I remember when I first began to question the established version of Black history as a young teen.
It was just one of those odd tidbits of information that you pick up along the way and usually it doesn't go any further. This wasn't the case with me in this instance because I found it forced me to completely rethink everything I have ever been "taught" about black or African history.
To American schoolchildren, even in the 21st century, black history begins and ends with slavery. It graduates from this starting point, building and progressing onward to the grand finale of black history-MLK and the Civil Rights movement.
As a kid learning all this back in the nineteen seventies much of it was more current events, because Martin Luther King had only been murdered just a few years back and LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act within my own scope of memory.
The bit of seemingly irrelevant piece of information I stumbled upon completely challenged absolutely everything I had ever learned about black history.
I discovered that the medical procedure of a caesarian section originated in Africa.
The practice was observed in 1887 performed by an African in Uganda during British colonialism (another sordid part of African history kept from schoolchildren.) The procedure was so advanced, however, that it wasn't even possible in the west until about forty years later.
As even a fourteen-year-old kid at Riverside Junior High I was astounded and baffled by this fact. We were taught that Africa was this primitive wasteland devoid of all greater thought and intellect until those nice British came along to "civilize" them.
Africans were pigmies, cannibals and those really tall dudes standing there on one leg with a pole all day.
They were disorganized, helpless and primitive with no further culture than a goat skin drum and as a result, were easy pickings for the evil slave traders who came along to snatch them all up and haul their asses to America.
Along with slavery white people educated and civilized black people and finally, good old, white Abe Lincoln came along to free them, and at which point it all begins. To American schoolchildren, Harriet Tubman is the beginning of black history as we know it.
Given this, the thought of Africans performing a complicated surgical procedure at least a full century before the more civilized west completely blew my young mind. A C-section is a difficult and precise surgical procedure. Two lives literally depend on the skill and experience of a highly trained professional.
The Africans surely didn't just have some witchdoctor slice a woman's stomach open with a sharp rock and then hoped for the best.
This is advanced science.
I thought to myself that this is contrary to everything I had ever learned about black or African history. If these people were so advanced as to master a C-section, what other sciences did they practice long before the west that I wasn't being told?
As the history teacher, Mr. Rosenberg droned on and on only about the American black's slave experience, I found myself more curious about the advanced sciences of ancient Africa and their real role in human progress.