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historian, Egyptologist, educator, and Pan-Africanist, known popularly as “Dr. Ben,” was born in Gondar, Ethiopia, the son of Krstan ben Jochannan, a lawyer and diplomat, and Tulia Matta, a native of Puerto Rico, who was a homemaker and midwife. Both parents were Jewish: his father was a member of a Jewish Ethiopian people then called the “Falasha,” or Beta Israel, and his mother was descended from Spanish Sephardic Jews. The couple met in Madrid, Spain, where Matta was attending college and the elder ben Jochannan was a diplomatic attaché. Soon after their marriage, they traveled from Spain to Ethiopia where their son, Yosef, was born.

Ben Jochannan spent his earliest years in Ethiopia but after age five he was raised in the Americas He said in later interviews that in the 1920s the Ethiopian government sent his father to Brazil to help develop the coffee trade of that country ...


Jeremy Rich

Congolese (Brazzaville) historian and Egyptologist active in the United States, was born in the town of Mbaya, now located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 2 February 1936. Obenga completed his primary and secondary studies in the Congo prior to independence in 1960. He then moved to France, where he received a range of degrees. He received a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Bordeaux, a master’s degree in history from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and a doctorate in the humanities from Montpellier University. He also received a master’s degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh and has completed further coursework in linguistics, Egyptology, and archaeology in France and Switzerland.

Obenga speaks French, English, Greek, Italian, Arabic, Latin, Syriac, and several African languages. In the 1960s and early 1970s Obenga developed a close collaboration with the legendary Senegalese historian and Afrocentric ...