Michael Jackson's Cleopatra Painting
Michael Jackson's Cleopatra Painting

Cleopatra: A Portrait of a Killer airs Monday, March 23 on BBC One. And get this, archeologists are finally letting the tightly-curled hair and full lips out of the white-washed bag. That's right, the documentary plans to set the record straight: Cleopatra looked nothing like velvet-eyed, porcelain white Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, Cleopatra's mother was a black African. In fact, Cleopatra paraded among her Roman cronies and insisted [a la Halle Berry in her star-making moment in Queen] "I's Nigra, I's Nigra." You know, in case the Romans didn't know a sister when they saw one.


Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all non-racist archeological discovery and I applaud the Austrian Academy of Sciences [the folks who made the "black mother" finding] for having the scientific courage to debunk a horrible and racist myth, once and for all. But I could have saved them a lot of trouble. I knew Cleopatra was of African-descent. The brother on the corner of 125th and Malcolm X selling black soap and prints of a black Cleopatra knew she was of African descent. My paternal great-great grandmother who named her third child Cleopatra obviously knew something. John Henrik Clarke and his scholarship meditated on Egypt and its blackness during the Roman rule. The question is, Who didn't know? [Besides the Austrian Academy of Sciences.] Well, there's Michael Jackson who cherised a painting of a porcelain Cleopatra, but I guess that's no surprise.

Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.

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