EDUCATION! Education! Education!: From Pyramids to Parking Lots

by: Marc Albritton

            The Great Pyramids of Egypt rank without contest as the most sophisticated demonstration of organization and technology ever displayed. Humans can build a spacecraft to Mars, a submarine to the ocean depths or a skyscraper to the heavens but, none can duplicate even the smallest of the Great Pyramids created by the Black Africans of ancient Egypt. Yet today we would beam with pride to find a single Black business who could level and pave a parking lot. The bottom line; education, education, education!

            In some communities there is an educational and religious institution on every block. In other communities there is a bodega and a beauty shop on every block. It’s no wonder that while some communities are metaphorically producing “pyramids” others are only paving “parking lots.” The value a people attach to education is directly proportional to growth. While today we do not place a premium on education, but search for the easy way out, there was a time when Black people were the masters of education.

            In History of Education Vol.ll The Ancient Egyptians by S. S. Laurie, the author describes:

“Intellectually, the Egyptians must rank amongst the foremost in antiquity…Their minds possessed much subtlety and acuteness; they were fond of literary composition and made great advances in the arts and sciences; they were in every department of life intelligent and ingenious. It is astonishing what an extensive literature they possessed…books on religion, morals, law, arithmetic, mensuration, geometry, medicine… and above all, novels.”

            The Greek historian Herodotus’s eyewitness account noted of Egyptian society:

“The great number of persons who practiced medicine in Egypt…besides general practitioners, there were many who devoted themselves to special branches of medicine some being occultists, dentist, and some treating diseases of the brain, some of the intestines and so on.” Furthermore, in the first century before Christ another Greek writer Diodes Siculus states is his book On Egypt, that mostly all of the noted Greek philosophers;

“…ventured into Egypt…that they might…sample the teachings there…The priests of Egypt cite from their records…that in the former times they were visited by Orpheus and Musaeus, Melampos, Daedalos, the poet Homer, Plato the philosopher, Pythagoras of Samos, the mathematician Eudoxos as well as Democritus.” However, today we simply join Greek letter societies giving them the credit for our brilliance. It’s easier.

            Upon the decline of Egyptian civilization after approximately 8000 years in business, the Muslims were last in a line of successive invasions and colonization’s. However, they would inherit the knowledge and sciences of Egypt and spread it throughout east, west, and North Africa and up into Europe as the Islam was adopted by the North African tribes that would come to be known as the Moors.

            Conquering Spain in 711 A.D. a European scholar recounted the Moorish conquest:

“The reins of their horses were as fire, their faces black as pitch, their eyes shone like burning candles, their horses were swift as leopards and the riders fiercer than a wolf in a sheepfold . . . The noble Goths were broken in an hour… Oh luckless Spain!” During their 800 years’ rule in Spain and Portugal the Moors would bring civilization to Europe. Cordoba was not just the capital of Moorish Spain but the most magnificent city in Europe. Cordoba boasted a population of half a million and had street lighting, fifty hospitals with running water, five hundred mosques and seventy libraries, one of which housed over 500,000 volumes.

            With the rise of the African Islamic Empires in West Africa in the 12th century, one of the greatest centers of learning was established at Timbuktu. Located in the nation of Mali, Timbuktu was a city of 100,000, 25,000 of which were scholars. The university system was formed by the three great Masajids comprised of the Masajid of Djinguereber, the Masajid of Sidi Yahya, and the Masajid of Sankore. The curriculum consisted of four degrees of learning divided into primary, secondary, superior and the fourth level called the Circle of Knowledge. Subjects included law, literature, science, mathematics and medicine. Leo Africanus, the roman historian wrote of Timbuktu:

There are many judges, doctors and clerics here, all receiving good salaries from King Askia Mohammed of the State of Songhay. He pays great respect to men of learning. There is a great demand for books, and more profit is made from the trade in books than from any other line of business.”

            The decline of these empires led to European invasion and slavery. Slavery would capture and disrupt African genius. But this testament speaks volumes to great reverence and value we attached to education. It was our life. It was who we were and what we were known for. It’s who we must become.


The Moors and Portugal’s Global Expansion in the Golden Age of the Moor, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, (1992)

An African Origin of Philosophy by Dr. Molefe Asante, (2004)

The Treasures of Timbuktu, by Charlie English, The New York Times (May 12, 2017)

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