Dr. Ivan Van Sertima was born January 26, 1935 in Karina Village, Guyana, South America. At the time of his birth Guyana was a British colony this made him a citizen of Britain which he maintained throughout his life. He spent his early educational years learning at schools in Guyana. After completing his primary and secondary education he began attending the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London in 1959. As a young student Dr. Van Sertima developed a love for writing by writing poetry. Those writing skills would help him as he studied creative writing in college. In 1969 Dr. Van Sertima would earn an undergraduate degree with honors in African Languages and Literature from the University of London.
Between 1957and 1959 he learned to speak Swahili and Hungarian. He also worked as a Press and Broadcasting Officer with the Guyana Information Services. Dr. Van Sertima would later become a Broadcast Journalist in London during the 1960’s, broadcasting to Africa and the Caribbean. He also completed and published a dictionary of Swahili legal terms in 1967. Dr. Van Sertima immigrated to the United States in 1970 and enrolled into the University of Rutgers to complete his graduate studies. While completing his graduate studies Dr. Van Sertima published his book They Came Before Columbus in 1976. This book gives information about the African origins of ancient American culture. In 1977 he earned his master’s degree from Rutgers University. He also became an associate professor of African Studies.
In 1979 he founded the Journal of African Civilizations which he managed to maintain for at least a decade. Dr. Van Sertima published his article “The Lost Sciences of Africa: An Overview” in 1983 which discussed early evidence of high culture and civilization in ancient Africa. In 1999 he published his essay for the volume African Renaissance covering the scientific contributions of Africa. July of 1987 Dr. Van Sertima testified before a United States Congressional committee opposing Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America. As Dr. Van Sertima’s popularity grew so did his critics. During the late 1990’s he as openly criticized by academics and researchers who disagreed with his information.
They discredited his book and his work clamming he promoted false information. Clarence Weiant an assistant archeologist wrote a letter to the New York Times in support of Dr. Van Sertima’s work. In 1981 his book They Came Before Columbus earned the Clarence L. Holte Literary Prize. In 2004 Dr. Van Sertima was inducted into the Rutgers African-American Alumni Hall of Fame. In 2009 at the age of 79 Dr. Van Sertima died but he will always live through his rich legacy.
He used his time and resources to educate the African world about their rich history in the Americas. He wanted black people to know that their history in this hemisphere started thousands of years before Columbus was born. He wanted people to know that according to his findings the first Native Americans were African people; he understood the value of knowledge of self. Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, we stand on your shoulders.
J. A. Ward.
click below to view the Ivan Van Sertima video
Click Here to join our mailing list