National News

Famous historian 'Dr. Ben' assaulted

By Nayaba Arinde | Last updated: Apr 30, 2003 - 8:46:00 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan

( - World-renown educator and historian Dr. Yosef  ben-Jochannan was assaulted on a Harlem street on April 18.

Affectionately known as Dr. Ben, the 84-year-old Egyptologist is respected around the globe for his in-depth teachings of Africa as the cradle of civilization, and Ancient Egypt’s (Kemet) particular contribution to world culture.

Dr. Ben suffered a fractured left arm, a bruised mouth and a loosened tooth.

"My father seems like himself. He’s not afraid of the streets. He’s from the streets. No one is going to keep him inside," Dr. Ben’s daughter, Ruth David, told The Final Call.

The "stalking" has been going on for a while, said Ms. David. "This man is saying that he is god and he has told my father that he is going to force him to acknowledge and preach this to the world. I don’t think he’s a well person."

Dr. Ben told The Final Call that a man, known to be the grandson of an associate, has been harassing him for some time, but three weeks ago he confronted the scholar as he walked along Harlem’s 125th Street. A couple of passersby came to his aid. However, phone calls followed. Then, on April 15, the same man allegedly called Dr. Ben’s home again, this time claiming that he had a package from a well-known educator and close friend of Dr. Ben.

"But, when I saw him coming down the corridor, I recognized him and I tried to close my door. He tried to push me in so I punched him in his face, and I managed to close my door," said Dr. Ben, who immediately filed a police report.

On April 18, just outside his Harlem home, Dr. Ben saw the same individual standing on the corner. Before he could react, the "stalker" hit him in the mouth. "I fell back and landed on my arm," he said.

Dr. Ben told The Final Call that he was having trouble hearing in his left ear. His mouth was swollen and his left arm was wrapped because of a possible hairline fracture. As all types of folk hailed him as he walked to his front door, the beloved historian pointed to dried blood splatters on the pavement.

"That’s my blood on the ground," he said. "This is where he hit me."

On April 19, Dr. Ben’s son Nnandi spotted the accused assailant just off 125th Street. The police were called, and the thirty-something Black man was arrested. At press time, The Final Call was unable to locate where the arrested man was being held or when he would be arraigned.

"It is important for us to realize how mental illness seems to be on the rise in our community," Nnandi ben-Jochannan, Dr, Ben’s son, said. "We must understand that now someone, out of the blue, can come after an 84-year-old man. We must be aware that people who are mentally challenged are walking freely among us in our community."

As for the charges, he added, "We filed charges of harassment and assault. I would like to add stalking, because that is a weightier charge."

Last November, Dr. Ben gave his personal 35,000-book collection to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, "with a stipulation that the books will be used by Black people all over the world with any and all religions.

"The Nation of Islam has the only guarantee that the books will be in the hands of Black people," said Dr. Ben. "I don’t care how they pray. If they’re Muslims, Christians, Jews or what, but that somebody who believes and is for Black people would continue to control those books."