Time often changes the identities of society — changes what history records. Until the migration of the Boers to South Africa, the nation was wholly made of black people. History tells us that Christianity preceded Islam in Iran, which is today a majority-Muslim country.
In West Africa, too, there is a similar theme. Several records show African nations’ immense wealth, as shown by Mansa Musa’s fortune. These wealthy African societies ceased to exist at the advent of colonialism.
It is extensively documented that African Kingdoms have once had the global dominating influence that the West now boasts. Historical accounts have shown that kingdoms such as Egypt, Aksum, Kush, Axum, Mali, Dahomey, etc were very powerful, dominated global trade, and wielded influence over much of Asia.
Up until the 15th century, African kingdoms were dominant and wielded influence all over the world. Today, that is not the case.
One key area that continues to generate a debate on the impact of history on African societies is the race and skin color of Egyptians. Some scholars argue that Egyptian civilization was predominantly black and African. Another school of thought claims that Egyptian skin color has historically varied among its people between Lower Egypt (black), Upper Egypt (white), and Nubian (mixed).
Recently, scholars have challenged these views. These scholars focus on questioning the race of individuals such as the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, Egyptian Queen Tiye, and Greek Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII.
As historians have reached no consensus — and with the portrayal of Egyptians as Arabic light-skinned by western media such as Hollywood — the debate regarding the original race of Egyptians rages on.
It is against this backdrop that we asked members of the African Vibes Community if they believed Pharaoh Amenemhet III of Egypt was black. In this post, we bring some of the comments and analysis to you, our reader, to draw your conclusion. However, before delving into that, let us give a brief background on Pharaoh Amenemhet III.
Who Was Pharaoh Amenemhet III?
Amenemhat III, also known as Amenemhet III, was the sixth ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom and the sixth pharaoh of ancient Egypt. His father, Senusret III, elevated him to the throne as co-regent, and he shared the throne as active king with him for twenty years. Egypt reached the pinnacle of its cultural and economic development during his reign.
Amenemhat III ruled for at least 45 years, while a papyrus claiming the 46th year most certainly dates from his reign. According to a rock inscription from Semna in Nubia, he established a co-regency with Amenemhat IV near the end of his reign.
Surprising Historical Changes In African Societies
Beginning with UNESCO’s General History of Africa, there has been a coordinated program that seeks to enlighten Africans on the changes that have occurred on the continent over time. Due to history that is largely unwritten, many Africans are unaware of social upheavals that occurred in the past. Some of these changes are:
Wane in Popularity of Queen Regents
As opposed to the case in present-day Africa, past African kingdoms had lots of female monarchs who had absolute power. From the Ashanti Kingdom to the Kongo to Kush, women reigned supreme.
In Kush, particularly, the kingdom grew and grew in influence and affluence, exerting soft power over much of Western Asia, what is today known as the Middle East. Some notable examples of legendary African queens are:
- Tin Hinan of Ahaggar (4th Century, Present-day Algeria)
- From Adhana II (412BC) to Borsa (4254 BC), the Kingdom of Ethiopia was exclusively ruled by women. This period included 20 different Queen regnant.
- Queen Dido, who founded Catharge (814-760 BC, Present-day Tunisia)
- Hude (1746-1752, The Gambia)
- Different generations of Cleopatras, who ruled over Egypt.
See some of the formidable African queens and how they ruled different African kingdoms here. Today, most African traditional kingdoms and conventional governments are dominated by male leaders.
Was Pharaoh Amenemhet III of Egypt black?
Different schools of thought continue to put up compelling evidence that backs up their conviction on the ancient Egyptian race. According to archeological evidence gathered from DNA samples of Egyptian mummies, ancient Egyptians were closely related to the Levant people.
This includes people in the Middle East and Western Asia. Among these mummies, a large number of genetic materials were extracted from people who inhabited central and Northern Egypt.
On the other hand, researchers found that the mixing of Southern Egyptians with sub-Saharan Africans may mean that the black skin color proliferated across Egypt centuries ago. This effectively means that a significant portion of modern Egyptians are descendants of sub-Saharan African ancestors. These conflicting schools of thought have found merit in their arguments.
We asked ourcommunity members thought on the skin color of Pharoah Amenemhet III of Egypt. Was he black? Or did Egyptians have the same brown and Caucasian skin colors that present-day Egyptians possess? Here are some interesting reactions:
Distorted African History: Challenging the Stereotype
There is a generally held sentiment among Africans that one of Africa’s best-kept secrets is its history. Africa has a rich history, but many believe there is ignorance of this heritage. We find that the world sees Africa through the lens of poverty and conflict— a shorthand for Africa.
Hugh Roper captured the westernization of African history when he said: ”In the future, there will be some African history to teach. But at present, there is none, or very little: there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness, like the history of pre-European, pre-Columbian America. And darkness is not a subject for history.”
Still, there is a compendium of historical perspectives by Africans: UNESCO’s General History of Africa. The GHA volumes are currently kept in Paris, the organization’s headquarters. Although until now, there has been very little attempt to integrate it into African curriculums or to bring it to the knowledge of many.
With the planned integration of the eight GHA volumes, the westernization of African history may be diminished. This planned integration must precede a deliberate cultural program by African nations. These programs must aim to get the history of Africa into the minds of Africans.
Hopefully, future generations will have a better idea of their history and see there is much for them to be proud of from their past, a past that provides the foundation for an even greater future.
Do you think African history is excessively westernized? What are your thoughts on the community discussion? Was the Pharoah black? We will like to hear from you. Do leave your thoughts in the comment box below.