Martin Gardiner Bernal, professor emeritus of government and Near Eastern studies at Cornell University and a frequent contributor to the pages of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, died earlier this month in Cambridge, England. He was 76 years old.
Professor Bernal was the author of a highly controversial three-volume set, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Professor Bernal presented evidence that Egyptians (who were influenced by Black Africans) and not the Greeks formed the foundations of modern civilization. Professor Bernal and Professor Mary Lefkowitz, then the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College, engaged in a scholarly give and take on the issue in the pages of JBHE in the mid-1990s. Professor Lefkowitz was the author of Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History (Basic Books, 1996).
Professor Bernal’s Black Athena volumes were published by Rutgers University Press in 1987, 1991, and 2006. Professor Bernal also wrote a response to the critics of his thesis in Black Athena Writes Back (Duke University Press, 2001).
Dr. Bernal was a graduate of Kings College at Cambridge and earned a Ph.D, in Oriental studies at Cambridge University. He joined the faculty at Cornell in 1972 and remained there until his retirement in 2001.
We at JBHE remember fondly working with Dr. Bernal and greatly appreciate his contributions to our journal.