Thursday, February 15, 2007

Drusilla Dunjee Houston (1876-1941): Woman Historian, Journalist Wrote Prolifically on Ancient Kush and Ethiopia

Drusilla Dunjee Houston: 1876 - 1941

"When manhood is shackled into its place
Nature oft forces a courageous race
Of women, who with heroic spirit,
Stamp within unborn children the merit
Denied their fathers. For what man's disdain
Keeps from one generation, the next will gain."
From "Uncrowned Queen," Black Dispatch

Biography / Criticism

Drusilla Dunjee Houston was a multi-talented black American woman writer of the 19th and early 20th century. While her only known published work is Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire, she was truly a prolific writer. In addition to this book, she wrote many others, several of which may be lost. Nonetheless, she was probably the only woman or man who wrote a multi-volume history of the ancient Cushites of Ethiopia. Some of her other works that were never published include Origin of Civilization, Origin of Aryans, Astounding Last African Empires, and a number of other volumes which she called the "Wonderful Ethiopians Series."

Although history was her first love, Houston was also a prolific journalist writing editorials for the Oklahoma Black Dispatch, a small press owned by her brother, for at least three decades.

While both her name and that of her book fell into literary obscurity, Houston was a prolific writer throughout her life. She was a newspaper journalist, poet, accomplished musician, playwright, educator, community activist and most of all, an historian. Houston also found time to work on building Christian schools for women and girls in Oklahoma, building libraries, managing her own family, and extensively involving herself with many volunteer organizations of the day.

Houston made an outstanding contribution to education, particularly in building Christian churches. Although she is rarely if ever mentioned in the history of public education in Oklahoma, Houston began two schools: the first in McAlester, Oklahoma shortly after she was married, and later the Oklahoma Training Schools for Girls in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. The Training School was started in January 1917.

Houston's writing also includes the work she accomplished while serving as Contributing Editor to the Oklahoma Black Dispatch. Over the course of three decades, Houston contributed thousands of articles on every aspect of black life in America. Still, she remained obscure and forgotten.

Drisilla Dunjee Houston spent a lifetime writing and teaching about the ancient history of Africans, including this same information in the curriculum of her schools. She was indeed an extraordinary woman of her time. This contribution to this site is designed to rescue her legacy and to place her squarely in black American historical and literary traditions.

Selected Bibliography
Works by the Author

Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empires
Origin of Civilization
Origin of Aryans
Astounding Last African Empires
Cushites in Western Europe
Cushites in Ancient America
The American Mob

Works about the Author

As of yet, there are no works that have been published about Drusilla Dunjee Houston. However, Dr. Peggy Brooks-Bertram, who researched and submitted this page, has completed and submitted for publication a book about Houston's work, Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empires. The purpose of Dr. Brooks-Bertram's work is to complete Houston's book, which lacked a bibliography, index, photographs, and maps. The tentative title of Dr. Brooks-Bertram's work is Rescuing Drusilla: the Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire.

This page was researched and submitted by Dr. Peggy Ann Brooks-Bertram on 12/9/99.

African American History in the West Vignette:
Drusilla Dunjee Houston (1876-1941)

The self-trained historian and journalist Drusilla Dunjee Houston was born in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in 1876. Her parents were Rev. John William and Lydia Taylor Dunjee.

Drusilla’s younger brother Roscoe was a journalist and Civil Rights activist in Oklahoma City. In 1915 he founded the black newspaper the Black Dispatch, and immediately Drusilla became a contributing editor and dedicated columns to the racial uplift of African Americans. Houston became the quintessential race woman during the time she lived.

Influenced by DuBois’ The Negro (1915), which discredited white racist scholarship that Africans had no history, Houston without the help of research assistants, philanthropic funding, or access to many research repositories because of institution racism set out to write a three volume study on the influence of ancient Cushites in the Nile Valley, India, Europe, and America. In fact, after the publishing of her now classic Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire (1926) she wrote DuBois a letter in 1926 thanking him for inspiring her and informed him that she was not trying “reach the white race.”

Her book was dedicated to people of African descent and she wanted to debunk the racist notions of the “Klan and all race haters.” Although dated today, Houston landmark scholarship in 1926 helped establish the undeniable fact that Black Africans influenced civilizations in the ancient world.

Sources: Drusilla Dunjee Houston, “Wondrous History of the Negro” Louisiana Weekly, September 15, 1938). Drusilla Dunjee Houston, Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire (Black Classic Press 1985 reprint from 1926 edition).

Thabiti Asukile
University of California, Berkeley

Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire

by Drusilla Dunjee Houston
[1926, no renewal]

This is a pioneering, long-lost, work of Afrocentric history. Drusilla Dunjee Houston, (1876-1941) was a teacher, journalist and self-taught historian. Inspired by W.E.B. DuBois' The Negro, Houston undertook a life-long quest to discover African history from an African-American perspective.

Today it is clear that conventional historians' fixation on 'Dead White Men' misses huge parts of the historical picture. Africa had several advanced civilizations in antiquity which flourished at the same time as the better known European and Asian ones. However, at the time that Houston wrote, history was viewed through a Eurocentric perspective and any mention of advanced African cultures was considered on a par with Atlantis.

Houston believed the Cushite civilization to be the motherland of humanity. The Cushite civilization did exist, although it was not as ancient as Egypt, and certainly not the origin of all culture. Nevertheless, the Cushites were the earliest known Black African civilization. Reaching its peak between 1750 and 1500 B.C.E., and lasting until the fourth century C.E., the Cushite empire occupied what is now the Sudan, with its capital at Meroe on the Nile.

At their high point, Cushites even conquered and ruled ancient Egypt from 750-650 B.C.E. Because of their geographical isolation, they had nowhere near the impact on other parts of the world that Houston attributed them. The Cushites were heavily influenced by the older Egypt culture, rather than the other way around. They left behind fields of hundreds of small steep-angled burial pyramids, the design of which was borrowed from Egypt and scaled down.

Houston wrote three volumes, of which only this one, the first, known as Wonderful Ethiopians, was published. She had no staff, and no formal training in academic procedures.

Living in Oklahoma, her access to specialized libraries was limited. One can only wonder what she would have made of Google. Although Houston identifies many of her sources in the body of the text, there are few footnotes or other apparatus that such a bold theory would require for consideration.

The writing is vigorous and popularized, which also makes it a difficult sell for historians. The received text of this book could have used a bit of proofing and editing (refer to errata), but given the circumstances under which it was published, this is understandable. The compelling part of this book is that it exists at all.

While we debate her theories, one historical fact is fairly clear: Houston left her own mark as a pioneering advocate of the study of Black History.

--John Bruno Hare, October 4th, 2004

Some Geneological Background on Drusilla Dunjee Houston

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John William Dunjee (also John Dungy or John Dungee) (1833 - 1903) was a prominent African American missionary, educator, Baptist minister, founder of many Baptist churches across the United States, and alleged illegitimate son of President Tyler.

John William Dungy was born as a slave in New Kent County/Charles City County, Virginia in 1833 to the Terrell family. His family asserted that President John Tyler was his father and Dungy's mother was a slave.

Eventually Dungy was hired out to former Virginia governor, John Munford Gregory. While working for Gregory in the winter of 1859, Dungy started his escape to Canada through the Underground railroad with the help of William Still and others.

Dungy reached Canada by 1860 and returned to the United States at the conclusion of the Civil War. From 1866 to 1868 John Dungy studied at Bates College (also known as the Maine State Seminary) in Lewiston, Maine where he lived and studied with several other former slaves. Dungy then studied at Oberlin College in Ohio where he changed his name to "Dunjee." He next became a minister with the Baptist Home Missionary Society.

He traveled throughout the country from New England to the the South to the Midwest preaching and starting new Baptist churches for African Americans in mainly rural areas.

Dunjee also played a particularly prominent role in supporting Storer College, a Freewill Baptist College for African Americans in West Virginia, as well as many other institutions such as Spelman College, Shaw College, Hampton College, and Langston University.

Dunjee's friends included such well-known figures as Frederick Douglass. Additionally, Dunjee founded the Harper's Ferry Messenger.

His children Drusilla Dunjee Houston, a historian, and Roscoe Dunjee later contributed to the Messenger and were editors of the Black Dispatch in Oklahoma. John Dunjee died in Oklahoma City in 1903.


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Unknown said...

Greetings Dear Reader

I hope you're well

Here is a tribute, which includes Drusilla Houston....

Respectfully, Natty Mark Samuels
African School