Esteemed Linguist, Historian, Anthropologist Dies
Guyanese-British literary critic, linguist, historian, and anthropologist Ivan van Sertima passed away peacefully at his home May 25. He was 74 years old.
The author of numerous scholarly books, Van Sertima was a pioneer in releasing and studying the theory that the Ancient Egyptians were black. He wrote bestseller, They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, achieving widespread fame and criticism for his assertions of prehistoric African influences in Central and South America.
Before immigrating to America, Van Sertima completed his undergraduate studies in African languages and literature at the University of London in 1969, becoming fluent in Swahili and Hungarian. He worked for several years as a journalist in Great Britain, conducting broadcasts to the Caribbean and Africa.
He then began a more than 30-year teaching career at Rutgers University, beginning in 1972 upon completion of his graduate studies at the New Brunswick, New Jersey institution. He served as associate professor of African Studies in the Department of Africana Studies.
In the later years of his life, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his wife, Maria Nagy, and son, Lawrence Josef.
His funeral service will be held Saturday morning at The Riverside Church of New York in New York City.
— Janell Hazelwood