Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Before Color Prejudice

Before Color Prejudice

The Ancient View of Blacks

Frank M. Snowden, Jr.

ISBN 9780674063815

Publication date: 03/01/1991

In this richly illustrated account of black–white contacts from the Pharaohs to the Caesars, Frank Snowden demonstrates that the ancients did not discriminate against blacks because of their color.

For three thousand years Mediterranean whites intermittently came in contact with African blacks in commerce and war, and left a record of these encounters in art and in written documents. The blacks—most commonly known as Kushites, Ethiopians, or Nubians—were redoubtable warriors and commanded the respect of their white adversaries. The overall view of blacks was highly favorable. In science, philosophy, and religion color was not the basis of theories concerning inferior peoples. And early Christianity saw in the black man a dramatic symbol of its catholic mission.

This book sheds light on the reasons for the absence in antiquity of virulent color prejudice and for the difference in attitudes of whites toward blacks in ancient and modern societies.


  • This elegantly written book…collects evidence for artistic representations of African individuals in the ancient world from Egyptian to Roman times… His illustrations are well chosen and [show] how the ancient world saw the people of its southern frontiers.

    —P. L. Shinnie, American Historical Review


  • Frank M. Snowden, Jr., was Professor of Classics, Emeritus, at Howard University.

Book Details

  • 176 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author