John Henrik Clarke (born John Henry Clark; January 1, 1915 – July 16, 1998) was an African-American historian, professor, prominent Afrocentrist, and pioneer in the creation of Pan-African and Africana studies and professional institutions in academia starting in the late 1960s
He was the youngest child of John Clark, a sharecropper, and Willie Ella Clark, a washer woman, who died in 1922. With the hopes of earning enough money to buy land rather than sharecrop, his family moved to the closest mill town in Columbus, Georgia.
Counter to his mother’s wishes for him to become a farmer, Clarke left Georgia in 1933 by freight train and went to Harlem, New York, as part of the Great Migration of rural blacks out of the South to northern cities. There he pursued scholarship and activism. He renamed himself as John Henrik (after rebel Norwegian playwrightHenrik Ibsen) and added an “e” to his surname, spelling it as “Clarke”. He also joined the U.S. Army during World War II.
Clarke was heavily influenced by Cheikh Anta Diop, which inspired his piece “The Historical Legacy of Cheikh Anta Diop: His Contributions to a New Concept of African History”. Clarke believed that the credited greek philosophers gained much of their theories and thoughts from contact with the Africans, who influenced the westerners.
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