Contemporary European historians are of the view that European explorers were the first to discover the Americas. Almost all the books that I have read on this issue say that the Europeans were the first to land in the new world (Americas). Although Columbus wasn’t the first European explorer to land in the Americas but he was arguably the most important of them all. For this reason I will use him when am referring to early European explorers.
One of the things that has long baffled me about the claim by western historians that Columbus was the first person to discover the Americas is what why did it take so late for someone to discover the Americas? Considering the fact that Columbus landed in the fifteenth century. Could it not be possible that other people might have discovered the Americas and western historians are unaware of this or maybe they choose to ignore this and distort history like they did for the history of science?
The stock story on the issue is that Europeans were the first to discover the Americas. The main point used by proponents of this story is that there is no textual evidence showing that other people did come before the Europeans. In other words, they are giving European explorers credit as the people to first discovered the new World because there is textual evidence that European explorers visited America and that there is no textual evidence for any earlier visits by others (Non-Europeans).
At a sight, the stock story seems solid but a deeper look reveals this is only superficial and in fact the story is highly flawed. It is true that European explorers did visit the Americas in the fifteen century and their writings are also authentic. It is also true that as of today, there is no textual proof of other explorers who visited the Americas before the Europeans. But the question is, is this sufficient to conclude that no one came before the Europeans? The stock story in a way only considers textual evidence to be credible and by implication denies the credibility non-textual evidence. Well, it an established fact that non-textual evidence are more reliable than textual ones and this fact should be known by every serious and objective minded historian. So in other words, the main weakness of the stock story it is solely based on textual evidence and it doesn’t put non-textual evidence into consideration.
A counter story to the stock story is that Africans discovered America before Columbus and this story builds on the weakness of the stock story by not only providing textual evidence but non-textual evidence as well.
One of the greatest proofs of this story comes from Columbus himself! In his journal of the Second Voyage, Columbus reports that when he reached Haiti, the Native Americans there told him of trading with black-skinned people. Nothing could be more descriptive of an African than a black skin! How could Columbus have preceded the black man when the Native Americans told him that blacks (Africans) came before him? Isn’t this sufficient proof to destroy the whole argument of the stock theory?
In addition, Columbus included many Native American words in his writings and recent studies have shown that a lot those words can be traceable to an African origin. These words have a striking similarities to the words used by tribes in the Northwestern part of Africa. This suggests that there was contact between the Indians and the Africans before the Europeans.
Furthermore, scientist have discovered Negroid skulls and skeleton throughout the New World in places like Mexico, California, central and South America. These skulls have been there long before the first European explorers arrived. This shows that there was an African presence before the Columbus.
In conclusion, after having critically looked at both theories, I came to the conclusion that the stock only has sufficient points to prove that there were European explorers in America as early as the fifteen century but story isn’t one that I can buy because of its denial of non-textual evidence. The main reason I believe in counter story is that it provides strong evidence that shows that Africans indeed reached America long before the Europeans. I can only guess why this facts are not included in my history texts and good guess would be: it’s just another instance of robbing you (Africans) off their history.
Legrand H. Clegg II , Before Columbus: black explorers of the New World. Retrieved July 25th 2013
Leo weiner , Africans not Europeans , First in American. Retrieved July 15th 2013