In 1986, the Africana Library was named in honor of John Henrik Clarke, who was widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of Africana Studies. Dr. Clarke played an important role in the early history of Cornell University's Africana Studies & Research Center. He was a Distinguished Visiting Professor of African History at the Center in the 1970s. He also made an invaluable contribution to the establishment of its curricula.
Dr. Clarke is the author of numerous articles that have appeared in leading scholarly journals. He also served as the author, contributor, or editor of 24 books. In 1968 along with the Black Caucus of the African Studies Association, Dr. Clarke founded the African Heritage Studies Association. In 1969 he was appointed as the founding chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Studies Department at Hunter College in New York City.
Dr. Clarke was most known and highly regarded for his lifelong devotion to studying and documenting the histories and contributions of African peoples in Africa and the diaspora.
Dr. Clarke is often quoted as stating that "History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be."
Dr. John Henrik Clarke: Lecturer, Author, & Master Teacher
“Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power. You will take it."
“A people’s relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother.”
“To hold a people in oppression you have to convince them first that they are supposed to be oppressed.”
“Anytime you turn on your own concept of God, you are no longer a free man. No one needs to put chains on your body, because the chains are on your mind.”
“Religion is the organization of spirituality into something that became the hand maiden of conquerors. Nearly all religions were brought to people and imposed on people by conquerors, and used as the framework to control their minds.”
“I saw no African people in the printed and illustrated Sunday school lessons. I began to suspect at this early age that someone had distorted the image of my people. My long search for the true history African people the world over began.”
“A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson”
“What I have learned is that a whole lot of people with degrees don’t know a damn thing, and a lot of people with no degrees are brilliant.”
“History is not everything but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are but, more importantly, where they must be.”
“Egypt gave birth to what later would become known as ‘Western Civilization’ long before the greatness of Greece and Rome.”
“The first light of human consciousness and the world’s first civilizations were in Africa.”
“We have been educated into believing someone else’s concept of the deity, and someone else’s standard of beauty. You have the right to practice any religion and politics in a way that best suits your freedom, your dignity, and your understanding. And once you do that, you don’t apologize.”
“Africa and its people are the most written about and the least understood of all of the world’s people. This condition started in the 15th and 16th centuries with the beginning of the slave trade system. The Europeans not only colonized most of the world, they began to colonize information about the world and its people.”
“The people and the cultures of what is known as Africa are older than the word ‘Africa.’ According to most records, old and new, Africans are the oldest people on the face of the earth. The people now called Africans not only influenced the Greeks and Romans, they influenced the early world before there was a place called Europe.”
“There was a time when all dark-skinned people were called Ethiopians, for the Greeks referred to Africa as, ‘The Land Of The Burnt-Face People.’”
“The acceptance of the facts of African-American history and the African-American historian as a legitimate part of the academic community did not come easily. Slavery ended and left its false images of black people intact.”
“Malcolm X found the language that communicated across the board, from college professor to floor sweeper, all at the same time, without demeaning the intellect of either.”