The Adamic Race: Reply to "Ariel," Drs. Young and Blackie, on the Negro

New York: Russell Brothers, 1868

Early Egyptology was on very intimate terms with another nineteenth-century science, ethnology. A precursor to later fields such as comparative anatomy and evolutionary biology, ethnology was, as its name implies, the study of different “ethnic” differences between human groups. Nineteenth-century ethnologists, or “race scientists,” attempted to determine the inherent differences between different human groups, or “types” – Negro, Caucasian, Mongol, and so on – and then attempted to extrapolate from those differences some conclusions about permanent or essential differences between the races. Ethnologists used skin color, skull measurements, language analysis, ancient history, and other forms of data to divide humans up into a small number of total races – some said three, some said five, some said seven – and offered conclusions about world history on the basis of these divisions. Yet far from being a benign, objective, or apolitical science, ethnology was often interested in proving certain claims about racial differences which, during the period of slavery and western colonial expansion, would offer justifications for the continuing enslavement or invasion of non-white peoples.

Egyptology became of extreme importance to ethnology because, for a scientist working on the roles of “negroes” in the ancient world, the problem was one of data collection: where to find the proof of these roles? The Bible, of course, was an important source of information on the ancient world, but, as many ethnologists (and, later, many Darwinians) would argue, the Bible was unreliable regarding certain key facts about early human history – especially in terms of facts about what is today known as “prehistory.” Biblical scholars had long calculated the origin of the human race, and had dated human origin to roughly 4000 B.C., but, with the deciphering and dating of Egyptian monuments in the early nineteenth century, other scholars began to challenge the Biblical timeline, and began pushing back the date of human origin. Egyptian monuments seemed to have been around much earlier than 4000 B.C., and so the authority of the Bible’s story of human origin was seen as faulty and flawed. Egyptology thus represented a crisis for Christianity.

Many questions quickly emerged from this crisis: if the Biblical timeline was faulty, then which other parts of the Biblical story of creation were untrue? If the Biblical creation story was untrue, then where did the human race come from? And if the human race – or more importantly for ethnologists, races – did not all come from the Biblical figures of Adam and Eve, then did that mean that different groups of people had different origins? What was to be done?

For the anonymous author “M.S.,” the answer was to deny that Africans (“negroes”) were descended from Adam. M.S. claims that the Bible is only a record of white people – that, since the Bible is only a record of those descended from Adam, the history of black people is nowhere covered in the scriptures. In doing so, M.S. takes an even more extreme position than most racist historians. It was commonly understood that the Bible handled the issue of racial differentiation from one common ancestral pair through the device of the Great Flood and what is known in the Old Testament as the Table of Nations: Noah survived the flood with his three sons, and those three sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth – represented and repopulated the earth along the lines of three main groups of humanity (or “races”) – Semitic (Shem), black or Negro (Ham), and white or Caucasian (Japheth). From these three sons, all of the earth’s inhabitants descended - and, in some accounts, the "black" son, Ham, was responsible for founding ancient Egypt. M.S., however, goes so far as to deny that even Ham was black, and thus completely writes negroes out of the Bible, and out of the Adamic race altogether.

This article was actually a response to another tract, somewhat similar in overall area but written with a much less racist message in mind. This prior tract was written under the pseudonym “Ariel” (taken from Shakespeare’s character in The Tempest), and prompted several published replies by others; hence the title of this work by M.S.: The Adamic Race: Reply to "Ariel," Drs. Young and Blackie, on the Negro.

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I base not read the work called "The Negro," which you are engaged in refuting; but I have not the slightest doubt, from what I hear of it, that you will find the refutation an easy task; and should these remarks be of any value to you, it will afford me very sincere pleasure. Magna eat rerita, et prevalelsitI

Trusting that the great Creator will endow you with sufficient light to demonstrate the great power and almighty force of truth, and to frustrate the knavish tricks of his enemies,

I am, dear Doctor,

Most sincerely and fraternally yours,

GEORGE S. BLACKIE, A.M., M.D., (Edin.), Professor of Natural Science, etc.

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