Understanding the Misappropriation of Nubian Identity among African Americans
Many African Americans have casually used the term "Nubian" to refer to themselves or others within their community without realizing that the Nubians are an actual ethnic group with a distinct history and culture. This misappropriation stems from a desire to claim a connection to ancient Egyptian and Nubian civilizations, which are often viewed as the pinnacle of African achievement. However, this overlooks the rich and diverse heritage of West Africa, where many African Americans can trace their ancestry. In this blog post, I will explore the reasons behind this inclination to claim Egyptian and Nubian heritage and discuss the importance of recognizing and celebrating the true origins of African Americans.
The Casual Use of "Nubian" and Its Implications
The term "Nubian" is often used by African Americans as a synonym for "Black" or "African" (Jackson, 2005). For example, it is not uncommon to hear phrases such as "Nubian queen" or "Nubian brother" in casual conversations, music, and other forms of popular culture (Diawara, 1998). While intended as a term of endearment or pride, this usage unwittingly contributes to the erasure of the Nubians as a distinct people with their own unique history and culture.
The Inclination to Claim Egyptian and Nubian Heritage
The fascination with ancient Egyptian and Nubian civilizations among African Americans can be traced back to the early 20th century, when Pan-Africanist movements sought to create a unified African identity that transcended national and ethnic boundaries (Clarke, 1998). These movements often focused on the achievements of ancient Egypt and Nubia, as they represented some of the earliest and most advanced civilizations in human history.
While this focus on Egypt and Nubia served an important role in fostering pride and unity among African descendants, it inadvertently led to a romanticization of these civilizations and a tendency to claim direct ancestry from them, despite the fact that most African Americans can trace their roots to West Africa (Ehret, 2001).
The Rich History of West Africa and the African American Lineage
African Americans have a complex and diverse heritage, with many tracing their ancestry to various regions of West Africa, including present-day Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Mali (Gomez, 1998). These regions were home to numerous powerful and influential kingdoms, such as the Oyo Empire, the Ashanti Empire, and the Mali Empire, which made significant contributions to the development of art, science, trade, and governance (Thornton, 1998).
Many African Americans descended from these mighty lineages, with some even having connections to West African royalty (Gates, 2013). However, the transatlantic slave trade severed these ancestral links, leading to a loss of identity and a yearning for a connection to a glorious past.
Reclaiming and Celebrating Our True Origins
"For most African Americans, our history is rooted in West Africa, a region with a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Embracing this heritage allows us to better understand our ancestors and their struggles, as well as our own unique identity as African Americans." - Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Gates, 2013)
To fully appreciate and honor the legacy of African Americans, it is essential to recognize and celebrate the true origins of their ancestry. By learning about and acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of West African civilizations, African Americans can reclaim their identity and foster a sense of pride in their own rich and diverse heritage.
The casual use of the term "Nubian" among African Americans, while well-intentioned, contributes to the erasure of the Nubians as a distinct people with their own unique history and culture. Moreover, the inclination to claim Egyptian and Nubian heritage overlooks the remarkable history and achievements of West African civilizations, from which many African Americans can trace their ancestry.
By embracing and celebrating their true West African origins, African Americans can foster a greater sense of pride in their own rich and diverse heritage. This process of reclaiming and acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of West African civilizations will empower African Americans to honor the legacy of their ancestors and build a stronger sense of identity and community.
As African Americans, it is crucial to learn about, understand, and celebrate our true roots. By doing so, we can ensure that our history is preserved, our culture is valued, and our identity is strengthened. In the words of Maya Angelou, "The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are."
As the author of this blog post, I would like to clarify that I am of both Nubian-Egyptian and African American descent. This unique background has allowed me to gain personal insight into the experiences and perspectives of both communities. My aim in writing this post is to foster understanding and encourage dialogue, and I hope that my dual heritage can contribute to a more informed and nuanced discussion of the issues at hand.
Angelou, M., & Elliott, M. (1989). Conversations with Maya Angelou. University Press of Mississippi.
Clarke, J. H. (1998). Africans at the Crossroads: Notes for an African World Revolution. Africa World Press.
Diawara, M. (1998). In Search of Africa. Harvard University Press.
Ehret, C. (2001). An African Classical Age: Eastern and Southern Africa in World History, 1000 B.C. to A.D. 400. University of Virginia Press.
Gates, H. L. (2013). African American Lives. Oxford University Press.
Gomez, M. A. (1998). Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. University of North Carolina Press.
Jackson, J. (2005). Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America. University of Chicago Press.
Thornton, J. K. (1998). Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800. Cambridge University Press.