The African Presence in
China & Japan

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Japanese Buddhist deity


REV. JAMES MARMADUKE BODDY
AND THE AFRICAN PRESENCE IN ANCIENT JAPAN AND CHINA

by RUNOKO RASHIDI

DEDICATED TO DR. GABRIEL KOFI OSEI (ANCESTOR)

 


"For a Samurai to be brave, he must have a bit of Black blood."
--Japanese Proverb

Presbyterian minister Reverend James Marmaduke Boddy (1886-?), of Troy, New York, was a graduate of Lincoln and Princeton Universities, and the first known African-American writer to address the issue of the African presence in early Japan and China. 

Rev. Boddy contributed several articles to the Colored American Magazine, including "The Ethnic Unity of the Negro and the Anglo-Saxon Race" in March 1905, and "Brain Weight and Intellectual Development: Physical Variations of the Negro and the Anglo-Saxon Races" in July 1905. Founded in May 1900, by May 1901 the readership of the Colored American Magazine had grown to one hundred thousand people.  Called "the first significant Afro-American journal to emerge in the twentieth century," in October 1905 the Colored American Magazine published Boddy's essay entitled "The Ethnology of the Japanese Race."

In "The Ethnology of the Japanese Race" Boddy attempted to document what he considered a prominent and indelible African strain running through early Japanese history, and that the Japanese people are, at least in part, "Asian Negroes."  Reference the work of pioneer ethnologist and anthropologist James Cowles Prichard, M.D. (1786-1848), Rev. Boddy wrote that:

"They are also described as having `peculiar features, `Crisp hair' and `dark complexion.'  Besides their Negro features, which are very observable, the early Japanese historians themselves have described for us the `Black Barbarians of the South,' who, in an age which antedates authentic history, came from the south in ships and settled in Japan."

Rev. Boddy concluded by saying that:

"These immigrants mingled and amalgamated one with another and with the natives, and in time became a homogeneous race, whose predominating physical characteristics bespeak the unmistakable presence of a large Negro element."

As for the African presence in early China, there is evidence of substantial populations of an African substratum in the earliest periods of Chinese history, and reports of major kingdoms ruled by Africans are frequent in Chinese documents.  The Shang dynasts of ancient China are described as "having black and oily skin."  The Chinese sage Lao-tze (ca. 600 B.C.E.) was "black in complexion."  He was described as "marvelous and beautiful as jasper."  Magnificent temples were erected for him, inside of which he was worshipped like a god."

SOURCES
African Presence In Early Asia, Edited by Runoko Rashidi & Ivan Van Sertima
The Ethnology Of The Japanese Race, by James Marmaduke Boddy

article courtesy of the Global African Presence

 

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