From Publishers Weekly
In 1987, Bernal published Black Athena, in which he argued that many of the cultural accomplishments traditionally attributed to the ancient Greeks originated, in fact, in Africa, especially among the Egyptians. Bernal also argues that in the 19th and early 20th centuries, scholars of ancient Greece purposefully ignored or distorted evidence of the Afro-Asiatic roots of Greek achievement. He further argues that, because many of these scholars were overt racists and anti-Semites, they wanted those features that are considered to be the cornerstones of Western civilization to be the work of white people, and particularly Aryans. This controversial thesis attracted a great deal of popular media attention. Unsurprisingly, it met also with withering criticism from prominent scholars of archeology, linguistics and literature, the primary disciplines from which Bernal, who teaches government and Near Eastern studies at Cornell, collected his evidence. In this new volume, Bernal makes point-by-point retorts to, for instance, Egyptologist David O'Connor, who argues that Bernal is far too trusting of ancient literary sources; Mary Lefkowitz, a classicist and one of his most persistent critics, who finds very little of value in his work; and Emily Vermeule, an Aegean Bronze Age specialist, who questions Bernal's archaeological methodology. In response to Vermeule's allegations of "exaggerated sensitivity" (Bernal's words), he returns to passages from studies that he quoted in Black Athena as examples of scholarly racism. Many of the pieces here are previously published articles, essays and book reviews, and thus involve and reiterate aspects of his original book. 15 illus. (Oct.)Forecast: A considerable audience of nonspecialists will be curious about the current state of the 15-year-old controversy, but sales are likely to be limited to academics.
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*Starred Review* Not only has Bernal's controversial book Black Athena
(1989) provoked passions with its thesis that Greek classical culture--and thus Western civilization--was influenced by Afro-Asiatic cultures, it also prompted his critics to publish Black Athena Revisited
(1996), deliberately denying him an opportunity to respond, a move unheard of in academic circles. In this book, Bernal responds to the whirlwind of criticism surrounding his work, providing additional documentation for his thesis and revealing the sometimes petty conflicts among academics. Bernal answers specific criticism of Black Athena
, conceding shortcomings in his original work and bolstering his thesis with new findings. In both works, Bernal cites linguistic, anthropological, and archaeological findings as the basis for his thesis, which is revealing in its insights on historical and contemporary racial politics. Bernal notes the hypocrisy of academics, steeped in the "cult of Europe," who only recently and begrudgingly credited Egypt's contributions to Western civilization and still deny any connection between ancient Egypt and modern "blacks." Readers need not have read Black Athena
to benefit from the debate about the contributions of non-European cultures to Western civilizations and the hotly debated concept of Afrocentrism. This book and its companion, the forthcoming Debating Black Athena
, will garner wide readership and spark interest in the previous works. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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