Joseph Auguste Anténor Firmin was born on October 18, 1850 in the city of Cap-Haitien. Not much is known about his early age. As an adult, he became a Journalist, a lawyer, author, a politician who served as Minister of Finance and Commerce and, Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Florvil Hyppolite; and last but definitely not least, a Scholar in Anthropology. Anténor Firmin is best known for the publication of his book in 1885, " l'Égalité des Races Humaines" (The Equality of the Human Races); a rebuttal to the racist ideology of the French writer Arthur de Gobuineau's " Essai sur l'Inégalité des Races Humaines" (Essay on the Inequality of Human Races) In his book, Arthur de Gobuineau affirmed that the Caucasian Race was superior to the Black Race and other people of color. But Antenor Firmin firmly believed that the equality of the races could be demonstrated through a positivist scientific approach. He became the first Anthropologist to question the concept of race and argue against evolutionism. He never categorize his opponents view as racism, he made fun of their thinking using instead the terms:<<Bizarre, comical, illogical>> Firmin elegantly and confidently challenged the racist writings; the dominant view of the time, by going to the very philosophical roots of anthropology.
"What is the true nature of man? To what extent and under what conditions does he develop his potential? Are all human races capable of rising to the same intellectual and moral level? (...)The Study of Man in his physical, intellectual, and moral dimensions as he is found in any of the different race which constitute the human species..All men are endowed with the same qualities and the same faults, without distinction of color or anatomical form. The races are equaled.
It is curious to see what results the doctrine of inequality of races could bring to the best mind, the most balanced intelligence, but it is a new proof of the power of logic. We do deviates in science as in everything, only to fall into the grossest errors, the wildest theories!
At the time, he was ridiculed for his beliefs that all men were created equal; today, Anténor Firmin is considered
the first black anthropologist, the pioneer of the integration of race in Bioanthropology: a branch of Anthropology that studies the physical development of the human species; the father of the Negritude movement.
His work had an enormous impact on Jean Price Mars, the founder of Haitian Ethnology and Melville Herskovits, a famous American Anthropologist. "
l'Égalité des Races Humaines " ( The Equality of the Human Races) is currently studied at some of the world's most famous universities. Including, Yale and Harvard.
Many also view Anténor Firmin as a Prophet for the paragraph from the chapter in his aforementioned book: "The Role of the Black Race in the History of Civilization", that he dedicated to Wendell Phillips for his influence on the abolition of slavery in the US.
"Appearances to the contrary, this big country is destined to strike the first blow against the theory of the inequality of the human races. Indeed, at this very moment, Blacks in the great federal republic have begun to play a prominent role in the politics of the various states of the American Union. It seems quite possible that, in less than a century from now, a Black man might be called to head the government of Washington and manage the affairs of the most progressive country on earth, a country which will inevitably become, thanks to Its agricultural and industrial production, the richest and most powerful in the world. These are not Utopian musings. We only have to consider the increasing participation of Black in American society to cast aside our skepticism. Besides, we must remember that slavery in the United States was abolished only twenty years ago."
Many referred to that paragraph as a prediction of Barack Obama becoming the first Black President of the United States in 2008.
Antenor Firmin's book The Equality of the Human Races was over a century ahead of its time. Antenor Firmin became the first Anthropologist to prove that Egypt was the source of European civilization; it wouldn't be until 1987 were similar critiques would be repeated by the English professor Martin Gardiner Bernal, a Harvard Phd graduate. Antenor Firmin in his writings also predicted the American occupation of Haiti in 1915, 15 years before it actually happened.
In 2002, the University of Illinois Press, published the first complete English translation of " l'Égalité des Races Humaines" " The Equality of the Human Races"
Anténor Firmin died on September 19th, 1911, at the age of 60 in exile in Saint Thomas.