These two speeches, one audio and one video, give a thorough look into the work of historian Dr. John G. Jackson. Together they lay out an important discussion on the origins of religion and early human religious practices. While I wouldn't consider myself an atheist, I do think Dr. Jackson's historical framing of the term is interesting and makes sense. More importantly though, his studies seem to have imbued upon him a comprehensive understanding of the role and conceptualization of God throughout human history, which I find extremely valuable.
More on African conceptions of God and spirit on liberatormag.com: Ayi Kwei Armah, Lauryn Hill and "The Dance of Inspiration"
Wikipedia: John Glover Jackson (April 1, 1907 – October 13, 1993) was a Pan-Africanist historian, lecturer, teacher and writer. Jackson was born in Aiken, South Carolina on 1 April 1907 and raised Methodist. At age 15 he moved to Harlem, New York where he enrolled in Stuyvesant High School. During this time, Jackson became interested in African-American history and culture and began writing essays on the subject. They were so impressive that in 1925, while still a high school student, Jackson was invited to write for Marcus Garvey's newspaper, Negro World.
From 1930 onwards, Jackson became associated with a number of Pan-African historians, activists and writers, including Hubert H. Harrison, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, John Henrik Clarke, Willis Nathaniel Huggins and Joel Augustus Rogers. He also authored a number of books on African history, such as "Man, God, and Civilization" (1972) and "Introduction to African Civilizations" (1974). He also became interested in the idea of Christianity's origins in the Egyptian religion. A staunch atheist, he authored a number of books on the idea, including "The African Origin of Christianity" (1981), "Christianity before Christ" (1985), as well as writing the foreword to Gerald Massey's "Lectures" (1974). He also wrote the controversial text, "Was Jesus Christ a Negro?" (1984), which argued that Jesus may have been a black man.
During his life, Jackson also served as Associate Director of the Blyden Society and lectured at many colleges and universities throughout the United States. He died on 13 October 1993. (source)
On magic, religion and science: "Frazier says the first people didn't have religion, they believed in magic. Then they realized magic doesn't always work so they moved on to religion. They they realized religion didn't always work so they moved on to science. He stopped there but I believe he should have kept going because science doesn't always work either... I think a certain amount of magic is valid. I think a certain amount of religion is valid. And I think a certain amount of science is valid."
"All the religions of the world go back to the Pygmies... In early days god was imaged not as a man but as a woman because the first god was mother earth. The worship of the Earth branched out and turned into the things that were on the Earth. Tree worship. Plant worship. Animal worship. Terrestrial, on the ground. But then religion went from the ground up to the sky. Then you have sky worship, star worship, moon worship, sun worship. And these all mixed together and produced the zodiac."
"In my research... the African idea of god is this: The Christians say that everything around us is nature, and it couldn't have created itself so there must have been a super-natural god that created it. The African says that there is no such thing as the super-natural, that nature is all. And, therefore, that god is just another word for nature, or universe... The universe is nothing more than a big box with no top, no bottom and no sides [laughter]... They took the position that god is the all and all, the sum total of everything. And he's the great god. And these little gods -- the sun, the moon, the stars and the words -- you put them all together and you get the great god. Just like you take a bunch of colleges and put them together and get a university. According to the old-African type of religion, god is the physical universe and Christ is the spiritual universe. And you take matter and spirit and put it together and you've got Everything."
"The right title should have been "The African Origin of Christianity", but I realized that if I gave it that title very few people would buy the book because a sad feature about black people today is that most of them are almost totally illiterate they can't read anything anymore. Television done robbed them of what little literacy they had. So I just called it "Christianity Before Christ" in hope that a few white intellectuals would read it. And it worked out all right."
"The Schomburg library stayed open until 11pm. So if you couldn't go to school you could go to the library. Nowadays they close early so if you work you're not going there. I had the good fortune to be born before there was any radio and before there was any television, so I had to learn to read, write and count."
"Instead of Europe civilizing Africa, Africa civilized Europe twice."
We don't need you to save the nation or save the world. Save yourself first so you can lend a helping hand to your brother... Don't worry about loving your enemy, love yourself... Most of us have wishbones where our backbones ought to be."
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