MODULE III – The Rise of the Afro-Asian Civilizations
Lesson I. The Rainbow Civilizations OBJECTIVES: After this lesson, the student is expected to: 1. Appreciate the ancient civilizations of Asia Minor and Africa; 2. Acquire a background knowledge of the literature that developed in those civilizations; 3. Gain insight on the world views and philosophies that emerged at that time and which continue to influence many nations today; 4. Draw the connectivity between the colored peoples, particularly Negroes of the New World, with their ancient ties. WORDS AND PHRASES TO REMEMBER: Agriculture Revolution Land of Shinar
Nile river civilization
INTRODUCTION The Afro-Asian region was the cradle of the very first civilizations which nurtured the world’s youngest civilization – the European civilization. The first civilization from which Europe traces its roots emerged in the river valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, referred to in the Bible as the “Land of Shinar.” This early civilization developed in Sumer some 3,500 years ago in the wake of what anthropologists call as the “agricultural revolution” in that part of the world. After having settled the river valley for more than 5,000 years, the Sumerians were able to build an agricultural economy as a result of many technological innovations they introduced like an irrigation system that controlled the flood waters of the twin river for food cultivation, the plow, and the wheel. The fall of the Sumerian civilization gave rise to other civilizations in the North African part of the Nile river such as in Egypt and parts of the Middle East, what was then Palestine, and Syria. DISCUSSION: Read this poem written by Langston Hughes, a Negro who lived in the United States of America in 1926 when racial discrimination against the Blacks was still at its height in that newly emerging super power. As you read the poem, find out from where the Negroes of the USA find their great strength and power. Remember great Negro leaders emerged even at the height of racism
in that country. Martin Luther King is one. Where does a person like Barack Obama draw his great wisdom and charisma? Does it make you understand more our objective in studying World Literature about connecting with the past and understanding the present? The Negro Speaks of Rivers I’ve known rivers, I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young, I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset. I’ve known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Langston Hughes, 1926 What is the poet telling us? In 13 short lines, Hughes has told us the story of the Negroes of the world. The Negroes of the world were there when one of the first civilizations was established at the dawn of humanity along the Tigris-Euphrates rivers. The Negroes were again there when the Egyptian civilization established along the Nile, and there they continued to live in pristine oblivion in the then uncolonized Congo. Today the Negroes are in the Mississippi river along which the rich plantation economy of the US southern states flourished and which they made possible through slave labor. With thousands of years of civilization in their racial past, the wisdom and the greatness of the Negro race is as deep and as timeless as the great rivers of the Ancient World. With the triumph over pain, oppression, and humiliation as a result of their emancipation under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, the Negro race has developed immense strength and depth as the great Mississippi river of the New World. He says as much and with deep as conviction when he writes:
“My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” And like the great rivers that saw the rise and fall of civilizations, the Negro race, it is suggested, will continue to live on and become enriched. SUMMARY The great rivers of the world have been the cradle of human civilization for thousands of years to this day. Rivers, in this sense, mean many things to many people, and are, therefore, popular symbols in ancient and modern literature. RECOMMENDED READINGS: Read the pertinent sections of the references listed in your course guide. Look up other river poems and compare it with Hughes moving piece. SELF ASSESSMENT: 1. After reading the lesson, what do I mean by the “Rainbow Civilizations” of AsiaAfrica? 2. Why did Hughes use the symbolism of the river? 3. What civilization arose in the river valley of the Tigris-Euphrates rivers? What were its contributions to the world? 4. What civilization arose along the river Nile? What were its contributions to the world? 5. Why do you think Hughes included the Mississippi river? What does this river signify? 6. What did Hughes mean when he wrote about the Mississippi river: “and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset”? 7. What is Hughes telling us about the Negro race? 8. What is ironic message of Hughes poem? 9. What do you think of Negroes now after having read Hughes’ poem? ASSIGNMENT: Choose three other river poems written by Negro writers from three different eras: old Persian, colonial times, and contemporary times. Write a critique of the poems and answer the following questions in your critique of the poems: 1. What does river symbolize for each poet? Why do you think so? 2. How is the poet able to connect his theme with the river symbol? 3. What does the poem tell you about the plight of the Negroes during those times when the poems were written? 4. What do those poems tell you about the Negroes of the world? 5. Was your image of Negroes different before you read their poems? Explain.