Archived Interview from February 21, 1992;
Scholar Ivan Van Sertima, who theorizes that Africans came to the Americas before Columbus, discovered Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.
Van Sertima was given a reception by a standing-room-only crowd at the Mizell Library on Sistrunk Boulevard. And as he spoke about ancient African sophistication and accomplishments, he drew applause with almost every anecdote.
In an interview before the reception, Van Sertima, who was born in Guyana, said evidence shows that Africans were in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America long before 1492.
The evidence includes accounts by explorers, similarity of language and words, oceanographic proof that currents running from Africa to the Americas can pull a vessel across the Atlantic in less than a year, African plants in the Americas and American plants in Africa, and art in Mexico and Central and South America that depicts Africans.
“I was not the first one to say there were Africans in the Caribbean before Columbus,“ Van Sertima said. “Columbus was the first one to say it in his journal of the second voyage.“
Columbus reported that the natives of Hispaniola — today`s Haiti and Dominican Republic — told of black-skinned people from south and southeast Hispaniola who traded gold-tipped metal spears.
Other explorers, including Balboa, reported sighting blacks off Panama.
The names of the dark-skinned people in the Caribbean were similar to those of the Mandingo clan in West Africa, Van Sertima said. For example, explorers said one group in the Caribbean was called Jarras, similar to the African word Darras.
Corn and cotton — indigenous to the Americas — were growing in Africa before Columbus made his journey, evidence that there was trade between the continents, Van Sertima said,
And skeletons of black people were found in pre-Columbus graves in the Virgin Islands, he said.
His theories are put forth in his best-known and controversial book, They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America.
Van Sertima, professor of African studies at Rutgers University, will lecture about his research today at both Broward Community College and Florida Atlantic University.
His topic will be “The African Presence in Ancient America“ at BCC`s Davie campus at 11 a.m., and he will be the featured speaker at the “Africa and the Diaspora“ program scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. at FAU in Boca Raton.