeks for centuries rightfully belong to the people of Africa, and argues that the theft of this great African legacy led to the erroneous world opinion that the African continent has made no contribution to civilization. Quoting such celebrated Greek scholars as Herodotus, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Thales, and Pythagoras, who admit to the influence of Egyptian studies in their work, this edition sheds new light on traditional philosophical and historical thought. Originally published in 1954, this book features a new introduction.
African Glory: The Story of Vanished Negro Civilizations
by J.C. DeGraft-Johnson

Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: Black Classic Press,U.S. (July 1998)

First published in 1954, a time when few books on African history were written from an African perspective. An intimate history of Africa and its ancient civilizations, the book opposed the stereotyped and often racist histories of Africa. Today, a half century after its initial publication, African Glory still provides a vivid and dynamic connection to the African past.

Capitalism & Slavery
by Eric Williams

Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (October 1994)

Slavery helped finance the Industrial Revolution in England. Plantation owners, shipbuilders, and merchants connected with the slave trade accumulated vast fortunes that established banks and heavy industry in Europe and expanded the reach of capitalism worldwide.

Eric Williams advanced these powerful ideas in Capitalism and Slavery, published in 1944. Years ahead of its time, his profound critique became the foundation for studies of imperialism and economic development. Binding an economic view of history with strong moral argument, Williams’s study of the role of slavery in financing the Industrial Revolution refuted traditional ideas of economic and moral progress and firmly established the centrality of the African slave trade in European economic development. He also showed that mature industrial capitalism in turn helped destroy the slave system. Establishing the exploitation of commercial capitalism and its link to racial attitudes, Williams employed a historicist vision that set the tone for future studies. In a new introduction, Colin Palmer assesses the lasting impact of Williams’s groundbreaking work and analyzes the heated scholarly debates it generated when it first appeared.

Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America
by Lerone Bennett

Paperback: 736 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (July 1, 1993)

Justly celebrated by readers and scholars, the Black history classic, Before The Mayflower, has been called “one of the most popular single-volume histories of blacks ever written.” The paperback edition continues the Mayflower tradition with new photographs and material. A major bonus is the extensive use of color photographs. The much-copied “Landmarks and Milestones” section consists of significant dates and events from the fourteenth century to the twenty-first century. The new section is essentially an outline of Black history and is a handy and invaluable reference tool for students, teachers, and readers of all races and colors.

A vivid, passionate history of black Americans–from their roots in Africa to their lives in contemporary America. In this newly revised edition of an established classic, Bennett relates with clarity and vision the experiences of “the other Americans.”

Slave Trade & Slavery
by John Henrik Clarke & Vincent Harding

Paperback – 113 pages
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970

  • The Slave Trade in the New World
  • The Island Case
  • Slavery in the Southern Colonies from 1619 to 1776
  • And six more sections

Dr.Van Sertima’s List

Journal of African Civilizations Vol, I, II, III

Some of the volumes of the Journal include:

It is the only historical journal in the English-speaking world which focuses on the heartland rather than on the periphery of African civilizations. It, therefore, removes the “primitive” from the center stage it has occupied in Eurocentric histories and anthropologies of the the African. The Journal of African Civilizations is dedicated to the celebration of black genius, to a revision of the role of the African in the world’s great civilizations, and to the contribution of Africa to the achievement of man in the arts and sciences. It emphasizes what blacks have given to the world, not what they have lost. —Ivan van Sertima

Africa Counts: Number and Pattern in African Cultures
by Claudia Zaslavsky

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press (April 1, 1999)

This unique volume provides an overview of the black queens, madonnas, and goddesses who dominated the history and imagination of ancient times. The authors have concentrated on Ethiopia and Egypt because the documents of the Nile Valley are voluminous compared to the sketchier records in other parts of Africa, but also because the imagination of the world, not just that of Africa, was haunted by these women. They are just as prominent a feature of European mythology as of African reality. The book is divided into three parts: Ethiopia and Egyptian Queens and Goddesses; Black Women in Ancient Art; and Conquerors and Courtesans. This second edition contains two new chapters, one on Hypatia and women’s rights in ancient Egypt, and the other on the diffusion into Europe of Isis, the African goddess of Nile Valley civilizations.

Africa & the Discovery of America
by Leo Weiner

Paperback: 372 pages
Publisher: Nabu Press (September 8, 2010)

This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.

Unexpected Faces in Ancient America, 1500 B.C.-A.D. 1500
by Alex Von Wutheneau

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Outlet (September 1975)

The Historical Testimony of Pre-Columbian Artists.

“Terracotta sculpture of faces was the photography of the pre- Columbian Americans and what Von Wuthenau had done was to open new rooms in the photo gallery of our lost American ages.  No longer was the African chapter in American pre-Columbian history an irrecoverable blank because of the vicious destruction of American books.  Here were visible witnesses of a vanished time and they were telling us a new story.” —Ivan van Sertima

Ancient Egyptians & Chinese in America
by R. H. Jairazbhoy

Hardcover: 155 pages
Publisher: Rowan and Littlefield; First Edition edition (April 29, 1974)

Part of the Old World Origins of American Civilization, Vol 1 series includes addenda & bibliography. 115 b./w. photographs, drawings, & a sketch map of Mesoamerica with some archaeological sites.

They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America
by Ivan Van Sertima

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (September 23, 2003)

They Came Before Columbus reveals a compelling, dramatic, and superbly detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of Africans in ancient America. Examining navigation and shipbuilding; cultural analogies between Native Americans and Africans; the transportation of plants, animals, and textiles between the continents; and the diaries, journals, and oral accounts of the explorers themselves, Ivan Van Sertima builds a pyramid of evidence to support his claim of an African presence in the New World centuries before Columbus. Combining impressive scholarship with a novelist’s gift for storytelling, Van Sertima re-creates some of the most powerful scenes of human history: the launching of the great ships of Mali in 1310 (two hundred master boats and two hundred supply boats), the sea expedition of the Mandingo king in 1311, and many others. In They Came Before Columbus, we see clearly the unmistakable face and handprint of black Africans in pre-Columbian America, and their overwhelming impact on the civilizations they encountered.

The photo at the top of this article is a screen shot from the television program Like It Is, hosted by Gil Noble where this list was provided.


Troy D. Johnson is the President, founder and webmaster of, LLC (The African American Literature Book Club). Launched in March of 1998, has grown to become the largest and most frequently visited website dedicated to books and films by and about people of African descent.