The short list of Afrocentric historians and scholars was shortened March 19 with the passing of Dr. Yosef Alfredo Antonio ben-Jochannan.
Respected, beloved and acclaimed throughout the Black community, Dr. Ben died at age 96.
To those familiar with his perspective on Africa and his enlightened teachings about all things Egyptian, he was the acclaimed Egyptologist to fact-check details pertaining to the history of Black people throughout Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Reputedly born Dec. 31, 1918 in Puerto Rico to a mother — Julia Matta — from that Caribbean island and an Ethiopian father – Kriston ben-Jochannon, the scholar claimed birthright in Ethiopia. Reportedly, shortly after his birth, the family moved to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where he grew up.
What has been undisputed is that Dr. Ben was educated in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Cuba and Spain.
After earning a number of degrees in civil engineering, cultural anthropology and Moorish history he immigrated to the United States in the early 1940s.
How he emerged the go-to authority on Egypt, stems from his focus on studies about the Nile Valley, ancient civilizations and their impact on Western cultures. And while he talked with conviction about Cleopatra, the Sphinx, pyramids, and Kemet, he also walked the classical path for decades, guiding hundreds through educational tours to the region.
Annually, Dr. Ben escorted African-Americans, Caribbean nationals and diverse groups of students through excursions that retraced the reign of pharaohs who ruled the ancient land. Leading them through pyramids to examine relics, artifacts and the ancient landscape, his sought-after visits became the conscientious school of accreditation for multitudes.
He was the author of 49 books.
A devout proponent of Black thought dedicated to informing others that “the original Jews were from Ethiopia and were Black Africans,” he often argued that “white Jews later adopted the Jewish faith and its customs.”
For that reasoning, the intellectual was branded controversial.
Although he was responsible for touching the lives of millions of Black people across the world, his accolades were never really recognized by mainstream pundits who often claim a similar title.
In 1945, Dr. Ben was appointed chairman of the African Studies Committee at the headquarters of the newly founded UNESCO, a position from which he reportedly relinquished in 1970. Five years later he began teaching Egyptology at Malcolm King College.
He also taught at City College and from 1976 to 1987 was an adjunct professor at Cornell University.
Harlem was his home and even late in his life, residents often saw him walking through the streets and entering and exiting the Schomburg Library at 135th St.
In 2002, Dr. Ben donated his personal library of more than 35,000 volumes, manuscripts and ancient scrolls to the Nation of Islam.
Some of his most popular books include “African Origins of major Western Religions,” “Black Man of the Nile and His Family,” “We, The Black Jews: Witnesses to the White Jewish Race Myth – Volumes I& II,” “Africa: Mother of Western Civilization” and “The Myth of Exodus and Genesis and the Exclusion of their African Origins.”
He was a co-founder of The Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC), an organization committed to the truthful reporting of African history.
Ironically, at the time of his death members of the organization were convening the 32nd annual Ancient Kemetic Studies Conference.
From the Seattle, Washington meeting place, council director, Professor Leonard Jeffries, said the group remains committed to its mission of providing “a body of knowledge that continuously contributes to the rescue, reconstruction, and restoration of African History.”
“Our people are now safeguarded (in) the after-life by Dr. Ben, Dr. (John Henrik) Clarke, Dr. (Cheikh Anta) Diop, Minister Malcolm X, Elijah (Muhammad), The Honorable Marcus Garvey … and many more of our greats,” he added.
The eight-member council of elders is convinced Dr. Ben fulfilled a dutiful purpose to Africa and Africans throughout the world.
Although no official announcement has been made about his final rite of passage, it is likely Abyssinian Baptist Church will be the venue to memorialize the scholar.
According to Wikipedia, the central Harlem house of worship founded in 1809 is named after Ethiopia. Now a landmark Harlem location, at its founding it was the third oldest Baptist church in America.
Catch you on the Inside!