Was Anténor Firmin a Prophet?
Haitian intellectual Antenor Firmin was born in the old French colonial city of Cap-Haitien in 1850. He carved out a distinguished career as a journalist, attorney, and writer. He was appointed by President Hyppolite as Minister of Finance and Commerce, and also Minister of Foreign Affairs. But history has remembered him best as the author of the book "The Equality of the Human Races", a refutation of Arthur de Gobuineau's "Essay on the Inequality of Human Races", which argued for white supremacy over minority races.
Firmin argued against Gobuineau's theory, using a scientific positivist method, questioning the evolutionist paradigm of race, based on brain faculty, thought to be inferior in dark-skinned peoples. Firmin avoided labeling his adversaries as racists, preferring to make light of their ignorance, calling their perspective bizarre, comical, and illogical.
As a trained anthropologist, Firmin was able to uncover the historical and philosophical basis of man's being and his capacity for mental and moral development. At an essential level he discovered ". . . all men are endowed with the same qualities and the same faults, without distinction of color or anatomical form. The races are equaled."
Firmin also developed a reputation for being a prophet. He foreordained the U.S. would elect a black man to the presidency. He also beat other anthropologists to publication that Egypt began European civilization. Finally he foresaw Haiti would become occupied by American troops in 1915, 15 years before it came to pass.
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