“One might have imagined that the study of ancient Greece was rarefied enough to escape. Yet the legacy of the classical world has had special significance for the United States. The Founding Fathers may have taken most of their ideas about constitutions from Britain, but for examples of republics and federal governments they looked to ancient Greece and Rome. School textbooks placed the birthplace of democracy in classical Athens. American universities pioneered courses in ‘Classical Civilisation’ and ‘Great Books’ which underscored the notion that there was a ‘Western Culture’ which started with ancient Greece, moved on to Rome and after the fall of the Roman Empire, which has always had a peculiar fascination for Americans, reawakened in Europe, whence it was conveyed to the United States. It is symbolised by the classical architecture of the Capitol in Washington, with lesser examples in assorted state capitals. Africa played no role in it. The Oxford historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper, summed up the white elite’s attitude in a BBC lecture which was reprinted in The Listener (Nov. 28, 1963) where it was noted with a sense of hurt by the American black intelligentsia. The African past, he said, was merely the ‘unrewarding gyrations of barbarous tribes in picturesque but irrelevant corners of the globe.'”

Source: James Allan Evans. “‘Black Athena’ And The American Dilemma.” Contemporary Review. pg. 18-19. January 1998.


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