How does understanding the rise of Egyptian civilization enrich African American history?

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The rise of Egyptian civilization can greatly enrich an understanding of African American history when students realize the contribution southern Africans made to Egyptian culture and the influence Egyptian culture and civilization had on sub-Saharan Africa. African Americans can embrace these achievements as part of their heritage.

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At first glance, Egyptian civilization appears to have very little connection to African American history, yet when we look more deeply, we discover some surprising links that help us better understand the accomplishments of the African people and the heritage of African Americans.

For many years, scholars of ancient Egypt...

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believed that there were few links between Egypt and sub-Saharan African. Yet as time went by, archeologists and scholars discovered more and more that Egypt had a significant population of dark-skinned Africans alongside the lighter-skinned people shown so often in Egyptian illustrations. Therefore, southern African peoples likely contributed greatly to the rise and flourishing of Egyptian civilization with its governmental organization, communication systems, technological developments, and grand monuments.

This contribution, then, is part of the heritage of African American people, and they can and should claim it as their own. They can enjoy learning about the advancements of the Egyptians and the rise of their civilization as part of their own history.

Further, African Americans should appreciate how the civilization of Egypt influenced the lives of their ancestors in other parts of Africa. Scholars have long studied this aspect of Egypt as well and discovered critical cultural links between the Egyptian civilization and other African civilizations and cultures. These, too, are part of African American heritage and should be embraced with interest and pride.

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How can comprehending the rise of Egyptian civilization enrich our understanding of African American history?

Ancient Egypt is often the first, and sometimes the only, great African civilization studied in American schools. Therefore, it has often been used to encourage and empower young people of African descent, in hopes that they may be inspired by Egypt’s incredible history and success. Historically, African Americans have been ignored (at best) or blatantly discriminated against in American culture. For that reason, there is an interest in making connections between modern-day Americans of African descent and what many see as their cultural predecessors, the Ancient Egyptians.

There is evidence to suggest that Egypt was primarily a black civilization. The artwork of the time shows many individuals with distinctly African features. In addition, the instruments used by Ancient Egyptians strongly resemble those used currently in traditional African music. Anecdotes from travelers from other nations also sometimes refer to Egyptians as black people. It should be noted that there is an equally strong and well-researched evidence supporting the claim that, on the contrary, Egypt was a multiracial society. However, the former claim is more powerful in connecting with African American history.

In either case, there is interest in placing Egypt strongly as an African culture, not a Middle Eastern one. This, too, has an effect on African American history. It is empowering and enlightening, offering a perspective on ancient history that integrates people rather than isolating them. By claiming Ancient Egypt as African and acknowledging Egypt as one of the first great civilizations, African Americans anchor their place in the study of history as a whole, refusing to view it as a side chapter.

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