They Came Before Columbus: Featured Book

I know Columbus day has passed us by but I couldn’t help but post a link to this classic work by the late Dr. Ivan Van Sertima.  This will be our featured book for this week and is one I think all people should read.  A summary of the book’s contents is below for all who are not familiar with its contents.


A celebrated classic, They Came Before Columbus, deals with a number of contacts — both planned and accidental, between Africans and Americans in different historical periods. Evidence for a physical/cultural presence of Africans in Early America is methodically examined.

Dr. Van Sertima reveals to us a compelling, dramatic and superbly detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of black Africans in ancient America.

With his considerable scholarship, Van Sertima examines the facts of navigation and shipbuilding, the sources of latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, the scores of cultural analogies found nowhere else except in America and Africa, African languages and the transportation of plants, cloth and animals from Africa to the Americas.  And from the diaries, letters and journals of the explorers themselves; from Carbon-14 dated sculptures found in the Americas; from the Arabic documents, charts, maps from the recorded tales of the griots to the Kings of Mali; from dated skeletons found as recently as 1975, the author builds his pyramid of evidence.

In addition to a scholar’s fastidiousness, Van Sertima has the skill of a novelist, and with it recreates some of the most powerful scenes history has to offer:  the launching of the great ships of Mali in 1310 (200 master boats and 200 supply boats); the sea expedition of the Mandingo king himself in 1311, and many others, equally as vivid.

It is the marriage of these twin crafts–the artist’s and the scholar’s–in the book that makes it possible for us to see clearly the unmistakable face and handprint of black Africans in Pre-Columbian America, and their overwhelming impact on the civilization they found here.

Random House, NYC

Book Reviews

For those who interested in reading a more in depth review of the book, please read Femi Akomolafe’s review: They Came Before Columbus Book Review

Learn More About Dr. Sertima

For those who are interested in learning more about Dr. Ivan Van Sertima I would encourage you to visit some of the links below:

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (Wikipedia)

A Tribute to Dr. Ivan Van Sertima

Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (Journal of African Civilizations)

I have also included a video of Dr. Sertima lecturing on this subject below!


Lecture: Afrikan Presence In Early America

Additional Reading Materials