Ham is probably the Egyptian word “Khem” (black), the native name of Egypt. In the original myth Canaan and not Ham was Noah’s third son.
The biblical story of the “curse of Canaan” (Genesis IX, 24-25) has been the basis of an astonishing literature which has to-day only a psychological interest. It is sufficient to remember that for several centuries leaders of the Christian Church gravely defended Negro slavery and oppression as the rightful curse of God upon the descendants of a son who had been disrespectful to his drunken father! Cf. Bishop Hopkins: Bible Views of Slavery, p. 7.
Having viewed now the land and movements of African people in main outline, let us scan more narrowly the history of five main centers of activity and culture, namely: the valleys of the Nile and of the Congo, the borders of the great Gulf of Guinea, the Sudan, and South Africa. These divisions do not cover all of Negro Africa, but they take in the main areas and the main lines in development.
First, we turn to the valley of the Nile, perhaps the most ancient of known seats of civilization in the world, and certainly the oldest in Africa, with a culture reaching back six or eight thousand years. Like all civilizations it drew largely from without and undoubtedly arose in the valley of the Nile, because that valley was so easily made a center for the meeting of men of all types and from all parts of the world. At the same time Egyptian civilization seems to have been African in its beginnings and in its main line of development, despite strong influences from all parts of Asia. Of what race, then, were the Egyptians? They certainly were not white in any sense of the modern use of that word—neither in color nor physical measurement, in hair nor countenance, in language nor social customs. They stood in relationship nearest the Negro race in earliest times, and then gradually through the infiltration of Mediterranean and Semitic elements became what would be described in America as a light mulatto stock of Octoroons or Quadroons. This stock was varied continually; now by new infiltration of Negro blood from the south, now by Negroid and Semitic blood from the east, now by Berber types from the north and west.
Egyptian monuments show distinctly Negro and mulatto faces. Herodotus, in an incontrovertible passage, alludes to the Egyptians as “black and curly-haired"—a peculiarly significant statement from one used to the brunette Mediterranean type; in another passage, concerning the fable of the Dodonian Oracle, he again alludes to the swarthy color of the Egyptians as exceedingly dark and even black. AEschylus, mentioning a boat seen from the shore, declares that its crew are Egyptians, because of their black complexions.
Modern measurements, with all their admitted limitations, show that in the Thebaid from one-seventh to one-third of the Egyptian population were Negroes, and that of the predynastic Egyptians less than half could be classed as non-Negroid. Judging from measurements in the tombs of nobles as late as the eighteenth dynasty, Negroes form at least one-sixth of the higher class.