Legrand Clegg II said it took the incorrect pontificating of a white Compton College professor to get him interested in black history. The year was 1964, the school was still predominantly white and Clegg was a freshman.
"I had been fuming at how blithely he (the instructor) had been dealing with black art and there was a question on a test: 'Did the ancient Africans have writing?' "Clegg recalled.
After collecting papers, Clegg said the art history teacher began to review the test with the class. Most of the students had answered "yes" to the question on African literature.
"(The professor) looked up and said: 'No, no, no, the Africans didn't have writing,' " Clegg said. "Well, before I could jump up, the white students were already saying 'What about the Egyptians?' He said Egypt is not in Africa and pointed (wrongly) on a map to where Israel is today."
Today Clegg is Compton's chief deputy city attorney and a trustee of the college. He is also an avid part-time historian who says the "degradation of blacks has become a veritable religion among historians."
Clegg, 43, is a popular speaker throughout the Los Angeles area, known for his controversial views that several ancient historical figures--including Jesus and King Tutankhamen--were black, as were the original settlers of the New World. He is usually busiest during February, which is National Black History Month.
After graduating from Compton College, Clegg went on to UCLA and then Howard University School of Law. His background in law, Clegg said, has helped him pursue his ancestral past.
"A lawyer looks for facts without predetermining his objectives," he said. His job does not leave much time for original research, Clegg admits, but he expands on the ideas of others "whose work has been ignored."
He says the words of the Bible itself tells him Jesus was a black man.
"It says his hair was like lamb's wool and refers to his feet being like brass," Clegg said of descriptions in the books of Daniel and Revelation. He added that "prior to Michelangelo, sculptures of the Madonna and child were invariably black. All that I am doing is resurrecting what has been suppressed."
The belittlement of African culture took hold in this country in the 18th and early 19th centuries, Clegg asserts, when Abolitionists pointed out the contradiction of Christians holding other humans as slaves.
"Some white people were saying that slavery was against the word of God," Clegg said. "And as their voices got louder, the slave masters began arguing that blacks were just heathens anyway and that they were doing them a favor by bringing them Christianity . . ."
Clegg became interested in King Tut because "he was the only boy to rule the civilized world. And, he said, the fact that he was black "has to do something for black children's self-respect. Egypt was at its foremost power during his reign. This was black history at its zenith. Egypt is to blacks what Greece is to whites."
But the contention that Tut was black is not agreed upon by all scholars. "I had one Egyptologist who agreed with me that Tut's mother was black, but he insisted that Tut wasn't," Clegg said. But Clegg noted Tut's maternal lineage would have put him "in the back of the bus" before integration in this country.
Much of Clegg's original research has focused on the prehistoric settlement of the Americas. He said the skulls of skeletons found at the lower levels of archeological digs have Negro characteristics.
"There are also numerous (ancient) artifacts and figurines that have been found all over Mexico depicting people of African descent," Clegg said. "And the Indians worshipped black gods. And there are pyramids in the Yucatan. Christians when they went somewhere erected a cross; blacks erected pyramids."
Clegg said he is encouraged because black youngsters today seem to know more about their culture than he did at their age. At Compton College, Clegg helped establish the Ethnic Studies Department.
But most whites, Clegg said, are limited in their knowledge of African culture.
"Most schools teach history as if black history doesn't exist," Clegg said. "But it should be required, even if it is only for the purpose of balance."