Ivan Van Sertima published a very ground breaking book, “They Came Before Columbus” which showed that black people had travelled to the Americas well before Columbus claimed to have discovered America. He offers archaeological evidence in Mexico and some of Columbus’ writing that help to support his assertion.
He also puts forth the possibility that Columbus may have already known about a route to the Americas from his years in Africa as a trader in Guinea. The ideas in this book have been debated and discussed since its first publication in 1976; and even though some refuse to accept his findings, this book offers some compelling information that would be interesting to anyone who loves black history.
He is a literary critic, a linguist, an anthropologist and has made a name in all three fields.
As a literary critic, he is the author of Caribbean Writers, a collection of critical essays on the Caribbean novel. He is also the author of several major literary reviews published in Denmark, India, Britain and the United States. He was honored for his work in this field by being asked by the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy to nominate candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature from 1976-1980. He has also been honored as an historian of world repute by being asked to join UNESCO’s International Commission for Rewriting the Scientific and Cultural History of Mankind.
As a linguist, he has published essays on the dialect of the Sea Islands off the Georgia Coast. He is also the compiler of the Swahili Dictionary of Legal Terms, based on his field work in Tanzania, East Africa, in 1967. He is the author of They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, which was published by Random House in 1977 and is presently in its twenty-ninth printing. It was published in French in 1981 and in the same year, was awarded the Clarence L. Holte Prize, a prize awarded every two years “for a work of excellence in literature and the humanities relating to the cultural heritage of Africa and the African diaspora.”
He also authored Early America Revisited, a book that has enriched the study of a wide range of subjects, from archaeology to anthropology, and has resulted in profound changes in the reordering of historical priorities and pedagogy. He attended the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London from 1959. In addition to his creative writing, Van Sertima completed his undergraduate studies in African languages and literature at SOAS in 1969, where he graduated with honors. During his studies, he learned Swahili and Hungarian. From 1957 to 1959, worked a Press and Broadcasting Officer in the Guyana Information Services During the 1960s, he worked for several years in Great Britain as a journalist, doing weekly broadcasts to the Caribbean and Africa.