Drusilla Dunjee Houston (1876-1941), historian and journalist from the 'golden age' of the African-American press. She wrote extensively on ancient African civilizations and their impact on world historical developments.
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THE ORIGIN OF CIVILIZATION
The minds of men today are stirred with eager questionings about the origin of civilization and about the part the different races of mankind played in its development from primitive. ages. The remains that archaeologists are uncovering in Egypt, old Babylonia, and South America, reveal that there were significant factors in the first development of the arts and sciences that history has failed to make clear.
Scientists are busy today studying the types of those old civilizations and comparing them with those of the present. Our modern systems do not function for the masses to give them development and happiness as did some of the ancient cultures. Books upon the early life of man are very hard to secure. Few have been written that are authentic, because it requires technical skill to assemble and condense such matter.
Exhaustive research work is necessary to secure this kind of information, with only a line here and there in modern books to help the reader to reach definite conclusions. Only the trained mind holds the multitude of details and possesses the ability to impartially weigh and classify the facts, that prove the influence of the races upon the civilization of today.
The quest for the innumerable and startling facts of the succeeding volumes arose, much as did the motive of Schliemann to seek the buried ruins of Troy, from the oft repeated expression found by the author in research work, that "what the ancients said about the Ethiopians was fabulous." Curiosity was aroused to go back over the story of the ancients to agree or draw new conclusions.
The finds were so astonishing that the vow was made to spend upon this study many years if necessary. Like the "Quest of the Holy Grail" the aim became sacred, for the trail led backward into the heart of all that the world holds most precious and to the primal roots from which all culture sprang.
At first the reading of an afternoon in the average public library would hardly reveal a line to the credit of the Ethiopian. Sometimes a ten volume set of modern books might yield only a few paragraphs; but the vow and the richness of the finds, gleaming like diamonds, led the eager searcher on. The trail was followed into the dry dusty books of the ancients, where the path widened and truth was revealed that will answer some of the baffling problems of civilization today. Here were missing links of the chain of culture vainly sought for elsewhere.
Our story will deal with the ancient Cushite empire of Ethiopians, that covered three continents and held unbroken sway for three thousand years. We will visit old Ethiopia, where as Herodotus said, "the gods delighted to banquet with the pious inhabitants." We will study the land and the ancient race. The "Old Race," will next win our attention, that Petrie found in Egypt of distinct and unique culture, who were the people of the earlier and superior civilization of the first dynasties.
Down through this prehistoric vista we see "Happy Araby" with her brilliant primitive culture and her unrivalled literature of later days. On the screen flashes the rich and surpassing culture of old Chaldea, which belonged to the ancient Cushite empire of Ethiopians. Next comes veiled and mysterious India, the scene of charming story and magic fable, with her subtle mysticism and philosophy.
Tarrying a while with the conquest and life of the ancient Medes and Persians, the trail runs far afield into the dominions of Western Europe and the striking questions array themselves demanding to be answered. Who were the Celts? Who were the Teutons? and what was the origin of the so-called Aryan race? The author was as much astounded as will be the reader, as to what this study reveals. It leaves us wondering if there is any Aryan race.
We learn in the study of the races of Western Europe, to understand the hatreds of Europe that underlaid the world war. We learn that when the Celt and Teuton call the Ethiopians of the new world "Uncle" and "Auntie," they are using titles that are scientifically true. Our story passes on to another remnant of the ancient Cushite empire, that baffling race, the Iberians, now represented by the Basques; then to the Berbers of North Africa, another branch of the Cushite race.
Some scientists have called them the descendents of the "People of Atlantis." Next succeed the singular facts about the life of the mysterious Etruscans of old Italy who were the teachers of the Romans; then we follow the life and tragedy of the fleeting Pelasgians, who were the fountain out of which later Greek culture welled. They were the people of the legends of Greek mythology.
It is almost impossible to find anything but scanty fragments in the world's literature about any of these people of pre-historic days, but our text has compiled these fragments, so many of them, as to form fascinating chapters. Today all of these subjects remain unexplained mysteries in the average book. We dwell for a while on the marvels of the lost civilization of the Ægean and stop to study the Greece of Homer and the meaning of the Greek legends. All having direct relation to the ancient Cushites.
Historic Greece in all her glory, but viewed from new angles, passes before us with the older and superior civilization of Asia Minor, which has been almost entirely overlooked in modern literature. Next we come to the fact that the Phoenicians called themselves Ethiopians and that the Hebrew writers gave them the same name; then we reflect upon the strange relationship of the family of Cushite tongues to the so-called Indo-European group of languages. The trail leads us high up to where we get a breathless view of the astounding Ethiopian religion, which gives us the answer to many strange and incomprehensible traits in the Ethiopian of today.
Next follows the chapter on the "Wonderful Ethiopians," who produced fadeless colors that have held their hues for thousands of years, who drilled through solid rock and were masters of many other lost arts and who many scientists believe must have understood electricity, who made metal figures that could move and speak and may have invented flying machines, for the "flying horse Pegasus" and the "ram of the golden fleece" may not have been mere fairy tales.
Next out of the forgotten wastes of the dark continent rise before us ancient African empires, representing other civilizations of the time of the Cretan age. Then across the screen comes flashing the "Ancient Cushite Trade Routes," which contrary to our notion were the medium by which rich and varied products were interchanged.
In the chapter on "Ancient Cushite Commerce," we follow the ships of these early, daring and skillful seamen, who before the dawn of history had blazed out the ocean trails that the Phoenicians later followed. We find irrefutable evidence of the presence of these daring conquerors in the primitive legends, religion and institutions of America. Next out of the dim haze of far antiquity, rise the indistinct lines of "Atlantis of Old," the race that gave civilization to the world, the race that tamed the animals and gave us domestication of plants. The gods of the ancient world were the kings and queens of mystic "Atlantis."
The chapter the "Gods of Old" makes plain that the deities of Greece and Rome were also the kings and queens of the ancient Cushite empire of the Ethiopians, which was either the successor of the most famous branch of the Atlantic race. It was about these princes and heroes that all the wonderful mythology of the ancients was woven.
They were the deities that were worshipped in India, Chaldea, Egypt, and in Greece and Rome, which nations themselves must have been related to the race of Atlantis, that tradition said had been overwhelmed by the sea. Atlantis could not have been mythical, for her rulers were the subjects of the art and literature of all the primitive nations until the fall of Paganism long after the birth of Christ.
Another division of Atlantis was trans-Atlantic America. There the mysterious Mound Builders represent the ancient Cushite race. We study the peculiar culture and genius of the fierce Aztec, who acknowledged that he received the germs of civilization from the earlier Cushite inhabitants. We pass southward and examine the higher development of the wonderful Mayas of North America, whose ruins are attracting special study today and we find there transplanted the Cushite arts of the ancient world.
Next flash the pictures of the marvelous culture and arts of the Incas, superior to those of Western Europe in 1492. From America the story turns to the "Bronze and Iron Ages," we seek the origin of the mysterious bronze implements of Western Europe found in the hands of seemingly barbarous people. We seek for the place and the race that could have given the world the art of welding iron.
The trail reveals that the land of the "Golden Fleece" and the garden of the "Golden Apples of Hesperides" were but centers of the ancient race, that as Cushite Ethiopians had extended themselves over the world. These are subjects that have attracted the study of world scholarship. They represent not mere myths but are all that vast ages have left to us of events of primitive race history. "Cushite Art" and "The Heart of the African" answer many questionings of our hearts about Ethiopians.
The series closes with a comparison of ancient culture with modern forms. The intelligence of the Cushite, his original genius is held up beside the decadence of true ideals in the art and literature of the present. The "Revolt of Civilization" and "Dawn of a new World" voice the concern of the thoughtful over the present decay of culture.
We are sending forth this information because so few men today understand the primitive forces that are the root of modern culture. So superficial and prejudiced has been most modern research, that many important and accepted theories of universal history have no actual basis in fact. The average modern historical book contradicts what the ancients said about the nations. that preceeded them. We cannot solve the stupendous problems that the world faces, until we can read aright the riddle of the evolution of the races.
Uninformed men make unsafe leaders. That is the primal cause for so many errors of judgment in state and national councils. We look upon them not as statesmen but as promoters of petty politics, for out of their deliberations spring no alleviation of the woes of the world. It is from this lack of understanding in leadership that the world suffers most today. We could discriminate between the true and false in our civilization, if we knew more about primitive culture. The way by which the first man climbed must ever be the human way.
Racial prejudices are the greatest menace to world progress. Classes clash because the wealth of the world concentrates more and more in the hands of a few. The tragedy of human misery increases, the increase of defectives, the growing artificiality of modern living, compels us to seek and blazen forth the knowledge of the true origin of culture and the fundamental principles that through the ages have been the basis of true progress. Only by this wisdom shall we know how to lift human life today.
In most modern books there seems to be preconcerted understanding to calumniate and disgust the world with abominable pictures of the ruined Ethiopian, ruined by the African slave trade. of four hundred years. There seems to be a world wide conspiracy in literature to conceal the facts that this book unfolds. Because of this suppression of truth, world crimes have been easily made possible against the Ethiopian.
These people are held in low estimation because truth is hidden which proves that today though more favored races are at the apex of human accomplishment; yet in the earlier ages the wheel of destiny carried upward those, who now seem hopelessly under. To wipe away the black stain of the slave trade, modern literature has represented the slave trader as having trafficked in depraved human beings.
Today the lower types of the Aryan race look upon them as creatures only fit for political and economic spoilation, to fill the coffers of the colonial renegade, who could not succeed at home. This type of the world finds it easy to stifle the life of ruined and defenceless races. This spoilation of the weak, returned in a counter stroke from which it was impossible to escape in the world war. Belgium reaped in identical measure and kind, what this type had meted out to the defenceless people of the Congo. Nations must reap what they sow.
This is not the nature or intention of the better men of the civilized nations but we are uninformed about alien peoples. We are narrow and provincial in our views. The hatred of the races springs out of misunderstanding. The men of the world who have traveled, and read, and thought, upon ethnological problems are the men who have the cultivated instincts of human brotherhood. Shall England, France, Germany, America, suffer further because we have not taught the uninformed of the nations that we must pay a still heavier toll for a continued measure of injustice to weaker peoples?
Innocent must suffer with the guilty, for it is in our power to inform and curb the power of the selfish. The question looms large in the minds of thinking men today, whether Ethiopians are worthy of equal opportunity. Let us settle forever out of time's irrefutable evidence, whether if we gave him the chance, the Ethiopian would treat us as we have treated him.
There need be no conjecturing; for the archives of the past hold the facts. The history of the Cushite Ethiopians down through the ages is one of the most thrilling as well as tragic of all time's age old stories. It is almost incredible that its rich treasure for developing our understanding has so long remained veiled.
The Ethiopian is a great race, probably the oldest. It is a race that does not die out under adversity. When other races are sullen, or despairing and turn to self destruction, these people cheerfully press on. When they think the way is blocked they turn aside to pick flowers along the pathway of pleasure. We hear their happy voices in the cotton field, they can be the life of the carnival, their zealous fervor in camp meeting and the swing song of the marching black regiments of the world war and the stevedore regiments in peace, show these people as they employ themselves, patiently waiting for bars to progress to rot down, if nothing else will remove them.
Then again they take up the steady march onward, that has been the wonderful element of their history on down through the ages. We need our eyes opened, this type that we in ignorance despise, built the eternal pyramids of Egypt and laid the foundation of the civilization of the historic ages, Because the slave trade broke the threads of remembrance, they walk among us with bowed heads, themselves ignorant of the facts that this story unfolds.
Lift up your heads, discouraged and downtrodden Ethiopians. Listen to this marvelous story told of your ancestors, who wrought mightily for mankind and built the foundations of civilization true and square in the days of old. Awake ye sleeping Aryans, become aware of the acute need of the world today of this enchained energy and ability. The absence of this power is the cause of many a breakdown in modern, civilization. Out of our own accepted sciences, the chapters of this book, prove the Cushite race to have been the fountainhead of civilization.
If you desire truth, if you desire to be fair minded, to be educated in vital knowledge not possessed by the average college student, if you desire to be an authority upon the life of the ancients, go down with me as archaeology, ethnology, geology and philology disclose; not in a dry and tedious way, but through the unfolding of this the most intensely interesting and startling drama of the ages.
The Cushite race, its institutions, customs, laws and ideals were the foundation upon which our modern culture was laid. Let this not stir the pride of the modern Cushite, but rather inspire him to a greater consecration to the high idealism that made the masteries of olden days.
Knowledge of the primal strength and weaknesses of each world group must be possessed by world leadership or we shall still further go astray. Without this knowledge international councils cannot intelligently assign each race to its rightful place in the consummation of God's plan of the Ages.
Without this truth the nations cannot put over their programs. The world war proved that we have no international stability. The world's securities and diplomatic relations are propped. Because the real history of mankind is not a part of our general knowledge, we are discounting factors most needed to secure world balance. There can be no more needed contribution to civilization, than to gather from the archives of the past and present day science all the truth about the origin of culture. Only thus will we know how to develop better men today.
If we knew just what contribution each race has made to art, science and religion, we would know what would be its fitness to take part in world government and control. Hag the influence of a race been creative or destructive throughout the ages? That should point plainly to the part they would be likely to play today.
Because we are without this knowledge, we cannot read aright the past or present history of civilization. Modern crimes of injustice toward weaker peoples have been made easy by this suppression of truth.
It has been popular and remunerative to write and speak on the side of prejudice. A better spirit is rising in the world. Men are eager for information, for the truth. Through the teaching of sociology, the most popular and crowded classes of our great universities, in a scientific way, man is beginning to see the need of a realization of our common brotherhood and to reach out to solve unmastered problems and unfulfilled duties. Many problems are an international consternation because they are too gigantic for the handling of any one world group.
Civilization was appalled at its helplessness in the world war. The leading nations faced annihilation, yet were unable to walk out of the trap until the flower of European manhood had perished. The noblest offered themselves for sacrifice, the more selfish remained at home. The world may never be capable of calculating its artistic and moral loss. We see the difference in the crime and debauchery breaking down the culture of today. Unless we can rouse men to truth and united effort, there is no hope for our civilization which is tottering and must fall.
In justice to that Divine Leading that piloted this search of a decade over trails, that otherwise might not have been found in a lifetime, in tribute to the pluck and consecration to a purpose--to add to the light of truth, that has gathered such an avalanche of testimony from authoritative sources, we speak of this work which has taken all those spare moments, that are our right to spend in leisure, that a frail unflagging spirit might make possible this marvelous story, as strange as any olden fairy tale; yet by the light of our accepted sciences true.
We lift the veil lightly lest the careless skim over these pages carelessly, little recking what they have cost. Often when limbs and weary brain cried out in protest, the searcher pressed on, seeing fully the power in this truth if patiently, carefully gathered, to lift the men of all races to a clearer comprehension of the contribution of each race to all that we prize in civilization, and to stir within us the determination to lift and bear aloft the "torch" lit in primitive ages by a race today despised and misunderstood.
The average book has its dozen helpers and advisors, this work has been done in hermitage. The hermitage of a life submerged in service. Humbly, reverently, this truth is offered in love to all races. Ten years more may be devoted to its final setting but the facts imbedded in these pages are too important to be longer withheld.
Drusilla Dunjee Houston