Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan (/ˈbɛn ˈjoʊkənən/; December 31, 1918 – March 19, 2015), referred to by his admirers as “Dr. Ben“, was an African-American writer and historian. He was considered to be one of the more prominent Afrocentric scholars.
Ben-Jochannan had stated that he was born in Ethiopia to a Puerto Rican mother and an Ethiopian father.According to Tudor Parfitt, Ben-Jochannan “was probably Puerto Rican but claimed to be of Ethiopian Jewish extraction”. Other colleagues as well as family matters have also raised doubts regarding his birthplace.
According to some sources, Ben-Jochannan was educated in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Cuba, and Spain, earning degrees in engineering and anthropology.[unreliable source?] In 1938, he is said to have earned a BS in Civil Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico; this is disputed. He stated that in 1939 he earned a Master’s degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Havana, Cuba. and then doctoral degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Moorish History from the University of Havana and the University of Barcelona, Spain.
According to his obituary, Ben-Jochannan holds honorary doctoral degrees from Sojourner-Douglas College (Baltimore), Marymount College (New York), Medgar Evers College (Brooklyn).
In a New York Times article published after Ben-Jochannan’s death it was reported that “Documents from Malcolm-King College and Cornell show Mr. Ben-Jochannan holding a doctorate from Cambridge University in England; catalogs from Malcolm-King College list him holding two master’s from Cambridge. According to Fred Lewsey, a communications officer at Cambridge, however, the school has no record of his ever attending, let alone earning any degree. Similarly, the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez, where he also said he had studied, has no records of his enrollment.
Ben-Jochannan immigrated to the United States in the early 1940s. He worked as a draftsman and continued his studies. He stated that in 1945, he was appointed chairman of the African Studies Committee at the headquarters of the newly founded UNESCO, a position from which he reportedly stepped down in 1970. In 1950, Ben-Jochannan began teaching Egyptology at Malcolm King College, and subsequently at City College in New York City. From 1973 to 1987, he was an adjunct professor at Cornell University.
Ben-Jochannan was the author of 49 books, primarily on ancient Nile Valley civilizations and their impact on Western cultures.[dead link]In his writings, he asserts that the original Jews were from Ethiopia and were Black Africans, while the white Jews later adopted the Jewish faith and its customs.
According to his obituary he began his educational teaching in Harlem at HARYOU-ACT in 1967. Ben-Jochannan was an adjuct professor (1973-1987) at Cornell University in the Africana Studies and Research Center which at the time was under the direction of James Turner. He also taught at a number of schools including Malcom-King College and Rutgers University. In 1977 he accepted an honorary faculty position with the Israelite Rabbinical Academy at Beth Shalom Hebrew Congregation in Brooklyn.
Ben-Jochannan made a number of appearances on Gil Noble’s WABC-TV weekly public affairs series Like It Is.
In 2002, Ben-Jochannan donated his personal library of more than 35,000 volumes, manuscripts and ancient scrolls to the Nation of Islam.
In the years before his death, Ben-Jochannan lived in Harlem, New York City in the Lenox Terrace Co-ops.
Ben-Jochannan died on March 19, 2015, at the age of 96. at the Bay Park Nursing Home in the Bronx.
Ben-Jochannan has been criticized for allegedly distorting history and promoting Black supremacy. In February 1993, Wellesley College European classics professor Mary Lefkowitz publicly confronted Ben-Jochannan about his teachings. Ben-Jochannan taught that Aristotle visited the Library of Alexandria. During the question and answer session following the lecture, Lefkowitz asked ben-Jochannan, “How would that have been possible, when the library was not built until after his death?” When Ben-Jochannan replied saying that the dates were uncertain, her husband Hugh Lloyd-Jones said “Rubbish” and in response Ben-Jochannan said that he resented the tone of the inquiry.” Lefkowitz writes that ben-Jochannan proceeded to tell those present that they “could and should believe what black instructors told” them and that “although they might think that Jews were all ‘hook-nosed and sallow faced,’ there were other Jews who looked like himself.”
American professor Clarence E. Walker wrote that Ben-Jochannan not only confused Cleopatra VII with her daughter Cleopatra VIII and stated she was black, but also wrote that “Cleopatra VIII committed suicide after being discovered in a plot with Marc Antonio [Mark Anthony] to murder Julius Caesar.