Adieu Ivan Sertima.

Author:Cush, Ifa Kamau
Position:DIASPORA - Obituary

A great son of Africa, Dr Ivan Van Sertima (pictured), passed away on Africa Day, 25 May, aged 74. Ifa Kamau Cush traces the life and work of one of the greatest African-descended historians who ever lived.


DR IVAN VAN SERTIMA'S contributions to the discourse of African history "were phenomenal", says Dr Molefi Asante of Temple University in Philadelphia. Sertima spent his adult life debunking the myth of African inferiority during a career that spanned over four decades. That phenomenal voice fell silent on 25 May when he died peacefully at his home in Highland Park, New Jersey, USA, after a short illness. His wife of 25 years, Jacqueline, was at his bedside.

Dr Sertima was born on 26 January 1935 in Georgetown, Guyana. The racism he witnessed and experienced in the 1950s when Guyana was a British colony compelled him, as he said in an interview several years later, to pursue a life's mission of telling "the true story of the African, to recover the essence of his early civilisations so that the tragedy of slavery, of colonisation, of myths about his fundamental inferiority may be destroyed forever."

And he accomplished his mission! Dr Leonard Jeffries, professor at the City University of New York, commenting on Van Settima's death, hailed him as "one of the giants in terms of restoring the truth of Africa's contribution to world civilisation. He documented, with science and history, African primacy."

Dr Sertima was the author and editor of several books and academic journals. His first publication was a Swahili Dictionary of Legal Terms which he completed in 1969 as part of an undetgraduate field project for the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

But perhaps his most acclaimed work was They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, published in 1976, which is now in its 29th printing. With fastidious scholarship and science, Dr Sertima documented the planned presence of Africans in the Americas during the period of Ramses III (circa 1200 BC) and the 14th century--a period Sertima referred to as the "Man-dingo voyages".

The book examined navigation and shipbuilding, sources of latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, cultural analogies, African languages, and the...

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