on February 7, 2000
This book was interesting reading but the concepts in it are, as you can see by the reviews, quite controversial. I read the book with an open mind since I was going to Egypt to work, but I found myself challenged because it is not what I was taught in either high school or college. However, after living in Egypt for about a year and having visited the museum on several occasions in addition to visiting Upper Egypt (Nubia). I do not find the concepts as challenging as before.
Some observations: My brown-skinned Egyptian friends do not like to readily recognize any African blood. But the connection is obvious-curly hair to tight hair, thick lips, wide noses, colorful skin, etc. Further, the Nubians who are clearly black, by any standard, are Egyptians and interact and intermarry with lighter Egyptians quite freely. This is obvious once you are here. It is not clear if there is any discrimination. I have not met an Egyptian yet who would admit to being superior based upon his or her lighter skin color than the Nubian Egyptians but most of the present day elite have lighter skin tones. Egypt has always had an African connection (it is in Africa). Egypt became Egypt when the king of Nubia conquered the kingdom in the Delta. Any Egyptian will tell you this.
What makes this book controversial is not the varied skin color of the Egyptians but that the early Greeks wrote that they got their knowledge from blacks in Egypt. This means that the basis of western civilization is African and not European. The important thing to consider is, regardless of the skin color of the ancient Egyptians, is that their culture was African. It became Arab around the time of the spread of Islam. Modern-day Egyptians know that the Nubians are black, know that they have been around forever, and know that many of them have relatives from Nubia but they do not necessarily see the connection with Africa. This is even more interesting when you consider that the Sudanese Arabs, who are very black, also think along similar lines (they are Arab not African). My view is that there is no racial definition of an Arab. They are generally white in Syria, while they are generally black in the Sudan. Most are in-between. This reminds my of my Colombian roommate in college whose father was white/mestizo and whose mother was black/mestizo. He was born looking like his father so he was white/mestizo but his sister who was born looking like his mother was black/mestizo. To my mind, he was black. In fact, he constantly emphasized that he was not. Hispanics, also, cannot be racially defined. Even in the same country, like Puerto Rico, some are black and some are white. Their standard of what is white is if you have one drop of white blood then you are white. Much like the opposite U.S. standard of what is black. Different cultures have a different way of looking at things. I guess a lot depends on current and past events that have affected the culture. The book will make you think about your preconceptions of basic history and culture. This is a worthy challenge.
on May 4, 2000
I found Richard Poe's book extremely interesting. Having been aware of the Afrocentrism controversy for a few years, and (despite studying extremely modern, Asian history) having always had a sneaking fascination with ancient history, I eagerly anticipated the new information and arguments that I would find, and I was not disappointed. I was delighted to find that the writer was not only of European and Latino descent (proving that some people aren't threatened by challenges to historical orthodoxy) but that he was most known for writing books on MARKETING (WAVE 3, WAVE 4, and so on)! That's interdisciplinary research at its weirdest, but I'm certainly not complaining. I worked in a bookstore for almost two years, and seeing BLACK SPARK, WHITE FIRE, on the shelf and then going to the marketing section and seeing his WAVE books there blew my mind. That being said, this is not the work of a dilettante. He lays out his arguments carefully and with impressive work in extremely primary sources. I've read some shocking reviews on this page and I'd just like to say, why is everybody so threatened by the fact that the origins of European civilization might not have been what we thought? The result is still there, with all its virtues and vices. You certainly don't have to subscribe to Afrocentrism (as I don't) to admit that there may have been considerable African influence on the development of European culture (vice versa has, of course, been readily admitted throughout the centuries--why shouldn't it be a two-way street?). Works like Poe's (even if I don't buy all his arguments) keep the field of ancient history fresh and alive and constantly remind us that we usually don't get the whole truth, especially when events are thousands of years gone.
on October 24, 1998
With the recent revelation that Nubia, an unarguably black country, was probably the first true African civilization and that this area north of Egypt contained more pyramids than Egypt itself, Poe joins a growing chorus of dispassionate and objective historians that have no agenda but the truth. Funerary and other significant objects from ancient Nubia predates Egypt by more than 3,000 years. This black culture was more likely than not, the source of Egypt's civilization. A black spark indeed.
on August 10, 2000
This subject is very interesting. It has a lot of fascinating details and it is hard to put down. It is a challenge to people who either agree or disagree with the evidence. I am encouraged to read as much about Ancient Egypt that I can fit into my schedule.
I believe that it is more important to focus on understanding the people who first developed the civilization so we obtain insight into why the culture and religious customs arose the way they did. Ancient Egypt is so different from other ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia and that makes it fascinating. This alone should be enough to unite people. However, we do have to recognize that in the past many false things were said about Egypt beginning with the rise in power of the European countries. I am not sure the Europeans said anything good about anyone that they conquered. This may be why many people feel the need to correct the mistakes of the past and why ethnicity is an issue. The disconnect maybe happening since some old books claim Egypt is white and that many people of African decent object to the fact that many people do not want to recognize any African connection with Egypt. There is no tabula rasa or clean slate with regard to the mistreatment of people or historical information. Everything that was done in the past will affect the future.
I have been to Egypt and with regard to the question of whether the ancient Egyptians were blacks it depends on who you talk to. Apparently, this is a heated topic. People should go to Aswan and Luxor (Upper Egypt). One will see people who are much darker than people from the Cairo area. Most Egyptians consider the Nubians who live in this area black. From there to the delta (Lower Egypt) there is a gradual lightening of skin color. There is no abrupt dividing line between black and brown. Asian and European features can be seen more frequently in the northern part of the county. What is interesting is that many Egyptians have relatives in their family tree that have come from all over Egypt including Upper Egypt. I have seen a local Egyptian English paper stating that Egyptians are the result of mixing over centuries with Asian, European, and African cultures. I have had conversations with students from Cairo and they say they know that they have relatives in Upper Egypt but they do not consider themselves black. This can be confusing--they are aware that there is an African element in their make-up but they are not African. Maybe in today's world it is not considered kosher to be black because of the recent past history of slavery? Many of the Egyptians that I met see themselves as Arabs or Southeast Asians and many would speak of their relatives who were Turkish or Greek. But even with all of the other blood the Egyptians have, they are one of the most African looking of the Arabs with the exception of the Sudanese Arabs who are black in color. My experience with Arabs from the Gulf Area, Saudi, Sudan, Egypt, and Morocco has demonstrated that there is no racial definition of what an Arab is. There are even some who look more white or more black within the same family. The definition of an Arab is cultural. This same situation was probably around in the past. This is not really that strange. The people from England look different than the people from Spain but they are European.
I am not too familiar with the out of Africa theory yet but I have started reading "Origins Revisited". Does any one know of any studies of DNA on the remains of mummies?
I think an important area to look into is the religious beliefs of ancient Egypt and the religious beliefs of ancient and current Africa. Based upon my limited exposure of having worked in 3 other African countries, I believe this is the area where people should pay attention. Because whether or not the ancient Egyptians were 100% black--which I do not think they were--their religious beliefs and culture appear to be closer to Africa than Mesopotamia or Greece. Also, let's look into the connection with ancient Nubia or Kush. Was their religion similar? These are some areas that I would like to read on.
I encourage people to go to the edge of their paradigm because with the new information being presented (along with the old information that the Greeks presented) there is a paradigm shift taking place. The old information does not offer any new ideas that help to understand the issues. If you have a hard time understanding or accepting the new information that is normal--you are still in the old paradigm that was taught recently to everyone. Avoid paradigm paralysis and practice flexibility. Be open to new ideas. You do not have to agree with them but have the courage to read them. These are a few thoughts that I have after reading the book and the comments. Finally I suggest people to go to Egypt--visit the museum, go to the Valley of Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Aswan, and Luxor talk to Egyptians and Nubians and decide for yourself what the excitement is all about.
on December 4, 2000
The book predominantly deals with mainly the role (in European civilization) and identity of ancient Egypt (Kemet). Few points to make: 1. The book does challenge a lot of conventions in history. I do not have a problem with conventions, as long as they can stand the test of logic and evidence. The book, shows that many of the conventions in history - did Egyptians civilize Europe, who were the Egyptians, etc - are based on (very) shacky grounds. As with most challenges to conventions, people are VERY resistant and quick to dismiss them as "nonsense", while all that is need is an open mind approach. 2. It seems so very easy to counter many of the Egyptologists views, conventions and version of history. The book adduces a LOT of evidence in the form of ancient testimonies, aercheology, laborotary research, etc, to analyse BOTH sides of the arguments. Unfortunately and Fortunately, most of the evidence tends to lean on the favour of Afrocentrics and the reason why it is so, according to the book, is because of racial attitudes, scholarly partriotism and double standards infliltrating scholarly work. 3. The book, although classified as history, has most of the elements of a thriller. It suspends the reader becasue of its approach towards the issues (does not give answers from the onset and easy ones), which makes it one of the best readings I have had so far. 4. In all fairness, it is likely tol offend many people, especially those who may believe in racial superiority, now and since (against other races and within themselves as a race: eg the "true Aryan" attitude), yet it will also be most informative to many people out there seeking part reasons for the evolution of racism - it is not only about the identity of Egypt and their role in civilizing Europe). The book does call a spade-a-spade and supports this with hard and very difficult evidence to refute! 5. Some points, like the connection between Knights Templars, Freemansory and Egypt, have long been made by other writers (Hiram Key), while many points are fascinating. 6. The book left me with a better understanding of ancient Egypt, its role, and identity, simply because it is NOT written by a person of particular inclinations and stereotypes, but a neutral person! it is WELL WRITTEN. Pitty many people will give it a one star becasue it is written in the era of dominant Afrocentric writing and may reveal things some people wouldn't like to be discussed in the "open". Do not judge it by the number of stars, but by its content and arguments.
on April 29, 1999
Black Spark White Fire is a book that'll keep your attention. I consider myself an Africentrist, but even more, I am a realist. Poe's book is very easily read. You'll find yourself wondering how you finished it so fast. This book hints at being Africentric, but Poe leaves it up to the reader to decide for him/herself whether or not the Egyptians should be considered black or white, and whether or not the ancient Greeks owe a substantial debt to the ancient Egyptians. History today, especially in regards to ancient Egypt, Greece, and their relationships with Africa and Europe, has to be written from a scientific perspective. This is where my problem with Black Spark.... lies. Poe refers to scholars such as Cheikh Anta Diop, but does them injustice by not dealing with their works as extensively as he does Martin Bernal's Black Athena, somewhat blowing them off as if they were speaking from emotion rather than facts. He does show how Bernal saw many similarities between the Egyptian and Greek languages. However, C.A. Diop and Theophile Obenga dealt even more extensively with not only this, but the relationship between Egyptian and other African languages. Also omitted was mention of the "Symposium of the Peopling of Ancient and the Deciphering of the Meroitic Script", where Diop and Obenga silenced various Egyptologists showing that the ancient Egyptians were African every bit as much as the Ethiopians, Ashantis, Zulus, etc. Poe is, in my humble opinion, a very notable writer. It was difficult to put the book down until I ran out of pages to read. The evidence he presents is very compelling. It is definitely a contribution to setting the record straight that racism has so shamefully distorted.
on March 21, 2006
First, it is important to recognize that the author of this book is not only a person of European descent, but that his wife is Greek. THis provides ethos for his position for the simple fact that he holds little reason for bias in affirming that the Ancient Egyptians were "black". This does not mean that blacks are biased, but that in this particular instance, Poe is an example of someone with "nothing to gain" ethnically.
Secondly, it is important to be able to define what the author means by "black". First of all, he asserts that race itself is a man-made concept and that the line between ethnic clusters is blurred--however, the existence of ethnic clusters based on regionality,origin, and phenotype do exist and have become the basis for racial distinction. It is based on this definition of race, that the author claims that the Ancient Egyptians existed well within the cluster of people who are presently identified as "black". And it is based on this definition that Europeans in England can lay claim to Greek cultural heritage, just as an African in Mali can lay claim to Egyptian cultural heritage.
Thirdly, the fact that Richard Poe is not a member of the historical board in academia doesn't mean he is not able to be just as well informed in the subject. Poe made it clear that his position was an advantage, because, he was not force to write a history in favor of what conservative academia allowed him.
on March 30, 2014
Look up Cheikh Anta Diop...he has tested ancient Egyptian mummies' melanin levels! They rated very high, debunking the theory of a White Egypt. White Egypt was a total lie and myth created during the time of colonialism and the slave trade in order to justify the maltreatment of Africans, as well as to dehumanize them so they could receive support for the disgusting atrocities they inflicted on African people. Ancient Egypt was indeed an African civilization without the shadow of a doubt. Look up UNESCO convention in 1974. Diop and his colleague Obenga blew those racist scholars out the water with a surplus of evidence proving a Black ancient Egypt. Even the Greek scholars said they were Black skinned, thick lipped and kinky haired, such as Herodotus. White people just cannot simply come to the terms that they were barbarians, shrouded in illiteracy and disease before Africans came along and civilized them. I guess it may be embarrassing to them that African scholars taught them how to read, write, mathematics, music, art and also established many universities, bathhouses, and libraries. They needed the bathhouses because europeans thought taking a bath was a moral sin in the dark ages. Fact of the matter, Africans sailed the atlantic and reached the Americas thousands of years before any European set foot there, and they also civilized them twice. Once from the Kemetic people (Egyptians) to the Greeks, Second from the Moors to the Europeans. The Greeks passed what they learned from the African Egyptians to the Romans. After the Roman Empire fell, Europe fell into illiteracy and darkness. The Africans had to bring them scholarship once again. Let me also mention that Africans were the first people on the planet, as as they traveled they occupied other regions of the world. Therefor all people are descendants of Africans. The Ethiopians founded the advanced cultures of the ancient world, The Dravidians, The Sumerians, as well as the Minoans, all of which were advanced civilizations and have cultural affinities to Ethiopia.
Not only that but DNA testing was conducted on modern day Egyptians, and after intermixing with several foreign invaders 50% fell under the B group, the same as West Africans.
on November 29, 1999
This book is quite a work of art. Poe uses his journalistic ability to create a concise introduction to the afrocentric ideal. Before I go any further however, allow me to preface my relationship with the work. I am a senior at the same high school Mr. Poe attended slightly more than 20 years ago. We share the same Latin teacher who has introduced us to the classical world. The school considers itself a liberal institution (private day). And yet it is mired in racial ignorance and eurocentricism. Only last year was the cry heard that there needed to be a course in African history. And we still have a long way to go. Although this is my last year at the school, I hope that the afrocentric curriculum will continue to expand, and hopefully that the works of Bernal and Poe will enter into the mainstream. To rebutt the assertion that blacks are only good for two things, slave labor and amusement. Someone really needs to research the evolution of the modern slave trade. In the great days of the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, the African continent was regarded as one of the greatest resources for learning and craftsmanship. When the kingdoms of central Africa fell there was still a wealth craftsmanship. The europeans saw this and decided to exploit it. The only reason Africans were enslaved is because the Europeans didn't know how to do the work themselves, they had relied on slave and serf chattle to do their work for them since the era of Greece. This is inconsequential to Poe's thesis however. If it pleases you then simply pretend the Egyptians were, in fact caucasoid. The absolute truth of the matter is that Egypt is in Africa and has provided us with civilization. As far as the rating I gave it, less than perfect, I feel that Poe relies too heavily on the Freemason arguement. Just a feeling. Oh, to all of you bigots thinking that I'm merely acting as a "Black radical," I'm "white". Doesn't matter to me though, race is a construct.
on February 8, 1998
This work reads like a mystery thriller, yet is filled with solid facts that challenge conventional assumptions of African inferiority vis a vis the brilliant achievments of European civilization. Poe forces the reader into a new mode of thinking when he describes the barbarism of ancient Europe and then poses the question, Who Discovered Europe? The reader will find provocative discussions of such questions as was Hercules really a blond character such as portrayed in the TV series; what were the origins of Freemasonry; what was the "curse of Ham" all about; were the Egyptians Black? I recommend this book highly and hope that it is made into a TV series, a project the author is working on.