If there are puzzles out there that still rattle the minds of historians, scientists, and religious folks, the one about the origin of Black people and skin color, in particular, tops the list.
While scientists believe different skin complexions happened as a result of many years of intricate evolution, historians and religious folks trace skin coloration to complex human history and the Bible.
Elsewhere, ancient Greek mythology explains skin color in the context of the environment and weather.
Well, the PUZZLE over the origin of Black people can be traced way back to a complex history of bondage, persecution, and subjugation!
The situation is made worse by the black color itself, which the ethnocentric conspiracists associate with darkness, suspicion, voodoo, and sin!
Who can deny that in the descendants of the Jews there persists and endures the evil inclination of their ancient ingratitude and lack of understanding, just as in the Negroes [there persists] the inseparable quality of their blackness.
And back to the question, why Black people?
We can definitely trace the stigmatization of the black race in the Bible and scientific bias.
1. The Biblical slavery
First up is the interpretation or misinterpretation of a verse in the Bible which apparently justified the bondage of the black race for centuries. This has continued into the 21st century.
It all started with Noah and his family.
The Bible tells how Noah drunk himself silly in what is known as the ‘Curse of Ham‘.
His three children reacted differently to his drunkenness and nakedness. While Shem and Japheth covered him up and looked the other way, Ham cared less and looked at his father’s nakedness.
When he regained his senses, Noah cursed Ham for his lack of respect. He also proclaimed that Ham’s descendants would be slaves to the descendants of Shem and Japheth.
And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.Genesis 9:25
For whatever reasons, historians and so-called expert opinions chose to associate black people with Ham’s descendants, claiming that this race found its way into the African continent.
The misconception arises from the generalization of Ham’s children, yet Noah’s curse was directed towards Canaan, one of Noah’s children.
Canaan and his descendants are known to have settled in the modern-day Middle East and not Africa.
The others, Cush, Misraim, and Put, settled elsewhere including Africa. Cush is particular, is thought to have been the father of the black people.
2. Natural selection & scientific racism
Science and racism are probably very good bedfellows, and there is no better place to start digging than through Charles Darwin, the English Biologist, naturalist, and geologist.
He championed the principles of natural selection and depicted Africans and the black race as less evolved!
Despite being lauded as a proponent of the abolition of slavery, Darwin, in his book The Descent of Man, also referred to Aboriginals as savages.
He also divided
humanity into distinct races according to differences in skin, eye or hair colour.NCBI
Besides Darwin, a wave of scientific beliefs also arose in the 18th century, to justify slavery.
The scientists claimed,
God had created black people, brown skinned and white people separately, and each of them were different, had different capacities, and there was a hierarchy.National Geographic
So, what is the origin of Black people anyway?
Of course, there is a long list of conspiracy theories and expert opinions regarding how the black race came to be.
The environmental theories in ancient Greek claim that the skin color of the people changed depending on where they lived.
Those that lived in the northernmost regions of the earth became light-skinned because of exposure to mild sunshine, and those near the Equator had dark skin because of extensive exposure to sunlight!
Elsewhere, another Greek mythology claimed that Phaeton, the son of Helios brought the sun chariot too close to Ethiopians, thereby turning their skin color to black!
While at it, we can also safely presume the initial inhabitants of the earth in the Bible were largely dark brown to olive skin color tones, owing to Middle Eastern origin. The white and black complexions somehow evolved from this.
1. The Origin of Black people through Ham & Cush
The first probable glimpse into the life of black people goes back to the days of Ham and his children.
The Bible lists his 4 sons as fathers to many other children. They included Cush, Misraim (Egypt), Put, and Canaan.
- Cush reportedly settled in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa
- Misraim and his descendants settled in Egypt
- Put‘s descendants were mercenaries and probably settled in Libya
- Canaan and Canaanites settled in the Middle East
The Cushites descended from Cush (Meaning black) who became hunters as exemplified by Nimrod.
By several accounts, it is through Cush that the black people probably descended.
2. The origin of Africans at the Tower of Babel!
The second time the origin of Africans is referenced in the Bible dates way back to the Babylonians in Mesopotamia.
According to the book of Genesis, the Babylonians were proud and disrespectful to God and His purpose in their life. They decided to come together to build a Ziggurat tower that would reach the heavens.
The tower would become popularly known as the Tower of Babel.
But God personally intervened and altered their plans when he made them speak multiple languages. This caused confusion in their midst and forced them to abandon the tower project.
They clustered in groups that spoke the same language and scattered to different parts of the world.
While some groups remained in Mesopotamia and the Middle East, others went to Europe and Africa. The earth became populated with varieties of languages, people, and ethnicity.
The group that traveled to Africa was purportedly black or evolved into Black people.
3. Jewish and Arabic tales!
For the most part, some or sizeable Jewish and Arabic writings from ancient history believe the black color originated from Ham’s Curse – albeit with a twist.
A Jewish Muslim known as Ka’b al-Ahbar claimed that descendants of Ham gave birth to black children following his curse. Once the children multiplied, they opted to settle in sub-Saharan Africa and India.
Ham’s descendants were categorized as follows:
- Negroes (zanj)
- Nubians (nuba)
- Barbars (brb)
- Indians (hind)
- Other tribes in Sudan
Another popular belief was scripted by the then Arab expert Wahb ibn Munabbih. He claimed that Ham’s color changed to black the moment the curse was proclaimed on him.
His known descendants were Kush, Canaan, and Fut.
Kush and Canaan’s descendants included,
- The people of Sudan
Fut descendants included the Indians.
Ancient Muslim sources, in general, erroneously listed that Kush as Canaan’s son and not brother!
4. The ‘Out of Africa‘ conspiracy theory
The ‘Out of Africa’ conspiracy is a popular evolutionary hypothesis about human origin, and therefore the origin of black people.
It is built around the historical and scientific belief that Homo sapiens were the first superior beings to dwell on Earth. These lived in Africa, and from here spread out to the rest of the world.
Apparently, this happened somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.
The Homosapiens became the final ancestors to modern-day humans while the Homo erectus and Neanderthals went extinct due to natural selection and other reasons.
The origin of the black-skinned man presents so many questions, yet so little in answers.
You may say it is ironic that the modern-day generation of scientists has failed society by not solving this age-long puzzle.
But again, maybe they are not very sure and are wondering if the Bible concept is probably more viable.
Who knows? Maybe, Jesus alone will give the right answer when he sets foot on the Mount of Olives upon his return to earth!