Frank Snowden Now An Ancestor

Frank Snowden Now An Ancestor


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Dr. Snowden was fluent in Latin, Greek, German, French and Italian. He first

visited Italy in 1938, when he won a Rosenwald fellowship, and went back a decade

later as a Fulbright scholar . . .  cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy to Rome in 1953



 Frank M. Snowden Jr.,  Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience. Belknap Press, 2005.


Frank M. Snowden Jr ., Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Harvard University Press; Reprint edition, 1991.


Adelaide M Cromwell., The Other Brahmins : Boston’s Black Upper Class, 1750-1950. Fayetteville : University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

*   *   *   *   *

Frank Snowden Now An Ancestor

Major Scholar of Blacks in Antiquity


Frank M. Snowden Jr., 95, a Howard University classicist for almost 50 years whose research into blacks in ancient Greece and Rome opened a new field of study, died Feb. 18 [2007] at the Grand Oaks assisted living home in Washington. He had congestive heart failure.

As a black man, Dr. Snowden was a rarity in classics, but ancient history consumed him since his youth as a prize-winning student at the Boston Latin School and later at Harvard University. His body of work led to a National Humanities Medal in 2003, a top government honor for scholars, writers, actors and artists.

Much of his scholarship centered on one point: that blacks in the ancient world seemed to have been spared the virulent racism common to later Western civilization. . . .

Dr. Snowden’s most notable books are “Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience” (1970), which took him 15 years to research, and “Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks.” (1983). Both were published by Harvard University Press.

Using evidence he found in literature and art, he showed that blacks were able not only to coexist with Greeks and Romans but also were often revered as charioteers, fighters and actors.

Because Romans and Greeks first encountered blacks as soldiers and mercenaries and not slaves or “savages,” they did not classify them as inferior and seek ways to rationalize their enslavement, he said. . . .

Frank Martin Snowden Jr. was born July 17, 1911, in York County, Va. He was raised in Boston, where his father, a former Army Department civilian who specialized in race relations, became a businessman.

He graduated in 1932 from Harvard University, where he won a classics prize for an essay he signed “Plato” because anonymous submission was required. . . .

At Harvard, Dr. Snowden also received a master’s degree in classics in 1933 and a doctorate in 1944. His doctoral dissertation on slavery and freedom in Pompeii formed the basis of his later scholarship.

After early teaching jobs at what was then Virginia State College in Petersburg and Atlanta’s Spelman College, he joined the Howard faculty in 1942 and spent many years as classics department chairman. From 1956 to 1968, Dr. Snowden was dean of Howard’s College of Liberal Arts, overseeing all undergraduate programs. He helped start the school’s honors program.

Starting in the late 1960s, Dr. Snowden was criticized by more militant students and teachers for his disapproval of Afrocentrism, a movement to highlight the roots of black culture often at the expense of white European civilization. Some historians likened Afrocentric teaching to “ethnic cheerleading,” a position Dr. Snowden also held.

“If you’re white and you criticize Afrocentrism, you’re a Eurocentrist racist,” he said. “If you’re black and criticize it, you’re a black duped by white scholarship.” Above all, he thought that Afrocentrism read “20th-century biases back into antiquity and by seeing color prejudice where none existed.”

During the Vietnam War era, Howard, like other universities, attracted student protests over the war and academic concerns. As a faculty leader, Dr. Snowden was a frequent target of student anger, and at one point he was hanged in effigy with university President James M. Nabrit Jr. and Selective Service director Lewis B. Hershey. He resigned his deanship soon after. . . .

Dr. Snowden was fluent in Latin, Greek, German, French and Italian. He first visited Italy in 1938, when he won a Rosenwald fellowship, and went back a decade later as a Fulbright scholar. A frequent lecturer abroad on State Department-sponsored tours, he was named cultural attache at the U.S. Embassy to Rome in 1953 at the urging of Ambassador Clare Boothe Luce. . . .

Dr. Snowden was married to the former Elaine Hill, a high school art teacher, from 1935 until her death in 2005.

Survivors include two children, Jane Lepscky of Washington and Frank M. Snowden III of New Haven, Conn.; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.—Adam Bernstein, “Frank Snowden; Major Scholar of Blacks in Antiquity.” Washington Post, 22 February 2007.

*   *   *   *   *

Other Sources: Howard University Library.  Harriet Jackson Scarupa. “Blacks in the Classical World: Snowden’s 50-year Search. American Vision,  2, No.5 (October 1987): 20-26.

*   *   *   *   *

 Frank M. Snowden Jr ., Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience. Belknap Press, 2005.

The Africans who came to ancient Greece and Italy participated in an important chapter of classical history. Although evidence indicated that the alien dark- and black-skinned people were of varied tribal and geographic origins, the Greeks and Romans classified many of them as Ethiopians. In an effort to determine the role of black people in ancient civilization, Mr. Snowden examines a broad span of Greco-Roman experience–from the Homeric era to the age of Justinian–focusing his attention on the Ethiopians as they were known to the Greeks and Romans. The author dispels unwarranted generalizations about the Ethiopians, contending that classical references to them were neither glorifications of a mysterious people nor caricatures of rare creatures.

Mr. Snowden has probed literary, epigraphical, papyrological, numismatic, and archaeological sources and has considered modern anthropological and sociological findings on pertinent racial and intercultural problems. He has drawn directly upon the widely scattered literary evidence of classical and early Christian writers and has synthesized extensive and diverse material. Along with invaluable reference notes, Mr. Snowden has included over 140 illustrations which depict the Negro as the Greeks and Romans conceived of him in mythology and religion and observed him in a number of occupations–as servant, diplomat, warrior, athlete, and performer, among others.

Presenting an exceptionally comprehensive historical description of the first major encounter of Europeans with dark and black Africans, Mr. Snowden found that the black man in a predominantly white society was neither romanticized nor scorned–that the Ethiopian in classical antiquity was considered by pagan and Christian without prejudice.—Publisher


   *   *   *   *   *

Here’s a book to raise the spirits of anyone of African descent who feels that he or she has nothing to do with the making of Western civilization. Frank M. Snowden Jr., a world-renowned scholar on ancient Greece and Rome who taught at Howard and Georgetown Universities, details with encyclopedic and painstaking scholarship and research the undeniable presence of Africans in the Greco-Roman world. “The experiences of those Africans who reached the alien shores of Greece and Italy constituted an important chapter in the history of classical antiquity,” he writes. Using evidence from terra cotta figures, paintings, and classical sources like Herodotus and Pliny the Elder, Snowden proves, contrary to our modern assumptions, that Greco-Romans did not view Africans with racial contempt. Many Africans worked in the Roman Empire as musicians, artisans, scholars, and generals as well as slaves, and they were noted as much for their virtue as for their appearance of having a “burnt face” (from which came the Greek name Ethiopian).—Amazon


   *   *   *   *   *


Frank M. Snowden Jr ., Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Harvard University Press; Reprint edition, 1991.

In this richly illustrated account of black-white contacts from the Pharaohs to the Caesars, Frank Snowden demonstrates that the ancients did not discriminate against blacks because of their color. For three thousand years Mediterranean whites intermittently came in contact with African blacks in commerce and war, and left a record of these encounters in art and in written documents. The blacks–most commonly known as Kushites, Ethiopians, or Nubians–were redoubtable warriors and commanded the respect of their white adversaries. The overall view of blacks was highly favorable. In science, philosophy, and religion color was not the basis of theories concerning inferior peoples. And early Christianity saw in the black man a dramatic symbol of its catholic mission.

This book sheds light on the reasons for the absence in antiquity of virulent color prejudice and for the difference in attitudes of whites toward blacks in ancient and modern societies.—Publisher

  *   *   *   *   *


Further developing the themes he so eloquently outlines in Blacks in Antiquity, Frank M. Snowden Jr. continues his investigations into attitudes towards Africans in the classical civilizations of Rome and Greece. Snowden identifies the African blacks from Egypt, Nubia (the modern Sudan), Ethiopia, and Carthage (Tunisia), discussing their interactions–including intermarriage–with the Greco-Romans. (He also notes that many of the artistic representations of these people resemble present-day African Americans.) From the trade missions of the Egyptian dynasties to their conquest of the Mediterranean and ultimate downfall at the hands of the Romans, Snowden unravels a complex history of cultural exchanges that went on for several millennia in which racial prejudice was not a factor. “There was a clear-cut respect among the Mediterranean peoples for Ethiopians and their way of life,” he writes, “and above all, the ancients did not stereotype blacks as primitives defective in religion and culture.”—Amazon

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *


Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

*   *   *   *   *


Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  /  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *






posted 1 March 2007 




Home  Tributes Obituaries Remembrances    Books N Review  The African World  Transitional Writings on Africa

Related  files: The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough   The Works of William Sanders Scarborough  Practice and Perception of Black Classicism  Celebrating Alexander Crummell  

Classicism within Black Consciousness  

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.