World & American History: Not For Black Studies Students Only.




( The first humans, Anthropology tells us, appeared about 5,000,000 years ago in East Africa. The key difference between humans and other hominids is that we use tools. The oldest tool was a club. Fossils found with bone clubs nearby are characterized as among the first human beings on earth.

Anthropology also informs us that everyone of European descent is descended from no more than 50 people who left Africa about 40,000 years ago, when there were only 2,000 or so modern humans on earth. Everyone of Asian descent is said to have descended from a group that left Africa about 100,00 years ago. And the entire genetic lineage of every single human being on earth today can be traced to the womb of a woman who lived in Africa around 200,000 years ago.

The oldest human civilizations are about 10,000 years old. They were along the Nile Valley in Africa and along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now Iraq. These were settled agricultural communities. At the point where groups of people stop wandering and set up agricultural communities, they are said to be civilized. There were Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The only one that is still standing is the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt built in 3000 BC.

While other peoples had entered the pages of History thousands of years before they did, it was not until 800 BC that Europe left the Pre-Historic phase, that is, when they developed literacy. The oldest books written in Europe were The Odyssey and The Illiad by Homer, tales of a great conflict, the Trojan War, that took place 400 years before. These two books were, for the Ancient Greeks, what the Old and New Testaments, the Bible, is to Christians. Studying these books, memorizing huge passages, and debating their meaning led to the so-called “Greek Classical Age” which was also greatly facilitated by books streaming in from other long literate civilizations that were translated into the Greek language.

Rome, an outgrowth of Ancient Greece, was established around 750 BC, over time it would come to control the entire Italian Peninsula and it would go on to conquer all of the lands that border the Mediterranean Sea. “Medi” – means “middle” and “Terra” – means “earth.” So, “Mediterranean” means “Sea in the Middle of the Earth,” or so the Romans thought. The Romans eventually penetrated into the heart of Europe, conquering and civilizing the people of what is today Spain, Switzerland, France, England, Holland, Belgium and Romania. The Western Roman civilization collapsed around 500 AD when it was invaded by German tribes, people who were only half civilized, hence, they were called Barbarians. They poured throughout all of Western Europe and broke down the civilization that the Romans had established. For about 1,000 years Europe afterwards underwent a long period of decline known today as the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages.

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In the early 600s AD the Prophet Muhammad established the Islamic religion in Saudi Arabia and it spread as far East as Pakistan and all across Northern Africa. In the year 711 an Islamic army from what is now Morocco invaded and conquered the Iberian Peninsula which consists of what is now Spain and Portugal. Other Islamic forces conquered Southern Italy. They re-introduced civilization in the European areas that they controlled and thereby ignited the period known as the European “Renaissance” which means “Rebirth.”

They set up the first universities in Europe among them were the universities in Cordoba and Salamanca and they were in direct communication with the renowned learning center, the University of Sankore in Timbuktu in what is today the African country of Mali and the legendary University of Baghdad. The last of the Muslim forces were not driven out of Spain until 1492. The Wars between the Christians and the Muslims were known as the Crusades. They were fought not only in Spain and Italy. Christian armies also penetrated as far into the Islamic regions as Jerusalem and beyond. They held Jerusalem for a while but were eventually driven out.

1492 was also the year that Columbus set sail. He was able to make his voyage because he had a movable sail, a Muslim invention, that could be shifted depending on the wind. Thus, Spain and Portugal were the first European nations to cross the Atlantic. Columbus was trying to find a way to reach India by sea for purposes of trade. The Muslims had, at the time, cut off access to the Silk Road, the land route from Europe to Asia.

When he landed in the Caribbean, Columbus actually thought he had reached the outlying islands of the Indian Peninsula. Thus, the original inhabitants of the Americas were, and still are, referred to as “Indians.” Waves of Spanish and Portuguese explorers fanned out across the globe. They are known as the Conquistadores. Spain and Portugal fought each other for control of the Americas, and so the Pope, in 1498, had both countries sign the Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the Americas into two. The Portuguese portion is today the nation of Brazil, the largest nation in Latin America.

The first Africans in bondage were taken to North America in 1619 to Jamestown, Virginia. Though they were in bondage, that is bonded, or tied, to a period of labor, they were not in lifetime bondage, that is, they were not slaves. They were indentured servants, that is, bonded to serve for a term of years. They lived side-by-side with white indentured servants from Britain. In 1667, however, there was a rebellion of white and Black indentured servants called Bacon’s Rebellion. When it was finally subdued, the big white planters who dominated the ruling class decided to begin treating white and Black indentured servants differently so as to divide and control them. Over time, the period of bondage for Black indentured servants was increased until it became lifetime service that was also transferred to their offspring. Thus, they became “chattel slaves.”

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Eventually, the original 13 Colonies broke away from their Mother Country, Britain, in a conflict known as the Revolutionary War. It began in 1776 with the writing of the Declaration of Independence. However, the first conflict between British troops and North American colonists took place in Boston in 1770. The first man to die in that engagement was a Black man, Crispus Attucks.

In 1847, the Free Academy was established. It was the first public college in the nation. It was located at Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. In time its name was changed to City College and in 1906 City College built a big campus in Harlem, which was at the time largely open land. But City College still kept its Business School students at Twenty-Third Street and Lexington Avenue. In 1968 the Business School of City College became a separate institution, Bernard Baruch College. Bernard Baruch was a very successful businessman and a close adviser to several US presidents. His father was an officer in the Confederate Army that fought the Union in the Civil War which raged from 1861 – 1865. The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 was the turning point of the war. Afterwards there were the Draft Riots in New York City and Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address and his Emancipation Proclamation finally ending slavery.

The 1840s saw the development of the telegraph, the pioneering form of electronic, that is, instantaneous communication. Once the telegraph was developed the radio and television and the internet were all inevitable.

The 1840s also witnessed a series of conflicts between Britain and China called the Opium Wars. England, thanks to its love of tea, was running a huge trade deficit with China. So, the British demanded the right to sell opium, an extremely powerful and dangerous drug, to the Chinese people. When the Emperor refused, the British went to war with China and defeated it with the help of the US, France, Russia and other powers. Hong Kong became the British base from which opium was brought into China addicting many millions of its citizens, and thus generating the wealth for Hong Kong to become an international banking center. The Opium Trade was not ended until the British were driven out of China in 1949 in the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong. But Britain still held onto Hong Kong until the 1990s. The British were expelled from India in 1947 in a movement led by Mahatma Gandhi.

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After the Civil War there came a period known as Reconstruction in which whites and Blacks worked together to rebuild the South. But eventually, as the victorious troops from the North were withdrawn from the South, the Ku Klux Klan was formed, and it terrorized Blacks in the South particularly, but throughout much of the nation as well. The formal separation of the races was upheld by the US Supreme Court in its 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson decision.

Today European languages are spoken all around the world because much of the world came under the control of the Western European nations during the so-called Colonial Period, also known as the Age of Empires, the Imperial Age, which lasted from about 1500 up until the early Twentieth Century. The richest, and therefore most prized, colonies were those in Africa. The European powers fought several wars over the control of Africa. They were finally settled by the Berlin Conference of 1884 in which the European powers formally divided up all of Africa, except for Ethiopia, amongst themselves.

And when this treaty, dividing up Africa finally broke down, it resulted in the World Wars. The first began in 1914 and the second began in 1939. Over 50,000,000 people perished in these conflicts. After WWII the Mother Countries in Europe largely relinquished political control of their former colonies, but they are still under the economic control of the European nations and the other developed nations (the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, South Korea, China, etc.) through the mechanism of international debt as administered by the International Monetary Fund and similar lending organizations.

In the United States the laws of segregation (the Jim Crow Laws), which were most heavily enforced in the South, were ended with the 1954 Supreme Court decision known as Brown vs. the Board of Education that set the stage for the modern civil rights movement which began in 1955 with the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama led by Dr. Martin Luther King. His most famous speech was delivered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in 1963. In the following year, the Civil Rights Law was passed and in 1965 the Voting Rights Act became law, thus, bringing the Civil Rights movement to a successful close.