Yes, and when I say “We”, I mean The Black Conscious community, because I was one who was missing out on a genre of important literature and historical context when I began my journey.
Like many others, I dismissed a lot of “classic” novels as white propaganda to promote their historical achievements in civilization over others as to prove a sense of superiority, and for the most part, it is, it is used in that exact manner. Eventually however, I realized that most of the surviving written histories From 2000 years ago is found between the countries of the Mediterranean and the Far East. Just as Chancellor Williams pointed out in The Destruction of Black Civilizations,
Even with this considered, it does not take away from the significance of the historical context this genre of fiction and non-fiction literature can provide when studying World History, particularly with the social norms and interactions between Africans, Europeans, and Asians. As Chancellor Williams documented in researching his book The Destruction of Black Civilization,
“Certainly I knew from reading all about the ‘rape of Africa…’ the museums in various cities of the European colonial powers are the repository of much African history…Documentary sources: These are available in both Europe and America, reports of colonial administrators in Africa, parliamentary debates, reports and letters from geographers, explorers, captain of slave ships, and especially rewarding, the reports and letters from missionaries….for the earliest records of Ancient Africa and Europe, Greek and Roman sources were the most useful”The Destruction of Black Civilization, Chancellor Williams
This is because, when it comes to ancient history, even though Black people created written language, oral history was, and still is, one of the oldest traditions still practiced in Africa. The surviving ancient written records, we find mainly among those in North and East Africa is scant compared to the abundance of written testimony left behind by Greco-Romans. This does not take away from African History, but it does give insight as to where to find Ancient Africa among ancient records.
But not only does Ancient “classical” literature give us a glimpse of Ancient Africa, it gives the reader an idea of how ancient civilizations were socially, politically, academically, and religiously in comparison to today. Ancient literature also highlights the influences ancient societies have on today. To read this literature, for Black people, is not to glorify ancient Greco-Roman civilization; however, it is to give gain a greater objective outlook on history and the people and events that shaped the world today.
So go ahead, click on the title or the book and grab it off Amazon so you can get you a great read, wider outlook on history, a more informed opinion of Ancient societies, as well as something to discuss.
You’ll probably come off with a greater respect for the hero Odysseus. After warring for 10 years, Dude was able to survive being stranded for 10 more years after losing his crew, encountering cyclops, sirens, and some mo’ ish, all to come home to mo’ problems. This is one of the easier reads out of classics, similar to today’s sword and shield heroic adventures. Great read to begin diving into classical literature.
The Iliad!! Perhaps one of my favorite books among classics. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the great warrior, Achilles. I specifically began reading this book because I wanted to read about the Trojan horse that I saw in the movie Troy. Well, no big Trojan horse scene, but enough war, blood shed, and scandal as today’s Game of Thrones. Not to mention, the various mentions of the African armies, generals, and soldiers are a great treat.
The Histories is perhaps one of the most important books of the classics. This account by Herodotus is one of the essential sources on Ancient African customs, practices, events, and people. But not only does it give accounts of Africa, it has a wealth of information on the Greek and Persian empires and wars. Remember the box office hit, 300, yep, this is the source of the inspiration of that movie. Let’s just say, Leonidas shouldn’t have kicked the dude down that well.
Get into the mind of one of the most famed Caesar’s of Rome. Like a lot of the other books on this list, I was motivated to read it because of the movie I saw years prior, Gladiator. In the movie he is depicted as a conquerer and a fair and honest, wise ruler. From his writings, it was a pretty good depiction with many of his lessons and contemplations able to be applied to everyday life today.
This book right here!!! This book right here, slim! That FIRE!! With this, Plato chronicles the trials of Socrates that leads to his execution in his search for someone who has the greatest wisdom. Who knew that asking questions that compels one to think outside the status quo could lead to social unrest and then your death? Well, we acquired the Socratic method from this tragedy; see what happens when you apply it to your next debate.
When I wanted to learn more about Christian and Catholic history, I wanted to start with one of the most prominent figures within Christianity, St. Augustine. I soon learned he was an African, born in Hippo, in what is today Libya; whether he was Black or of Roman descent is another matter, but what is important to note, is that Africans were a central part in the formation of the Christian church, particularly Catholicism.
Cicero! The philosopher and statesman. This guy right here pretty much lays out the foundation for which a common wealth, or state, should be built upon.
Aristotle, taught by Socrates, this book really dives into the norms of the people. He explores the relationship between the city and man giving issue to subjects such as the natural state of rule, slavery, trade, virtue, and law. This book gets deep into political theory.
Taught by Aristotle, this Socratic Dialogue, The Republic focuses on the order and characteristics of what he believes to be the ideal city-state and citizen. Like many of the other classics mentioned, this work is highly influential to today’s governments and political theory.
Ever wonder how Rome is said to have been started? Well, this is one of the legends, and Virgil gives his tale of Aeneis, the Trojan wanderer and soldier who is selected by the divines to be founder of a great city. I actually read this book to try and read about Romulus and Remus, another Roman origin legend, and found the tale of the Trojan Horse which I thought would be in The Iliad with Achilles.