I wish we could separate the history of the Middle East from race, but it is impossible to do so because of the desire of Eurocentrists to make Semitic speakers members of the “white” race.
The controversy surrounding the Kushite/African/Black origins of the Elamites, Sumerians, Akkadians and “Assyrians” is simple and yet complicated. It involves both the racism exhibited toward the African slaves in the Western Hemisphere and Africans generally which led to the idea that Africans had no history ; and the need of Julius Oppert to make Semites white, to accommodate the “white” ancestry of European Jews.
To understand this dichotomy we have to look at the history of scholarship surrounding the rise of Sumero-Akkadian studies. The study of the Sumerians, Akkadians. Assyrians and Elamites began with the decipherment of the cuneiform script by Henry Rawlinson. Henry Rawlinson had spent most of his career in the Orient. This appears to have gave him an open mind in regards to history. He recognized the Ancient Model of History, the idea that civilization was founded by the Kushite or Hamitic people of the Bible.
As result, Rawlinson was surprised during his research to discover that the founders of the Mesopotamian civilization were of Kushite origin. He made it clear that the Semitic speakers of Akkad and the non-Semitic speakers of Sumer were both Black or Negro people who called themselves sag-gig-ga “Black Heads”. In Rawlinson’s day the Sumerian people were recognized as Akkadian or Chaldean, while the Semitic speaking blacks were called Assyrians.
Rawlinson identified these Akkadians as Turanian or Scythic people. But he made it clear that these ancient Scythic or Turanian speaking people were Kushites or Blacks.
A major supporter of Rawlinson was Edward Hincks. Hincks continued Rawlinson’s work and identified the ancient group as Chaldeans, and also called them Turanian speakers. Hincks, though, never dicussed their ethnic origin.
A late comer to the study of the Sumerians and the Akkadians was Julius Oppert. Oppert was a German born of Jewish parents. He made it clear that the Chaldean and Akkadian people spoke different languages. He noted that the original founders of Mesopotamia civilization called themselves Ki-en-gi “land of the true lords”. It was the Semitic speakers who called themselves Akkadians.
Assyrians called the Ki-en-gi people Sumiritu “the sacred language”. Oppert popularized the Assyrian name Sumer, for the original founders of the civilization. Thus we have today the Akkadians and Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia.
Oppert began to popularize the idea that the Sumerians were related to the contemporary Altaic and Turanian speaking people, e.g., Turks and Magyar (Hungarian) speaking people. He made it clear that the Akkadians were Semites like himself . To support this idea Oppert pointed out that typological features between Sumerian and Altaic languages existed. This feature was agglutination.
The problem with identifying the Sumerians as descendants from contemporary Turanian speakers resulted from the fact that Sumerian and the Turkish languages are not genetically related. As a result Oppert began to criticize the work of Hincks (who was dead at the time) in relation to the identification of the Sumerian people as Turanian following the research of Rawlinson.
It is strange to some observers that Oppert,never criticized Rawlinson who had proposed the Turanian origin of the Ki-en-gi (Sumerians). But this was not strange at all. Oppert did not attack Rawlinson who was still alive at the time because he knew that Rawlinson said the Sumerians were the original Scythic and Turanian people he called Kushites. Moreover, Rawlinson made it clear that both the Akkadians and Sumerians were Blacks. For Oppert to have debated this issue with Rawlinson, who deciphered the cuneiform script, would have meant that he would have had to accept the fact that Semites were Black. There was no way Oppert would have wanted to acknowledge his African heritage, given the Anti-Semitism experienced by Jews living in Europe.
Although Oppert successfully hid the recognition that the Akkadians and the Sumerians both refered to themselves as sag-gig-ga “black heads”, some researchers were unable to follow the status quo and ignore this reality. For example, Francois Lenormant, made it clear, following the research of Rawlinson, that the Elamite and Sumerians spoke genetically related languages. This idea was hard to reconcile with the depiction of people on the monuments of Iran, especially the Behistun monument, which depicted Negroes (with curly hair and beards) representing the Assyrians, Jews and Elamites who ruled the area. As a result, Oppert began the myth that the Sumerian languages was isolated from other languages spoken in the world evethough it shared typological features with the Altaic languages. Oppert taught Akkadian-Sumerian in many of the leading Universities in France and Germany. Many of his students soon began to dominate the Academe, or held chairs in Sumerian and Akkadian studies these researchers continued to perpetuate the myth that the Elamite and Sumerian languages were not related.
There was no way to keep from researchers who read the original Sumerian, Akkadian and Assyrian text that these people recognized that they were ethnically Blacks. This fact was made clear by Albert Terrien de LaCouperie. Born in France, de LaCouperie was a well known linguist and China expert. Although native of France most of his writings are in English. In the journal he published called the Babylonian and Oriental Record, he outlined many aspects of ancient history. In these pages he made it clear that the Sumerians, Akkadians and even the Assyrians who called themselves şalmat kakkadi ‘black headed people”, were all Blacks of Kushite origin. Eventhough de LaCouperie taught at the University of London, the prestige of Oppert, and the fact that the main centers for Sumero-Akkadian studies in France and Germany were founded by Oppert and or his students led to researchers ignoring the evidence that the Sumerians , Akkadians and Assyrians were Black.
In summary, the cuneiform evidence makes it clear that the Sumerians, Akkadians and Assyrians recognized themselves as Negroes: “black heads”. This fact was supported by the statues of Gudea, the Akkadians and Assyrians. Plus the Behistun monument made it clear that the Elamites were also Blacks.
The textual evidence also makes it clear that Oppert began the discussion of a typological relationship between Sumerian and Turkic languages. He also manufactured the idea that the Semites of Mesopotamia and Iran, the Assyrians and Akkadians were “whites”, like himself. Due to this brain washing, and whitening out of Blacks in history, many people today can look at depictions of Assyrians, Achamenians, and Akkadians and fail to see the Negro origin of these people.
To make the Sumerians “white” textbooks print pictures of artifacts dating to the Gutian rule of Lagash, to pass them off as the true originators of Sumerian civilization. No Gutian rulers of Lagash are recognized in the Sumerian King List.