What Pan-Africans Can Learn From The Everlasting Life of Dr Cheikh Anta Diop

Dr Cheikh Anta Diop, the brilliant Black anthropologist, historian, and physicist was one of the great African thinkers of our time.

His discoveries and deductions have shown the world the true accomplishments of African history, effectively put an end to the debate over who the original people of Egypt were, established a ‘two cradle theory of civilization, and pioneered techniques of scientific research such as carbon dating as a means of dating artifacts and remains.

Beyond academia, he shed his blood for the liberation of his home country – Senegal – and for progress towards a United States of Africa.

It is for these reasons we named him one of The 50 Most Important Pan-Africans in History

Who Is Dr Cheikh Anta Diop?

To those who would believe that people of African descent have accomplished nothing, and to those who would believe that Blacks are incapable of higher thought and science, Dr Cheikh Anta Diop stands as a shining example.

Early Education

Dr Cheikh Anta Diop was educated early in life. As part of an aristocratic Muslim family, Cheikh was privileged to have studied at a traditional Islamic school before graduating and achieving a Bachelors degree at age 23. The year was 1946.

Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop in his early daysFollowing his Undergraduate achievement, he moved to Paris where he would stay for 15 years to study Physics (translating Einstein’s Theory of Relativity into the Senegalese language of Wolof), history, and Egyptology. It was here that Dr Cheikh Anta Diop would become a Pan-Africanist.

In 1948, his studies led him to explore the accomplishments of African cultures. He would write, “Quand pourra-t-on parler d’une renaissance africaine” (When we will be able to speak of an African Renaissance).

For the next three years, he immersed himself in the study of anthropology, sociology, and Pan-Africanist thought and philosophy with an eye towards identifying the contributions that Africans made to the world as we know it.

His studies led him to three primary revelations:

  • That Ancient Egypt was founded, populated, and ruled by Black Africans
  • That the Egyptian language and culture still exists in modern African languages – including his own Wolof language –
  • and That Black Egypt was responsible for the rise of civilization throughout Africa and the Mediterranean (including Greece and Rome)

These findings were published in what could be considered Dr Cheikh Anta Diop’s first book – Negro Nations and Culture.

Immediately, he became one of the most controversial scientists in the world during a time when civil rights and African independence were focal points on the world stage.

It was assumed that Blacks had never produced anything of cultural value, and were incapable of constructing such majestic works of engineering as the Great Pyramids.

Diop’s work effectively and irrefutably destroyed the assumptions of Black cultural inferiority. Negro Nations and Cultures – despite the controversy it caused – earned Dr Cheikh Anta Diop a Ph.D. At the University of Paris in 1960.

From Scholar to Activist

Dr. Diop’s studies solidified his political philosophy as well as his academic credentials: he was a full-blown Pan-Africanist.

In 1950, shortly before publishing Negro Nations and Culture, Dr Cheikh Anta Diop was elected as the Secretary-General of the African student nationalist organization Rassemblement Democratique Africaine (RDA).

The all-Black organization made its first priority the restoration of Black consciousness, which had been (and still is) warped by slavery and colonialism.

Immediately after his election as Secretary-General, he organized and successfully hosted the first Pan-African student conference for the purpose of promoting African national independence from colonial rule.

At this conference, Diop would reveal his plan for the restoration of Black Consciousness through a focus on Ancient Egypt.

By acknowledging the civilizing role of Ancient Egypt and adopting its political structure (in the form of a federated state), Africa would be best positioned to deal with the challenges that it faced at the time.

These early ideas would lead to his second major work in 1962: Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State.

In it, he wrote “the formation of a federated and unified Africa, culturally and otherwise,is the only way for Africa to become the power in the world that she should rightfully be.”

Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State served as a manifesto for his political party – the Mass Senegalese Bloc (BMS).

Armed with a faith in Pan-African principles, and Dr. Diop’s manifesto, the BMS won the hearts and minds of so many Senegalese that they became a clear threat to then President Leopold Senghor.

Diop was arrested and tortured to the point of death, and his political party was banned in Senegal.

All his work was nearly lost, and would have been forgotten had it not been for other loyal BMS fighters. Diop supporters unleashed a barrage of anti-Senghor campaign messages, threats, and stand-ins.

Ultimately, President Senghor folded, and offered to not only release Diop, but to offer him a position in a new government. Diop refused when Senghor refused to release all other political prisoners, and disappeared from politics until 1975.

Rather than remaining idle, Dr Cheikh Anta Diop continued his research. He became a pioneer of the scientific method of radiocarbon dating, and established the Institut Fondamental de L’Afrique Noir, which was renamed Cheikh Anta Diop University in his honor after his death on February 7, 1986.

His techniques provided scientific means of identifying the racial identity of mummies (providing proof of the race of the Ancient Egyptians), as well as dating artifacts and remains.

It is thanks to The African Origins of Civilization, Dr Cheikh Anta Diop’s first English translated book, that we in America and other English speakers the world over have become aware of Dr Cheikh Anta Diop’s contributions to Afrocentric thought and science.

The 1974 book openly challenged European archaeologists who then continued to understate the extent and possibility of Black civilizations, and gave further proof of the African influence over so-called western civilization.

The Legacy of Chiekh Anta Diop

Universite Cheikh Anta Aiop De Dakar, Senegal

In 1975 Chiekh Anta Diop died in his sleep of natural causes, and passed into eternity. His cause of death was a heart attack.

His works continue to be studied, debated, and built upon, both at the Dr Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal, and in Black circles around the world.

He is a pharaoh of Black scholarship, and his name should be enshrined with the likes of Imhotep, Ahmed Baba, and George Washington Carver. Activists including Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, Huey P. Newton, and Louis Farrakhan have all directly attributed their evolution as Pan-Africanists to the works of Cheikh Anta Diop.

His university bears the motto “Lux Mea lex”, which is Latin for “Light is my law”.

For more than 50 years the Universite Cheikh Anta Aiop De Dakar has remained a premier institution of higher education and is currently one of the most successful in Africa.

As long as we keep his memory alive, Dr Cheikh Anta Diop will live forever!

Books by Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop In English

Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology
69 Reviews
Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology
If you are planning to read any books by Dr Cheikh Anta Diop, start with this one! He destroys the false beliefs that Egypt was a white civilization, and that Black civilization has failed to contribute to the collective knowledge base of humanity. Must read for all members of the Black Conscious movement!
Towards the African Renaissance: Essays in African Culture and Development, 1946-1960
1 Reviews
Towards the African Renaissance: Essays in African Culture and Development, 1946-1960
A reprint of the first book that Dr. Diop wrote early in his academic career. The assertions made were so powerful that it set off protests and nearly led to the overthrow of the government of Senegal!
The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality
252 Reviews
The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality
  • The African Origin of Civilization Myth or Reality
  • Cheikh Anta Diop
  • Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books
Precolonial Black Africa
66 Reviews
Precolonial Black Africa
  • Cheikh Anta Diop
  • Publisher: Brawtley Press
  • Paperback: 254 pages
Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State
13 Reviews
Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated State
This was the book that made Dr Diop such an important Pan-African. If you are new to the political movement that is Pan-Africanism, this book is required reading. Again, this was the blueprint that served as a manifesto for his political party – the Mass Senegalese Bloc (BMS).

Written by Asad Malik

Asad is the Executive Officer of The Pan-African Alliance, and the Founder of United Black America.

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