They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America

by Ivan Van Sertima

Hardcover, 1976



Call number

E109.A35 V36



Random House (1976), Edition: 1st, 288 pages


They Came Before Columbus reveals a compelling, dramatic, and superbly detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of Africans in ancient America. Examining navigation and shipbuilding; cultural analogies between Native Americans and Africans; the transportation of plants, animals, and textiles between the continents; and the diaries, journals, and oral accounts of the explorers themselves, Ivan Van Sertima builds a pyramid of evidence to support his claim of an African presence in the New World centuries before Columbus. Combining impressive scholarship with a novelist's gift for storytelling, Van Sertima re-creates some of the most powerful scenes of human history- the launching of the great ships of Mali in 1310 (two hundred master boats and two hundred supply boats), the sea expedition of the Mandingo king in 1311, and many others. In They Came Before Columbus, we see clearly the unmistakable face and handprint of black Africans in pre-Columbian America, and their overwhelming impact on the civilizations they encountered.… (more)

Media reviews

“In 1976 Ivan Van Sertima proposed that New World civilizations were strongly influenced by diffusions from Africa. This article shows the proposal to be devoid of any foundation.”

User reviews

LibraryThing member doowatt34
A fine specimen of investgative research, from a scholar who dared to dispute the "columbus discovered america" historical fantasy. Some of the focus of this work is the explorations of the Malian Dynasty of Prince Sundiata, The 25th Dynasty of Kemet under Tirharkas family, the African Pheonesians,
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all of which were seafaring shipbuilders and adventurers and who made their way to America by sailing on the currents which brought them straight to the western hemisphere...while here they left prime specimens of their cultures, that are still to this day larger than life itself and by no means unmistakable. The Olmac civilzation is the catalyst for the Maya, Inca others and its African links are unrefutable. When Columbus visited West Africa, he gained the knowledge of the western hemispheric landmass and the peoples ability to sail, while there. Other examples of authors works that adds to the research are by Jairazbhoy, Bey, Sterling, Loewen, Dunjee, Rashidi...
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LibraryThing member fadeledu
Nice chapter on Mali Empire and Abubakari's naval expedition., but studiously omits any overt references to Islam or Muslims.


Original language


Physical description

9.51 inches


0394402456 / 9780394402451


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