• Ivan Van Sertima (In Memoriam, 1935-2009)

In Memoriam: Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (1935-2009)

The Africana Studies department mourns the loss of our beloved colleague and friend Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, who passed away peacefully at his Highland Park home on May 25th, 2009. Dr. Van Sertima was born in Georgetown, Guyana. He was educated at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, where he graduated with honors.  From 1957 to 1959, he served as a Press and Broadcasting Officer in the Guyana Information Services. During the decade of the 1960s, he broadcasted weekly from Britain to both Africa and the Caribbean.  He began his teaching career in Africana Studies at Rutgers in 1972 and retired as Professor of Africana Studies in 2005. Dr Van Sertima had a distinguished career a literary critic, a linguist, and an anthropologist, and has made important contributions in all three fields. Professor Van Sertima dedicated his professional life to telling “the true story of the African, to recover the essence of his early civilizations so that the tragedy of slavery, colonization, of myths about his fundamental inferiority may be destroyed forever.” He is the author and editor of numerous works and the founding editor of the Journal of African Civilizations. His most celebrated work, They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, was first published in 1976 and is now in its 29th printing. As we miss Dr. Van Sertima’s physical presence, we remember the African proverb that “those who have died have never, never left. The dead are not under the earth, they are in the rustling trees, they are in the groaning woods…’Tis the Ancestors’ words when the fire’s voice is heard, ‘tis the Ancestors’ words in the voice of the water…” Thus Dr. Ivan Van Sertima will continue to be a powerful intellectual force in counteracting dominant myths and stereotypes of Africa’s contributions to human development. 

Follow the link for an interview with Dr. Van Sertima published in The Black Experience in America (edited by Gayle T. Tate and Edward Ramsamy, 2006).