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Black Folk Clair Drake Describes

In fact, some scholars of the modern era even projected on Akhenaten Christ-like qualities. Akhenaten was described as a messiah figure who was a “precursor of Jesus Christ,” (Drake p. 208).

The convergence of these two projections onto the Pharaoh Akhenaten has racial implications. Drake suggests that Breasted would not have been able to have conceived of a man in such a position of great political and spiritual power who was not also white. The prevailing attitude that blacks were “closest to the ape” during the era of social Darwinism had influenced such beliefs (Drake xvii). The revisionist perspective arose in direct reaction to the racialist view presented by Breasted and also by Weigall, who described Akhenaten as “the first Pharaoh to be a humanitarian,” and “the first man to preach simplicity, honesty, frankness, and sincerity…from a throne,” (cited by Drake p 207).

Idealizing Akhenaten most certainly could not coincide with the knowledge that Akhenaten was in fact, black. Drake also notes that the projection of whiteness onto one of Egypts most notable figures has political overtones too. After all, Akhenaten is attributed with the first introduction of monotheism to the Egyptian kingdoms. Monotheism has distinct and direct political implications because monotheism necessitates an intolerance of any other gods other than the One God — which in this case was Aten, the sun.

Therefore, Akhenaten enjoyed a political and an ideological power too great to be attributed to black folk. A revisionist version of ancient Egyptian history flies in the face of these racist and social Darwinist views. For example, Cyril Aldred noted that Akhenaten was over-idealized in the first place.

Aldred and other revisionists reassessed Akhenaten “as an autocrat who was not at all the pacifist earlier admirers thought him to be,” cited by Drake 208).

Immanuel Velikovsky, along with Cyril Aldred also began depicting Akhenaten with more realism. Pictures began to emerge that showed that Akhenaten was “indubitably Negro,” (p. 208). Thus, here was a great man, an effective political and spiritual ruler, who was also black. Breasted had just described Egyptians as the “Great White Race,” but new scholarship emerged to show that Breasteds beliefs were false and racist. Breasted and others like him depicted Akhenaten as white, using “stylized representations” that left his race “unclear,” (Drake 208). This impliced a “Eurocentric aesthetic bias” that attribute caricature status to any presence of “pronounced Negro facial features” (Drake 211)

Part III

Biography provides one of the key lenses through which scholars view and assess their research topic. Along with social and historical settings, biography offers singular perspectives. Depending on the gender, race, age, and social class of the individual, the biography can offer core details that are absent from other historical records. In some cases, biographical material may be all that is available from a specific period of time. Biographical details can provide a more complete picture of a historical era, revealing how issues like gender, race, and social class are played out in the daily lives of individuals. For this reason, biographies can affect the lenses through which scholars view and assess their research topic. Biographies may not determine what those lenses are, because they are only one of many different types of archaeological, anthropological, and other documentary evidence..

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