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African AthenaNew Agendas$
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Daniel Orrells, Gurminder K. Bhambra, and Tessa Roynon

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199595006

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595006.001.0001

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Black Athena before Black Athena

Black Athena before Black Athena

The Teaching of Greek and Latin at Black Colleges and Universities during the Nineteenth Century

(p.90) 5 Black Athena before Black Athena
African Athena

Kenneth W. Goings

Eugene O'Connor

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the teaching of the classics at Black colleges and universities (BCUs) from their founding immediately after the US Civil War to the early twentieth century. It looks at this development against the backdrop of emerging colonialist, imperialistic and racial attitudes in both Europe and America, in contradistinction to the ‘Africanist’ argument that African Americans at BCUs were making to legitimate their study of the classics as a manifestation of racial pride and self‐empowerment. This argument centered on the link made by African Americans between Egypt, and more broadly North Africa, and the classical world. This chapter concludes with a consideration of President Barack Obama's use of classical symbolism in his acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 in light of long‐standing racial assumptions about African Americans and the classics.

Keywords:   classics, black colleges and universities, Barack Obama, Africanist, colonialism, racism

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