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 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.